DDOT’s public information office sent out a tweet linking to this picture of a mysterious sign reading “Notice: District Department of Transportation Research Program Demonstration Project on Signage.” DCist asked readers about it. What is this? A strange experiment in posting very verbose, meaningless signs?

Not quite. This sign appears on New Hampshire Avenue between T and U. It’s right above another sign, one which tries to combine the multiple, often confusing column of parking regulation signs into a single one.

Left: DDOT experimental sign for parking rules. Right: Current signs across the street.

Simplifying these signs is a noble goal. This sign clarifies that permit holders don’t get an exemption from street cleaning, but do from the time limit. DC residents know that, but it’s not completely obvious from the current signs. And some streets have even more confusing signs, like one whose signs say “No Parking Except Sundays 9:00 am-1:00 pm” and then, immediately below, there’s another sign that says, “Except 7am-7pm Monday.” No parking except Sundays except Monday?

However, this single sign seems to be just about as confusing as the two signs. Moreover, it’s hard to quickly find the days and times by glancing at the sign. If a driver is looking for parking, he or she needs to be able to quickly determine whether a particular block is a legal place to park or not. At least with the current signs, it’s easy to get used to looking at the red sign to find the street cleaning day, or the green sign to find the zone number. The black-and-white sign doesn’t make that easier.

Perhaps that’s why DDOT hasn’t expanded these signs citywide. These were part of a 2004 pilot program. A few DDOT employees I asked didn’t know if there were any news about the program, though I haven’t tried very hard to make inquiries.

An alternate sign could work very well, however. A good sign would make the times and days of the restriction very easy to spot for a passing driver, possibly by making them big or set off in boxes. At the same time, clearer and more concise directions could help visitors to DC decide the parking rules without having to figure out how multiple signs interact.

Tagged: ddot, parking, rpp, signs

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle.