urbanite take

A Chicagoan opines on land use, transportation and the walkable city

Perhaps the cartographer was drunk

with 3 comments

This is more cartography- than transit- or land-use-related, but I couldn’t help posting this error-filled map of Chicago that I encountered in an ad for Bombay Sapphire in last week’s Red Eye (a free Chicago Tribune tabloid publication geared toward commuters):

I think Bombay Sapphire needs to hire a new cartographer.

The numbers represent stops on the bar crawl.

The map has just a number of bizarre and incorrect features:

  1. The map implies that there are no major east-west streets north of Diversey, which creates this very strange look at the top of the map where the Chicago grid appears to end and the north-south streets branch off like reedy stalks. What happened to Belmont and Addison?
  2. At the southwest corner of the map, they’ve deleted all the land southeast of Michigan and Roosevelt. While you may not be a fan of the Museum Campus (I think the Shedd Aquarium‘s a little paltry myself, but then again, my home state boasts both the Aquarium of the Pacific and the Monterey Bay Aquarium), completely removing the land seems to be a little bit much?
  3. The map shows Armitage Ave as ending at Clybourn. While that stretch of Armitage does end at Clybourn, it resumes at Elston, immediately east of the Kennedy.
  4. Similarly, it looks like Wacker “becomes” Lake St. While they do intersect, the mapmaker seems to have decided to just cut off the rest of N. and S. Wacker Drives.
  5. The mapmakers seem to have hazy grasp on North/South. In Chicago, Madison St separates north-south streets into their North and South portions; so if we take Western Ave at the left edge of the map, for example, the part north of Madison is N. Western Ave, while the part south of Madison is S. Western Ave.

Instead, on this map, south of Madison we get, from left to right, N. Ogden, N. Ashland, N. Halsted, S. Canal, N. Clark, S. State, N. Michigan, S. Columbus and N. Lakeshore Lake Shore: over half wrong. (They should all be prefixed with “South,” so S. Clark, S. Michigan, etc.) Conversely, north of Madison we have S. Western and S. Damen, which should be the opposite of N. Western and N. Damen.

What I noticed, and what I noticed initially, underlines the mental ubiquity of the Chicago grid. It took me a while to figure out why I found the southwest corner vaguely incorrect — as chopping off land will tend to do that — but I immediately picked up on the missing east-west arterial streets of Belmont and Addison, as well as the missing stretch of Armitage. Chicago’s relentless grid of half-mile streets, the omnipresence of location coordinates all over and the fact that CTA stations are somberly named after streets (hence the five “Western” stations) all serve to reinforce this overriding navigational principle (and when it is violated, as this map shows.)

Oh well. Maybe this map is meant to simulate a map you would draw after a couple of stops on the bar crawl.

Written by Andrew ACG

August 31, 2011 at 11:59 pm

Posted in Chicago

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3 Responses

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  1. A half-hearted defense of a really bad map

    You are correct that the Chicago grid is relentless, but, as I discovered moving around, there are some streets that change names when reflected across the river (Palmer and Webster, both 2200 N.) — and some streets that change names when reflected across important dividing streets such as Grace/Irving.

    For instance, in Uptown the reliable Halstead Street (800 W) becomes the might Clarendon (also 800 W). Dover, Beacon, and Malden becone like Glenwood and Wanyne. (And if you haven’t done the Glenwood walk between Foster and Byrn Mawr to see the lovely gardens — you’re missing a rare treat. One house near Balmoral has these lovely white roses — delightful.

    Streets like Winchester only exist in a few parts of the City. Princeton and Union exist only south of the river I think, etc.

    So the author may not have been as drunk as (s)he first appears — just extremely un-traveled.


    September 22, 2011 at 10:29 pm

  2. This is offensive.

    Steven Vance

    October 3, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    • Hi Steven. Would you mind explaining what you find offensive about the post? I will admit that perhaps the post title is unnecessarily provocative (it was an attempt at humor, which apparently didn’t come out quite as I had anticipated), but I’m not quite sure what I see wrong with the rest of the post — as far as I know, all the points I made are correct.


      Andrew ACG

      October 4, 2011 at 11:17 am

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