What is the most difficult city to navigate by car?
Whether it's byzantine roads, confusing names, or just miserable traffic, some cities make it so much more difficult than it needs to be
Atlanta Georgia has an infuriating number of intersections of Peachtree and Peachtree over the course of 20 blocks of midtown and downtown. In fact, on one block, there are no less than four intersections of different roads named Peachtree. Newcomers to the area have long been confused by the differences between West Peachtree Street and Peachtree Street which run parallel to each other north-south for several blocks. To make things even more confusing, there are numerous different east-west roads named Peachtree that bisect it throughout midtown and downtown.
Pictured: the intersection of West Peachtree St with West Peachtree St next to the intersection of West Peachtree St with Peachtree St near Peachtree Center Ave and West Peachtree Pl (not to be confused with Peachtree Pl)
In fact, there are 71 streets in Atlanta with a variation on the name Peachtree and almost all of them intersect with the two main Peachtrees. This confusing nomenclature is so infamous that the street has its own Wikipedia page.
Metro Atlanta area roads with Peachtree Street highlighted in yellow; Photo: Wikimedia
All this would be less confusing if the layout of the roads made any sense at all, but it doesn't. Atlanta Georgia was started in 1832 when a surveyor drove a stake into the ground to mark the terminus of the Western and Atlantic Railroads. You'd think with so much prior experience creating perfectly gridded boom towns out west, such a vital center of trade would have some attention paid to its urban planning, but you'd be wrong. Even after the city was burned to the ground in 1865, they didn't take the second chance they were given and proceeded to totally ignore the problems associated with turning a railroad junction into a habitable city. The problem grew so bad that the entire city was raised above the ground in many places to avoid the dangerous railroad tracks beneath, leading to many streets having an upper and lower section. Most of those lower roads are closed to traffic today and have been converted to house utilities, but there are still some you can drive.
And to compound the problem, Atlanta is one of the single worst cities anywhere for that very greatest of urban planning sins: downtown interstates. Interstates 75, 85, and 20 have massive snaking intersections cutting straight through once-unified communities (incidentally almost always majority-black at the time) that funnels travelers from all over the state and country right through the area that least can afford a continual onslaught of cars. Combined with one of the worst cases of urban sprawl in the country, it ranks as the 10th worst city for congestion in the United States.
Illustration: Curbed Atlanta
I can't think of all that many benefits to the unique (lack of) urban planning strategy that birthed Atlanta's byzantine street grid. The roads here are generally reasonably wide and are generally well maintained and smooth compared to other major cities but that's only a small consolation. At least the carspotting here is generally fantastic.
Is there a city anywhere that can match Atlanta's unique combinations of incredibly confusing nomenclature, illogical street layout, and disheartening traffic? I'd love to hear about it. Comment below your least favorite quirks and features of your city's road infrastructure.