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San Jose's New Address System

Destination: San Jose

For years, knowing the locations of landmarks like La Merced Church and the Coca-Cola bus station has been integral to successfully navigating downtown San Jose. However, in July 2010, the Municipality of San Jose announced plans to integrate the country's first planned address system, complete with street names unique to every district.

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San Jose is the ideal candidate for such a project. The capital city's downtown is laid out in a perfect grid, with avenues (avenidas) running east-west, and streets (calles) traveling north-south. Calle Central and Avenida Central are the center of San Jose's grid system. To the west of Calle Central, all streets ascend in even numbers (Calle 2, Calle 4, etc.), and to the east, in odd numbers. Similarly, to the north of Avenida Central, avenues ascend in odd numbers, and travel south in even numbers.

The problem is that most streets, while clearly labeled on a map, currently display no signage. There are only a few well-known roads, and every address is given with directions like "From the National Park, 300 meters west, 200 meters north, and 25 meters east; it's the two-story red building with a black gate.' For those unfamiliar with the city and its myriad landmarks (many of which disappeared years ago), this system causes confusion and frustration; it can also make mail delivery a challenge.

Johnny Araya, Mayor of San Jose, stated that San Jose's first street signs would be installed by December 2010, and all signs should be in place by December 2011. Several have already cropped up in Moravia, Tibas, and Vazquez de Coronado. The $1.2 million project, which will produce approximately 16,000 street signs, is funded by national banks Banco de Costa Rica and Banco Nacional. In addition to displaying the road or avenue name, street signs will show the district name (Pavas, La Uruca, Central, etc.) and the sponsor bank's logo.

Though the plan is encouraging, simply installing street signage may not be enough to change the age-old Costa Rican address system. According to Alvaro Coghi, General Director of the Costa Rican Post Office, change begins with education. "Here, this will be handled by the Ministry of Public Education (MEP), and will be incorporated into the school curriculum.'

One omission from the current project is the numbering of buildings. As street signs begin to appear, the most accurate address for any building will be its distance from the intersection of two roads, for example, "25 meters south of the intersection of Calle 321 and Avenida 165.' This is definitely an improvement over the old system, and most San Jose residents and commuters embrace the changes. Tourism professionals are especially happy for the progress, as it will allow travelers to better navigate San Jose's streets.

San Jose's New Address System in Pictures

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