Reason 226

#226: It is easy to figure out how far away something is

As you know, DC is laid out in a quadrant, the center of which is the Capitol building. This would be a great, super easy to understand layout if it were not for the fact that the Capitol building is not the actual geographic center of the city. The geographic center of DC is really closer to L St and 4th St NW. I live in the North-West quadrant, which, by virtue of the center being displaced a bunch of blocks east and south, is actually the biggest quadrant in the district.

If I am going somewhere within my quadrant, say, from work to school, for example, I can easily figure out how many blocks that is and how long it will take to get there.

For example:

I work at 18 and N and my class is at 21 and G.

So that’s 3 blocks between 18 and 21.

And then one block for each letter between G and N, so 7 blocks.

I have to walk 10 blocks total to get from work to school. Each block is about 0.1 miles (according to Google), so I end up walking a mile each way, sometimes more than once a day to get to class.

It’s a pretty excellent system to calculate whether something is “walking distance” or not. Everything one mile and under I consider walking distance. If the alternative is to transfer in the metro, then I up walking distance to 2 miles. I would much rather walk 2 miles than spend 20 minutes in MetroCenter or Chinatown, thank you very much.

All visitors to DC (and especially my sister) hate me for this system because some blocks are really much longer than other blocks. Crossing K St, for example, should count as two blocks, maybe even three.

My sister, on a day she was happy to walk with me.

My sister, on a day she was happy to walk with me.

Any way, this system is fantastic for my quadrant, the largest quadrant in DC.

Yesterday, I ventured to the other side of town where I almost never, ever go. I recognize only three buildings on that side: the Capitol, the Library of Congress and Union Station. This is not helpful at all because this being DC, none of the buildings are tall enough to help me figure out where I am going. Since I don’t know where I am going, I can’t figure out the blocks and never know whether something is walking distance or not or in what direction might that walking distance be. Overall, venturing there is a very frustrating experience for me that is only sometimes fun when I get so lost that I think I am in another city.

One of the only buildings I recognize east of the Mall.

One of the only buildings I recognize east of the Mall.


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