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A Designer's War on Misleading Parking Signs (priceonomics.com)
624 points by mhb on Jan 21, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 190 comments

Although I completely agree the designed signs are much, much better than the existing ones, there is another problem. Why should you have so many rules for parking? Why can't you make the rules more simple?

I want to show you a few signs in comparison, which are Dutch and notify drivers about free or paid parking. Those are (imho) very clear and only show when you need to pay. If you're outside that time frame, it's free:

1. [1] Paid parking all days between 18:00 and 24:00

2. [2] Paid parking from Mondays to Saturdays between 9:00 and 18:00, you're only allowed to stay for two hours max

3. [3] Paid parking from Mondays to Saturdays between 9:00 and 24:00 and on Sundays from 13:00 to 24:00

Am I just crazy, or are those signs way more easier to understand than the graphical green/red bars (especially from a greater distance)? I truly like the designers take to the problem, but isn't it just crazy you have to redesign individual rules to make the time slots understandable?

[1] http://denhaagfm.nl/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Betaald-Parke...

[2] http://www.verkeerskunde.nl/Uploads/Cache/2013/2/13020510502...

[3] http://www.anwb.nl/bestanden/w280/content/gallery/anwb/nieuw...

I think it has to do with maximizing revenue, not necessarily by tricking drivers, but by using paid/free parking as a way to change driver incentives.

One example would be Downtown Austin. There are streets that are closed down to allow for maximum pedestrian traffic, but this is only at night. During the day, the parking is needed for people who have business in the downtown area. However, to discourage too many drivers, the parking during weekdays is paid. On the margin, this will discourage some potential drivers and they will take alternate methods of transportation. On the weekends, when the downtown non-retail businesses are closed, there is no longer the need to discourage drivers. At this point, you want to encourage retail traffic, which means making parking free.

Now, whether all this incentive manipulation is worth it, is another story, but I believe the above is the rationale for having multiple rules.

In many cities, there is also street sweeping to consider. I know that is the particular reason that has caught out many of my friends in LA.

>and they will take alternate methods of transportation

More likely they simply will not go there, or will visit another location (drive to the burbs, etc).

There is another interesting aspect of the parking problem that hasn't been discussed, which is the environmental damage parking regulations cause. If you're not a $250K/yr programmer on the coasts, a $95 parking ticket is an expensive surprise, and equivalent to at least 200 miles of driving. So, if parking tickets are expensive and a uncontrollable confusopoly cost of living, its cheaper / safer / more predictable to simply drive out to the burbs, where theres usually a better selection of businesses anyway. Which wastes a lot of gas. I can afford the tickets, and there's plenty of dying retail downtown where I work, but I don't want to deal with getting tickets, paying tickets, getting towed, I live in the burbs anyway, so the downtown loses a lot of economic activity and the environment loses because of extra driving. But the priority is people aren't driving downtown. Sort of a stealth zoning, this area not fit for retail, but we'll categorize it as retail anyway. This also fits into the "high cost of being poor" concept where I might save $100 on rent on paper by living downtown in a bad area, but if the stealth tax of $95 of monthly parking tickets is applied, plus the hassle, I'm better off in the burbs.

Parking consumes a huge amount of land, which isn't free in urban neighborhoods. Requiring businesses to provide it is a 'stealth tax' on goods, which raises costs for people who can't afford or don't want a car. And when a neighborhood is built out with enough parking for anyone who possibly wants it, it becomes so spread out that it is essentially impossible to walk anywhere or to serve it properly with mass transit. Requiring car ownership to be employable (or at least to access most jobs) is a far larger stealth tax!

Its the "cars create economic diversity" argument. Can't have collectible coin stores, gaming stores, beer brewing stores, makerspace, none of that without cars because a walking or bus radius can't keep it alive in that small radius. Even big venues like the local sports stadium and the music halls would be dead without cars to bring in distant spenders.

You can run convenience stores and bars solely on walk in traffic, but there's more to life than doritos and getting drunk, or there should be. The destruction of brick and mortar retail by online will have some interesting effects... Now, or certainly in the future, I could live in a city without a car and unable to visit (closed/closing) retail shops as long as UPS still delivers "the good stuff"

Lack of competition also has a stealth tax on the residents. Why sell a banana for less than $5 if you're the only banana seller in walking distance. In car country the market is more competitive so I may burn $1 of gas to go shopping, but I'll save 50% on a bag of groceries so its a huge net win as long as my bag of groceries costs more than $2 or so.

> Can't have collectible coin stores, gaming stores, beer brewing stores, makerspace, none of that without cars

Strongly disagree. In Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood, there's a block with not one, but two shops that sell only chess sets and things related to chess. Old, walkable downtowns (the ones that have survived the advent of the car, at least) have just as much diversity of retail businesses as the homogenous suburbs (where you have your Best Buy, your Walmart, your Olive Garden, and so on), if not more.

The density and sheer population of New York makes that an example that doesn't transfer easily.

You don't need an automobile to travel beyond your neighborhood! You can take a bus or a train or ride your bike, even in suburban areas.

Plenty of midsize cities worldwide work on various combination of mass transit, automobiles, walking, and bicycles. The automobile monoculture in most midsize American cities is a product of our early development of cheap automobiles combined with federal policies massively subsidizing highways and the racial paroxysms of the mid-20th century.

Even Canadian midsize cities, which in many ways are very similar to those in USA (except for far worse weather) have far higher transit usage. In Calgary, 'the Dallas of Canada', full of oil money & newly-built single-family homes, 24.3% of commuters use transit, and that's considered low! http://www.calgaryjournal.ca/index.php/news/2538-calgary-s-t...

Likewise, newly built Dutch suburbs have many features that resemble American suburbia, but have good bike lanes and acceptable bus transit: http://usa.streetsblog.org/2015/01/15/dutch-suburbs-are-like...

Manhattan is still dependent on transit because it's one of the few places in America that's so dense, even 60 years of dedicated auto-first policy couldn't change the facts on the ground.

You don't need an automobile to travel beyond your neighborhood! You can take a bus or a train or ride your bike, even in suburban areas.

Plenty of midsize cities worldwide work on various combination of mass transit, automobiles, walking, and bicycles. The automobile monoculture in most midsize American cities is a product of our early development of cheap automobiles combined with federal policies massively subsidizing highways and the racial paroxysms of the mid-20th century.

Even Canadian midsize cities, which in many ways are very similar to those in USA (except for far worse weather) have far higher transit usage. In Calgary, 'the Dallas of Canada', full of oil money & newly-built single-family homes, 24.3% of commuters use transit, and that's considered low! http://www.calgaryjournal.ca/index.php/news/2538-calgary-s-t...

Likewise, newly built Dutch suburbs have many features that resemble American suburbia, but have good bike lanes and acceptable bus transit: http://usa.streetsblog.org/2015/01/15/dutch-suburbs-are-like...

Manhattan is still dependent on transit because it's one of the few places in America that's so dense, even 60 years of dedicated auto-first policy couldn't change the facts on the ground. But America had many other transit-oriented downtowns & dense neighborhoods, still has a few, and could have more again!

> You don't need an automobile to travel beyond your neighborhood! You can take a bus or a train or ride your bike, even in suburban areas.

Optimistic at best. Some cites like NY are better equipped for alternate transport, but my experience in California is less than stellar. Although it is my primary transport, outside of a ride between classes in university, I rarely see people my age cycling for non-recreational purposes. No only is there no desire, but most nonresidential streets I ride on have inadequate accommodations for bikes.

Trains in some cities are usable, but the coverage and stop frequency leaves much to be desired. I didn't even bother with the bus in LA. Not only did I have to travel 1 mile to get to the nearest stop, but when I wanted to travel on weekends waiting 40min+ for a bus wasn't worth it. In stark contrast to my experience Seoul which had a fantastic system of buses, trains, and taxis!

Most American cities have many neighborhoods that aren't laid out to be accessible by non-automotive means. But that doesn't mean we should have zoning codes that require that to be the case always and forever, and that doesn't mean new neighborhoods should be built in the same way. American population is shifting and expanding, and we will have to significantly rebuild our cities over our lifetimes— we should rebuild them wisely!

The fact that $200,000 houses sit on $800,000+ worth of land in Silicon Valley means that, if policy were changed to allow reasonable density, Silicon Valley would quickly densify to the point that walkable neighborhood retail and mass transit would have a lot of customers. And mass transit needs a lot of customers to run at a reasonable frequency.

That doesn't mean that we should simply accept America's sub-optimal state of affairs. We can strive for a better day, in which cars are not so dominant, and you can instead opt for a method of getting from A to B that is both healthier for you and easier on the environment.

I lived in a downtown urban area for a while, and probably will again. But you are absolutely right about parking tickets kicking the poor when they are already down. At one point when living downtown, revenue was slow and I had zero wiggle room in my finances. Then my car was totaled by some inattentive teenagers, I lost the gate remote for my parking lot, and I had to park on the street by my building. It was a weekend, there was basically zero retail nearby, so I thought I should be okay.

Not so. It turns out there was a sticker on the parking meter below bumper level that was basically invisible that said 2hr max. Two parking tickets later (plus a third fron trying to park somewhere else by my building that should have been fine), I hated cities. I could barely afford to eat (ramen profitable) and only drove the bare minimum, and here was this insane expense when I could least afford it. I moved out of the city and didn't spend a dime there for years as a result.

I have felt for awhile now that municipal fines and fees should be tied to income in the United States. Yes--there would be limits; for instance just because a person is poor doesn't mean they can continually break the law. If they abuse the system they couldn't use income to reduce ticket/fee amount. A $500 ticket to a poor person, in my opinion is cruel and unusual punishment. I would even say it violates our 8th admendment. Yes, the admendment argument is extreme, but I don't think the powers at be understand just how little it takes to push someone over the edge? (Yes--I know you can plead your case in front of a judge on some infractions, but the courts aren't as accommodating as they were in the past.) In my neck of the woods, It cost's $10 to even begin to contest a ticket.

Yes--there would be limits; for instance just because a person is poor doesn't mean they can continually break the law.

I think means-adjusted fees could be reasonable, but there should be lower and upper limits, particularly for laws where the fees are there to raise revenue or direct behavior, rather than protect the public.

(Yes--I know you can plead your case in front of a judge on some infractions, but the courts aren't as accommodating as they were in the past.)

Time and transportation to the court can be just as difficult for some to obtain as the money for the ticket. If the person in question has a job schedule or medical condition that makes daytime errands more difficult, it's even more discouraging.

In my neck of the woods, It cost's $10 to even begin to contest a ticket.

Fortunately, some (or at least one small one) of the cities around here consider it a central part of the right to due process and a speedy trial that choosing a trial cannot make your situation worse than just paying the fine. So, you can have your day in court, and if you lose, the fine is the same.

This sounds right to me. I actively avoid places where I know parking is a pain.

You have obviously never been to an actual city. Real urban centers are not interchangeable with strip malls. The Continental Club is not found in Round Rock.

> You have obviously never been to an actual city.

Your post would have been just fine without this.

Maybe, but I've had my fill of listening to people hold forth on the urban form when they've lived their entire existence in the suburbs.

Its true that a cool attraction with a capacity of 300 (lucky) people exists in a city with a population of 885K.

The problem is its an anecdote in a discussion about public policy and lifestyle for 100% of the population, when only 0.03% of the city population can actually visit.

I lived in Newport Beach, CA for a year, and quickly realized that the street sweepers were an excuse to write tickets, not the other way around. I'm sure there are places where the streets are actually cleaner after the street sweepers are done, but in Newport beach, they only redistribute sand and money.

I think probably more to do with managing parking availability and traffic than revenue. If it were just about revenue wouldn't making it paid parking all the time bring in more money?

That would increase revenue for the municipality, but not for surrounding businesses.

The additional rules are normally from valid considerations, e.g.:

* Whether its ok to stop temporarily depends on how busy the road is.

* The parking spots are on a major road that has a lot of traffic from commuters - you need the extra lane at certain times.

* The parking spots are near a school or other attraction that has predictable bursts of parking demand.

You can resolve some of this by being overly restrictive about parking, but that's a suboptimal solution. If the parking spots are near businesses then I can guarantee that there will be lobby groups very unhappy with the suboptimal solution.

For that we also have different signs. There is a completely different sign for no stopping, with its own, seperate times.

> Why should you have so many rules for parking?

There are three options:

- You can park here for free

- You must pay to park here

- You cannot park here

You're examples only relate to the first two, where you can always park, but sometimes you have to pay and sometimes you don't. It's easy in those cases to only specify when you have to pay, even when the schedule is different on Sunday (like your third example).

When you have to add in additional information about when you cannot park (for cleaning, snow removal, altered traffic patterns during heavy commute times, etc), now you need two signs. Well, or two notices on the same sign. You can park for free if it's not a time on either notice. This is in the example at the top of the article.

- You can park here for free for one hour

- You can park here for free for two hours

- You can park here for free for as long as you want

- You must pay to park here and can park for up an hour

- You must pay to park here and can park for up to two hours

- You must pay to park here and can park as long as you want to pay for

- You cannot park here

In addition,

- you cannot park here on such and such time for street cleaning.

- you cannot park here on such and such time for rush hour

- you cannot park here on such and such time for snow removal.

Plus there are license plates that are sometimes given permission to illegally park based on the reasons not to park.

- you cannot park here during such hours without a permit

- (unsigned, city-wide bylaw) you cannot park anywhere during such hours without a permit unless otherwise indicated

- (unsigned, city-wide bylaw) you cannot park anywhere for more than 3 hours unless otherwise indicated

- you cannot park between the signs (taxi stand/pickup)


- no stopping anytime

- you can not park here on school days

- handicapped parking only

- commercial loading only


- 3 minute passenger loading!

- Taxi-only parking

- Ambulance waiting spot

All of these spots are also "idling police car" spots.


When a sign serves to delineate areas with certain rules using arrows (e.g. no parking past this sign).

In addition:

- Parking for loading/unloading only

- You can park anywhere on this block for a cumulative 2 hours per day.

Those three examples are only different in the reasons given for the time-frame. You don't need to provide reasons, they're irrelevant, someone who wants to park somewhere cares whether it's illegal or not.

... and street cleaning is on the 2nd and 4th monday of each month (got towed on that premise once)

What is it about US streets that makes them so much more filthy than other streets that they not to be fully vacated in order to clean them sufficiently?

The only example for "irregular" no parking times I've seen in Germany are special exceptions for markets (typically Wednesday and Sunday, but the sign won't tell you if the market is cancelled on a particular day for a particular reason and you won't get towed or fined if you then park there when the market isn't happening) or special occasions (e.g. a circus) where they put up a temporary sign a week in advance.

I guess Germans really are more efficient (while simultaneously being more in love with having rules for every eventuality).

up nord : - you cannot park here on even days from Dec 1 - April 1

Agreed. Of course, we can now argue whether this level of granularity is unnecessarily complicated.

However: it's hard to argue that the three cases that I listed are too many rules, yet it's easy to see that they can cause too many signs using the OP's design. Such a simplification made the point much clearer, but I should have made that explicit.

Electronic signs.

- Free parking (5 hours remaining) - No Parking (4.5 hours remaining)

Of course, that has its own problems, (Power, vandalism, bugs ...) but it would help drivers a LOT. As the article said, no one cares about WHY they can't park, usually. It's only "can I park here right now?" that matters in most cases.

While true, the second most important thing is "can I park here for as long as I need?"

"Free parking (1h 45m remaining)" doesn't help if you want to park for 2 hours and don't know if the next time period is "no parking" or "max 1 hour parking".

The third most important thing is likely knowing about some time in the future, like "will my visiting friend be able to park here on Saturday evening?"

Actually, the time limit on paid parking doesn't necessarily mean that you can only leave your car in that paid space for two hours. it means you can only pay for two (or whatever) hours of parking at a time.

In the UK on-street parking for 1 or 2 hours usually has a "no return" period too.

There are unfortunately more dimensions:

- When standing is allowed

- Different sets of rules for commercial or permitted vehicles

They could post two of the proposed signs, one for commercial and one for noncommercial vehicles, for example, but standing rules are going to be harder to add to that design without making it more confusing.

Having a single (different) sign for each audience makes a lot more sense than a different sign for each rule or timeslot. That is, commercial vehicles and pedestrians can each have their own sign, and only when necessary.

Then at least I know that I'm looking at all of the information that pertains to me, and that this information isn't contradictory.

"Standing" is for vehicles, not pedestrians. It means "idling engine".

Yeah I wondered about that, and guessed wrong. I'm used to seeing the words "idling" or "stopping" for cars and "loitering" for people, and never "standing".

I suppose if you want to put non-parking rules (e.g. idling rules) on a parking sign, and then complain that the parking sign is too complicated, then that's a different problem.

I don't think he missed that, I think he used the wrong word to refer to non-commercial vehicles.

The whole point to limiting signeage is that the traffic regulators must keep the rules simple enough so that they're short enough so that someone driving past the sign can fully understand it without stopping and/or endangering traffic.

Need temporary exceptions for snow removal? Change the signs. Can't afford to change the signs so often? Don't make so many and complicated exceptions or schedules.

You can make a really reasonable system by only using simple signs in the form "[park here/don't park here/pay-park here] IF [time-range-sign] OTHERWISE default". Many countries are successfully doing this - my home city is just fine and most of the parking signs are either (a) no parking here; (b) pay-parking on workdays 7:00-21:00 (otherwise default free-parking); (c) no-parking on 7:00-19:00 on workdays (to free up a lane for traffic) or (d) parking forbidden except permit #xyz.

When I was a newcomer to Holland (and Europe in general) I found this confusing because it was not stated that parking is free during other times.

I had another confusion because of my ignorance of the language. A light up sign at an intersection in Leidschendam: "Tunnel afgesloten - ga rechtdoor" with the path to the tunnel on the right. I recognized "tunnel closed, go right..." but it really means "go right through," in other words, "go straight."

Free parking is the default. Why would they need to complicate the message by adding that?

But that is cultural. This problem isn't limited to parking signs. For example, see http://port-orange.us/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/No_U_Turn.j... or https://janiceheck.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/ped-xing.jpg

I cannot imagine there can be people with a driver's license who do not understand those signs, yet can understand the text below it, and have time to read them while driving by at 40 mph.

I would leave out the 'helpful' text or if that's legally problematic, think before ordering the sign, and get a single sign that includes the label. That's cheaper, and makes the world look a bit nicer (does anybody have statistics on # of traffics signs per capita or per mile of road? I expect the USA to score high in both)

> Free parking is the default

But how would someone visiting/freshly immigrating there know that if it's not displayed somewhere?

How would he (s)he know to stop on red lights, not drink and drive, stop for pedestrians at crosswalks, give right of way to traffic from the right, drive on the right side of the way, indicate change of direction, not drive after drinking alcohol, etc?

Before you know it, the street is full of signs, and drivers haven't time left to attend to the traffic (actually, that might explain the relatively high number of traffic deaths in the USA)

When you visit another country and intend to drive a car, you have to spend some time studying the local traffic rules.

Also, AFAIK, free parking is the default all over the world.

Well, my time in Holland was the first time driving outside of North America. I turned right against red signals a few times until I had an European coworker in the car.

Until the parking signs were explained to me, I had assumed these meant no parking except during these times, and that everyone parking in the spot should buy parking permission from the machine.

I have to disagree that the green and red bars are easier to understand than simple written signs e.g:

  No parking: 10pm-6am

  1 hour parking: 6am-10pm
Red/Green is first of all a terrible choice as it's a very common form of color blindness. Yes the red areas also have diagonal bars but the meaning of those may not be understood.

I know I would need to stop and study a sign like that to understand it. This is an example of something that looks pretty but is actually useless, like a lot of design trends lately.

Red/Green is first of all a terrible choice as it's a very common form of color blindness.

Oh, goody, I get to teach colorblindness again!

The "common form of color blindness" which is usually referred to as "red-green colorblindness" actually does not tend to affect the ability to distinguish red from green. In fact, many people who have this condition -- properly known as deuteranomlous trichromacy or deuteranomaly -- have it without ever realizing it (I didn't know until one day during an eye exam I was given an Ishihara test, and until that point had never had difficulty telling red from green traffic lights, red stop signs from green grass, etc.).

Deuteranomaly involves production of an altered form of γ-photopsin, which is the photoreceptor protein typically associated with "green" in RGB color vision. This causes a shift in the wavelengths to which it responds, so that the overlap between it and ρ-photopsin ("red") becomes greater.

This does not remove the ability to perceive green, but does affect the ability to distinguish hues which fall into the wavelengths in that overlapping area of the spectrum.

An easy way to imagine this effect is to consider a square of pure red projected onto a blank wall, and then introduction of increasing amounts of green into it. The square will move from appearing red to appearing orange to appearing yellow (yellow being made up of red and green in equal amounts). At the point where "normal" color vision would see equal amounts of red and green producing yellow, deuteranomalous color vision will still see slightly more red than green and thus perceive it as still slightly orange.

To cause difficulty distinguishing red from green, an impairment would have to be uncommonly severe, or would have to involve some form of dichromacy (where only two, rather than all three, sets of cones -- red, green, blue -- are present/functioning).

Yes and no. While you're right on the technical details, colour vision is a bit more complicated than that.

Red-green "blindness" comes in two flavours: protanomaly (red deficiency) and deuteranomaly (green deficiency). Both can vary in their severity.

I'm deuteranomalous, that means I don't perceive green as intensely as someone with normal colour vision. Basically, green always appears much less saturated to me, whether it stands on its own or as part of a hue. This also means browns will appear more "red" to me.

Additionally this means I find it much more difficult to tell "similar" shades of red and green (and the various hues in between) apart, especially when the surfaces are very small. I think this has to do with red and green normally having a difference in luminosity and me relying on the luminosity as an additional "hint" when processing the colours.

Also note that the reason many men with colourblindness remain entirely unaware of it is not that they aren't affected by it but that there simply isn't much awareness of it in popular culture.

My maternal grandfather was a photographer and would often ask his wife for opinions on colour matching and had a tendency to pick atrocious colour combinations for his clothing, but he never thought of himself as being colour blind.

Although there were a few hints in my childhood that I'm colour blind (e.g. painting trunks and leaves in the same colour, using green as a skin colour when painting "brown" people, mixing up blue, purple and turquoise a lot, having difficulties with colour coded maps on the overhead projector) the only reason my parents became aware of it being actual colour blindness (rather than just childish quirkiness) was that we did a couple of health tests in elementary school that included an Ishihara test.

Note that I never had trouble telling apart the colours on traffic lights either, although I must say that with the newer traffic lights that were introduced during my childhood I noticed the green having become much fainter (because they are brighter). It's only now that I've begun driving that I notice that green traffic lights at night frequently blend into the scenery alongside the fluorescent street lights.

EDIT: Here's an article showing the world pretty much as I see it: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8928770

Protanomaly is relatively rare, though. Deuteranomaly is the common one, and is invariably what people mean when they say "red-green colorblindness".

For anyone wandering by, the full spectrum (pun intended) of things that tend to be called "colorblindness" is:

* Deuteranomaly: most common by far, involves mutated γ-photopsin shifting the peak and range of the "green" response further toward "red".

* Protanomaly: more rare, involves mutated ρ-photopsin shifting the peak and range of the "red" response. Similar effects on ability to distinguish colors, but also "darkens" the far red end of the visible spectrum toward black due to the way it shifts response.

* Tritanomaly: even more rare, involves mutated β-photopsin shifting the peak and range of the "blue" response. Is the only one of these three which is as prevalent in women as men, though, due to the way the genetics works out (deuteranomaly and protanomaly would require a woman to get the mutation on both X chromosomes).

Taken together these are called "anomalous trichromacy" conditions -- all three types of color photoreceptor proteins are produced by cones in the eyes, but not the "normal" forms of each, resulting in a shift of response.

Then there are the dichromacy conditions, where one set of color-distinguishing cone cells is basically completely lacking:

* Deuteranopia = no "green"

* Protanopia = no "red"

* Tritanopia = no "blue"

Deuteranopia and protanopia again affect similar ranges of the spectrum, but protanopia again "darkens" the far end. And tritanopia is, once again, equal prevalence in men and women due to the genetics.

Finally there's monochromacy, where either there are no cones at all (no color, just shades of grey, and usually drastically reduced visual acuity), or only a single type of cones (shades of that color + greys, better visual acuity when in good lighting conditions).

(for a non-technical term I much prefer "green weakness" since it doesn't have the OH MY GOD YOU CAN'T TELL RED AND GREEN APART AT ALL connotations)

(and personally, when I do have problems with color, it tends to be in that yellow-y/beige-y/earth-tone-y bit of the spectrum, much like your experience, and so I wish people would be more careful with those rather than caring about whether red and green are different enough colors)

I don't know about you, but I do tend to get a laugh out of explaining to people that, yes, green blindness means I can't see the colour green and therefore am able to see through walls if you paint them in the right shade of green.

Totally disagree. Yes, in your very simple example, it's possible the current format is easier to understand. But the point is, it's seldom as easy as "no parking 10-6".

You would need to "stop and study" the sign the first time you see one. After that, it looks like every day planner used in school and business, paper and app alike.

The cynic in me says the signs are confusing because it increases revenue. But then I may be ascribing to malice that which is the result of incremental institutional incompetence.

I don't know why you'd ascribe it to incompetence. Why is it incompetent to disallow parking, e.g. during rush hour but not during other hours? Or to disallow parking during street sweeping hours? Or to accommodate truck loading/unloading hours for adjacent retail, or bus loading/unloading hours for nearby schools? Parking rules are just time-domain multiplexing of conflicting uses of parking lanes.

Some of the complaints here are classic "lazy programmer" reaction to unavoidable complexity--make the solution easier by solving a different problem. Sometime's that's the right approach, but someone isn't incompetent for choosing a more complex solution that solves a problem more precisely.

I think they meant it's incompetent for them to create indecipherable signs, not to create rules about how/when to park.

If there were some incentive for municipalities to install unambiguous signage, we could be confident there wasn't a perverse incentive.

But no citizen can actually protest a parking ticket on the grounds of bad signage.

I don't really like this tendency of people on HN to convict based purely on motive. The limitations of that approach showed up hilariously in the article about why New York City's subway offers $9, $19, and $39 cards.[1] Everyone jumped to the "dark pattern" of the city wanting to create unusable remaining balances, while ignoring the obvious fact that the numbers were clearly chosen to minimize the amount of change that would have to be made by the machines given the $1 new card fee and people paying in $10's and $20's.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8274483

> convict based purely on motive

Well consider Ferguson, the city with such out of control fines/fees that there are more warrants for the arrest of citizens who owe fees for minor infractions than there are citizens!

Historically governments have had such asymmetric power over individuals that we take for granted that signs are beyond reproach. What is so inspiring about this designer's work is that it is so refreshingly democratic.

Not to defend the abhorrent practice of taxation via police action--

A lot of municipalities are also being screwed pretty hard by state-level policies. Many states cap how much a municipality can raise through "legitimate" taxation (eg, property, sales and income taxes) while imposing mandates on what services the municipalities must provide. Meanwhile, municipalities have an even worse time taking on debt than the state government. So it's not too uncommon for a municipality to end up in the position of being unable to meet its obligations, having nothing left to cut, and no authority to raise taxes.

Good point. The more local they are and the more transparent/obvious the outcome, the better the justification for taxes.

Municipalities aren't a monolith. Some of the trickier restrictions where I live are the result of lobbying from neighbors who wanted to restrict parking to just residents during the day. They don't get any money from the fines.

> But no citizen can actually protest a parking ticket on the grounds of bad signage.

My wife successfully contested an expired meter citation from Fort Worth just a few months ago for that very reason.

Sure they can. There was an article right here on HN about how some tool forgot to read the parking signs, got a ticket, and had it dismissed over some close reading of the sign code, thereby becoming a living libertarian hero.


Let it go dude. I wasn't exactly shocked to go to that post and see that you had made the most grayed-out comment.

Parent said he signs are malicious, not be rules. The signs are he programmer laziness, not being arsed to solve he problem, just piling on special cases and overloading the framework.

It can be two things.

Personally I would doubt that the signage was made purposefully confusing out of "malice". But any attempt to simplify it, now that it exists, will have to deal with a "but it will decrease revenue" excuse.

On the other hand, some of the examples pictured in the article are so unclear that I would have thought they are probably unenforceable in court (or at least, they would be here in the UK).

In the US we don't have the concept of `plain meaning rule`. Which means many contract and some laws as draw up to be intentionally confusing.

Given how simple parking signs are anywhere in Europe I wonder why they complicated them so much in US...?

US is so car-heavy that they overload you road system.

Well the biggest difference is that the dutch signs would completely fail to communicate the parking restrictions for a busy street.

Its not uncommon for streets to allow parking but not at night or during rush hours so that all lanes can be used for traffic.

For instance the usual restrictions are no parking before 6am and then no parking between 7 and 9am and then no parking between 4 and 6pm and then no parking after midnight.

The dutch signs are fine for sleepy towns but wouldn't be acceptable for a city.

There are busy streets in Holland as well. Such more complex restrictions are perfectly possible with the Dutch style signs. Northern Europe goes by traffic signs adhering to Vienna convention, and while rules are not always that simple, getting the basic message does not require you to read the local language. The signs are standardised within nations, and not that different across nations in EU.

Let's take an example (Google Maps link below). The round sign with blue background with red stripe over it is "no parking", and the additional sign below says "payment required during 9-20 hours weekdays, 16-20 hours Saturdays, 16-20 hours Sundays, other times free parking", then "price zone 2, maximum parking time with payment is 2 hours", then "free parking with resident parking permit for zone H". And the blue sign is "payment machine that way".


Those signs are from our largest cities (500k-800k inhabitants). We just don't have such complicated restrictions, probably because we have a stronger separation between through roads and parking space. We just don't have any parking space that is used as a traffic lane during rush hours; if you can park at all in a multiple-lane street, the space tends to be clearly separated. Street cleaning happens during the day; cleaners just have to deal with traffic and parked cars.

These are great for the individual case where a single rule exists.

That big stack of signs in the beginning of the article is there because there's different traffic control being used at different times during the week. Whether good or bad, they've gone the route of drilling their statistical analyses down to parts of week days (and school day or holiday, in some cases) to determine traffic flow and how parked cars effects it.

Not saying one is better than the other. Just, that the systems that result come from different initial conditions.

City services need to operate, and they get first dibs on curb access. Street cleaning for example occurs between 3am-5am every Thursday on Greene St., so this restricts curb parking during that time. etc etc. I imagine that all other city and maybe county departments have say as well. End result: parking rules can be archaic for urban cities.

It may be surprising, but the whole thing of cities restricting parking on odd or even days for street sweeping, plowing, marching bands, or whatever, simply doesn't happen in many countries. Many cities simply get by without such complex restrictions. Equally, the US municipal government system where every layer from borough to city to county to state to federal has full legislative authority over the detailed minutiae of parking regulation is also not a law of physics that applies universally.

There's just a lot of variables you have to consider: holidays, resident permits (people who live there are allowed to park for free and/or for an unlimited time), rush hour lanes during week days, street cleaning schedules, and so on.

What about times when you aren't allowed to park at all? For instance, to use the space as an extra traffic lane during rush hour or to allow street cleaning.

As an aside, when you decide to use 24:00 instead of 0:00?

Likely the same way it's done in every country that uses the 24 hours system (rather than the mostly Anglophile 12 hour system):

If it's used to indicate the end of the day, such as the end of a time range within that day, use 24:00.

Anywhere else, use 0:00.

For example, if you want to say "free parking between 10 pm and midnight": 22:00 - 24:00

If you want to say "free parking from midnight to 3 am": 00:00 - 03:00

I hear in Japan train schedules actually use (or used?) numbers higher than 24 for the edge case of needing to indicate "3 am of the next day", e.g. 22:00 - 27:00, but I've never seen that elsewhere. In Germany that would simply be "22:00 - 03:00" with the date change implied (for timespans equal to or larger than 24 hours you would need to indicate the dates in question anyway, so it's not ambiguous).

In short: "Friday, 24:00" is equivalent to "Saturday, 00:00" but implies you're talking about something that happens on Friday (such as a deadline ending "Friday night").

I live in LA and almost all of the timed/paid restrictions are really simple: the cost never changes (it's almost always $1/hour) and I think the signs are fairly clear and well-designed.

Ignore the "1 minute" (the "minute" was a printer error; it was supposed to be "hour") but this is as complicated as the signs get: https://thenypost.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/1-minute-parki...

All the other restrictions are mostly special cases:

* Street cleaning (weekly for a few hours) * Rush hour no-stopping (because drivers tend to stop/wait on busy streets) * Rush hour no-parking (often used to switch a lane to/from parking) * School zone loading-only during pick-up/drop-off times * Loading-only (or taxi) zones during busy bar nights (Friday/Saturday nights) * Permit parking exemptions (so people who live near business districts aren't subjected to timed restrictions) * Permit-only parking * Limiting overnight parking * Temporary no-parking/no-stopping (used a lot for road work and filming) * Special-class parking (cars with someone who has a walking handicap, car-sharing programs, etc.)

Then other distinctions that are important (that often don't get communicated on redesigned signs) are:

* Ticket vs tow-away * Ticket cost increases (LA has "anti-gridlock zones" that double the fines during rush hours) * How to pay (e.g. for areas with centralized meters or maybe pay-by-phone)

* * *

Each of those special-case restrictions has a good purpose (theoretically the city has determined they'll be somehow beneficial) so to make parking simpler, they'll either need to do away with special cases or expand them to make parking more restrictive.

In addition, most signs come from a template and it's probably much easier / more cost effective to just grab a sign off a stack or just fill in a template.

After I saw these signs, I thought they were a great idea but after looking around where I actually park, they would make parking much more confusing. The sign outside my apartment says "No parking 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. Thursdays, Street cleaning" and the nearby business district has "2 hour parking M-F 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. and Weekends 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.".

Most of the huge/confusing signs you find pictures of online are 1-2 normal restrictions stacked with a lot of single-day temporary signs. (I'm guessing a lot of construction/movies buy signs that say "no parking" with a single weekday and it's easier to buy two, one for Friday and one for Saturday, than it is to custom-make one with "Friday & Saturday".)

Keep in mind that these signs are in addition to other roadway markings like painted curbs, painted meters (short-term parking meters are often painted a different color), and flashing parking meters (most LA parking meters have a flashing light during a restricted parking period). Also drivers need to be able to scan the parking signs when they're going 10-20mph so color codes and large symbols often help to know when a restriction starts/ends.

The majority of the time, parking signs are very clear and seem well designed. Some of the worst cases (say 3+ restrictions) may benefit from redesigned signs. I guess we'll have to see them in use and live with them for a bit to make a better judgement

Why make the rules complicated? So you can make more money from the lawless idiots! Of course!

Same reason for Red Light Cameras and Speed Cameras. Safety? Maybe as a side effect... but we need those monies to make up for budget shortfalls!!!

Throw in Business Hours, school zones, happy hour, etc...

Also... the US is stupidly enshrined in making everything against the law - and punishable with fines (or more)... For being the Land of the Free, we sure do love our laws...

School zones, really?

This isn't the first place I've seen this -- back in December of 2009, in Manhattan (midtown somewhere, GPS says 53rd between Park and Lexington), I happened upon this sign [1] and snapped a photo. Uses green and blue instead of green and red, and is oriented horizontally instead of vertically, but appears to be official.

[1] http://imgur.com/IXv0WqB

Parking signs are the worst. This designers improvements are clearer though the type size is much smaller. Sometimes you can only see the parking signs as you are driving by looking for a space. Its not much help if you have to park your car, then read the sign.

I attempted a similar solution using a "universal language for time and date" that I created.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3o_n4XBKZUI Never really went anywhere beyond the video though.

That was much cooler than the actual article. I'm not sure I'm convinced of the concept, but it's certainly thought provoking and the video is very well done.

The months section is actually how I've always viewed a year in my mind, except IMHO you have it upside down. Winter should be at the bottom, summer at the top.

Summer and winter according to whom?

This is really cool, I can think of some other systems that could benefit from this type of abstraction, like programming languages.

Thanks for the link. This is a great idea and I'd love to see it get some traction so that I can use it for things.

A couple of thoughts:

1. The current NYC signs have arrows indicating directionality of the applicable rules. There are three kinds ( <--, -->, and <-->). Only one of their design example shows this information and it's implementation seems awkward.

2. The current NYC signs are theoretically reproducible and modular. Stacking them one on top of one another makes the driver feel like they are divining tea leaves, but the city might see it as minimizing costs. They can cut a couple hundred "Alternate Side Street Parking" signs for Mon./Wed. 9:30a-10:30a, and put them where they need to. With these signs, you are more likely to have a unique sign for every block.

3. I'm not colorblind, but are the green and red bars they've used colorblind safe? The red stripes are hard for me to see on my monitor, but maybe that is the intention. EDIT: Ah, I see in the infographic, that they've considered colorblindness. Still, the difference in the reds seems pretty subtle.

4. The text size gets increasingly small the more detailed the scheduled is.

EDIT: The relevant section for parking signs from the MUTCD (Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices), the USA DOT publication on signs, says this:

Parking signs should display the following information from top to bottom of the sign, in the order listed: A. The restriction or prohibition; B. The times of the day that it is applicable, if not at all hours; and C. The days of the week that it is applicable, if not every day.

If the parking restriction applies to a limited area or zone, the limits of the restriction should be shown by arrows or supplemental plaques. If arrows are used and if the sign is at the end of a parking zone, there should be a single-headed arrow pointing in the direction that the regulation is in effect. If the sign is at an intermediate point in a zone, there should be a double-headed arrow pointing both ways. When a single sign is used at the transition point between two parking zones, it should display a right and left arrow pointing in the direction that the respective restrictions apply.

So overall, it seems that these would be rubbing against the established grain, but perhaps a change like this is needed.

"3." There is a picture about 2/3 of the way through the article that shows the iterations she's went through and some of the changes for color-deficient people.


Edit: I see you saw what I see. Without being colorblind myself, I'm not sure... but I would think the different textures (Solid vs striped) should stand out. I can only assume that she's received valid feedback on "Red with white background" vs "Red with red background" in choosing what she chose.

I'm red/green colourblind and the final version (with the stripes) is pretty readable. The first version (with out the stripes), not so much.

Great idea and format. I'm disturbed that some of the examples in the article appear to have errors.

One sign has a column for "MWF" and a column for "T-Th". The latter I guess is meant to mean Tuesday and Thursday, but it sure looks like Tuesday through Thursday.

Another example shows two traditional signs, one says "No Parking Nightly 10PM-6AM". The second says "1 hour parking 8AM-6PM except Sunday." The designer somehow interprets this as allowing parking from Midnight-6AM Sunday morning, but no parking 10PM-Midnight on Saturday night.

Lastly, she uses "T" for Tuesday, "Th" for Thursday, "Sa" for Saturday, and "S" for Sunday. The "T" and "S" should be "Tu" and "Su" to be less ambiguous.

Like I said, great ideas. But I also think I know why the designer gets parking tickets a lot...

My personal system for Days is S M T W R F Y.

(S)unday for the start of the week. Thu(R)sday since the R is pronounced with a strong "urr". Saturda(Y) since it's the last day of the week.

It still a bit ambiguous, but it has helped me over the years.

I'm surprised no one took you to task for ending the week on Saturday instead of Sunday.

The week does end on Saturday though. Go look at any calendar and you'll see they all end on Saturday.

I can't tell if you're being sarcastic or not. In case you're not, here's an example, from Germany, to disprove that all calendars start on Sunday and end on Saturday.


Choose other countries from the dropdown and you'll see many, if not most, have the week starting on Monday and ending on Sunday.

The Abrahamic week did end on Saturday, which they probably got originally from the Vedic calendar as that is older and also has the last day of the week on a Saturday, but Constantine moved the sabbath to coincide with his existing sun worship, so since then the situation has been confused and so calendars vary on which day to end with. In the UK you can generally find both examples on sale if you shop around.

Is this why Saturday + Sunday is commonly known as the Weekend?

> Go look at any calendar [in the US] and you'll see they all end on Saturday.

Fixed your US-centricism there.

Allow me to present a standard swedish parking sign: http://i.imgur.com/e4KVoaC.jpg

Avgift means fee. The intervals specify when the fee applies.

* White digits: Hours of weekdays.

* White digits in parens: Hours of days before holidays (read: Saturdays, Christmas eve etc.).

* Red digits: Hours of holidays (Sundays, Chistmas day etc.).

I'm guessing in the case where parking is forbidden entirely at certain times there'd simply be a second (visually distinct) sign beside it as in most of Europe?

Yes. The [P] sign indicates that this area is intended for parking, and that outside of the hours specified in fee-sign, parking is free.

In the case where the default is "no parking", the top sign will be a dashed or crossed red circle (the first meaning you can stop to let people off but not park, the other meaning that you can not stop there for any reason). There can then be a sign below it that specifies times when parking is allowed.

The poor design of these parking signs is actually "a feature, not a bug."

Parking tickets in the cities which have these sorts of sign issues (DC, NYC, Chicago, ATL, etc) make up a significant amount of income for the city. Paid parking certainly adds up but if a single space nets the city $10-$20 per day, a single parking ticket could cover a weeks worth of revenue for that single spot while still allowing the space to earn $10-$20 a day for the rest of the week.

I agree it sucks, and I was burned by this exact problem when I traveled to DC with my family last winter. However it's unlikely to change, because not only would the change actually cost money to implement, it would (significantly) reduce the income to the city from parking tickets.

As a DC resident, I agree. My wife got a ticket for parking illegally, but could not find a sign (among many) that prohibited it. She took pictures of everything and went to court. They upheld the ticket under the argument, "the sign must have been there somewhere".

There is also a disconnect between intent and enforcement. For example, I live by a school. No parking M-F, 8am-3pm because busses have to get through. Makes sense. But neighbors have been ticketed on the Friday after Thanksgiving: they're violating the sign, but not the intent of the sign.

I'm always baffled at how the burden of proof can be so low for traffic infractions. Why doesn't "innocent until proven guilty" apply? Just because the stakes are so low doesn't mean we can toss that out.

Probably one of those situations where the city can't afford to have people fighting smaller fines regularly, so they try to discourage people from doing so.

Do you have any evidence to support this theory other than the fact that there's motive?

I think that tax-payers should be the ones to pay for enforcement of regulations that are claimed to benefit them. Governments, local and otherwise, should be barred from using fine money for the 'general welfare'. To do so sets up a conflict of interest and condones extortion.

Instead, fine moneys should be ear-marked towards remediation and reparation of the 'crime' committed. E.g., in this case, all parking fine money could be put into a fund towards building parking ramps. In the case of speeding tickets fine money should go towards rumble-strips, guard rails, additional lanes and other features that make it safe to drive at higher speeds. Etc. Etc.

Exactly. Why would a city change something that would make them bring in less profit?

  In October 2014, she got an email from Los Angeles city 
  council person Paul Krekorkian. He wasn’t writing to ask 
  her to stop producing LA signs. On the contrary: he wanted
  her permission to propose her design at the next council
I don't know. But it seems they want to.

The idea that parking fines are a source of significant revenue is pretty bogus. NYC for example collects around $500m in fines while spending about $200m for the NYPD division of traffic control and another $270m for the Department of Finance (which collects the fines) and while these costs are not entirely dedicated to the purpose of issuing tickets, it gives you a sense of the scale of net revenues from parking tickets (low hundreds of millions at most) compared to a city budget of over $75 billion.

Parking tickets exist because public property in urban areas is extremely valuable and the opportunity cost of letting some scofflaw waste the space is enormous.

It depends on the city. After Chicago 'sold' the right to collect parking fees, fees increased and allegations of wrongful ticketing skyrocketed.

Google 'chicago parking meter privatization' for more info (some of it likely to be biased).

Which pretty well proves that the city wasn't in it for the money before they sold the rights.

Logic does not compute. If they weren't in it for the money, why would they sell it for money?

I think the better argument is that they were incompetent.

That's really, really lazy logic you're (not) trying to compute. If the send-your-enemies-glitter guy wasn't in it for the money, why'd he sell his site for money?

Also Chicago sold the rights in a fire sale due to some combination of budget shortfall, corruption, and incompetence. After the fact, independent appraisers found the contract should have been worth more than $2B, but was sold for just over $1B.

I'm not actually a huge fan of the redesigned signs. It seems like it would be really hard to make work for even slightly complex cases -- alternate side on Mondays during the Fall for example, or 2-hour parking during the day except for residents.

Also, like most unsolicited unofficial redesigns, it ignores real-world constraints. How much does it cost to produce these very specific signs vs combining modular and reusable generic signs?

> How much does it cost to produce these very specific signs vs combining modular and reusable generic signs?

Probably less than the cost of a single parking ticket.

As for your corner cases, there are some signs depicted with text at the bottom which can cover those scenarios. Not perfect, but I think it's a step up from what people have to deal with today.

> Probably less than the cost of a single parking ticket.

I really doubt that, but my point is that none of us know. Design is a lot easier when you're ignorant of any cost or logistical constraints.

> As for your corner cases, there are some signs depicted with text at the bottom...

I guess it's better, but it seems like greatly more complexity in creating and managing signs for only a little benefit. At least around me those aren't corner cases: pretty much every sign would have one or more additional restrictions or exceptions. In front of my house it's two-hour parking Monday through Saturday except for residents, and no parking on Mondays during the Fall. I think that's pretty typical for DC.

If you're going to replace signs, how expensive would it be to just have one that changes from "Parking" to "No Parking" on a timer? My city already has similar signs for intersections that become no-left-turn when kids are around.

That doesn't tell you how long you can stay parked. How useful is it to know that you're currently allowed to park, without also telling you it's going to change to "No Parking" as soon as you've left your vehicle?

EDIT: If you could do a countdown timer to the next state, though, that'd be useful.

Also, what if you need a permit?

After parking in DC I always thought there should be a "parking lawyer" service. You take a picture of the signs (sometimes 6 on top of each other), you upload it to the service and they tell you whether it's OK to park.

There's an app for NYC called Can I Park Here[1]. It does location queries against the NYC DOT parking regulations database[2]. Perhaps something similar exists for DC?

[1]: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/22/nyregion/iphone-app-tells-...

[2]: http://a841-dotvweb01.nyc.gov/ParkingRegs/ViewController/Loc...

Now add a code so that you can scan with your phone and it will tell you if you can park there.

Why not make a public API for the city so you can access it with an GPS-enabled app immediately?

Come to think of it, many cities could stand to benefit from a public API with alerts and infrastructure notices. Too bad it's probably not in their budgets.

The QT code could encode JSON which describes the parking rules at that location.

NYC took steps to unclutter their parking signs a couple years ago. http://www.wnyc.org/story/283907-nyc-unclutters-parking-sign...

There is a reason why parking restrictions & signs are maddening, and it's not to generate revenue as the cynical claim when they have no other explanation.

The #1 reason is that parking laws change.

Where there was no rule a year ago, there may be now, for all kinds of reasons. This means a sign needs to be added or changed. Some reasons for rule adds or changes:

* new growth in the area causes increased demand for parking, requiring restrictions on non-resident parking. * a new area gets appropriated as part of a city/county and new enforcement follows. * residents are tired of their spaces getting yanked by people outside the neighborhood. * street traffic changes due to development, causing increased demand along a new street, creating the need for more restriction. * street cleaning is (finally) implemented, or schedules change. * a new commercial entity requires loading zones. * a new school pops up or is [re]moved

The #2 reason for the current sign design is visibility.

You have to be able to read a parking sign from your car, on the road, while moving, in inclement weather, and considering not everyone's sight is 'ideal'. Even if there was one sign, often there are multiple overlapping restrictions which can't simply be put into a single time slot. Even if this design incorporated every single day and different times depending on different criteria, it would have to be humongous to read all that detail without getting out and going up close.

The #3 reason is ambiguity.

Si no hablas ingles, 或者你住在一个历史的民族地区,તમે નિયમો કયા છે ઈન્ટરપ્રીટ થોડી મદદ જરૂર પડી શકે છે. The various colors, bolded words, and arrows help give insight as to what each sign is intending to tell you, without necessarily needing to be a native speaker. Other countries tend to use more pictograms on their signs which certainly help in these cases.

I think the redesigned sign is very useful, but one single sign is just not going to replace the accessibility and functionality of several large simple signs. Less signs is definitely better, though.

Parking tickets are primarily given to generate revenue for the city, so they have no incentive to make it easier for the user to park.

Or maybe to enforce parking rules that make sense, e.g. keeping all lanes of a busy thoroughfare clear for moving traffic during rush hour; alternate side parking in snowy states to keep the streets drive-able.

Edited out snark.

> Or maybe to enforce parking rules that make sense,

Denver recently decided that, since the fine for parking in a tow-away zone is twice that of parking in a street-sweeping zone, and since one can be towed in order to enable street sweeping, then parking in a street-sweeping zone is really parking in a tow-away zone, and doubled the fine.

I'm pretty sure that while the parking rules are there to make sense and regulate the commons, their implementation is based on revenue maximisation.

Parking signs in DC remind me of logic games: http://www.griffonprep.com/logicgame.html. You'll see four signs on a pole, made with no contemplation of each other, and try to figure out whether you can park. Worse are the complicated signs for roads that are one-way only part of the day, or where left turns are prohibited only part of the day.

And in Wilmington, DE, you can park for free on holidays, but the city celebrates Vetrans' day in October instead of November.

They should really just add a little note on all of them explaining that the most restrictive sign always wins. A surprising number of people seem not to know that.

As someone who is neurotic about parking (I will walk up and down the street 3 times making sure I didn't miss anything), I think this is wonderful. I don't care if it's hard to read or if I have to re-park at times. Simply being 100% confident that my parking is ok is a big relief.

Revenue shortfall? Raise our taxes or fix your budget, just stop profiting from misleading confusion.

The article says "looked a lot like a Google Calendar". In other words: any calendar program / app.

One issue I have is... if there is "no parking 1st monday" her sign will instead say "no parking any monday". That's wrong 3/4 of the time. Simplification or not, it's wrong.

Another red/green debacle for the 15 million color blind men in America.

Towards the bottom of the article is a picture titled "The road to a better, better parking sign" that shows various iterations of the design. It isn't very clear, but if you look closely at the two iterations on the right there are stripes added to the red specifically for color blind.

It's more clear on the designers blog: http://toparkornottopark.com/tagged/evolution

I was about to make the same comment. It's really hard to distinguish between those two colors as implemented on the sign. Green and red colors by themselves are okay but there should be another clear identifying characteristic like shape, outlining etc.

Yeah, completely ignorant design: http://i.imgur.com/QWGUw31.png

It's actually more than that unless you meant just the USA, not both north and south america.

In English, "America" is nearly always synonymous with "USA".

If GP meant "North and South America", he would have said "the Americas" instead. I understand this is different in other languages which I imagine must be confusing and arrogant-seeming for those with English as a second language.

This design does not account for non-weekly parking rules, like "No parking during street cleaning on the third Tuesday of the month."

The signs are too small to read easily from a car trying to find a park. As the hours are not in standard positions, a small block of red high in the green bar would only mean 'sometime in the morning' when seen from a distance.

Similarly, the allowed parking duration is far too small. Even if it's green all day, you still need to know if it's 30 minutes or 4 hours or whatever.

This is an improvement. I think it needs more iterations.

For example, the free sections look too much like the 1 hr sections (e.g. glance at the right-most sign in this blurry shot: http://pix-media.s3.amazonaws.com/blog/883/process.png ). How long did it take you to distinguish them?

Complex rules are easy fodder for code. Would be awesome to have an app that simply answers:

"Can I park on this street right now? (and until when)"

You're onto something ... Sounds like the AirBnB or Uber for street parking. Disruption is in the making.</sarcasm>

Why should people require a smartphone to figure out whether they can park on a street or not?

My solution: KISS! European countries show that it's totally feasible to make easy-to-understand parking signs, in 2015, without any Silicon Valley tech at all.

Wasn't really suggesting disruption or a revolutionary business model. Not everything needs to be about the Uberization of X or Y.

Just something small and useful that would be convenient for users from my perspective. I received a ticket in San Diego a couple month's ago because I didn't walk down half a block to see a sign that mentioned street cleaning on certain days.

That sounds incredibly brilliant- issue being accurate GPS locating, and actually finding out what rules are there.

I really wish there was some sort of public works API where you could pull sign data, traffic lights data, etc. Seems like there could be some very interesting applications developed from that.

Here's a baby step in that direction for NYC:


CSV and shapefiles can be found here:


There are various efforts to put that sort of data into OpenStreetMap.

Using OSM brings all the problems of redundant effort and crowd sourcing in, but it solves the 'in one place' part of the problem.

There's also the issue that OSM focuses on the geo side of the data, so it is usually pretty awkward to encode complex data (like multiple parking regulations or traffic signal plans)

Or an electronic sign that simply shows red/green as a GO/NOGO indicator. We already have them for crosswalks, school zones, etc., why not extend it to parking zones?

They might be slightly more expensive, but you could just install them on the curbs where there is more than one rule.

GO/NOGO isn't good enough.

I need to know how much it will cost to park there, and how long I can stay in that spot. Do the rules change if I have a resident parking permit? etc.

This parking sign example seems like a good way to communicate the problems with the practice of piling on new rules or features without resorting to using analogies to financial instruments -- technical debt or unhedged call options.

The image of a totem pole containing a list of signs is a tangible day-to-day example that should evoke fear of unexpected fines ahead.

I don't think the problem is that of signage.

The issue is zero-tolerance. It expands beyond simply parking. The lack of discretion that computerised solutions seem to beget. The incentive structure that means parking wardens feel inclined to ticket for being 10cm over a bay.

This is amazing! I have always been baffled by the ever more convoluted parking signs. This is especially useful since very often you have to figure out if you can park while driving by, so you don't have much time to analyse the signs.

This project looks like its begging to be built into a mobile app. Either a geolocation app or a Q scan code that tells you if you can park at any given location at any given time.

I don't see it.

Let's assume that the app exists and has a good database. Parking rules and regs change on a regular basis in the context of a city, typically both tickets and drivers utilise the same signage to determine if an offense has occurred. So for all intents and purposes the signs are the decider of if a ticket is issued.

So when a driver arrives, they load the app, they'll still have to check the signs to make sure the rules haven't changed. And in the time it took to load the app and have it figure out your location (and you'll likely have to enter side of the street due to GPS limitations) you may have well just read the signs.

And when the app is wrong (as it rarely will be) then the driver has no excuse. Saying "an app told me I could part!!!" will be laughed at, and the app creator will likely need legal protection as they will get sued even if the app is free. Lawsuits that you win are still expensive.

The DOT website in NYC already has a street parking function which displays the rules in effect for any specified street / intersection. I don't know if this is legally admissible, though - I believe the rules can only be enforced if the signage is in place.

Graphically representing all times wastes space, making the rules easier to understand for those who can read them, but decreasing legibility.

This is a tradeoff, not an all-around win.

Consistency is more key than minimalism.

Plus producing identically sized signs has economies of scale that variable sized ones likely won't counteract.

Not minimalism. Information density. Visibility.

Representing time with colored spaces decreases information density. Green & red blocks aren't enough -- the primary data, the numbers, are still required labels, and are made smaller to accommodate the new elements.

Shrinking the primary data decreases visibility, so you, with decent eyesight, need to be closer. My grandmother will have an even harder time resolving it.

Visibility hasn't been addressed, but deserves to be in any conversation about signage.

Parking violations is a business. It's in their best interest to make the signs and the laws even more confusing so you'd pay the fee.

This is one of the best redesigns I have seen recently. Designers can have great impact on the world that we live. This is a great example.

Not sure if cases like "No Parking 7AM - 9 AM every 3rd Thursday of the month" are covered in her design.

They explained this sort of situation in the article.. She would just mark 7am to 9am as no parking for EVERY thursday. She erred on the side of telling you not to park.

Well that's wrong. It's only the 3rd Thursday of the week.

You dare rob the municipalities of this important income with your good communication?

I live in LA. She's right. Thank God for her.

15 minute free parking to analize parking rules.

I have become so tired of sensationalism in headlines, in this case use of "War", that I refuse to read the articles.

This is all well and great, but it will lead to a reduction in revenue for the city, as well as an increased expense in having all of the signs reprinted. As long as someone somewhere is making money, it's never going to change.

Some of those issues are just a lack of common sense. Of course no stopping implies no parking. Reminds me of an episode of Parking Wars where people were trying to argue that they didn't know what "No Standing" meant so it was ok to park there. I don't understand why you wouldn't apply the principle of caution she's invoking and not park somewhere if you're not sure that you understand the signs.

That said, the signs are an improvement and are pretty nice. It's a bit harder to deal with issues like school days - maybe there needs to be a number or web site on the sign that you can use to check school days?

This article (and many comments here) grossly misunderstand the nature of city parking regulations.

> Cities could make it easier for them, and improve parking compliance, just by making the parking signs clearer.

The signs are confusing on purpose. Parking tickets are a huge source of revenue in most cities. Improving parking compliance is not the goal in most places. The goal is to maximize revenue from fines.

Any assessment of the design merits of the signs must at least be aware of the actual context of the design they're evaluating. The signs are very well designed in the context of their actual goal -- to confuse people and generate more income for the city.

Note that I am not endorsing this practice, just pointing it out. That's simply the way it actually is in most cities, irrespective of anyone's particular moral evaluation of whether it ought to be that way.

If you think it's wrong that this happens, the first step towards fixing it is acknowledging that it's happening, rather than ascribing the confusing signs to simple ignorance of good graphic design practices.

The proposed solutions come from a misunderstanding of local government. Many cities don't have a central office of parking that is responsible for all parking rules. Different city departments have the right to restrict parking. That creates different signs. In both of her examples, the additional sign on the bottom is a add-on restriction. It may or may not have been coordinated with the above signs. (In California, there are lots of parking restrictions for street sweeping)

The author also attacks the little sign at the top. People like to know why things are the way they are. That little sign (I can't read it exactly) helps citizens understand why the parking restrictions are present, and helps.

She also seems not to understand the difference between "No Stopping" and "No Parking", which is pretty clear to me.

I don't see any system in her solution for handling permit parking.

Finally, her proposed solution would require a much more detailed (and expensive) master parking system. Cities don't have the resources to maintain those, and they would incur huge costs if a city-wide parking rule was necessitated. (For example, if street sweeping is changed with the current system, they only need to replace one or two signs per block. Under her system, every parking sign in the city would need to be changed)

The designer had performed research and learned that no, people DON'T care why they can't park, they just don't want a ticket; and that they don't care about fine distinctions, they want clear unambiguous information.

As for complaining that this misunderstands local government: that's the point, it's user-centric design. Parking signs should not be a catalog of the internal departmental divisions in city hall, they should clearly communicate to street users the way in which the street is permitted to be used. It's like complaining about the design of the iPhone on the basis that it completely failed to reflect the reality of how cellphone carriers operate. Yes, yes it did. That was the point.

That research is incorrect in my experience. People _do_ care why they can't park, because if the restriction is for street cleaning, and the street has already been cleaned, you can park (in my city). If the restriction is for construction, and work hasn't begun by 10am, you can park. So you do need to know _why_ you can't park, if you want to park in certain cases.

You're trying to excuse the obfuscation and confusion that the signs create by the fact that the restrictions are motivated by a few different needs. But the government exists to serve the people. If the city wants to collect citations, it needs to make the signs understandable.

I also don't buy your cost argument. In all my life, looking at thousands of city blocks where I live, I've never seen parking rules change unless the street is being torn up and rebuilt and all the signs are being changed anyway.

> She also seems not to understand the difference between "No Stopping" and "No Parking", which is pretty clear to me.

There are three classifications of restrictions that are commonly applied to limit roadside stops:

No stopping - Most restrictive; can't do anything No standing - Brief stops are permitted No parking - Standing in an occupied vehicle is permitted

Everyone would know this if licensing requirements in the US weren't a joke.

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