…If you picked row two; number four, go get yourself a Faygo Grape Slurpee! You earned it.
See, the eight clear lines on Detroitâ€™s histogram represent two separate grids. Thereâ€™s one aligned on an East-West, North-South axis — think 8 Mile and Wyoming — and another one thatâ€™s off-kilter, that uses the angle of the Detroit River shoreline as its guide — aka, Mack and John R.
Detroit isnâ€™t unique for having two separate grids — you see two grids in San Francisco and St. Louis, among others — but â€œit is unusual in how clear they are,â€ Boeing told Detour in an email. â€œThere is little else to obscure them in the histogram, and they are substantially offset so they stand apart from each other.â€
The shoreline grid developed first, following the paths of theÂ 18th century ribbon farms shooting perpendicular off the river. In the cityâ€™s northern and western areas, youâ€™ll find the streets, built later, that were designed to follow the cardinal directions.
These two different grids can lead to abrupt breaks in the flow of the city, explainsÂ â€œDetroitâ€™s Patterns of Growth,â€Â a 1965 short film from Wayne State University.
â€œMany of Detroitâ€™s traffic problems are located at points where the grid and shoreline systems come together,â€ the narrator says. He name checks the Davison, which runs straight west from Van Dyke, then swerves south to follow the river, then at Livernois jogs back to head west for a few blocks before sputtering out. Over the course of its supposedly crosstownÂ route, the thoroughfare starts north of McNichols, or 6 Mile,Â and ends up a block south of Schoolcraft, or 4 Mile.
The two grids arenâ€™t the only street systems affecting the organization of the cityâ€™s streets — Boeingâ€™s rendering, mapping streetÂ frequency, doesnâ€™t account for the radial spokes of Fort, Michigan, Grand River, Woodward, Gratiot and Jefferson, built along Native American trading paths. Nor does it revealÂ the small fragment ofÂ Augustus Woodwardâ€™sÂ Plan of Detroit that got built in the 1800sÂ at the heart of downtown — these two other organizational patterns intersect the other grids and are an outsize influence on how we visualize and navigate the city. And donâ€™t even get us started on how the freeways sliced up the map.
Weâ€™ll leave you with the opening lines of that prescient planning video: â€œTo an overhead observer, the street pattern of Detroit presents a strange mosaic of conflicting systems, which seem to start and end with no apparent reason and have no relation to each other. However, the twists and turns have their historic explanations.â€
Whether they make sense from the ground is another story.