THIS IS AN APRIL FOOL STORY
Next Tuesday, April 1, the City will finalize its contract with the F.A. Parsewell Company of Pyle, Ill., to create wayfaring, parking and other City signs throughout Evanston. “We’ve had so many problems with people reading our signs that we just decided to outsource the whole thing,” said Corporation Counsel Grafton Grant.
His recommendations to contract out Evanston signage was a surprise to some City Council members, many of whom are inordinately fond of his “The Rules of Public Signage Interpretation,” a pamphlet used as a model in nearly all home-rule communities in the Northwest Municipal Conference.
The Rules apply to multiple, contradictory signs posted together, to vague wording and to outright misleading information – the most common types of sign errors found here.
In cases such as this one, where there are four signs on one post, according to “The Rules,” the wording on the signs on the left– the reader’s left, that is, not the signpost’s – prevails on even-numbered days, and the sign on the right, on odd-numbered days. “It’s an easy mnemonic,” said Mr. Grant – “even-numbered days on the left, which has an even number of letters, and so forth and so on, etc., for the right-hand sign.”
In the cases of triple signage, “Residents are free to ignore the third sign, if they obey the first two. Of course, anyone from out of town who tries to obey only the third sign will be fined and ticketed accordingly,” he chortled.
But some Council members voiced concern about whether hiring Parsewell would damage the City’s reputation in some way. “The Rules” has put Evanston on the map, and copies of it – disbursed electronically and through snail mail, have enriched the City’s coffers so much that all streets and sidewalks may soon be repaired, the standpipes repainted and the water tank roof fixed without the need to bail Northwestern University out yet again.
The Mayor, however, said she is not worried about loss of revenue or esteem. “I doubt they’ll ever see a penny of that money,” the Mayor said. “Once the Parsewell folks take a look at the signs here, they’ll throw in the towel. Even if they’re not fazed by all the negative signs at the beach, the crass picket-parade of warnings at every entry to Evanston, they’ll never be able to fix that blatantly deceptive ‘First Hour Free’ in our parking garages.”
Stung by criticism that Evanston streets are littered with far too many traffic and parking signs, Council’s Parking Committee is investigating possible “one sign” signage that will include all pertinent information applicable to a particular stretch of curb on one easily digestible sheet of flat painted metal.
In the alternative, the committee discussed possible “talking sign” technology inspired by the Apple iPhone’s “Siri” artificial intelligence application. Tentatively called “Signee,” the tiny device would respond when asked simply questions like, “Can I park here?”
For both solutions, the committee agreed that the City’s administrative law judges would have to be told that consulting a sign is a valid excuse for getting a parking ticket while trying to determine whether parking is legal in a given spot. Staff estimated that the “one sign” option would probably take the average Evanston driver about 45 minutes to fully digest and understand, a bit longer for out-of-towners.
Similarly, preliminary “Signee” questions were taking between 30 and 45 minutes to completely answer (counting follow-up questions) because so many variables apply to most curb real estate. The Committee will continue to investigate into the summer months with a recommendation expected by April 1 of next year.