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Thread: Difference between boulevard and median?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    Difference between boulevard and median?

    I was recently in Kansas City the "boulevard capital of the country" and looked up the definition of boulevard and it turns out there is no set rule on the difference between boulevard and median - they are just both grassy areas between directions. Wouldn't most suburbs have the most boulevards because practically all non-residential streets have grassy areas in between directions? Also, why don't more medians have better landscaping?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    I always thought that a median was to separate out traffic lanes (sometimes wtih additional landscaping) whereas a boulevard could do the same thing but could also be wider to allow for more amenities (trees, path, kiosks, grassy knoll) and as a passive recreation area.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
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  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    The term boulevard comes from medeival French where it originally meant the top surface of a defensive wall (related to the English word bulwark). When these walls were torn down the space often became a very wide road which itself came to be called a boulevard. The term then came to mean any very wide street that has a wide sidewalk/landscaped area along the sides and a grassy strip in the middle. When this terminology came to North America it became confused. In some places it was just the grassy strip down the middle came to be called the boulevard and in other places it was the sidewalk/landscaped areas along the edges that were called the boulevard. There are no global rules or standards for the term.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Symantics.

    None of these are in the burbs. We have a ton of avenues, drives, and boulevards that have landscaped medians. We even have some Boulevards that are undivided. I don't worry about it.

    Woodward Ave
    http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&sour...39.64,,0,-17.5

    Washington Boulevard
    http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&sour...=12,166.6,,0,5

    West Grand Blvd
    http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&sour...=12,68.92,,0,5

    Outer Drive
    http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&sour...p=12,28.7,,0,5
    Last edited by DetroitPlanner; 11 Nov 2010 at 4:28 PM.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian rcgplanner's avatar
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    To further complicate things in Minnesota they sometimes call the grassy/treed strip between the sidewalk and the road a boulevard. It took me a while to get used to that when I was living up there.

    Personally, I consider a boulevard a much more dressed up median with substantial plantings and often times a bit wider than a median.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by rcgplanner View post
    To further complicate things in Minnesota they sometimes call the grassy/treed strip between the sidewalk and the road a boulevard. It took me a while to get used to that when I was living up there.
    I moved out of Minnesota and no one knew what a hot dish was (casserole), what choppers were (leather winter gloves), or that a boulevard was the area between sidewalk and curb. Interesting that you would remember that

  7. #7
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    When are you people going to get it right? As any native New Orleanian knows the proper term is "neutral ground."
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  8. #8
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Isn't the median (from media - the middle) the dividing section in the center of a boulevard which is the actual roadway that includes the median and traffic lanes?

    You all seem to be saying its the same thing, but in my mind, the median is a part of the boulevard, but not the other way around.

    For the record, medians are not always grassy. We have a lot of them out here and very few have grass for obvious reasons (we live in a high desert). We have a lot of dirt medians. So attractive! The nicer ones have desert plantings, though...

    In Spanish, the median divider is referred to as the alameda - in the middle - which seems to have the same derivation at median.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  9. #9
    Cyburbian JimPlans's avatar
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    Allan B. Jacob's great book, Great Streets, has detailed descriptions and schematics for various boulevards around the world. While he doesn't give one overarching definition of a boulevard (because there isn't one), he essentially says that a boulevard "is more than a wide street," is "grand," with a "park-like" center median, is often tree-lined, and gives "structure and comprehension to the whole city, often as large monumental ways that linked important destinations manifested in the form of large buildings."

    So I guess that all boulevards have medians, but not all streets with medians are boulevards.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally posted by JimPlans View post
    Allan B. Jacob's great book, Great Streets, has detailed descriptions and schematics for various boulevards around the world. While he doesn't give one overarching definition of a boulevard (because there isn't one), he essentially says that a boulevard "is more than a wide street," is "grand," with a "park-like" center median, is often tree-lined, and gives "structure and comprehension to the whole city, often as large monumental ways that linked important destinations manifested in the form of large buildings."

    So I guess that all boulevards have medians, but not all streets with medians are boulevards.
    Ironically, doesn't the requirement for a median eliminate most of the Paris boulevards?

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