Boston, Day 1

I’m sitting here in ‘ lovely living room watching him play Atelier Iris, and intriguing alchemy-based RPG. I’ve got appointments set up for tomorrow to do that housing thing. It will be a busy day.

I did not experience any transportation errors (which are not well-defined in the Nick RFC) until I got on the final leg, the bus that would get from the T to the apartment. The error was largely caused by my inability to convert between cartesian and polar coordinates.

Minneapolis (and all other sane cities) operate using a grid, and public transit routes are designated as northbound, southbound, eastbound, or westbound. The only place this gets weird is in downtown Minneapolis itself, which is rotated roughly 45° to be parallel to the river (NE is N when you’re in downtown; it’s not that hard to re-orient), and moving around the various lakes, during which your bus at least continues in the same general direction.

I got on the Route 90 heading the opposite direction. It’s a circulator, so it didn’t really matter, but I felt kind of dumb. I guess I got to sit on an air conditioned bus and worry slightly for 10 minutes instead of waiting impatiently at a hot bus station for 20 minutes. Yes, I should have known the endpoints.

The bizarre part about Boston is how sometimes you need to loop around in a nearly complete circle, on side streets, just to reorient yourself roughly in the direction you want to go. I also love how very few of the streets are signed, how streets can arbitrarily change names, and how there is no block-based numbering of addresses. At least the numbers (generally) increase when traveling in one direction along (what you think is) one street.

Conclusion: backwards compatibility is THE DEVIL.

14 comments on “Boston, Day 1
  1. stormwynd says:

    The error was largely caused by my inability to convert between cartesian and polar coordinates.

    I never thought about it before, but that’s an incredibly clever and concise way to describe the difference. *is impressed*

    And the one time I had to drive through Boston, I kept on flashing back to one of my favorite adolescent computer nightmares: “You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike.”

  2. reldnahkram says:

    The word you’re looking for, I think, is radial. In a radially laid-out city, there are major streets leading into downtown, with connector streets running circumferentially around. This is a perfectly reasonable way to lay out a city, though downtown is best as a grid, with radials surrounding it. West Philly is radial, Center City is a grid, both of these approaches work if implemented properly.

  3. tirerim says:

    Yeah — Boston, unlike sensible cities, is based on the “squares” system. There is a square, which may be triangular, pentagonal, or some other shape, but never rectilinear, every so often, formed by the intersection of some number of major and minor streets. It is generally possible to travel reasonably directly from one square to the next nearest one, but anything other than that is likely to be complicated.

  4. tirerim says:

    Unfortunately, Boston is not so much radial as completely random…

  5. ruthling says:

    Welcome to Boston! Getting around here is an art. They do it that way to discourage the timid.

  6. Nicolas Ward says:

    I’m a little teapot, short and stout,
    here is my handle, here is my spout…

  7. Nicolas Ward says:

    A game which I have only experienced via homage within other games, I’m afraid.

  8. Nicolas Ward says:

    The problem is that it is very, very difficult to travel between spokes in Boston by public transit. It’s buses only, and said buses generally run once an hour. Incidentally, this is why I’m looking for a bike: close to the city, the distance between spokes (say Red Line to Green Line) is not that far.

    I’ve been to Vienna, which is radial. Vienna has one of its subway lines set up circumferentially around the old city, at a few kilometers out from the city center. This is how you can easily move between the spoke lines.

  9. Nicolas Ward says:

    This is what happens when every little landowner 300 years ago names the section of street near his house after himself or his dog or his favorite silversmith, and then those names persist until today.

  10. ruthling says:

    Good idea on a rainy day like today!

    buh, what??

  11. bloodorange says:

    Paris! Super-radial.

  12. wayman says:

    As others have noted, the key to making a radial design work is to have pubtrans on a circumference (or better still, a few concentric rings). London and some other cities do this, Philly decidedly does not in my experience. There are all sorts of ways to get to Center City from anywhere, but very few ways to get between any two non-CC points without going via a hub, which takes long enough to make driving a far better option for most folks.

  13. wayman says:

    This is what happens when every little landowner 300 years ago let his cows wander around, and the paths they made became the streets.

  14. Nicolas Ward says:

    I don’t know. Something in your post made me think “crazy madman singing children’s songs”. So I did.

Nurd Up!