When I resided in Hagerstown, Maryland many moons ago, Washington County’s Planning Department assigned new addresses to nearly every property in the county. This effort was completed successfully in part due to the cooperation all of the local jurisdictions. The purpose of this multi-month effort was to better coordinate the street numbering system throughout the county and improve emergency response times through 9-1-1. The plan went flawlessly, but it should be noted that Maryland does not have townships as a form of government.
Fast forward (or perhaps backwards) 20 years to Greater Lansing, Michigan. Granted the city sits within or aside three counties instead of one, but past street naming and numbering is anything but coordinated between them - instead it is pretty much an illogical nightmare. The system is so confusing that one wonders how local 9-1-1 operators begin put up with the zany numbering without literally pulling their hair out.
- For instance, when you travel north from Lansing into abutting Clinton County, addresses that were four digits and increasing as going northward suddenly become five digits and decreasing as you drive north towards the county seat of St. Johns. This changeover occurs less than two miles from downtown Lansing.
- Secondly, in one community, properties in the eastern half fronting M-43 are addressed West Grand River Avenue, while properties fronting M-43 in the western half of that same community are addressed East Grand River Avenue. Say what? How can anyone say that makes any logical or logistical sense.
- In a third example, most major thoroughfares are called roads in outlying parts of Ingham and Clinton Counties, but are referred to as highways in Eaton County. For example, Mt. Hope goes from being called a “road” in Ingham County to an “avenue” in the City of Lansing to a “highway” in Eaton County as you travel from east to west. Meanwhile, Grand River Avenue goes from being identified as West Grand River Avenue to East Grand River Avenue to North Grand River Avenue to West Grand River Highway as you travel from east to west across the metro area.
Any sane map maker must shake their head in utter dismay when they encounter these nuances. On the plus side, at least current and future street names are subject to the approval by the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission.
There is absolutely no way a visitor or newcomer would begin to understand the total lack of logic in Greater Lansing’s past street naming and numbering sins. That is not to say that goofy street systems don’t exist elsewhere. But, one has to seriously wonder how this illogical hodge-podge impacts a litany of issues including economic development. If a potential employer cannot figure out where a development site is because of the zany street numbering, they will not bother wasting their time considering Greater Lansing. Time is money folks, and few if any employers are going to waste theirs trying to make sense out of an archaic street system.
This is one reason regionalism is important. Unlike dozens of little fiefdoms running amok, a regional and coordinated approach to streets is critical to public safety, efficient and safe travel, and economic development. It’s a matter of working together in a united effort for the good of the region versus battling turf wars over smaller and smaller slices of a shrinking pie.
Does Greater Lansing have the stones to someday accomplish such a daunting task without becoming eternally lost in inter-jurisdictional bickering? When the time does arise, we will see. For the good of Greater Lansing, let’s hope a regional solution to address the past sins of poor street naming and numbering is successful.