Which Street is More Important: Canner Street or Cold Spring Street

Is it possible that Cold Spring Street is as important as Canner Street?

I knew Canner Street from my earlier visits to Yale but Cold Spring Street was new to me. Naturally, I assumed that Canner Street was the important one among the two. One day, however, while walking home, I crossed Cold Spring Street and it seemed as wide and as impressive as Canner Street. Perhaps, I thought, Cold Street is as important as Canner Street, and just the fact that I did not hear about Cold Spring Street earlier made me think otherwise. This was an interesting novel thought, but soon enough I saw one major problem: I was actually walking in Canner Street, so it was not surprising that it looked as wide as Canner street. I quickly went to the real Cold Spring Street and then it also looked indeed as wide and as impressive as Canner Street. But I was fully aware that this impression might be biased by the previous one.

Some evidence that Canner Street is more important is that in the Whitney-Canner crossing there are traffic lights while in the Whitney-Cold-Spring crossing there is only a flashing yellow light. However, when you go on Orange Street the situation is reversed: The Orange/Canner crossing is a flashing yellow light and the Cold Spring Orange crossing has full-fledged traffic lights. You may say that prominent streets like Whitney and Orange themselves are more important than both Canner and Cold Spring streets. Be it as it may be, in this post we discuss only horizontal streets, and don’t touch at all on the importance of vertical streets. In fact, we compare only two streets, Canner Street and Cold Spring Street.

The following year my wife visited me at Yale and I told her about my inquiries regarding the relative importance of Cold Spring Street and Canner Street. My wife listened carefully, and even added one interesting piece of evidence that I did not consider before. My own street, Everit street (a small vertical street famous for hosting Yale’s president Rick Levin and the famous economist John G.), crossed Cold Spring Street but ended at Canner Street. My wife thought that this piece of evidence supported my feeling about the importance of Cold Spring street. I was not sure about it; to me it looks that Everit ending at Canner street rather than crossing  it,  gives Canner street some edge.

At some point I decided to test matters scientifically and I measured in steps the width of Canner Street. But I returned to Israel before making a similar measurenemt at Cold Spring Street and by now I forgot the outcomes.

Of course, we can say that Canner Street is the more important on its Whitney side and the less important on its Orange side. But this answer simply does not face the real problem. Perhaps an opinion poll can help.

At the end, after some years, I came to the conclusion that Canner Street is more important than Cold Spring Street because it extends beyond Whitney while Canner Street does not. (But please dont be influenced by me.)

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8 Responses to Which Street is More Important: Canner Street or Cold Spring Street

  1. jacobmattison says:

    I wouldn’t want to prejudice your poll results, but a comment or two from someone who has lived in that neighborhood. I’d say that the fact that Canner crosses Whitney and goes up the hill adds to its importance, but at the other end I think Cold Spring’s status as the gateway to East Rock Park, and its connection to Mitchell Drive, gives it a boost — Canner’s abrupt end at Nicoll St is really just sad.

    This year they added speed bumps to two blocks on Canner (between Whitney and Orange), which seems like it should factor in, but I’m not sure which way it goes. Perhaps it means that the city government was afraid of Canner pulling ahead of Cold Spring.

    One more data point — if you zoom out on Google Maps, you get to a level where Cold Spring is identified on the map (as is Willow) but Canner is not labelled. That may be definitive.

  2. Gil: I think you are vague about what makes a street “important.” Before I saw Jacob’s comment I noted from the map that Cold Spring adjoins a park. So other things being equal I often enjoy in an urban setting walking along a street where I see some green.

    • Gil Kalai says:

      Dear Joe

      Indeed my approach to this issue was fairly naive and the concept was vague to me too. Your comment invoke me to look at google and while unfortunately most references to street importance were derived from my own post some new insights emerged as well. Here is a quote from this blog


      which explains the practical importance of streets-importance.

      Driving in Argentina: Not for the faint-hearted.
      When you live in a foreign culture, the cultural differences you encounter range from delightful, (ocio!) to slightly annoying, (the idea of “customer service” is pretty different here) to REALLY annoying (long, long lines almost anytime you want to do something). Driving a car, however, is in a whole different category: it’s as scary as hell.
      Here’s a few of the reasons why: red lights are optional. Many drivers will go straight through the red if they think they can make it. Luis almost got plowed down by a semi truck going 100 km (60mph) the other day. Stop signs, likewise, are completely ignored. If you actually stopped, they guy behind you would probably ram into you. Double parking is the norm. Lots of traffic gets stopped up because of double parkers. Even the cops double park. Blinkers are mostly unknown. There are bikers EVERYWHERE. They look straight ahead, headphones on, right out in traffic. It is your obligation, as a driver, to pay close attention to them so as not to kill them, even if it’s dark and they have no lights or reflectors. They make no effort to move over –the lives of these riders and the small children sitting on the handlebars are in your hands. Motorcyclists are another fun one: they weave in an out of traffic, rarely with helmets on, as they balance infants on their knees, with two other children clinging on for dear life. I’m not making this stuff up. You can’t let your guard down, ever, because everyone and everything out on the road is unpredictable.

      A particularly tricky one is approaching an unmarked intersection. Legally, the car on your right has priority, as it is in the U.S. The reality, though, is that the cars on the bigger, “more important” street always go first. If you’re new to Neuquen, it’s not obvious which street is more important, so you spend a lot of time watching the other drivers, slowing way down at each intersection just in case. Plus lots of silent praying. If I follow the laws strictly, I will absolutely get into an accident. This ambiguity isn’t only my problem; in the last few months three separate friends have gotten into fenderbenders because of this “right of way” problem.”

      Another independent source which also associates importance with “width” is the following:


      • Dear Gil,

        Here are some interpretations that occurred to me when I first saw the phrase “important street.”

        a. Important in the sense of iconic (Wall St. in Manhattan)

        b. Important in the sense of being a tourist destination (5th Ave. in Manhattan – but less so than perhaps 20 years ago. Times Square is a not street but probably NYC’s most important tourist destination)

        c. Important for traffic flow (West Side Highway, Manhattan. Despite the reference to highway it is at surface level south of 72nd St.)

        d. Important in the sense of having lots of stores to shop at (34th St., Madison Avenue and 5th Ave. in Manhattan)

        e. Important in the sense of being “grand.” (Champs-Élysées in Paris)

        and I could go on. If one wanted to use mathematical modeling ideas to quantify what important means one might do different things for the different situations.

        The meaning for me changes depending on the geographical area being considered. There are “important” streets in the Borough of Brooklyn (part of NYC) that some Manhattanites have barely heard of and tourists are unlikely to visit.



      • Gil Kalai says:

        Dear Joe

        One thing I would love to know once and for all is the complete list of streets in NYC that are two-way streets (like 14, 23, 42, 125 etc.)

      • Dear Gil,
        Yes, the issue of 2-way streets is very mysterious. Wiki provides a list of Manhattan Streets but the 2-way traffic issue sometimes is not noted: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_streets_in_Manhattan
        The interesting modeling question of the value of 1-way vs. 2-way streets when the street is wide enough for two way traffic is commented on here: http://www.streetsblog.org/2009/09/29/are-two-way-streets-the-way-of-the-future/

  3. Frank Vega says:

    Hi people
    Could I have your opinion about one post “P versus UP” in:



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