New reader "Thomas" sent an email to 12MC concerning an institution of higher learning seemingly out of place geographically. The University of California has a number of affiliated campuses, although none of them are located in Pennsylvania. Yet, oddly there’s a California University of Pennsylvania. As always, there was a twist to the situation as I looked closer. The university was placed in a town called California outside of Pittsburgh. The town was founded in 1849, presumably in commemoration of the California Gold Rush that was happening at the same time. The university simply took the name of the town and the state. I replied that it reminded me of another geographically counterintutive institution from the same state, Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
California University… of Pennsylvania
This could provide an exceptional opportunity for mischief, I thought as I considered the possibilities further. What if people wanted to misrepresent where they earned their diplomas, maybe pad a résumé or impress their friends, or for some other unknown reason? Maybe it would be easier or cheaper to attend a soundalike institution instead. If miscreants said that they’d graduated from Cal, would it be their fault if others assumed they were referring to UC Berkeley instead of lesser-known Cal U in PA?(¹).
I am certain that all of the similarly-named colleges and universities are perfectly fine places with solid reputations. However, the better known versions could convey additional benefits or prestige whether academic or athletic if used deceivingly. Those of questionable moral standing could easily employ a bait-and-switch.
I was curious to discover the prevalence of such opportunities even though I don’t condone improper use. The examination began with a listing of colleges and universities in the US, UK and Canada. I sorted for similarities and compiled a lot of close matches in a shared Google Doc. I distilled that down to a handful of optimal deceptive options.
Spring @ Cornell by matt.hintsa, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license
Several options presented themselves for those unable to gain admission to an Ivy League school or those unwilling to shoulder a six-figure student debt upon graduation. I called these choices the "Cheap Ivies" (not to be confused with the Public Ivies).
How about Cornell College in Iowa instead of the Cornell University in New York? They were founded by distant cousins from the same family so they’re practically the same. Any of the Columbia Colleges (Missouri, South Carolina, Illinois) could substitute for Columbia University. Finally, nobody would really need to know that Penn referred to William Penn University instead of the University of Pennsylvania.
Notre Dame Band, Notre Dame Stadium, University of Notre Dame DDZ_0303 by NDomer73, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0), license
Not everyone will want to attend a big-time athletics school. Those universities tend to have tens of thousands of students. They can be very impersonal places. However everyone wants to be associated with a winner, right? A certain image would come across if someone mentioned he was a Notre Dame grad. It could quickly become a launching point for a thousand barroom conversations (or brawls) as long as he didn’t mention his preference for the Notre Dame Falcons from Ohio instead of the Fighting Irish. Similar situations existed for Georgetown in Kentucky, and Miami University of Ohio. How about Pitt? One could easily substitute Pittsburg State University in Kansas for the University of Pittsburgh.
Was it be Seton Hall University or it’s nearly identically-named Seton Hill University? They’re both named for the same person, Elizabeth Ann Seton, so go for it.
Cambridge University by Caffeinehit, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license
The University of Cambridge and its 31 constituent colleges in England are known throughout the world. There have been 90 Nobel laureates affiliated with the university. Stephen Hawking has long been associated with Cambridge. Isaac Newton went there. Its long list of famous alumni have made some of the most important contributions to mankind for the last several centuries. Wouldn’t it be so much easier to pursue a degree from Cambridge College in Massachusetts? "I completed my studies at Cambridge" would be a completely true statement.
Other substitutions could include Ottawa University in Kansas in lieu of the University of Ottawa in Ontario, Canada. Then there were the Yorks. There are York Colleges in Nebraska, New York and Pennsylvania, along with York University in Ontario and the University of York in England. Go ahead and substitute any one for any other.
Guess I should use one of my own photos while I’m at it
I found a similar situation with the Lincolns. There were Lincoln Universities in Missouri and Pennsylvania and a University of Lincoln in England. None of those were the unusual one. That honor went to Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee. Someone could have so much mischievous fun with Lincoln Memorial.
It wasn’t their fault, though. The founders established Lincoln Memorial University in 1897. The Lincoln Memorial — the edifice in Washington, DC — wasn’t constructed until 1922.
(¹) Actually that would be completely and utterly wrong so don’t do that.
I spent a few summers in Monterey, California when I was a kid. We’d land at the airport in San Francisco and drive south, cutting across the mouth of the agriculturally-oriented Salinas Valley before heading down towards the Monterey Peninsula. Oftentimes we’d stop in Castroville along the way for a special treat.
The Route Through Castroville
It’s important to understand that Castroville billed itself as the "Artichoke Center of the World." We’d stop just off the highway at a place called the Giant Artichoke for one of their more famous delicacies, deep fried artichokes. I learned at an early age that anything could be improved with a layer of batter and a few minutes bubbling in a fryer. Those were some good eats. They probably weren’t the healthiest food option available although that never crossed my mind at the time.
GiantArtichoke-02 by TrishaLyn, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0) license
I jumped onto Street View and — surprise! — the Giant Artichoke was still there after all those years.
Castroville existed long before it became an Artichoke Center. The local Chamber of Commerce traced its founding to 1863, making Castroville the second oldest town in Monterey County. However its relationship with artichokes have long since eclipsed whatever other history it may have ever experienced.
In addition to the Giant Artichoke, Castroville serves as the home of the California Artichoke Advisory Board and sponsors an annual Artichoke Festival. They also crown an Artichoke Queen. Artichoke royalty may not sound all that impressive although the first Queen crowned in 1948 went on to slightly greater fame. She was Norma Jean Baker when she ascended the throne, later Marilyn Monroe.
Artichokes were native to areas around the Mediterranean. Most cultivation still takes place there: Italy led world production with nearly a half million metric tonnes in 2010. While California produced "nearly 100% of the U.S. crop, and about 80% of that [was] grown in Monterey County," national output equaled only about forty thousand metric tonnes. Maybe Castroville should change its name to reflect a smaller geographic footprint?
What about artichokes in the U.S. Upper Midwest?
Artichoke Township, Minnesota
I consulted the Geographic Names Information System and discovered a handful of populated Artichokes in the Upper Midwest, which confounded me. Why would there be an artichoke anything there? The first two instances involved a hamlet and township in Big Stone County, Minnesota. The second was a township in Potter County, South Dakota, just a few miles away from the Obscure Gettysburg. That was an odd coincidence although I found nothing further about South Dakota’s Artichoke Township other than its location (map).
Minnesota’s Artichoke Township and its similarly-named embedded hamlet offered a tantalizing etymological clue buried deep within the Collections of the Minnesota Historical Society (Google eBook), 1920, pp 53-54:
Artichoke township whose first settler came in May 1869 received its name from the former Artichoke lake now drained which was five miles long stretching from section 11 south to section 36. This name was probably translated from the Sioux name of the lake referring to the edible tuber roots of a species of sunflower Helianthus tuberosus which was much used by the Indians as food called pangi by the Sioux abundant here and common or frequent throughout this state.
I noticed two things immediately. Somebody refilled Artichoke Lake and I had no idea what Helianthus tuberosus represented. I didn’t really care about the history of Artichoke Lake so I focused on Helianthus tuberosus. The Intertubes told me that it was a binomial name for the Jerusalem artichoke. Oddly, the plant had nothing to do with Jerusalem and wasn’t an artichoke, according to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food and numerous other references. That source also labeled it a "nuisance" and a "serious weed problem" even though Helianthus tuberosus was native to the area. Subsequently, Canada has no Artichoke place names.
From the Mailbag
Reader "Splen" sent 12MC a message with what may be the most ham-fisted abbreviation ever stamped on a road sign.
"Pgh Intrntl" was the best they could manage?
(and to all readers who have contributed recently — thank you, and don’t worry I’ll get to those; I have a bit of a backlog).
The Twelve Mile Circle examined freeways and motorways with the most lanes previously. That was a measurement of potential capacity. Would those massively-wide behemoths continue to reign supreme once someone posted actual traffic volumes? That wasn’t the case albeit with one notable exception.
Comparisons weren’t easy although Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT) seemed to be a prevailing standard. In simplest terms, "it is the total volume of vehicle traffic of a highway or road for a year divided by 365 days." It can be a tedious exercise comparing values unless one enjoys wading through hundreds of pages of tables or spreadsheets — oftentimes not easily sortable — looking for the highest AADT. I can’t guarantee that I found the absolute highest traffic measurements in the world because I wasn’t that thorough, although I do believe I uncovered many of the more impressive values. Also I had to be careful to double-check that I was looking at AADT, a measurement for a specific point along a specific road, and not other measurements such as the complete traffic volume for the entire road.
Ontario Highway 401′s Busiest Segment
A segment of Ontario Highway 401 (a.k.a., King’s Highway, MacDonald-Cartier Freeway) definitely held the distinction of the highest traffic volume in North America, and possibly the world. I included that qualifier because it was the highest AADT I found anywhere on my own and because numerous sources with much greater knowledge of this subject yielded nothing higher. Maybe there could be a place in a highly-populated corner of Asia so I left the claim with a little asterisk.
The 401 was the notable exception mentioned earlier, appearing on the list for extreme lanes (20-ish) as well as AADT (400,000+). The maximum lanes occurred near Toronto Pearson International Airport while the traffic extreme happened a few kilometres farther east in what used to be the municipality of York, which became part of the City of Toronto in 1998.
Specifically, according to Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation, the 1.5 km segment of 401 between Highway 400 and Weston Road recorded an AADT of 403,300 vehicles in 2010. If that sounded bad, consider that it was closer to 450k in 2004 and sometimes peaked above 500k.
United States of America
Interstate 405′s Busiest Segment
The United States posted some pretty impressive vehicle totals, too. A table from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration listed Most Traveled Urban Highways for the nation, specifically those with an AADT above 250,000. California utterly dominated the results with six of the top ten busiest roadways.
Top honors went to Interstate 405 in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana metropolitan area. I cross-referenced the FHWA table with data available from the California Department of Transportation’s Traffic Data Branch. The spot on I-405 with the highest AADT in the U.S. seemed to correspond to a segment between Rt. 22 and Seal Beach Blvd., in Seal Beach, California. It ran adjacent to the northern edge of the Naval Weapons Station there. About 377,000 vehicles passed through that brief corridor on an average day in 2008.
My little corner of the world, the Washington, DC metropolitan area, scored "only" 297k on Interstate 95; reaching 16th place. I kept that in mind for context as I explored other urban areas.
M25 Motorway’s Busiest Segment
I saw some impressive claims for the M25, the London Orbital motorway, although I couldn’t find a credible source for an AADT above 200,000. I did uncover a wonderful interactive map for areas throughout the UK and went off on a tangent exploring that for awhile. However I wasn’t about to click on every greatly-traveled road segment just to find the highest value. Rather, I punted and went with Wikipedia’s claim of 196,000 "recorded in 2003 between junctions 13 and 14 near London Heathrow Airport."
There were higher AADT values on continental Europe including 257k for the A4 motorway in Paris, France; 216k for the A 100 in Berlin, Germany; and 200k for the A23 in Vienna, Austria. None of those came anywhere near Canadian or American values so I didn’t pursue them further.
Sydney Harbour Bridge
I couldn’t determine a solid Australian candidate, and offer a challenge to the 12MC audience to help me find it. Sydney seemed to have the requisite population density so I focused there as a proxy. The highest value I found was 157,138 on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. That was all the way back in 2002 so values would have changed in the meantime. Interestingly, the same bridge had higher values a decade earlier (180k-ish). I learned that AADT dropped significantly on the bridge after the Sydney Harbour Tunnel opened in 1992, which seemed logical enough.
Auckland Southern Motorway’s Busiest Segment
I wasn’t searching specifically for New Zealand although I stumbled upon a claim and decided it was significant enough to feature. The segment of Auckland Southern Motorway between Khyber Pass Rd and Gillies Ave was generally considered to have an AADT of about 200,000. My examination of official numbers found a value considerably lower albeit fluctuations were common so it’s possible that the conventional wisdom on the Intertubes came from an earlier time period.