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House Address “Twins” Proximity (paulplowman.com)
217 points by edward 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 119 comments

I live in a house right on the dividing line of Portland's neighborhoods.

On one side of a street, the house would be 1 N Graham St, on the other side of the street, it would be 1 NE Graham St.

Needless to say, some confusion occurs. In addition, many times locations are referred to as being on 39th and Graham, for example. So you must specify very carefully that you live at Number 39 Northeast Graham St, "Not 39th and Graham, at the corner of Graham and Williams, on the Northeast side"

It's a bit of a hassle. But a nice neighborhood. My mirror-neighbors kindly forward me packages, and I return the favor. Saves everyone a lot of agony.

(This is leaving aside the area in Portland where, being east of the 'dividing line', but west of the river, the houses are numbered identically except with a leading zero. Many mapping systems truncate this leading zero. Ergo you end up ~15 blocks away)

From 63 NE Graham to 63 N Graham - 0.1 miles - https://goo.gl/maps/xPLNKLzWv652

From 10 SW Boundary St to 010 SW Boundary St - 98 feet - https://goo.gl/maps/FRCXuYKir3M2

Oh, I like the leading zero.

I worked for the telco that runs Northern Canada - all the way up to and inside the Arctic Circle. Most communities there don't have the concept of street names or house numbers at all. Our provisioning database had addresses like "brown house down from church" and "three houses from general store". Many were just "house1","house12","house334455" etc.

As horrible as it was, our data was the best in existence, to the point Canada Post was asking to use it :)

I live in an area that is similar, in the rural US. I do have a street address, a long ways up a dirt road, but google maps can't locate it. Not even the locals know the streets by names.

For friends and family, since I am technically savvy, I was able to figure out a google maps lat/lng that navigates to my house.

For locals or, for instance, utility workers that I can't send a lat/lng to, I have to give directions like this. "Go past the school, take the road to the right. Turn left at the cemetary. When you're on the dirt road, take the high road at every fork. After 4 miles you will come to three mailboxes all together, and my driveway is the 2nd one after that."

My street address also has the word "box" in it, despite being a physical address, so lots of places like Paypal don't want to accept it s a real address. It's caused me some grief and actually cost me some money, too.

I went to grade (actually, "grammar") school in a similar place. We were something like "Rural Route 3 Box 39" or something like that, but we really on the Old Highway, first on the left after where Maynis' barn was before it burnt down as you're headed out of town. I am not making that up, and yes, the locals delighted in giving directions like that to visitors. I didn't like that town.

"Turn left on the road before the house with the bright yellow door, and then drive about 5 minutes and it's the second house on the left".

Oh how I hate those directions. "Ok, there's a house with a yellow-ish door, but it's kind of a dull yellow. Is that the one? Should I turn here or keep going?"

I think every small town has a set of "turn right where the barn used to be" directions.

I grew up in a village in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and it was the same thing there. For normal mail, we had a box at the post office, which was conveniently right next to our house. (Smallest post office in the state, I believe.) For delivery services like UPS, we would tell them "the first house east of the post office." It usually worked. Occasionally we got a UPS driver who was directionally impaired, and we had to go over to our neighbor on the other side of the post office and get our package from them.

Did the town ever consider just adding numbers?

It wasn't big enough to be a separate political unit. It looks like the county eventually added street names and numbers, so people have normal addresses now. I left in the early 90s, before that happened.

I did see the same process happen in rural Wisconsin in the late 90s. I had an address by then, but I had a friend who lived out of town and had no address initially, but they went through and assigned one to everyone. I think the stated reason was to help emergency services, but of course it helped a lot of other stuff too.

My grandmother (in South Australia) didn't agree when they instituted house numbers (in the 1960s I believe) and continued to gave out her house name, never the number. I still have no idea what her house number was.

I'm not sure how she voted (it's compulsory in AUS) but apart that (possible) problem it seemed to cause no inconvenience.

I grew up on a few Aussie properties, and some of them had no numbered address. Road Mail Box numbers seem to be pretty common now, but back then it was more like "Bindabundee Homestead, Bindabundee Road, NSW".

For one place I don't even know the road name, because nobody used it officially. It was just "the Snake Track", and everyone on that road had their mail addressed to the post office, which was really a general store with a few PO boxes, and we trusted each other not to take mail with someone else's name on it.

I have so many curiosity questions about your experiences up north. I'm guessing it was NorthwesTel?

Yep. Fire away with questions if you want. I absolutely loved my time there and can't wait to get back.

There are plenty of my photos here http://theroadchoseme.com/category/canada

How was the DB structured? For example was "brown house down from church" in some sort of structured field ("Address 1") or more open ended? What if the brown house was painted red, could those with local knowledge update it in a timely way?

And why would Canada Post need your data? Was it just a typical slow moving state enterprise or did you guys just do a better job? They likely had many decades more experience than your company...

This was all in a commercial off-the-shelf provisioning tool that probably every telco in North America uses, so the database was very structured. There were forced fields like "address line 1", "Address line 2", and our staff had just forced in whatever would go.

Updating it was certainly possible, though I don't think much effort was being made. In those communities we probably had less than 50 unique addresses, in some other places we have tens of thousands.

Canada Post had no info on these communities, and they decided ours was better than nothing. Remember, we are talking extremely, extremely remote villages in the Arctic Circle, many of which are fly in only (no roads).

I did some inventory work for a company during y2k. I got assigned to Holland, MI, and our jobs were sent electronically to a fancy bespoke app running on a Palm VII. There's a section of Holland where the roads running East-West were <number> Avenue, and the roads running North-South were <number> Street. The app stripped the St/Ave designation, so I was being sent to addresses like "45678 123". Good times.

The borough of Queens, New York, has numbered streets, avenues, roads, terraces, places, lanes, and drives, all interleaved or intersected according to a defined scheme:


The app stripped the St/Ave designation

How was this ever a good idea to anyone?

Well, storing the data in an INTEGER column will save like three bytes of storage per record on average....

I know we're being ridiculous but they could have assigned the st/ave/road/place into a leading or trailing integer and then parsed it out on both ends.

I recently dealt with data that was missing any separator between the house number and street. Very hard to tell whether "8215thSt" is 821 5th St, 82 15th St or even 8 215th St.

Luckily, I didn't have to be the person solving that problem.

Wow! Having both numbered roads and identically numbered aves in the same city is ridiculously common. So common that I am baffled that something like that made production. Not only that having street names like "Church St" and "Church Ave" in the same city/town is also ridiculously common. Sometimes it just happens naturally and sometimes it's an artifact of cities consolidating.

At least somewhere like Manhattan, the fact that Streets and avenues are very different things is pretty deeply ingrained. Locals are unlikely to confuse the two. More generally, it's easy this sort of thing could cause confusion though.

I live on A B Road West. One street over is A B Road. The street joining them at the top is A B. As you can imagine, delivery drivers get very confused.

Additionally, one street over the other way is A Fields which leads into A Hill. Across the main road is A Terrace.

This was one of the weirdest things about driving across the country from the East to West coast. At some point I passed a sign that just said "Z".

TIL a house number can have a leading zero. I've always liked your Portland (I live in the other one).

So you can have another kind of address twin, where you live in the same house number and street etc, except a different portland?

Why so you can, if you fudge the quadrant:


Parenthetically, there are actually either 5, 7 or 8 "quadrants" in Portland depending on who you ask and when. The traditional 5 are NW, N, NE, SE, SW. However, Burnside street is simply labeled E/W since it's on the dividing line, and John's Landing is the aforementioned zero-prefixed division which has been occasionally called "South", or the area just north of it, the "South Waterfront", even though it's not included in addresses with an S anywhere.

There are, roughly, 27 Portlands, in the U.S alone.


Fine, the original Portland in the US.

I live on the N/NE border in Seattle, but fortunately I'm on an avenue, so the entire street is N.

It's an interesting system that I'd never seen before I moved here. Streets are East/West. Avenues are North/South. The compass direction indicates the section of the city that the street is in. And the directional goes up front on streets and on the end for avenues.

It sounds like Portland has the same system - how widespread is it? Is it a pacific NW thing?

In Portland, I've never seen the direction at the end of the street address. It's always <house number> <direction> <street name>.

A lot of the City of Portland systems have you input your house number, street name, then direction so (guessing) they can validate it. Of course, browsers have been filling form fields for many, many years and I wish they'd just put an address field there.

Here's more detail about the naming system: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Street_layout_of_Seattle

Chicago uses a similar system.

I used to live in Roanoke, VA, which similarly has directional quadrants in addresses. They're appended after the street name (so, for example, the nearest grocery store to me was on "Brandon Ave. SW"). And since street names and numbers can repeat, it's necessary to always include the quadrant in an address there.

Roanoke, and nearby Salem, are also nice tests for assumptions people make about addresses hierarchies and local government units. In Virginia, anything legally classified as a city is its own independent governmental unit, subject only to the state government; towns are part of and subject to counties, but cities aren't. Which creates situations like Roanoke the city not being part of Roanoke County (despite being located within the geographic boundaries of the county). And Salem being the county seat of Roanoke County despite legally not being part of the county.

I live in Fairfax County, whose county seat is Fairfax, which is not part of Fairfax County. It's fun.

I used to live in Alexandria, which is a city. Occasionally I'd conduct some business where they needed to know which county I was in. I'd tell them "Alexandria" and they'd say, "no, county." Then I got to explain how Virginia is special and that was the closest thing to a "county" that I could give them.

It always amused me that companies who needed this information somehow were unaware of this important fact about one of the states they operated in.

I was in Corvallis a while back for the first time, heavily dependent on GPS. The robo-directions sounded like a mental DOS attack at first - "Head South East on North West Western Ave." Took me a bit to be able to parse it.

When I moved to Silicon Valley years ago I found it quite confusing at first when trying to find addresses on Kifer Rd, which lies right on the border of Santa Clara and Sunnyvale. Driving westbound one finds the addresses on the left in the 1,000's and decreasing, while the addresses on the right are in the 3000's and increasing.

I'm ashamed to admit it took more than a couple U-turns to figure out what was going on and stop beating myself up for "missing it, _again_"...

it makes me wish that we had 6 quadrants, instead of 5.

for those that don't know, portland has five "quadrants" due to the river being the east-west dividing line, and having a few turns. it makes for interesting explanations to visitors - I can't begin to estimate how many times I've drawn the city on a whiteboard for GIS professionals visiting.


I wonder why there isn't more drive to fix these addresses. The prefixed 0 issue would probably make me think twice before I'd move there. You know it's gonna be a frequent annoyance.

It certainly was when I was house hunting in the region. Most software would output it without the leading zero and you'd be off on a chase to find it.

Don't couriers also check the name on the bell?

Or is it also the same?

I work in Boston MA which has this problem since it annexed a couple different other munis and didn't change the street names, so there are 2 different twin addresses to my work address, not a big deal except for the fact that for some bizarre reason google maps, which allows you save various addresses, doesn't save the zip code so when ever I'd get direction from work it would just pick whichever one is closest to the destination and give me directions from there.

That's a clever optimization that is. They are providing you with the shortest route, thus improving your user experience, isn't it great?

At my last job in Brighton, there were no less than four different address clones for our office in different "cities". One with the same zip code!!

Thank goodness our shippers were on point and remembered which one we were.

Hmm. In US the people who operate emergency dispatch (police, fire, ambulance) often spend political capital to get changes to street names and addresses that might cause them to send service to the wrong house.

Years ago, we were weekly renting a house in Ocean Isle Beach, NC. I don't recall the exact number of the address, but let's say it was #164. The house was a duplex, with an east and west side. We were staying in 164 West. That house is on East First Street.

One afternoon, our infant son suffered a febrile seizure, stopped breathing, lips turned blue, eyes rolled back, and while my wife administered first aid, I called 911 to summon emergency services to "164 East First St, West".

Thankfully, we were able to manage the situation, as the 911 dispatcher thought that I was correcting myself and sent the responding services to 164 West First St. It was more than 15 minutes (which felt like hours) and a return phone call before anyone outside responded to the correct address.

I take some responsibility for the communications gap (in retrospect, there was no need to specify "west"; we'd have gone and got them) and everything worked out perfectly fine for my son, but even 5 years later, it's incredibly hard to type this without tearing up.


I take some responsibility for the communications gap (in retrospect, there was no need to specify "west"; we'd have gone and got them) and everything worked out perfectly fine for my son, but even 5 years later, it's incredibly hard to type this without tearing up.

Don't beat yourself up too much. Having been a 911 dispatcher before (coincidentally, in Brunswick County, where Ocean Isle Beach is located), I can say that there is a tremendous onus on the dispatcher to verify, double verify, and even triple verify location / address if there is any possible ambiguity. And any BrunsCo dispatcher should know that the local beaches have a lot of those kinds of confusing addresses (Holden Beach has some similar situations, for example).

It's also the case that in years past, before cellphones were ubiquitous, most 911 calls came in on land lines which were mostly strictly associated with a specific physical address. Now, with the ubiquity of cellphones, things are both better and worse in some regards. Now you can often get to a phone faster, and in places where there would be no landlines, but the trade-off is that geolocating cell phones is still not perfect. [1]

[1]: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2016/12/28/911-centers-struggle-to...

Oh wow. I've a house there and don't understand why a rural county even needs to bother with directional quadrant addressing. Surely there's not much need to disambiguate in such a rural place.

Most of the county at large doesn't do that, it's mostly just on the barrier islands. Most of them split East/West on the streets that parallel the strand (those beaches are all South facing, due to the weird shape of NC). Blame the local town governments for the beach towns, not the county. Generally speaking, disambiguation wasn't a big problem in most of the county... There might be two or three Smith Streets or something in BrunsCo, but if one is in Leland, one is in Shallotte and one is in Southport, there's not going to be any confusion.

I don't think there's a problem with the streets being called East/West (and in fact that helps people in their day-to-day usage of the barrier islands).

I do have a problem with the houses being called East/West (rather than A and B).

Right, having "Ocean Boulevard East" and "Ocean Boulevard West" isn't, in and of itself, a problem. But as I recall, the various island towns (Holden Beach, Sunset Beach, OIB, etc.) had quite a few varying issues with confusing addresses, and some involved the interaction of other issues with the "East/West" split. That said, I've been gone from that area for 17+ years so my memory is a little fuzzy on the specifics now.

I had a similar experience. 7yr old, Halloween evening, and he's having trouble breathing. The sort of thing that brings medical staff really quickly. We were in semi-rural Washington, 2-10 acre lots, most of the houses set well back on private roads. All the house numbers were on the mailboxes, and all of them on the same side of the road for the postal route. Except -- our house was an even house on the odd side of the road, and a good 300' back on a shared drive.

10-15 minutes later, I see lights through the trees. In a minute, I decide to run out. They were across the road at the vacant holiday rental, I wound up in the ambulance to guide them to the right house.

The next year, we ran into the EMT at the county fair, he was pushing for people to sign up for county provided blue house emergency numbers at the turnoff to the house and at the road. And he was telling our story as the inspiration.

Also, in that time, the county renumbered our house to the correct side of the street. Helpfully enough, they did it while we were refinancing the house, so the documents were all wrong when we went to sign.

I'm glad your son is okay.

An address I used to live at was in an unincorporated area that the county had put basically zero effort into giving addresses.

The street had a sensible name that everyone who lived nearby called it. Let's suppose it's "Thataway Rd" (I am anonymizing all components of this address). But that name wasn't in the USPS database. They called it something like "CC04".

The house at the end of the road was number 50. The road was long and had an increasing number of houses built on it, which used all the numbers up to 48, and then the houses after that became 48B, 48C, 48D, ... 48Q, 48R, 48S... So if you made the address by following the house number with the street name, the address would have been 48R CC04. Which nobody would recognize as an address.

The post office suggested "CC04 Box 48R", which if you filled it into a Web form, would trigger special handling for PO boxes.

On top of that, Google had the ordering of the house numbers backwards, so Google Maps would send people to the wrong end of the long street.

Clearly nobody was happy with this, but I credit the emergency dispatchers with finally pushing through to give everybody a reasonable address based on what they already called the street. Through their effort I finally lived at 14 Thataway Rd instead of 48R CC04.

Indeed! And in a lot of the rural west, there are places where visible signage is driven by the fire department, eg:


I’m told that there are proper addresses in the town I grew up in, but none are posted on signs. UPS relies on area knowledge and some vague conventions (e.g. #311 behind the school). USPS doesn’t deliver since they only have post office boxes.

Or they dispatch to both as appropriate.

I used to live at a twin address, my parents still do. It was across the boundary of towns and the homes are 500m apart. Postcode is only 1 letter different at the end (e.g. AB1 1CD/AB1 1CE).

The only issues I remember was getting each other's mail, and we'd just walk over and post it manually to them.

We added a name to our property so we could use that in mailing addresses to help clarify.

Here in our country we have an option to split a land plot into smaller ones. If for some reason you cannot take neighbouring numbers, you get assigned letters. We have some land plots, which have been divided into many smaller ones. So, there are homes (or homes-to-be-built) with address "Street 10, Town" and "Street 1O, Town".

I guess, postal service will make these people to get acquainted :)

Queens, NY is full of weird, confusing addresses and intersections - ignoring the addresses for a minute, you can go down 30th Ave, take a right on 30th street, then a left on 30th drive. If you miss the house, take a right on 31st st, then hang a right on 31st ave - 30th street is a one-way, so you'll have to go to 29th street to make a right and then a right on 30th street again. If you miss that, take a left on 30th Rd, and give up on ever arriving.

And that's not even the most confusing block of streets.

My father in law owns property in west Texas. No address just gps coordinates. He gets packages sent to a place in a nearby town.

Is this property registered with anyone? Or does he just sort of live there and no one asks?

Country areas used to be like this everywhere.

In the old days, my parents mailing address was RD1, Box 300. No street -- you have to tell couriers like UPS (who didn't deliver there until the late 80s) the physical address separately.

Road numbers were added in the early 80s, and mailing addresses were updated in the late 90s when individual telephone lines were available and 911 was mandated.

Directions for emergency services would be like "There's an emergency at the Smith's house, over on Country Road 5 houses after the Jones farm."

This made me chuckle. Yes, this is not a case of a recluse squatting on some land in the middle of nowhere, it is land off of a major highway, there is just no address or postal code associated with it.

Most localities don't use addresses to identify properties. For instance, New York uses Section-Block-Lot (SBL) numbers: https://www.tax.ny.gov/research/property/valuation/sbl.htm

Lots will only be given addresses upon request, usually when someone wants mail delivery or if the locality requires you obtain an address for emergency services to obtain a building permit.

I have lived for 17 years at 209 (blank) Street, and found it absurd and ridiculous that less than a mile away is 209 West (blank) Street. That's not twins, but it's so close that it's a real problem.

The most hilarious bit, though, was when someone moved into the other house and filed their change of address with the address "209 West Blank Not Blank", in a hamfisted attempt to remove ambiguity, but they got it exactly backwards. We got their mail for months.

I had to register to vote 4 times before they got the "N" for North part of my address correct. Half the addresses in my city have those and getting it wrong puts me in the wrong district! And two of those four times were me explaining the exact problem to someone on the phone and them saying "yes, I understand, I'll fix it" only to end up with it still being wrong after they 'fixed' it.

What if you lived at 209 East (blank) Street?

Chicago itself is on a well-arranged grid system, and its south and west suburbs generally follow the same grid (so addresses on a street in one town might proceed from 9200 S to 10400 S, for instance, and the next town picks up at 10400) and thus it's not super important to know exactly which town you're in.

But then there's the north and northwest suburbs...

In most (all?) of the suburbs out in that direction, the overall roads are laid out on exactly same grid as Chicago, but they are numbered with a separate zero location in each town, which in general are not coordinated in any way. So it is vitally important when navigating to know what town you're in and what you're aiming for; and for extra degree of difficulty, many town boundaries run down the middle of the major grid streets, so you can be headed north and addresses on your right will be increasing North addresses from one town and decreasing South addresses from another. And of course the town boundaries are often not well-marked....

When I first moved to Seattle, a friend of mine on the eastside gave me directions to his house.

It included going through the intersection at NE 124th Street and 124th Ave NE.

One of my favorite Seattle intersections joins Bellevue Place East, Bellevue Avenue East, and Bellevue Court East:


Different but related, and something I ran into trouble with over the weekend:

My grandparents live at 297 <Road B>, and to get there you have to take <Road A> off the main road in town. Well, the house immediately before you turn onto <Road B> is 297 <Road A>, but they have their driveway _and mailbox_ physically located on <Road B>. This means that it appears there are two 297 <Road B> even though the other house is on a different road!

This weekend was just the pizza guy going to the wrong house, but a few months ago it was the cops when my grandfather fell and got hurt. Not a great situation!

I lived on a house in Oakland on the Berkeley border - the street crossed Telegraph Ave (which is a diagonal across the grid) - our street had 4 segments, most of which didn't touch the main streets (one bit touched Alcatraz, another was broken by Telegraph but didn't come out on to it) - at out corner the street numbers from Berkeley which increased going southward met the numbers from Oakland that increased going northwards.

We'd often find confused people staring at the street signs .... at one point we put up a sign "So you are lost ...."

On east/west streets, numbers in Berkeley increase heading east, and in Oakland they increase heading west. So if you follow Alcatraz itself from east to west the numbers:

  - at first decrease, from Claremont to College (in Berkeley)
  - jump down and then increase, from College to Dover (in Oakland)
  - jump back up and then decrease, from Dover to Essex (in Berkeley)
  - jump back down and then increase, from Essex to San Pablo (in Oakland)
It's really just dumb luck that the numbers don't collide somewhere.

(I have ignored Emeryville, like everyone does, but I think its addresses follow Oakland's?)

I live not far from there and I'm confused just reading your post. What street are you referring to? I can't seem to find a street that intersects Alcatraz and is broken by telegraph (not sure what you mean but doesn't come out on to it).

I grew up in a neighborhood where one pair of streets intersected twice. This led to quite some confusion whenever a friend said "Meet me at Kiln & White." The two intersections were far enough apart that many people did not know there was a duplicate, and both were prominent junctions suitable for meeting other kids.

this kind of thing has made me wish delivery firms would have a "don't attempt delivery i'll pick it up from the depot" option.

We have to provide a lengthy "please ignore your sat-nav and approach our house this way..." for most deliveries. Otherwise the vans/trucks try approaching our house up a farm track that stops about 200m from where we are.

If you haven't already I'd suggest making sure Open Street Map is correct. I used to visit an address often that wasn't listed on any mapping services, so just had to specify coordinates and ignore the last 500m of navigation (I only used it to get the quickest route taking into account traffic - I knew how to get there). Strangely a few weeks after I added it to OSM, Google Maps also listed the address...

Open Street Map is correct and has been since the first time I looked at it for this location, over a year ago!

They do, at least in the US, [UPS mychoice](https://www.ups.com/us/en/services/tracking/mychoice.page)(w... has a free tier and a paid one) and [https://www.fedex.com/us/delivery/](https://www.fedex.com/us.... In most urban areas you can hold deliveries in local stores. I mean really it is for signing for packages during the workday, but it would work well for this.

Though honestly, I imagine you'd get pretty friendly with your neighbor and just reciprocally transfer things.

Yes, if there is any chance I won't be home on the day something is supposed to be delivered, I will have stuff sent to the UPS store on my way home rather than my apartment. In fact I have something there right now!

I could see this being the premise to a sitcom, next door neighbors actually get to know each other because of this.

I really enjoyed the writing style of the author. Great content.

Why don't we just use lat long coordinates or geohashes for addresses? The shit that delivery people have to put up with is truly ridiculous.

> Why don't we just use lat long coordinates or geohashes for addresses?

Primarily because they're not very people-friendly.

- It's only recently that we have the means to look up alternate representations from coordinates (such as directions between two coordinate points).

- Street addresses partially encode path (as opposed to only point) information. If you know where a street is and how to get to it, it's more likely you can find the address you're looking for.

- It's easier for people to remember and relay. Similar to how people don't refer to each other by some unique numeric identifier, it's easier for people to remember and relay street addresses than numeric ids.

* I'm using street addresses as a proxy for "non-point address". Address encodings around the world are different.

Perhaps postal addressing will change now that we have easier lookup. I believe Fedex and UPS already encode different information in their printed address labels. I suspect something similar to street addresses will persist for quite a while given their human interface strengths.

When I was a kid, I lived in a house with an address I'll call 12345 Foobar Rd. Just down the block, there was a house whose address I'll call 12345 Foobar Ct.

We would get each other's mail constantly. I knew their names just as well as I knew the names of our next-door neighbors.

My address is 1234 Street, but just 6 houses away is 1234 Cross Street, and the house number is visible from Street.

Mail is rarely delivered to the wrong place but non-UPS/FedEx Amazon orders go to the wrong place every now and then.

Location on Google streetview


Unfortunately the sign on the house on the right is blurred out.

Interesting — although presumably annoying — how the cycle lanes just stop at the boundary!

and you should send that info to royal mail and tell them they should bump some numbers up.

Royal Mail do not have the power to change people's house numbers or street names!

I'm not quite sure who does, though. At the end they mention trying to get the local authority to do it. Some random googling found http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shet... , where several streets had no names at all for years and the problem was eventually fixed by the local authority.

We don't have a house number or a street - I wonder who controls the registration of house "names" for rural properties?

Edit: Found it: Our local authority (Fife) has an online form where you can request changes to property details and even request a new street be given a name:


In the US, a lot of that sort of thing was cleaned up for E911 services. Rural cottages without mail delivery and houses on rural delivery routes were given street numbers. Not sure who did the assigning though.

Also, for example, roads that didn't actually connect in a navigable way in the middle were given different names as are roads with branches.

A similar issue to that in the article exists in the US--perhaps especially in the Northeast where there are lots of relatively small towns that connect to each other and restart numbers. (Though in New England, they do often change street names.)

[ADDED: Apparently they're assigned by local authorities in the US. [1]]

[1] https://ribbs.usps.gov/npfpresentations/documents/tech_guide...

I remember reading an article in The Atlantic from less than 5 years ago describing an ongoing naming effort in West Virginia: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/01/where-t...

> West Virginia entrusted most of the mapping project to individual counties, tasking 911 directors with naming thousands of streets. Different directors subscribed to different naming philosophies. Mercer County’s director pulled names from local history books and Scrabble Web sites. Others Google-Mapped out-of-state towns for inspiration. Some directors gave residents the right to name their own streets, despite the risk that future generations would have to endure, in the case of one town, Crunchy Granola Road. In Raleigh County, some communities named their streets after Disney characters or Vietnam War battles.

> Crunchy Granola Road

That is actually a rather awesome street name, but I wonder if using registered trademarks as part of a public street name is something local government should allow at all.

Odd though; I can't find this nominative oddity on OpenStreetMap (or Google Maps for that matter).

>using registered trademarks //

How is a common description of a standard breakfast cereal still a trademark? If granola is an RTM then I'm afraid it's become generic (in UK at least, it's just "what US Americans call muesli").

Wikipedia have it as an RTM only in Australia and NZ.

Vermont cleaned up its street names as part of the E911 rollout while I was growing up. The dirt road we lived on got a name for the first time.

The towns also deduped street names, so if one town had a Green St, Green Ave and Green Rd, only on kept its name.

The neighborhood I grew up in had the houses numbered in the order the lots sold. They are a completely random jumble and no mapping database locates them correctly.

Interesting. I'm now down the GIS rabbithole of http://xml.coverpages.org/bs7666.html

> and the problem was eventually fixed

What exactly was the problem? (emergency services were concerned that an ambiguous locating would delay their response).

Pre-GPS, post E911: if a road has sequential numbers, the ambulance can pass 235 Edge-of-Town Road looking for 237 Edge-of-Town Road, slow down to 15 mph looking for the next driveway, and miss saving a life because 237 is literally 3 miles further.

The rationalizing plan associates numbers with distance, so 235 will be very close to 237 and a house 3 miles further will be numbered 873 or so, even with no other addresses in between.

As long as they are re-addressing, they also remove all twin addresses in the same ZIP code -- only one 125 Main St allowed per ZIP. Sometimes this means re-naming streets.

The house I grew up in changed from 85 to 421; our neighbor on the left was 417 and on the right was 435.

Yeah but here all the lanes are within 700m of each other. There's clear lines of sight down each lane and three major cross-streets to gain access from[0].

I guess if a 999 call said that they're "on the lane near Gorden's Saddlery", that would add a significant delay as the paramedics might have to check 9 lanes.

0: https://goo.gl/maps/ArGeqNKwcJ52

Yep, local councils have that power.

In London this is granted to them under Local Government Act 1985 (Schedule 8, 14/1); not sure about outside London though.

I have a mildly involved situation with numbering. I live in the top-floor flat at 29 Acacia Avenue, N4. There are two flats below me.

Note to Americans: in the UK, the floor at street level is the ground floor, the one above that is the first floor, above that is the second floor, etc.

According to the Royal Mail, the addresses here are 29, 29A, and 29B. The normal convention is for 29 to be the ground floor, and 29A and 29B to be the first- and second-floor flats; that appears to be the case based on current and previous occupants' post etc. All well and good.

When i moved in, i was left some documentation from the letting agency who were running the place before that gave the address as 29C. I have seen no other mention of 29C.

The Land Registry knows about three leaseholds here: 29, 29B, and 29. Yes, 29 appears twice. Based on the diagrams and descriptions in the registrations, one 29 is the ground floor flat, 29B is the first floor, the the second floor is 29.

Mostly, this has no impact, and is just annoying. The one real-world consequence is that the bank who issued my neighbour's mortgage thinks her address is 29B, because that's what's on the leasehold they lent against, so i get her mortgage statements.

I thought i'd get this corrected, so i wrote to the Land Registry, and they replied that they would change it if i sent them documentation from my street numbering authority, ie my council, stating the correct numbering.

The council think the flats are called Flat 1, 29 Acacia Avenue, Flat 2, 29 Acacia Avenue, and Flat 3, 29 Acacia Avenue! I don't want the Land Registry to use those designations, as they're even further from the ground truth of what the Royal Mail thinks. I also don't want to risk triggering the Royal Mail updating its database, as that could screw up postal delivery. So i'm stuck.

Meanwhile, and the Valuation Office Agency thinks the flats are called Ground Floor Flat, 29 Acacia Avenue, First Floor ... you get the idea.

Fortunately, all these designations seem to interoperate alright. The VOA sets the bands for council tax, which the council collects, so somehow, the council are mapping those designations to their own ones. The council send me the bills for council tax at Flat 3, and the Royal Mail delivers them.

Oh, and there's another 29 Acacia Avenue in N14, four files north. I get their post sometimes.

EDIT: I spoke too soon. After writing this comment, i thought i'd register to manage my council tax online. The bill is actually sent to "Second Floor, 29 Acacia Avenue", but that address isn't in the list of options on the council's website, which only has "Flat 3, 29 Acacia Avenue". I can't select the former, and the latter is rejected as not matching my account number. Checkmate!

Street naming and numbering dept of your district council. They notify Royal Mail.

there's a difference between no names needing to be addressed and one address is 1 mile from the right one.

This is when you expect the top HN comment to be: "hey I live in one of these homes, AMA."

Fun post though. Something to add to "what developers should know about addresses"

I love that what programmers should know about names, addresses, times, unicode, and everything else all basically boils down to "Look, basically, it's an opaque field and you should just give up all hope of ever understanding what is in the field. Just take it in blind from the user and hope that passing it blindly back out somewhere works."

(To be clear, I don't actually "believe" in that level of defeatism per se. It's just that they all seem to end up there at the limit.)

If it helps, I grew up just off the A673 shown in the "BUT WAIT..." section (it's a pretty long road!).

I bet there's someone on HN who's tried to renumber their house to zero to see how many systems it crashes.

There's a platform zero at King's Cross, along with the famous (not actually a platform) "Platform 9 and three quarters"

"0 Egmont Road, Middlesbrough, TS4 2HT"



I couldn't work out from Streetview if it actually exists or not.

The Royal Mail postcode finder (http://www.royalmail.com/find-a-postcode) offers 1 and 1A for that postcode, but not 0. I had a look on Street View too and I think the houses to the left of number 1 (which you can clearly see) are probably 1A and belonging to the orthogonal road, respectively.

I think kind of confusion could be solved with http://what3words.com/

It's a different way to look up locations through the entire world, using three random words you can find any address or location with in 10 feet.

The only downside I see is the three words are all English words. Which could be unfamiliar to non English speaking parts of the world.

Just think about how easy it would be teach your children where they live by memorizing just three words instead of House number, Street name, City, State, Zip code.

A lot of information is coded in just the numeric part of a street address. Even or odd tells you which side of the street it is on, you can tell where an address is relative to other addresses on the street, and there's usually a sign on the building that you can match with the address you have to make sure you're at the right place.

Three random words have none of these properties.

The other downsides are

- It's a proprietary system

- The three words give no clues in relation to other words -- except that similar words are some distance from each other. "59 Main Street" is very often very close to "57 Main Street".

Yeah, basically all the three words give you is "somewhat? memorable unique identifiers". You get jack diddly squat in terms of routing information.

You want a lot of things out of a good address system.

  1.  Unique identifier.  (ie, no duplicates)
  2.  Reasonably simple to remember.  (ie, not lat-longs)
  3.  Simple levels of abstraction.  ("Do you deliver to X?")
  4.  Recursive routing. (Navigating to one layer of the address, then another, should work reasonably well.)
  5.  Decentralized implementation.  (Localities must be able to assign names while following a few reasonable rules.)
#1 and 2 aren't really the hard parts of the problem.

I'm guessing it would be a logical next-step to simply generate place names according to this grid in every known language, ideally using the same word as in English where possible.

edit: they already have that for what looks like at least 13 major languages.

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