Saturday, September 12, 2020

Street Suffixes: Lansing's Streets, Boulevards, Avenues, And Other Roads

When I was in sixth grade social studies, my teacher told us that streets always go east and west, and avenues always go north and south. Many cities have that system, but not every city does: by convention, Manhattan has avenues running north-south and streets running east-west, but the opposite is true in places like Denver where streets run north-south and avenues run east-west. Other cities do it in other ways: Washington, DC, famously has avenues cutting diagonals across the city. Tuscon has "stravenues" that fulfill that function. Generally, cities will have avenues intersecting streets, and I was curious about how Lansing's roads were named. 

Lansing's longest street, Cedar, is north-south, and our longest avenue, Grand, is east-west; however there is no obvious directional pattern to how our avenues and streets were chosen or planned, other than that they intersect with each other and have buildings on both sides. Streets and avenues may be more predicted by where they are than which direction they carry traffic: most of the roads in the city center are given the suffix "street"..

When the most common street suffixes are visualized, some patterns do emerge: boulevards are split as they are in most cities. Places, courts and lanes are typically dead ends. Drives and circles are both located in areas that loop and meander. Roads are mostly found outside the city center and are mostly north-south and east-west. Here's the whole set layered on top of each other:

Looking for cool grids? You need only look to Eaton county: our highway and road system neatly divides the county into a series of rectangles, highways going east-west and roads going north-south. Ingham county has no such pattern.


  1. Seriously interesting. Wondering why Ingram isn't as organized (north-south, east west, neat little boxes) as Eaton? More agricultural, more quickly populated, was it on the Underground Railroad? Thanks for doing this.

  2. The suffixes haven't always been consistent either. Hayford is currently an Avenue, but I see it referenced fairly consistently as Hayford Street in older newspapers, and the old pumping station there was the Hayford Street Pumping Station. Google Maps calls Horton a Street, but all the street signs on Horton call it an Avenue. Google calls Howard an Avenue, but every street sign except one calls it Howard St. For some reason, the sign at the corner of Lasalle Gardens dissents and calls it Howard Av.