Monday, April 07, 2008

New street-cleaning signs

Recently, the Department of Streets and Sanitation announced it will implement multicolored signs to deal with the problem of inadequate street-cleaning notification. The city's solution, piloted over the last year, involves posting a different color-coded sign for every day of the week.

I suppose the city imagines that making signs in designer colors somehow will increase compliance. Their solution sparks little confidence in me that they even understand the problem, while it gives a pass to the system that causes the problem in the first place: that signs are often not posted enough in advance.

If anything, most of the new colors are even darker and less reflective than the orange and will be less visible, thus actually exacerbating the ticketing problem. The new cameras on board the trucks presage an even more draconian future. Unlike running a red light, inadvertently blocking street-cleaning efforts is not a dangerous crime. Furthermore, the city's notification is so haphazard that it is no wonder people are getting tickets.

A flashing-light concept I had begun to develop in 2006--which gave both three-day advance warning of street cleaning and an indication of when the truck had passed your street--was implemented inadequately in last year's pilot by the city. The light begins flashing only on the morning of street cleaning. They refuse to follow my advice to have the light begin flashing in advance to warn parkers. As a result, the product will do nothing to reduce the number of ticketing victims.

The best solution is really the simplest: some brave alderman must introduce an ordinance to force ward superintendents to actively notify residents at least 72 hours in advance, and to be accountable for it. Currently there is no such law, so a widespread tendency is to put signs up the night before or to rely on static permanent signs. Giving earlier warning will make it a lot easier to avoid the tickets. But since this is counter to the city's revenue goals, it is unlikely that they will consider it. That is a very bad reason.