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Addressing What Matters: Normalization the Bacon!

  • 1.  Addressing What Matters: Normalization the Bacon!

    Posted 10-18-2023 01:21

    I used to visit upstate New York a lot – the MapInfo head office was in Troy and many of our Location Intelligence experts were based out of that office.  On my back to the airport, I would sometimes pass Bacon Lane – yes, I am that guy who pulls over to take photos of interesting signs and addresses!  I'm told that working in the variously named departments responsible for street naming and assigning house numbers can be hard work and rather stressful.  So, I'd like to think there was some fun being had with Bacon Lane!

    This post however is not about the Bacon, rather the Lane part of the address.  This is known variously around the world as the Street Suffix (here in the US), Street Type, or Thoroughfare Type.  There is a long list of other Street Suffixes such as Road, Avenue, Street, Place, and many others you might find quite surprising.

    One of the jobs of our software is Address Normalization.  This is the process of ensuring each address element conforms to a specific standard or format.  For instance, changing full words to abbreviations or the other way around, changing abbreviations to full words, changing alternate names to their preferred names, correcting misspellings and so on and so forth.

    In the US, the USPS defines the normalization standards that most people adhere to including ourselves.  I often describe addresses as being 'highly fault tolerant' meaning you can get a lot of things wrong, and they still work.  When defining Street Type Suffix abbreviations, the USPS has done a fine job, they accept many different variations and USPS will "correct" them to the form they wish to see in order to give a discount to one of those companies sending you a bill.  And in the case of Street Suffix, they want to see a capitalized abbreviation in order to deliver with efficiency and reward the bulk sender with a discount.

    Now I'm going to draw your attention to Street Suffix of "Lane".  The USPS, in their Publication 28 section C1, define exactly what they commonly see for Lane and what they expect it to be normalized to i.e. LN.

    As you can see in the picture I took in Albany however, you can see that the street suffix on the sign has been abbreviated to "La".  Neither the correct abbreviation, nor capitalized (albeit the latter makes complete sense as humans must read it, not machines).  This shortened form is unusual in other parts of the US.

    It's also inconsistent considering it's simply a shortened form of the word.  I could understand if shortened suffixes were the standard, and of course many of the suffixes are defined as shorted versions of the word such as ST for Street and PL for Place.  But when you find Boulevards, they are not BO, but BLVD.  Turnpikes are not TU, but TPKE.  Now there are a few other minor anomalies like Terrace becoming TERR (not just TER), but in general the biggest offender is LA for Lane.

    Of course, this weirdness is handled by our software without any problem, but I am aware of some address validation software that only works to the USPS standards, and as such it would not Standardize your address properly if you used your street sign as your address.

    #AWM #AddressNormalization #Addressing #Bacon


    Mike Ashmore
    Senior Director Product Management
    Precisely Software Inc.