Friday, December 7, 2012

Salt Lake's Grid System: A How-To

Visitors to Salt Lake often cry foul when they try to navigate the city’s grid system for street addresses. But it’s actually quite easy once you understand how it works.

The city is generally laid out with streets running east-west or north-south. To orient yourself to the compass directions, if you are downtown the State Capitol is to the north, the airport and the Great Salt Lake are to the west, and the Wasatch Mountains are to the east.

Main Street divides the eastern and western halves of the city, and South Temple is the line separating north and south. It is called South Temple because it runs along the southern edge of Temple Square. Salt Lake addresses are based on how far north or south from South Temple they are, and how far east or west of Main Street they are.

The street running east-west that is one block south of South Temple is called 100 South, meaning that it is one block to the south of South Temple. The next street to the south is called 200 South, meaning it is two blocks south of South Temple. That pattern continues all the way to the south end of the valley, where, for example, 14600 South is 146 blocks south of South Temple.

It also works the same way for street names that end in North, East, or West. So the street named 600 North is six blocks north of South Temple, 1300 East is 13 blocks east of Main Street, and 5600 West is 56 blocks west of Main Street.

Now, just to throw you a curve ball or two, the street that in theory should be 100 North is actually called North Temple because it runs along the northern edge of Temple Square. The same goes for the street on the western edge of Temple Square. The system says it should be 100 West, but it’s called West Temple. There is no East Temple Street on the eastern edge of Temple Square; instead, that is Main Street. Also, 100 East is not 100 East; rather, it is called State Street because the State Capitol lies at the northern end of the street.

Now you’re either thoroughly confused, or all these Easts, Wests, Norths, and Souths are starting to make sense to you. Putting it all together, a house with a street address of 425 East 900 South means that it is four and a quarter blocks east of Main Street and nine blocks south of South Temple. The first part of the address, 425, is the house number, and the second part, 900 South, is the street that the house is located on. All Salt Lake grid-system addresses are arranged this way: first is the house number, and then the street.

Another trick to understanding the grid system is that locals will often abbreviate the name of a street, saying 3rd South for 300 South, 7th East for 700 East, 6th North for 600 North, and so on. As wide as the streets are in Salt Lake, some are even wider, and these have become main thoroughfares as the automobile came into vogue. For your reference, here is a list of such streets (grouped by compass direction):
  • 7th (700) East, 13th (1300) East, 23rd East 
  • 6th (600) South, 13th (1300) South, 21st South, 33rd South, 45th South, 53rd South, 72nd South, 90th South, 106th South, 123rd South
  • 3rd (300) West, 9th (900) West, 13th West, 27th West, 32nd West, 40th West, 56th West
Hopefully, this explanation helps. Once you learn the Salt Lake system you may actually prefer it because you don’t have to memorize street names and locations like in other major cities; you simply plug in the coordinates of the grid system, use the nearest major thoroughfare to get you close to your destination and find it from there. Or you could plug it into your turn-by-turn GPS navigator or smartphone app—your choice.

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