New No Parking Signs Are Appearing In Sheepshead Bay, And More

Photos by and courtesy of Allan Rosen

THE COMMUTE: In early 2012, we reported on confusing Department of Transportation (DOT) parking and traffic regulations and on confusing and outdated signage mentioning the taxi stand on Brighton Beach Avenue. That stand is not even listed in DOT’s database of taxi stands so apparently they are unaware of its existence.

In January 2013, DOT — realizing the problems with existing signage that were causing unnecessary confusion — unveiled a new format for parking regulatory signs, which shortly thereafter began to make their appearance in Manhattan. A consultant was hired who devised what you see here.

But is it really an improvement? We criticized the omission of not showing the direction of the closest Muni-Meters here. The new format looks cleaner and helps when many signs are placed together, but when you just consider just two simple “No Parking” signs, I find the old ones clearer and more functional.

Compare the two signs on East 14th Street, south of Avenue Z, pictured above. De-emphasizing the “No Parking” graphic was a good idea. But was it really necessary to spell out the days of the week? Don’t most people recognize “THURS” as “Thursday”? Isn’t saying “9 – 11:30 AM” clear enough? Is “9:30am – 11am” in lowercase without punctuation any clearer or is it even more confusing? Does it make sense to use a smaller typeface and a condensed font as well? I don’t think so.

The old sign is visible from a distance of 50 feet. The new one requires you to walk right up to the sign to within about five feet to be able to read the smaller, lowercase, condensed font. That means every time you park your car you must walk an additional 90 feet to and from the “No Parking” sign. While you used to just be able to throw your coins into the parking meters where you park, you now have to walk 200 feet or more to and from the Muni-Meters, all part of Mayor Bloomberg’s health policies to give us all more exercise. Of course the mayor won’t get the extra exercise since he can park wherever he wants.

The new signs will replace the old ones as they wear out or fall off.

New Street Signs

Several years ago, DOT started placing supersized street signs along major arterials such as Ocean Parkway. Then they continued placing more of them along avenues such as Coney Island Avenue and Ocean Avenue. These make driving easier, especially at night since they are far more visible than the standard signs. Cities that are more auto-oriented than ours had these signs many years before they were unveiled in New York. My guess is that these are federally funded and DOT installed them because the money was available, so why not take advantage of it? That is the way a city bureaucracy thinks.

Now a few years later an announcement was made that all street signs would be replaced with new signage because of federally-mandated lowercase lettering for standard signs since studies showed they were easier to read. Seen as a colossal waste of money by elected officials and the public, the city soon relented, stating that the new signs would be phased in only as old ones fall down or become too faded to read; they would not replace perfectly good signage. (Of course we never had a problem with fading when the signs were made of metal instead of vinyl.) That decision seemed to make everyone happy.

The Twain Shall Meet

What happens when an old standard sign needs to be replaced, but a newer, supersized sign was already placed at the same intersection? I thought that when that would happen, the old sign would just not be replaced because there would be no need for it. It made no sense to assign extra labor to remove the old standard sized signage. So it shouldn’t make sense to assign extra labor to replace these signs either, not to mention the cost of the signs. Hey, but the cost does not matter when it is federal money and not “ours,” as the city bureaucracy thinks. So the result is what you see here:

Just another example of scarce resources wasted, while other problems that need to be addressed are ignored.

Also In The News

One of those problems ignored for decades will finally be fixed. I have often criticized DOT for ignoring traffic bottlenecks and intentionally creating them. Some even thought that it was Mayor Bloomberg’s way of creating traffic congestion as punishment for not supporting his congestion pricing policy a few years ago. Removing traffic bottlenecks are a simple, cost-effective means of reducing traffic congestion, which used to be DOT’s primary goal back in the 1960s.

If you are familiar with the ramps leading to the Brooklyn Bridge from the FDR, you will be interested in this. There used to be merge into a single lane upon entering the Brooklyn Bridge southbound. That was converted into a double lane many years ago, with a minimal amount of construction saving cars at least five minutes. However, the same problem that has existed for decades upon leaving the FDR, where only the right lane can enter the bridge ramp or exit at Pearl Street, created massive traffic jams lasting at least 15 minutes. Savvy motorists would save themselves time by sneaking in at the last possible moment until DOT decided to erect bollards, which only made the congestion worse.

So after 20 years, DOT has finally come to its senses and has decided to allow two lanes to exit the FDR for the Brooklyn Bridge, where about 90 percent of the traffic is destined, instead of forcing cars to unnecessarily merge into a single lane only to separate back into two lanes after the merge. The change will be made in 2014.

Non-drivers who believe that automobiles are the greatest evil in the city will undoubtedly criticize DOT for finally realizing that congestion benefits no one, claiming this single change will cause everyone to purchase an automobile and traffic will soon revert to its former level of congestion. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many factors are considered in the decision to purchase an automobile and one small change such as this one has no effect. As proof, I recall the constant bumper-to-bumper congestion on the BQE southbound (parallel to Hicks Street) that existed in the 1970s everyday from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. That was alleviated with the addition of a new ramp eliminating a bottleneck merge, which reduced that bumper-to bumper-traffic from 16 to about three hours a day and it remained that way. A speed of 20 to 40 miles per hour is now the norm.


The biggest crime here is that all it will take to add that extra lane exiting the FDR to enter the Brooklyn Bridge is just some re-striping and the removal of bollards, which never should have been placed there in the first place. No new construction is even necessary. Yet we still will have to wait another year while countless drivers continue to suffer unnecessarily as they have done for decades and decades because of sheer stupidity.

Now if only DOT would use some common sense by not repeating the mistake they made at Quentin Road and Ocean Avenue, of installing unnecessary new standard street signage at a corner where the super-sized signs already exist. Instead, they should use a larger, non-condensed font on the new “No Parking” signs to make them visible from a greater distance.

But that would just be asking for too much.

The Commute is a weekly feature highlighting news and information about the city’s mass transit system and transportation infrastructure. It is written by Allan Rosen, a Manhattan Beach resident and former Director of MTA / NYC Transit Bus Planning (1981).

Disclaimer: The above is an opinion column and may not represent the thoughts or position of Sheepshead Bites. Based upon their expertise in their respective fields, our columnists are responsible for fact-checking their own work, and their submissions are edited only for length, grammar and clarity. If you would like to submit an opinion piece or become a regularly featured contributor, please e-mail nberke [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com.

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  1. It seems to me that while the overhead-mounted signs are very helpful for automobile drivers, the older type of corner-located street sign is equally helpful for pedestrians. I don’t think it makes sense to remove the corner-located signs.

  2. I stated that it does not make sense to remove the corner mounted signs. My point was that it does not make sense to replace them either when they wear out. These were clearly recently replaced because they are of the lowercase variety.

  3. So the idea is to just let them wear out, even to the point of illegibility, even though that means they’ll be unfit for their intended purpose? I don’t know what condition the old corner-located sign at Quentin Road was in, but as a general principle, I don’t think what you’re saying makes sense.

  4. They are worn out all over the city and not replaced which they should be when they wear out. But if the old Quentin Road sign and Ocean Avenue sign fell off or wore out, why replace them if there already is another larger sign right next to it that pedestrians can also see. If they want to spend the labor to take down those faded signs why waste a new sign that Is not needed at that corner? Let them instead replace a sign that needs to be replaced.

  5. It would be a different matter if the overhead sign actually were “right next to” the corner-located sign, but that’s not the case. Pedestrians need signs that they can *easily* see, just like drivers do.
    It’s an error to force pedestrians to subsist on the crumbs from drivers’ tables. And an insult.

  6. But aren’t they right next to each other according to the picture? I agree they would be hard to see from the opposite corner so I have no problem with the two new small signs at the northeast corner, but look how close the two are at the southeast corner. And from the other angle, the Ocean Avenue signs appear just as close also.

  7. One of the great mistakes of Federal mandates was the elimination of colors to signify the borough. Street signs in Brooklyn were black with white letters. Now signs across the US must be green. Some cities have been given an exemption. In San Francisco, signs are still white with black letters and San Antonio still has blue signs with white letters. Why did New York not get an exemption?

  8. The new big signs at intersections are OK, but many other Cities have signs like these which are lighted? Why hasen’t NYC chosen this kind of sign?

  9. Well, of course they’re not right next to each other. The picture is deceptive; they’re at completely different heights. The greater height is the precise reason why the sign mounted over the street is very useful for automobile drivers — and largely useless for pedestrians, as it is well out of their normal lines of sight.

  10. It is not out of the lines of sight and are quite visible to pedestrians. You just have to look up a little if you are right at the corner. The picture was taken with a normal lens from the street and cropped to show the sign close-up. Did you also complain about the bus stop signs that we’re originally 18 feet in the air? DOT never admitted wrongdoing, but has quietly lowered these signs to 12 feet.

  11. Probably because we accepted their decision without question if that was the case. How do you know they got an exemption? You can still use any colors you want if you pay for the signs yourself. Are the Feds paying for street signs in San Francisco and San Antonio.

  12. Because the Feds don’t pay for lighted signs and NYC and State won’t spend the money for them. We also have a hell of a lot of signs and it would get quite expensive. The large blue and white lighted signs in Midtown are paid for by the business associations.

    See page 163. “Exemptions” aren’t city-specific; the MUTCD specifies green, but also permits blue, brown, and white as background colors. (With green, blue and brown backgrounds, legends must be white; with a white background, legends must be black.) A black background with white legend is not permitted by the MUTCD.
    I don’t know to what extent the MUTCD is binding upon local agencies where Federal funding is not involved.

  14. Height isn’t the only problem. Pedestrians’ lines of sight are along the sidewalk, so the corner-located signs are much more prominent for pedestrians than signs located overhead in the middle of the roadway.
    The point of view from which this picture was taken doesn’t appear to be a normal posture for pedestrians to assume when going about their business. One would have to crane one’s neck, I think, to attain this particular perspective.

  15. Let me get this straight: you can’t see it from a fair distance away as a pedestrian, even if you’re just checking to see the next intersection itself?

  16. I’ve seen the large hanging (over the road) signs in parts of Florida and in Las Vegas.

  17. Of course you can see it from even as close as 50 feet. The only time there might be a problem is if you are standing right under it and in that case the signs on the opposite corner are large enough to be visible unless you need glasses and are not wearing them.

  18. If federal funding is not involved I don’t see why it should be binding at all.

    I guess the signs in historic districts are not federally funded then or is the background considered brown for them? To me they look dark red or wine color.

  19. At first I thought…what pea brain thought up another expense added for a senseless change.
    Then after reading the comments about the faded signs (which are usually faded on one side and not an excuse to void a summons) I started thinking maybe, just freakin’ maybe the new signs won’t fade! Imagine that.
    If that is not the case then shame for the wasted $$’s.
    PS. I am one of the “Some” that blame Bloomshit.

  20. LA where the traffic lights and highway entrance ramps are motion sensitive. Gotta’ love it.

  21. When I wrote the metal signs didn’t fade, I was referring to the street signs, not the parking signs. I never saw a faded metal street sign. I have seen metal parking signs that have faded.

    As I stated the new signs are clearer when there are many regulations together in the same area, so I don’t believe they are a waste of money. I don’t like the harder to read print though, just to have more white space.

  22. If you mean the signs that show avenue and street names I agree, When you say “regulations” I guess you mean the new signs stand out from these. Then I agree again.,

  23. Why are all the street name signs (and parking signs as well) being changed to a lowercase format after being in uppercase all these years. I know the Bush Administration suggested this at one point and then it was thrown out because it was seen as a waste of money for already tax strapped cities and counties. Is this the emperor’s doing? Regardless, why the sudden change? Personally, the all uppercase format is much easier to read. I’m not reading a story, I need to see where I am.

  24. It is either partially or fully reimbursed if the sits meet federal guidelines which include the be of the approved size color and lower case font.

  25. When I said regulations, was talking about parking regulations. Look at how the same complex information on the DOT graphic is simplified with the new signage.

  26. Studies showed that lower case format and a different font would be clearer and the Feds would only continue to fund or partially fund these signs if the new guidelines were met. The font was also changed for highway signage. A compromise was reached whereby existing signage that was still in good condition would not be replaced and the new signage would be phased in over time.

  27. Thanks for the info. I think it is obscene for Washington to pay for any street signs outside the city limits of Washington DC.

  28. If only I could correct the name in that post…

    Anyway, my point exactly. Unless you’re vision is so bad you can’t see those large signs from a good distance and you don’t have corrective lenses (glasses or contacts), that train of “logic” doesn’t work.

  29. I know someone who had her parked vehicle towed because she misread NO STANDING, MON THRU FRI as MON THUR FRI 🙂

  30. I know that now. I was going by a TV news report that was wrong. Actually three changes were made: an extra lane was added getting off the FDR, another one getting off the Brooklyn Bridge going to Brooklyn and getting on the BQE, and getting off the Bridge going to Manhattan getting on the FDR. Took that one today. It was great. Didn’t even have to slow down when getting off. You used to have to wait several minutes for cars to merge.

  31. The new parking signs appear to be much more clearer. As for the street signs, how old would the black signs with white type be? There are at least two still left in Brooklyn.

  32. There is another sign that says it is a “private street.” I would think that it was converted to a private street while this 1940’s street sign was used and was left there. Now I assume that the city is not interested in removing the sign because it is part of the private street. These type signs, were the ones I grew up with. Can still remember the one that said AVE Z.

  33. No it isn’t. It *can* be if it’s part of a Federally-funded project, but the Feds aren’t going to pay for signs simply because they meet standards.

  34. The District and the Federal government are separate entities. Why should DDOT get preference over any other state or local DOT, especially when we all pay Federal fuel taxes?

  35. The DC municipal government operates as a government set up by the committee in Congress in charge of DC affairs. It can be shut down or liquidated at any time. The US Constitution gives Congress the responsibility to control the DC municipality. DC has only had a mayor and elected government since about 1952. That is a concession that Congress has made to the people of DC but they do not have a right to self government, under the Constitution. I do not think of the DC government as a separate entity from Congress but only a concession from Congress that could easily be under the thumb of Congress, with no recourse from the people of DC or the DC municipal government.

    That is why I would not be surprised if the US Government paid for street signs and other local DC expenditures. DC has a different relation with the Federal Government than anywhere else in the country.

  36. The Feds would pay for lighted signs if they were part of a Federally-funded project. Why pay for them if they’re not necessary?

  37. It’s binding because all roadways open to the public, even on private property, have to comply with the MUTCD.

    There are certain exceptions for signs in historic districts, but those are irrelevant in the case of NYCDOT, which uses perfectly acceptable white on brown signs (and yes, they are brown).

  38. Of course they will fade, just like anything new eventually wears out and has to be replaced.

  39. I thought street signs are part of a federally funded project. If there is no federal reimbursement, we should go back to the system of each borough aging its own colors. I thought funding was the reason we switched them all to green for streets and brown for recreation areas.

  40. The typeface (“font” means size) did not change for highway signs. Clearview is only allowed by special permission from FHWA. There was also no “compromise” reached; the regulation was always that signs had to be replaced with upper and lower case legend only when they needed to be replaced.

  41. By “metal” I assume you mean painted cast aluminum, since modern street signs are still metal. You may have never seen one faded, but you’ll also never see an unfaded one at night.

  42. NYCDOT can only go back to the old colors for Brooklyn and the Bronx. As I mentioned elsewhere, following the standards has nothing to do with funding.

    I don’t know what the reason for switching to green was, but the MUTCD recommended but didn’t require white on green from 1971 to 2009. Prior to that, it recommended black on white, white on black, or white on green (although compliance with the Manual wasn’t mandatory until 1966). The only *requirement* prior to 2009 was to use contrasting colors.

  43. If Wikipedia is to be trusted, 70 percent of the District’s roads are under local jurisdiction, not Federal. DDOT gets its funding through local taxes and Federal matching funds like most everywhere else.

  44. The new parking signs are awful- they are so hard to read, the image of the sweeper is tiny and it is mostly blank white space. They look like an amateur designed them on their home computer. I hate them.

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