|Los Angeles is infamous for its driving conditions, with millions of natives and nonresidents alike struggling with its terrible highway system and other issues every day. In this situation, parking is a lesser known but equally inconvenient problem, so much so that even parking authorities struggle with it. Take Ken Husting, a senior transportation engineer, for example: in 2013, he says he was circling downtown, looking for a space, when he realized he could barely understand the parking signs his own department had erected. Following this incident, Husting returned to the Los Angeles Department of Transportation and directed his team to find a way to make parking signs comprehensible.Now, more than two years later, LA is instituting a pilot program that intends to do exactly that. The city will install 100 of these new signs in the downtown area over the next six months, condensing a series of regulations into one easy-to-read grid.
The new design was inspired by the work of Nikki Sylianteng, a Brooklyn designer who quickly became internet-famous in 2014 for her day planner-like layouts. Currently, Sylianteng is working with transportation officials in Vancouver and is in talks with authorities in Columbus, OH, as well as a few cities overseas. Last fall, she was also contacted by LA councilman Paul Krekorian, who was also interested in her designs.
Krekorian and Sylianteng had goals similar to the concepts Husting’s team was exploring. After Sylianteng’s designs were presented to the city council, the engineer embraced her images. The parking signs transform text-heavy restrictions into blocks of red and green, which also feature subtle diagonal striping for the color blind. The new signs seek to answer two important basic questions: Can I park here? And for how long?
The signs in the pilot program aren’t identical to Sylianteng’s original designs: the LA signs also feature arrows on the top and bottom (which she reportedly finds redundant), as well as graphical details that differentiate between “no parking”, “no stopping” and “passenger loading”. Husting also expects that the size of the signs will have to increase to account for minimum text size.
So far, Husting says feedback on the signs has been overwhelmingly positive. However, the Department of Transportation is reportedly finishing work on another concept that is markedly different from Sylianteng’s. After six months, the Department of Transportation plans to presents its findings to a regulatory committee, which will decide whether or not to use a new design across the city.
The decision to roll out new, improved signs has drawn praise from many around Los Angeles, especially local sign companies. But the possibility of a better system has also drawn attention from outside the City of Los Angeles.
“Parking and traffic signs in particular are one of those instances where simpler is better,” said Mike Butler, president of Landmark Sign Company. “Having a simple sign can mean fewer words, more recognizable symbols, larger text, or less clutter. The goal is to make signs easily and quickly readable for a driver.”
However, the city isn’t limiting itself to this one possible change: the Department of Transportation is also reportedly attaching Bluetooth beacons to every new sign, hoping to create an app that will verbally inform drivers whether or not they can park in a certain space. Such a possibility would dismiss the need for the redesigned signs, but with a considerable amount of time and funding needed to support this project, Sylianteng’s design might be the perfect short-term solution at the very least.