I run into various oddities as I prepare 12MC articles so I catalog them and pack them away for future exploration. This happened recently as I compiled International Capitals in the USA. I poked around a promising area in Brooksville, Florida and found something completely unexpected. A street called Public Street.
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This struck me as absurd. Wouldn’t just about any street clearly marked with an identifying name, lacking a No Trespassing warning or a chain across its width, generally be considered a public street? Doesn’t naming a public street "Public Street" feel completely redundant? That logic led me to proclaim that Public Street was the lamest, laziest street name on the planet.
Except that there are OTHER Public Streets and variations on that same theme! And how did I respond?
View Public Streets in a larger map
… by creating a map of every Public Street, Road, Avenue, Way, Lane, Circle, or Highway that I could find. I think there are 36 separate instances on the map, give-or-take. I don’t think the list is exhaustive by any means. Google Maps makes it very difficult to find streets with the same name. There isn’t any feasibility ability to query data comprehensively. I could only type in "Public St." and other variations into the search bar to see what Google recommended as autofill options.
Old Public Road Leads to… Public Road
The autofill algorithm appeared to favor locations closer to the geographic starting point of the search. Thus, I repeated searches in various places spread throughout the country, hoping to tease out additional examples. I noticed heavy concentrations in Illinois and New Jersey. However I doubt that those clusters represent true concentrations, and may more accurately reflect the peculiarities of Google’s autofill.
They Call This Clever?!?
I had several favorites:
- Brooksville, Florida – the aforementioned Brooksville also had an Easy Street nearby. Originality, apparently wasn’t their strong suit. (map)
- Evansville, IL – Public Street had a public library so I think I should cut them a little slack (map)
- Winslow, IN – Public Street intersected with E. North Street (map). I’ve mentioned other instances like this on 12MC before. How can it be both east and north at the same time? Usually it’s because the street was named after someone with the surname North but it still amuses me.
- Wheeling, WV – The city deserves accolades for being uninspired for multiple generations because Public Road adjoins a different street named Old Public Road. (map)
- Epping, NH – Public Circle isn’t a circle, and in fact I’m not even sure it’s a road (map)
- Bellmore, NY – Public Highway by no means resembles a highway (map)
- Clever, MO – If people in Clever are so clever, then why couldn’t they come up with something more original than Public Avenue? (map). I also noticed Mop Rd. and Old Wire Rd., so it’s not helping them make their case for cleverness.
I don’t use a GPS blindly as a crutch. I have a good sense of direction, a general idea of where I’m heading before I ever get into a car, and I keep paper backup maps available just in case. Still, it’s nice to have a GPS calling out turns and street directions at appropriate times.
My old trusty Garmin Nuvi GPS that I’ve used on many of the roadtrips featured on 12MC finally wore out the other day. I wondered what I would find to replace it. In desperation, and to help me get to a work-related meeting in a distant suburb yesterday, I decided to try Google Navigation on my Android phone. Wow. That worked great: nice turn-by-turn instructions, no annoying "recalculating" in a snooty voice; and a familiar set of maps. It looks like I found my replacement — wish I’d tried it a lot earlier although I didn’t really have much of a reason until the Nuvi died.