The World Series is being broadcast on TV and before going to a commercial the network treats us to a view from the blimp or drone or something flying over Chicago at night, and the regularity of the pattern of streets in that city is conspicuous. In measuring "regularity", I give credit for the pattern persisting over a long distance, so that absolute perfection in a tiny city of say twelve-by-twelve city blocks, doesn't make it up to what Chicago has achieved in any regularity-of-streets competition.

Is Chicago in fact the most regularly laid-out city that has ever existed?

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    Many cities in Brazil have a ridiculous level of regularity. – liftarn Oct 31 '16 at 8:12
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    Brasilia is famous for being planned out from scratch, but when you look at a map of it, it hardly looks like a vast and regular grid. Given the way the question is worded, I think Chicago is still a strong candidate. – Brian Z Oct 31 '16 at 14:47
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    If you look at the maps of many midwestern & western US cities (Detroit, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Denver), you see that there's often one rectilinear grid in the oldest part of town that's aligned to a body of water, and then a separate N-S E-W grid that surrounds it, breaking the regularity. Chicago had the advantage that its nearby body of water (the shore of lake Michigan) is also aligned pretty close to N-S, so you don't get the colliding grids you do in those other midwestern towns. – Michael Seifert Oct 31 '16 at 14:52
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    For an example of a planned, regular (though not purely rectangular) grid, there's Washington, DC, with its grid centered on the US Capitol building. – jamesqf Oct 31 '16 at 18:56
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    Chicago might win if you include all the N/S and E/W roads that extend far into Illinois, but Los Angeles is also a strong contender. And Xian has many suburbs that aren't on a cardinal grid today, so it no longer wins on sheer size, but its grid has existed for at least 1.5 millennia. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Oct 20 '18 at 18:50

Cities existing on a regular grid pattern is certainly not unique to Chicago.

For example, I'll give you my own hometown of Tulsa. Our street system is an engineer's dream.

The streets are laid out on a perfectly north-south/east west grid pattern, with arterial streets exactly one mile apart each. The east-west streets are all numbered, and each number is 1/10th of a mile (on occasions where more than one is required in that tenth of a mile, the extra street will be labeled "nth place" rather than the typical "nth street".) Sadly, the north-south streets had to have names, but even there the ones east of downtown are named after cities east of the Mississippi, and the ones west of downtown are named after cities west of the Mississippi.

The implication of this is that all a person has to do is memorize the names and order of the north-south arteries, and they know how to go anywhere in Tulsa, and how far any two points are from each other.

In theory this also means the Tulsa grid system applies to the entire earth (although globe projections would be a problem near the poles). Some wags have used this fact to set up a monument at our 0 point named "Center of the Universe".

I'm not saying all this to try to claim Tulsa is in fact more regular. I've no doubt that this is a quite common feature of newer 20th Century-designed cities, particularly in the US. What I'm doing is pointing out that the regular city grid is not unique to Chicago.

  • However, as I said, "In measuring "regularity", I give credit for the pattern persisting over a long distance". – Michael Hardy Oct 31 '16 at 15:27
  • @MichaelHardy - Tulsa's you can find being used in neighboring cities up to 20 miles away with the same naming scheme, and for the grid mile vertices about 30 miles away to the north, 38 miles to the east and 39 miles to the south (but hardly west at all. The Arkansas river and Osage reservation were apparently nearly as big a cultural blockage as lake Michigan). – T.E.D. Oct 31 '16 at 17:46

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