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New York City's convoluted parking signs get as easy as A, B, C

January 08, 2013|By Tina Susman
  • This illustration from New York City's Department of Transportation compares newly designed parking signs, right, with the cluttered versions being replaced, left.
This illustration from New York City's Department of Transportation… (NYC Department of Transportation )

NEW YORK -- It's getting easier to understand why you got that parking ticket in New York City.

No longer will drivers circling blocks like hungry vultures have to simultaneously comprehend lengthy signs outlining parking rules in stilted wordage that the city’s transportation chief has likened to totem poles of confusion. Soon, those relics of rhetoric will be replaced by Twitter-sized directives of 140 characters or less aimed at making it easier for drivers to know if they are violating parking rules, officials announced Monday as they unveiled examples of the new models.

“You shouldn't need a PhD in parking signage to understand where you are allowed to leave your car in New York," said City Councilman Daniel R. Garodnick, who joined the council speaker, Christine Quinn, and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan at the midtown Manhattan unveiling. “The days of puzzled parkers trying to make sense of our midtown signs are over. “

Garodnick, whose district includes part of Manhattan’s east side and midtown, has spent more than a year arguing for simpler parking signs. At a news conference last year, he showed off examples of the confusion greeting Manhattan drivers, including one sign reading  “No standing 6 am – 6 pm Wednesday Except Farmers Market” atop a sign pointing in two opposite directions.

Underscoring the problem of confusing signage, the first FAQ featured on a city website on parking sign information is: “How do I know what a parking sign means?” features a tutorial on how to read New York parking signs, which seems to sum up the problem with this phrase: “There are different words that mean 'No parking' that can be confusing.”

Sadik-Khan agreed. “New York City’s parking signs can sometimes be a five-foot-high totem pole of confusing information,” she said in a news release that announced the changes, which initially will affect 6,400 signs in Manhattan. Among other things, they will limit sign lengths to about four feet instead of five feet, reducing the need for drivers to bend down beneath their dashboards and crane their necks skyward to read signs.

Whereas past signs could run as long as 250 characters, the new ones are limited to 140 characters and feature simpler fonts and color schemes.  They are designed to make it easier for drivers to quickly spot  essentials such as which days parking is permitted, and for how many hours. No longer, for example, will drivers scanning some signs have to scan six lines of densely packed characters in mixed fonts before learning what days the restrictions apply.

The first of the new signs were installed in October. The remainder are expected to be in place by spring.


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