Tag Archives: mileage

It’s not the destination, it’s the exit

25, 19, 23…

We define our location by the exit number of the Thruway/Northway/Interstate in upstate NY. I’ve frequently had conversations that go:

Me: Where is that?

You: It’s off exit XX (insert exit number here) off the thruway

Me: Where is that?


I’m sure most locals don’t have the same problem I do with exit number familiarity, but for someone who rarely drives on the interstate, largely as a result of my living close to work, I have really struggled to have the same sense of place when everything is defined by an exit number.

My difficulty with placing exit numbers on a map is further complicated by NY’s use of sequential exit numbers instead of mileage based numbers like most states in the country use. This numbering scheme is in place for all NY roads, except, of course, for I-890 through Schenectady (and a couple others), which was apparently an experiment NY state conducted in the 70s. (As an aside, I personally love how the DOT in the same post explains why they will not change the exit numbers to be consistent with the rest of the country while simultaneously applauding themselves for being mileage-number-exit pioneers.)

As someone who is usually eager to be there, I frequently lament the ability to quickly assess how much farther I need to travel by exit number; and am, instead, lulled into a false sense of proximity when my exit is next, but still 15+ miles away.

I expect the exits to be renumbered eventually, especially given proposals on both the Federal and NY State level to do just that, but probably not anytime soon. Who knows, maybe by the time they do, I’ll be identifying places by exit number, too…then I’ll have to readjust, just like everyone else.