Seattle Signs

Not helpful:


In Seattle if a road bends ever so slightly you are on a new street, but the above is...confusing.


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That's nothing. DC and Arlington, VA are ridiculous. If there is a sign to begin with, don't count on it being correct. Plus, in addition to having things like 21st St., 21st Rd., 21st Ave., etc. these things are often discontinuous. I'm convinced that the urban planners or engineer who designed it threw up on his plans. I lived there for four years that seemed more like forty.

I gotta agree with Dave. When the Rd Ave Ct Pl labels are there, they do differentiate. And streets that pick up again later? Not just around here - I saw plenty of them in Texas. But it's still the street.


Nob Hill Ave N crossing Nob Hill Ave N? Just ridiculous.

Does it loop around like one of those awareness ribbons?

By CrankyAshley (not verified) on 03 Nov 2009 #permalink

But it's color coded! Just don't go there at night.

I'm guessing this is the sign at the southern end cul-de-sac, where the street does a little dog-leg and terminates: (goes to google maps but the location portion is really long!)

Lee St looks equally amusing.

Seattle is the result of the merging of fiver independent little townships, each of which was laid out without regard for the compass orientation of self or neighbors. This is not one of the results, but there are some other hilarious results with multiple main streets meeting at 30 degree angles. My first time through the town I found it difficult to figure out which traffic lights I was supposed to watch.

By Gray Gaffer (not verified) on 03 Nov 2009 #permalink

> Seattle is the result of the merging of fiver independent
> little townships, each of which was laid out without regard
> for the compass orientation of self or neighbors.

Sounds like some Boston suburbs. Quincy and Braintree have streets with many of the same names (mostly presidents). On some less-detailed maps their layout looks similar except they're inverted relative to one another and there isn't always a sign telling you you've crossed the border from one to the other. I once was using a map to navigate in that area thinking I was in Quincy only to notice that the setting sun was on the wrong side of the car.

In Greenwich Village, New York City, West 4th Street intersects 4th Street. In Berkeley, California, there's an intersection from which 4 one-way streets diverge. Stranger things happen than on the 7 canonical hills of Seattle which, by the way, are isomorphic to the 7 canonical hills of Edinburgh and the 7 canonical hills of Rome. Which explains where King Arthur actually ruled, but that's another story.

Hey Gary,

No it's the other end. In fact on google maps, it shows that there should be a sign which reads Wheeler St / Wheeler St near where this sign is.

The bad thing is that this makes a major difference in what direction people decide to go....ah well finding our house is already a real pain.

Seattle is the result of the merging of fiver independent little townships, each of which was laid out without regard for the compass orientation of self or neighbors.

The downtown area street grid is oriented roughly along the shore of Elliot Bay, while in most of the rest of the city it is aligned with the compass. So yes, there are some funny angles which crop up--but nothing that somebody used to driving in New England or Europe can't handle (gridded streets are a rarity in this part of the country, so remember that "bear right" and "turn right" do not mean the same thing). The Seattle oddity I find weirdest comes north of downtown, where you have NW, N, and NE, so that, for example, 100 85th St. NE is more than two blocks from 100 85th St. NW. The discontinuous streets thing is also something I am used to; most sufficiently large cities with grids have them, especially when numbered streets are involved.

As for Ian's comment about the Boston suburbs, that also applies to the City of Boston itself. The neighborhoods of Brighton, Charlestown, Dorchester, and Roxbury were formerly independent municipalities with those names (and there may be others as well). One resulting oddity is that Brookline, which is part of Norfolk County, is not attached to the rest of Norfolk County. Another is that you get duplicate street names: e.g., Cambridge Street downtown has nothing whatsoever to do with Cambridge Street in the Allston neighborhood. Also, street names may or may not change when crossing a municipal boundary; e.g., when the aforementioned Cambridge Streets enter Cambridge they become Main Street and River Street, respectively, but Massachusetts Avenue remains Massachusetts Avenue.

Also, in most New England towns it's taken for granted that you know the name of the thoroughfare you are on or encountering from a side street. Boston itself has gotten better about this, but it's still an issue in the countryside.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 04 Nov 2009 #permalink

There is a place in Alexandria VA where Martha's Road bends around to intersect itself ( If you have a poorly designed navigational AI you could never go home.

There is a place in Alexandria VA where Martha's Road bends around to intersect itself

That's an all-too-common arrangement in small suburban developments here in New Hampshire. The one road into the development will loop back on itself.

Or for that matter, check out a map of eastern Quebec. You will see that in Sainte-Flavie there is a junction of Route 132 and Route 132.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 04 Nov 2009 #permalink

My other favorite bit of signage in Seattle is driving east from the waterfront on Jackson. The cross streets are: 1st Ave. S, Occidental, 2nd Ave. S, 3rd Ave. S, 2nd Ave. S, and 4th Ave. S. There is a place near Pioneer Square (which, by the way is a triangle) where 2nd Ave. S forks and both parts are called 2nd Ave. S. After three blocks, both end, though one starts again further south.

Take the ferry across to Bremerton. It has been the practice here for a while to get a bit shaved off the price of condemned land for roadways by naming the stretch of road after its former owner. We have roads that change names four time in half a mile.

Hi Allie from SDOT here with a bit about this particular intersection/sign combo:

The intersection of Nob Hill Ave N and Nob Hill Ave N is signed correctly. According to City of Seattle Right of Way records, the full section of roadway between Wheeler St and McGraw St is considered Nob Hill Ave N. This includes both the curved roadway and the straight roadway. The sign referring to the curved section of roadway is brown to designate the Olmsted Boulevard route, and the sign referring to the north / south Nob Hill Ave N segment is green because it is not part of the Olmsted Boulevard route. The Google map of this area is also incorrect, and they have been notified of the need for a correction. While this is an admittedly confusing intersection the addressing is at least consistent, and the houses along all four segments are addressed for Nob Hill Ave N. For questions regarding the Olmsted Boulevard brown signs, please contact Dewey Potter with the Seattle Parks Department at 206 684 7241.

To see a small map of the area please see:

Wow a real response from SDOT :) Thanks Allie.

Well the real "solution" would be to not label two parallel roads the same :) It is kind of crazy that one house (there is only one house on the spur, 2418 Nob Hill Ave N.) that is at issue here is going to mess up everyone attempting to find an address on Nob Hill Ave N. I mean I want people to be able to find that house and for them not to change their address, but does the current labeling really do that without causes untold problems.

Alternatively you could just make ONE Nob Hill Ave N sign and point it between the two roads :)

I mean I like telling my visitors "when you get to the sign that has two Nob Hill's on it..." but you've got admit that's a tad confusing!

This should not be confusing. You are at the Nob Pole.