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An email from a former police officer

Today’s post is brought to you by an email from a former police officer who requested to remain anonymous. “This is how signs should’ve been designed in the first place” is one of the greatest compliments in the world to me especially coming from someone who used to give out parking tickets. You can read the entire email below.

I read the article about your project on gizmag.com

I was a police officer years ago, so I’ve given far more parking tickets than I wanted to. Your signs are absolutely brilliant. You have the only design that makes any sense. The simplicity and instant readability made me smile and go, “Wow!”. This is how the signs should have been designed in the first place! Having never seen your design it took mere seconds to understand exactly what the parking schedule is. Then it took minutes of staring in amazement and wondering why, since we have been using a similar format on calendars and in schedule books for many decades, it took so long to figure this out. No more driving around the block after the guy behind you honked to get you to move along as you tried to decipher the undecipherable stacked signs!

I saw the comment on your website suggesting a tow warning, which sounds good since that’s such an expensive potential. As for the dollar sign, I guess it wouldn’t hurt if you can fit it in without clutter. I’m thinking, though, that the “FREE” indication does indicate that the converse is true at other times. If someone can’t deduce that simple fact they shouldn’t be driving a car. Or bicycle. Or walking in heavy traffic.

Good work and good luck!

The one comment I get the most is that cities don’t want to fix the problem of confusing parking signs because it is an income generator. I am never too sure how I should feel about this. Do they mean to say Great job, but don’t get your hopes up? Great idea but it will never happen so you should probably stop trying? The more I think about it, the more I realize that I’m not all that concerned about it. Call it naiveté but as long as everyday folk and casual drivers think it makes sense, I think I’m on the right track. I am also slowly learning that this may be true for some cities but not for others (ie. cities such as Santa Monica and Baltimore have expressed interest). Whether it’s adoptable or not is part of the big experiment isn’t it?

The excerpt above is from Michael Brouillet of the ParkSafeLA app as he recounts his experience meeting with the traffic engineers of the City of Santa Monica. He also did a write up of the parking sign redesign here on his project blog here. I’m hoping to speak with him soon to compare notes.

Today’s post if brought to you by NY resident Sohan Kota who emailed me about tow-away zones and how she finds them useful. Just as a refresher, it’s details like these that I’ve so far intentionally eliminated because I believe it takes us down a slippery slope to the signs we have today. 

Hi there,
Just a couple of thoughts - have you considered a dollar sign next to the (P) or 1 HR markings?  Might be a little clear for people new to cities, who may not know that the 1 HR parking means 1 HR metered parking.  And secondly, as someone who has been parking in NYC for a decades and has had to deal with the epic cluster that is the NYC tow yard, personally I think the tow-away marking is a necessity.  In the tow-away zones on 10th ave. on the upper west side, where they clear the parking from 4-7pm to add a lane of traffic, a group of tow trucks come through at no later than 4:01pm every weekday to clear away any cars, and it will cost you some $200 to $300 and several hours of your time.  I do not risk leaving my car for even a couple of minutes over, whereas in a normal parking zone I may be willing to risk leaving my car ten minutes too long.
But of course these things may detract from the beautiful simplicity of your signs!  Just a thought.  Best of luck and keep up the good work.
Sohan

My response:

It is comments like these that I seek out. One of the reasons I am doing this publicly is because I am lazy. I could have tried to research the hell out of this topic but opted to go about things in such a way that the research could come to me or be “crowd-sourced”. My thinking is that it’s impossible for me to know each and every situation with regard to parking signs, so I will publicly assume my experience is everyone else’s unless I’m told otherwise. It’s been working quite well so far.
That said, this is exactly the type of behavior/thinking I wondered existed. Thank you - I will definitely keep this in mind.
Nikki

Today’s post if brought to you by NY resident Sohan Kota who emailed me about tow-away zones and how she finds them useful. Just as a refresher, it’s details like these that I’ve so far intentionally eliminated because I believe it takes us down a slippery slope to the signs we have today. 

Hi there,

Just a couple of thoughts - have you considered a dollar sign next to the (P) or 1 HR markings?  Might be a little clear for people new to cities, who may not know that the 1 HR parking means 1 HR metered parking.  And secondly, as someone who has been parking in NYC for a decades and has had to deal with the epic cluster that is the NYC tow yard, personally I think the tow-away marking is a necessity.  In the tow-away zones on 10th ave. on the upper west side, where they clear the parking from 4-7pm to add a lane of traffic, a group of tow trucks come through at no later than 4:01pm every weekday to clear away any cars, and it will cost you some $200 to $300 and several hours of your time.  I do not risk leaving my car for even a couple of minutes over, whereas in a normal parking zone I may be willing to risk leaving my car ten minutes too long.

But of course these things may detract from the beautiful simplicity of your signs!  Just a thought.  Best of luck and keep up the good work.

Sohan


My response:

It is comments like these that I seek out. One of the reasons I am doing this publicly is because I am lazy. I could have tried to research the hell out of this topic but opted to go about things in such a way that the research could come to me or be “crowd-sourced”. My thinking is that it’s impossible for me to know each and every situation with regard to parking signs, so I will publicly assume my experience is everyone else’s unless I’m told otherwise. It’s been working quite well so far.

That said, this is exactly the type of behavior/thinking I wondered existed. Thank you - I will definitely keep this in mind.

Nikki

An email I received from Mike Rice earlier this year regarding the game Set:
Hi Nikki,
Switching to my keyboard now for some better explanation. The wider lines thing is something I learned while playing the card game Set. Unfortunately, Set uses red, green, and blue colors for various symbols. Sometimes the symbols are solid, sometimes hatched, and sometimes just an outline. (See here: http://www.setgame.com/sites/default/files/styles/uc_product_full/public/SET-layout.png?itok=ESmUSnZ5) What I found was that I could easily distinguish between the solid shapes, but not so easily between those that were only an outline. The ones with hatching were somewhat in between the two - better than an outline, but not as good as solid. What I’ve found is that having a larger contiguous sample of the color improves my ability to see it. Playing in bright lighting improved the situation for me, but dim lighting, glare off the cards, and angles far from perpendicular made it worse. 
Given that your online samples are scaled down, the hatching on the actual signs is probably wider than it appears in the samples, and would be better for my perception. My thought was that having wider hatching (even if the white/red stripes are still equal widths) gives me a better chance of seeing red.
HTH,Mike

An email I received from Mike Rice earlier this year regarding the game Set:

Hi Nikki,

Switching to my keyboard now for some better explanation. The wider lines thing is something I learned while playing the card game Set. Unfortunately, Set uses red, green, and blue colors for various symbols. Sometimes the symbols are solid, sometimes hatched, and sometimes just an outline. (See here: http://www.setgame.com/sites/default/files/styles/uc_product_full/public/SET-layout.png?itok=ESmUSnZ5) What I found was that I could easily distinguish between the solid shapes, but not so easily between those that were only an outline. The ones with hatching were somewhat in between the two - better than an outline, but not as good as solid. What I’ve found is that having a larger contiguous sample of the color improves my ability to see it. Playing in bright lighting improved the situation for me, but dim lighting, glare off the cards, and angles far from perpendicular made it worse. 

Given that your online samples are scaled down, the hatching on the actual signs is probably wider than it appears in the samples, and would be better for my perception. My thought was that having wider hatching (even if the white/red stripes are still equal widths) gives me a better chance of seeing red.

HTH,
Mike

An old email I received earlier this year from Nathaniel Borenstein who is colorblind."If you’re really concerned about colors, BTW, you might consider cross-hatching or some other non-color marking along with the color coding.  The first version of the game “Extinction” was impossible for me to play because the board was color coded.  In the next version, they kept the colors but added cross-hatching and it was fine for me.  I can’t find a great image (the game is long out of print) but the pictures below should give you the idea."  — Nathaniel

An old email I received earlier this year from Nathaniel Borenstein who is colorblind.

"If you’re really concerned about colors, BTW, you might consider cross-hatching or some other non-color marking along with the color coding.  The first version of the game “Extinction” was impossible for me to play because the board was color coded.  In the next version, they kept the colors but added cross-hatching and it was fine for me.  I can’t find a great image (the game is long out of print) but the pictures below should give you the idea." — Nathaniel

Today’s post is brought to you by Jenika Cuadra from Los Angeles who submitted this parking sign right by her gym. Jenika: Took me at least 2 minutes to figure out if it was ok to park here.Me: Hm…does this mean you can park here for free between 6pm and 10pm?Jenika: I don’t know WHAT it means, that’s the problem! But, yes, it seems as though that’s what it’s indicating. It’s free all the time, no meters, but for the day hours you can only be there for an hour.

@toparknottopark If this is a parking meter zone, no other restrictions : Yes, the meter is NOT enforced 6AM-8AM, 6PM-10PM.
— LADOT (@MobilityMaven)
July 7, 2014
I’ll be sending a new sign kit for Jenika to post below this one.

Today’s post is brought to you by Jenika Cuadra from Los Angeles who submitted this parking sign right by her gym.

Jenika: Took me at least 2 minutes to figure out if it was ok to park here.
Me: Hm…does this mean you can park here for free between 6pm and 10pm?
Jenika: I don’t know WHAT it means, that’s the problem! But, yes, it seems as though that’s what it’s indicating. It’s free all the time, no meters, but for the day hours you can only be there for an hour.

I’ll be sending a new sign kit for Jenika to post below this one.