Streets, avenues, lanes, boulevards…there are a lot of ways to describe a stretch of land, but what’s the difference? And which does Boston have the most of?
First, let’s break down some of the commonly-used terms, with a little help from our friends at Merriam-Webster:
Street: “A road in a city or town that has houses or other buildings on one or both sides.’’
Avenue: “A wide street,’’ or “a path or driveway that leads to a house located off a main road.’’
Lane: “A narrow road or path.’’
Road: “A hard flat surface for vehicles, people, and animals to travel on.’’
Boulevard: “A wide and usually important street that often has trees, grass, or flowers plated down its center or along its sides.’’
Drive: “A hard area or small road outside of a house where cars can be parked.’’
Boston has mostly streets, roads, and then avenues, according to Bostonography, a blog about local cartography.
Streets prevail closer to the city, while roads are more common in the suburbs. Avenues make up a few “notable long roads,’’ but are far less prevalent.
It also appears that streets correspond to population density. That’s why they prevail in the more urban Boston areas. This seems to make sense after understanding the definitions of the terms. Roads connect long distances, avenues are broad, often beautiful thoroughfares, and streets are for smaller stretches – often surrounded by buildings. Therefore, Boston is a city of streets.
Here’s a link to maps that show the difference.
Developers of new subdivisions usually decide the name of a street or road. It depends on the city or county, but there is a tendency to follow neighborhood themes, according to a Fox article. So if every street in a new community is named after a president, the developer probably can’t try to name one after his brother Kyle – even if he’s the head honcho.
Once the developer submits street names to the city, relevant departments review the choices and make a decision. The public works, engineering, and building departments may all play a role, in addition to local police and fire departments.
And in Massachusetts, we tend to like our streets named after trees.
“Maple’’ takes the lead, with 357 streets, according to MassDOT. Seven of the top 25 street names are tree species native to Massachusetts, and two others are tree-related words (“Forest’’ and “Grove’’).
So there you have it. The Bay State likes streets and those streets tend to be named after trees. Stay leafy, Massachusetts.