30-Jul-05 (Created: 30-Jul-05) | More in 'Humanities 2007'

Navigating a grid lay out: A trivial pursuit

Fish out of water. That would be me. I stick to my environment largely. My adventures rarely spill out of the boundaries of my head. I have spent a couple of years in Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. I have a cell phone but I rarely use it. Any thing that carries me between two points I call that a car. Many things that have names I call them things. Even my 7 year old corrects me.

That area of Florida, apparently for the benefit of cars, and the people that drive them, and make them, is divided into a numbered grid. Who would have thought, in the course of civilization, things will be named based on how you move. Well any way that is the state of affairs I found myself in.

The ubiquitous NW

I figured, this must be easy then, driving around here. I see signs passing by. The sign says NW 15 street. I am thinking, where am I going?. Which direction am I going? Am I going North or am I going south? I turn around a few times, I go left, and I go right. They all say NW.

Very reluctantly I engage a few cells and realize that I am just in the NW part of the town and doesn't matter how many times I turn around I will be in that part of the town.

As it turns out with one more piece of information the "NW" does tell me which direction I am heading.

Uptown and Downtown

Now that I realize that the town is divided into a grid with a center (or downtown) somewhere, at least the increasing and decreasing numbers should tell me something. So if the numbers what I am seeing is decreasing I am heading downtown. Or I am going "down". If the numbers (Streets or avenues or any entity) are increasing I am heading away from the town.

Interestingly the increasing numbers is a better indicator of direction than which quarter I am in such as "NW".

Parallels and meridians

Obviously I need another piece of information where I am heading. I need to know if I am going north or south or east or west. Then I need to know how the following run


Obviously more than one of the above will run north/south or east/west. I am thinking why don't they name these "Parallels" and "Meridians" as they already assumed people can reason these things so cleverly.

Parallels and meridians: An excursion

Well "parallels" are the horizontal lines on a round earth. Also called "lattitudes" expressed in degrees. The average distance between two paralles is about 70 miles. There are 90 degrees above the equator and 90 degrees below the equator. Let us say 100 degrees instead of 90. That makes the cirumference of the globe 4 X 100 X 70 miles. That would 28000 miles. So these parallels run east west.

Well any way the meridians are the "longitudes" that run north south. There are two important meridians. The Prime meridian located in Greenwich England and the International dateline that runs through the Berring strait.

Back to Miami

Boulevards and Streets run east, west. So they are parallels. So they should have bean named with a "p". For example

NWP 15th street

Avenues run north/south.

Rule of increasing parallels

In a weird way although a parallel indicates an east/west route a "change" of parallel indicates a norht/south direction. So an increasing parallel augments or boosts your current north/south quadrant.

So a parallel is attached to the first part of your quadrant name, which indicates "N" or "S". So consider the following cases

NW 15th street to NW 16th street
SW 15th street to SW 16th street
NW 25th street to NW 24th street
SW 25th street to SW 24th street

These are changing parallels. First one is increasing. You are going North. Second one increasing parallel in a southern quadrant. You are going south.

NPU - North (North Parallel up)
NPD - South (North Paralle down)
SPU - South (South Parallel Up)
SPD - North (South parallel Down)

Rule of increasing meridians

EMU - East (East Meridian up)
EMD - West (East Meridian down)
WMU - South (West Meridian Up)
WMD - North (West Meridian Down)

For Miami area

NSU - North (North Street up)
SSU - South (South Street up)
EAU - East (East meridian up)
WAU - West (East meridan up)

Rules of thumb

If numbers are decreasing you are going down town

If numbers are increasing you are going to uptown or suberbs

If you are seeing increasing street signs pay attention to "N" or "S", because that is where you are going or the opposite.

if you are seeing increasing avenue signs pay attention to "E" or "W" signes, because that is the direction you are heading or the opposite