Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Main Attraction

I have mentioned the TIGER import several times. The initial import tagged roads with abbreviations in their name. For example "Ave" instead of "Avenue" or "St" instead of "Street." However the general rule in OSM is to not abbreviate things. So a script was devised to automatically expand abbreviations. This script was run by the user balrog-kun. Until tonight I assumed that it had been run over all of the TIGER data. But then I saw a few abbreviations while working on some highways in Kansas and decided to dig a little deeper. I did some XAPI queries (using the database I talked about in a previous post!)  to see if anything interesting stood out. I did one query for all streets named "Main St" and another for all roads named "Main Street" and here is what I got back.

Green is "Main St" and the rest is "Main Street"

First of all, I am amused at just how many "Main" streets there are in the US. But also it looks like the name expansion bot was only set loose west of the Mississippi. The bot was run long before I joined OSM so I was not around for any discussions about why this was done. I'm sure it is buried somewhere in the mailing list archives...

I haven't done any substantial editing east of the Mississippi which explains why I hadn't noticed abbreviated street names before. I'm still not sure why I found some in western Kansas. The most likely explanation is that a few of the bot uploads failed for some reason, leaving pockets of abbreviations around.

I pinged balrog-kun about it on IRC so the mystery may be solved in a few hours but I thought the image was amusing enough to share anyway. And for a few more giggles, here is the whole world:

It seems the UK has a fair share of Main streets as well, plus a few scattered mostly in former British colonies. I'm sure they started it and then I guess we here in the US just turned it up to 11.

Update After talking to balrog-kun: Apparently he was moving west-to-east and at some point some people started complaining for some reason so he stopped. Fair enough I guess. He's not sure about the ones I found in western Kansas though. 


  1. Looks like emacsen has run an automated edit on the rest. So if you re-generate your Main Street map it will look more even now I suppose

  2. It seems that wiki edit was a bit premature... The bot didn't really start running until late December and I'm not actually sure it is done yet. But yes, the TIGER abbreviation expansion is finally being completed.