Home View from Underground From DOT, signage to clarify the parking situation

From DOT, signage to clarify the parking situation

by Benjamin Kabak

DOT’s new parking signs clean up a confusing and cluttered presentation of information.

When it comes to transportation planning, signage is both vital to the way we get around and often simply taken for granted. We are willing to accept sub-par signage, but we’re also willing to argue over what information should be presented on signs and how. While the Vignelli-designed underground signs do a reasonably good enough job informing straphangers of their directions, New York’s parking signs have often led to questions of interpretation that stump even the most veteran of the city’s drivers.

Yesterday, though, New York City officials unveiled a new sign that has been designed to solve that problem. Created by Pentagram Design, the new signs feature a font change and streamlined information. “You shouldn’t need a Ph.D in parking signage to understand where you are allowed to leave your car in New York,” City Council Member Dan Garodnick, a self-professed supporter of syntactic clarity, said. “The days of puzzled parkers trying to make sense of our midtown signs are over. I was pleased to work directly with DOT, removing unnecessary words in these signs, cleaning up their appearance, and the result is a simple, clear product that people will understand.”

According to DOT, Garodnick has been pushing the agency to simplify parking regulation signs for nearly two years, and the new effort features standardized colors, typefaces and font sizes. For the typographically inclined among us, the font Interface takes center stage here. As far as spacing goes, the new signs seem ideal for the Twitter era as DOT has reduced the number of characters used to explain parking regs from 250 to around 140. The signs are also a foot shorter with the day of the regulation preceding the hours. There are no more abbreviations either.

The new signs are going up throughout Manhattan’s paid parking areas in Midtown, and the initial build-out includes 3300 commercial parking signs and 3000 other signs for nighttime and weekend parking, hotel and taxi stands, street cleaning and the always-confusing “no standing” areas. “New York City’s parking signs can sometimes be a five-foot-high totem pole of confusing information,” DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. “Parking signs play an important role in setting the rules at the curbside and these changes will make regulations easier to read and take the stress out of figuring out where and when you can legally park.”

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Patrick January 8, 2013 - 1:39 pm

So what about the special-made street signs on 34th Street

Someone January 8, 2013 - 8:00 pm

Which one? The one in Queens, Brooklyn, or Manhattan? (I’m guessing the latter.)
Which part of 34th St are you talking about? (I’m guessing the stretch between Park and 9 Aves.)

Patrick January 8, 2013 - 8:45 pm

You know good and well which 34th Street im talking about. That’s the ONLY 34th Street I know that the signs follow the theme in the area. Everywhere else got a regular old sign with the broom on it

Someone January 8, 2013 - 9:53 pm

I know, I was just joking around, as you can see by what I’m saying above.

Someone January 10, 2013 - 8:34 am

I find the 34 St signs much clearer than DOT standard signs.

BrooklynBus January 8, 2013 - 2:13 pm

Yes, it seems to be much better, but I do not agree with eliminating the “Pay at Muni-Meter” sign. DOT believes it is no longer necessary now that they have removed all the parking meters. But what about people new to New York? Some towns and cities have time limits, but no meters. It is on the honor system. Cops just patrol and put chalk on the tires and come back later to catch offenders. There still needs to be a sign telling you that you have to pay and in which direction to walk to find the machine. Perhaps the sign and typeface can be made smaller, but the information still needs to be displayed and I see nothing wrong about using a third color (blue) for that information.

PS. I wrote an article this week about the MTA’s fare notice sign on the station booths and how that also could be clearer. http://www.sheepsheadbites.com.....-tourists/

Ron January 8, 2013 - 5:20 pm

They actually started taking down the blue signs in some areas a few months ago, but were changing the signs to say something like “2 hour muni-meter parking.” These say “X Hour Metered Parking” so someone should at least ask where the meter is if they don’t know.

BrooklynBus January 8, 2013 - 6:03 pm

There are a few places I know of where there is two hour parking but never were meters or muni-meters on that side of the street. Wonder if muni-meters will suddenly appear or if they will start ticketing for not crossing the street to access a muni-meter.

Even if it says metered parking they still should tell you which way to walk to find the muni-meter since some blocks only have one per block.

John January 8, 2013 - 6:57 pm

I think most people know that “metered parking” means you have to find the parking meter and pay for it. Even if there’s only one meter per block.

As for the cities that have parking time limits and no meters, it’s not really the honor system. It’s intended to be free parking, but only for the given period of time. After that you get a ticket.

Someone January 8, 2013 - 8:06 pm

Another problem is the underusage of Muni-Meters. Recently, I found four Muni-Meters on a side street in Queens, and only 2 of the adjacent parking spots were used up; whereas those Muni-Meters can cover 20 times that amount of parking spaces.

Christopher January 8, 2013 - 2:49 pm

As a former parking judge (yes, that was a fun job), I think I can state with some authority that it is not simply the color, size, font and placement of the signs that make parking legally confusing. It is the regulations themselves. Over the years, so many layers of regulations have been piled on top of each other in order to accommodate as many different constituencies as possible that it is difficult to keep track of what is allowed where, when, and most importantly, why. No amount of cleanly designed signs can disguise that the way we allocate free (or almost free) road space to private vehicles is a complicated, ugly process.

Another issue not addressed by this action is the maintenance of the signs. The font and capitalization do not matter if the sign is defaced or knocked over or hidden by a tree. I hope that DOT will look after the shiny new signage.

BrooklynBus January 8, 2013 - 4:35 pm

A big problem I found was DOT’s failure to replace signs that are knocked down for as long as three years even after someone complains. That results in conflicting regulations and unnecessary tickets. The only way to prove innocence was to take pictures of the entire block every 20 feet, was an expensive process before the digital age. You would need a roll of film that could cost you as much as the ticket.

Someone January 8, 2013 - 3:40 pm

That’s less confusing and less wordy, but where’s the Muni-Meter sign?

Also, what about the special signs in certain BIDs (like Midtown)? Will they be subject to these new rules?

BrooklynBus January 8, 2013 - 4:32 pm

See my comment above for the answer to your first question.

Someone January 8, 2013 - 5:28 pm

I meant that it would be confusing to find the Muni-Meter if one didn’t know which direction it was in, resulting in unnecessary parking tickets.

BrooklynBus January 8, 2013 - 6:03 pm

Exactly. I just said the same thing.

Someone January 8, 2013 - 7:55 pm

Oh, now I get what you’re saying.

I think I heard someplace that you could get a valid Muni-Meter slip from any Muni-Meter within a certain distance, so it shouldn’t be a problem.

BrooklynBus January 8, 2013 - 8:16 pm

But what if you walk in the wrong direction and there are no meters that way? By the time you realize your mistake and get back to your car, there could already be a ticket on it. it’s only dismissed if you could produce a receipt that was produced within a minute of when the ticket was written.

Someone January 8, 2013 - 9:24 pm

Wouldn’t that be why the Muni-Meter signs would be helpful?

BrooklynBus January 8, 2013 - 11:57 pm

That’s exactly what I was saying. The muni meter signs are still necessary although the parking meters are gone. Perhaps the sign could be smaller with all the information displayed on one line if DOT wants to save money on signage, but the information still needs to be there, and it would be good if they kept the same blue color so the information still stands out rather than getting lost.

Nathanael January 8, 2013 - 9:37 pm

That would make for a solid grounds for a lawsuit. Of course, they’re trying to trap people who can’t afford the lawsuit.

This gets back to one of the biggest problems in the US: justice is only for the rich or those with a rich patron, in this country. Contrast, for instance, Mexico, which actually does better. 😛 Yes, I am disgusted.

SEAN January 8, 2013 - 3:47 pm

The type of signage doesn’t matter if the goal for NYC is to generate revenue from violations from the fraction of the 99% who insist on driving into Manhattan rather than supporting the transit system.

BrooklynBus January 8, 2013 - 6:05 pm

DOT denies that is the goal. If it were, they wouldn’t try to make the signs clearer.

JJJ January 9, 2013 - 2:09 am

These signs dont address an issue that honestly almost no city addresses….it doesnt explain what happens between midnight and 7am (in this example.

Is parking banned? Is is free but with a limit? Is it unlimited?

Only locals know what local policy is (ie in Brookline, MA, no overnight parking allowed).

I think thats a failure these signs dont address.

BrooklynBus January 9, 2013 - 10:59 am

Some towns do most signs that no overnight parking is allowed.

In NYC, it is assumed you know that if the sign is silent regarding certain hours, parking is allowed. (Otherwise, every sign would need an additional line saying parking permitted at other times.) That is except for lanes which are 24 hour traffic lanes which are marked by a white or yellow line alongside the curbside of the street. Some streets like Flatbush Avenue south of Kings Plaza should say “No Stopping” but I don’t think there are regulations there, so it is sort of ambiguous if you can park here or not, bit no one does anyway because there is nothing there.

Patrick January 9, 2013 - 6:08 pm

That part of Flatbush Avenue, although scarce, there is some No Stopping signs

Urban Omnibus » Roundup — SPURA RFP, Simpler Signs, the Pothole Gang, Chelsea Wi-Fi, Sandy Updates, Trash Dance, and Lowering the Cost of Housing January 11, 2013 - 6:38 pm

[…] PARKING SIGNS The New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) unveiled new, simplified parking street signs on Monday. Created by Pentagram Design, the new signs use a new font and standardized colors, […]


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