Thursday, September 15, 2005

My first complaint about Seattle

Seattle's street designations make sense once you understand them, but unless you do understand them, you can end up many miles away from your destination. Can you find NE 45th Street and 45th Avenue NE? What if it were written more compactly and confusingly as "NE 45th and 45th NE?" How far would "1401 45th SW" be from "1401 NE 45th?" From Wikitravel

Well that is just the beginning my friends. Seattle's road system sucks! I'm not the best driver in the world, I'll admit it. But, I am not the stupidest either. Yet, everytime I go anywhere new I get lost. I'm not talking about Downtown, that is difficult in most big cities. These are the residential roads that bite.

As you have read above, Seattle wasn't really creative when it came to naming roads. "Lets call this 45th Street, and this one over here 45th Avenue. " There is some logic in the system. In theory Avenues and Streets are perpendicular; and the roads are numbered so that 45th will be followed by 46th. That sounds easy, why are you getting lost so much Carrie? Well, if the road veers any then your Avenue becomes a Street and you are going in a whole new direction. Soon your 45th Ave is 103rd Street. Sometimes you can even be on a Street and that allows you to turn into another Street. I learned in 3rd grade that things that run parallel don't intersect. Why would Street and a Street meet? It's counterintuitive! You spend all your time on the Avenue looking for your Street, when that Street is running parallel to the Avenue. AGHH!

Then you have roads that change their name 4 or 5 times within a 5 mile radius. I can stay on the same road and Drive on Montlake, 45th Street (or is it Ave, I don't remember), Sandpoint Way, 125th Street, Roosevelt Way, and then 130th Street. I'm in the same city, the same road, the same lane. Sometimes I see a street that is familiar, like 125th Street and I try to follow it back, but it's not the same 125th Street. I suppose on the grid it is, but really, it's a whole new road that takes you to the bad side of town and introduces other roads you don't know. Of course, sometimes the roads aren't even marked so you have no idea if the names have changed or that you are going the wrong way. That is the most reassuring.

Mastery of the messed up grid system won't make the problems go away, especially on the Freeway. You have to learn through trial and error that you can't get on the freeway on the same street you got off at. Wanna go south on the 5? Well, don't even think of changing your mind and going north. To go on 1-5 North you got be somewhere else on some other street, say like in Portland. And just because Exit 171 traveling north puts you on one street doesn't mean Exit 171 traveling south will put you anywhere near that street.

Last but certainly not least, what is up with 5 way stops !?! They are manageable with lights, but some are just controlled by stop signs. It's hard enough figuring out who got there first and what direction they are going when there are 4 cars. Now I have to look slightly to my right or left on check on that guy too. In my first encounter with a 5 way (with a light), I was so close to the 5th side that I thought their green light was mine and I kept going. I got a few nasty looks and honks. Oh well, I have California plates.

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