Granted, the “world’s longest street” is apparently Yonge Street in Toronto, but besides that I have noticed a very big difference in the naming of steets in Montreal and Toronto. Especially in central Montreal, many minor residential streets maintains their same name despite repeatedly stopping and starting due to hikes in the grid system, highways and train overpasses or parks. As a result, you can still be on Durocher, Hutchison, St Urbain, St Laurent, St Denis and countless other streets all the way across the island, from Rene Lesveque (and often farther south) to the Island’s north shore.

In Toronto, the names of minor residential streets are less consistent. A slight hike in the grid system often means a new name, and certainly the complete stop of a street for a park results in the name of a street’s inevitable death.

I really enjoy the effect of Montreal’s consistent system of street names. The train and highway overpasses that stretch east-west create a great disconnect between the Mile End, Outremont and the neighbourhoods to the north, as one can only traverse North to the South  in this area of the city on a few select streets (or else risk getting a ticket for illegally crossing the train tracks). The consistency of the street names counteracts that – Hutichison remains “the same street” despite the major divide caused by the overpasses.

The consistency of the street names remind you that any place in the city is by it’s nature connected with the rest of the city. It means that even though I’m in a completely foreign and distant neighbourhood, I can recognize where I am and feel connected to it. Good on Montreal for doing that. Perhaps this would aid Montrealers with what Kevin Lynch called the “imageability” of a city: citizen’s abilities to make sense of their city, which he identifies as existentially crucial and improveable by means of certain design feautres. Montreal’s long, consisted street names would result in people feeling more connected to a larger area, and enable easy orientation in an otherwise unknown neighbourhood).

As for the reason that Montreal chose to keep it’s street names consistent where as Toronto didn’t, I often speculate it’s another case of the cities’ English versus French heritage. Looking to the capital city’s of their mother countries, London’s major and famous thoroughfares are often extremely short, contrasted to Paris’  axial boulevards that stretch for miles maintaining the same names.

     

London above, Paris below. The streets in London are curved, compared to the broad, straight boulevards that bisect Paris.

The European roots of the consistency of Montreal streets versus Toronto’s inconsistencies are also reflected in UK versus France park design. The French favour geometric consistency and symmetry, whereas English parks are more chaotic in their attempt to replicate the nature. This can be seen in the parks in the map above. The English garden has chaotic paths that depart from the main trail, the French park is linear and rigid. This reveals elements of their view on nature, and how human’s relate to concepts such as “Wilderness”.

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