A pilot project meant to better explain the city’s often-confusing parking rules and regulations has instead left some workers on Charles Street scratching their heads.
In August, Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, a research and development team that rolls out experiments with the goal of making life easier for residents and visitors, launched a new set of signs that use color-coded blocks and diagrams to help people parking along the busy Beacon Hill street understand when it’s OK to do so.
But some people who have worked in the neighborhood for years would like to see the city drop the project altogether — and drivers pulling into spaces where the signs are placed sometimes don’t notice them at all, or have to ask for help deciphering them.
“It’s very confusing,” said Peggy Glynn, an employee at Twentieth Century LTD, a vintage jewelry shop. “It’s not cut and clear. It’s not clear at all.”
Glynn said shoppers coming to the area have stopped her outside and even ducked into the store to ask how to decode the dark green, light green, and red blocks used to spell out when it’s safe to park at the meters over a 24-hour period.
“People are afraid to park because they’re afraid to get a ticket,” she said. “Just leave the meters as they are.”
Edward Gilmartin, a broker at nearby Crescent Realty, said he recently saw a driver taking a picture of one of the signs to better understand it.
“Probably just take them down,” Gilmartin said. “They are confusing. Most people can figure out the meters on their own.”
City officials say they’ve received an “overwhelming” amount of positive feedback since the signs went up, but have also received suggestions from the public that have prompted them to begin working on newer, clarified versions that will hit the streets in the coming weeks.
One thing is for certain: “Parking in Boston can be difficult” — and that’s a direct quote from the city’s own website.
Signs in neighborhoods around the city are often stacked on top of each other, offering a wide-range of directions: No Stopping Anytime; Residential Parking Only; Two-Hour Parking Between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.
While it’s only been launched on Charles and Canal streets so far, the pilot project is meant to fix that, according to Gina Fiandaca, commissioner of the city’s Transportation Department.
“We wanted to look at signage out on our streets and make parking understandable for the average person,” she said. “We wanted a sign that was more of a calendar format, like an online calendar. They show blocks of time where the regulation either is or isn’t in effect, and whether you can or cannot park.”
Fiandaca said the corrugated cardboard signs offer a stronger visual cue that’s easily digestible: Light green means free parking, darker green is metered parking, and red means don’t park there at a specific time.
The Office of New Urban Mechanics and transportation department officials got the idea for the new signs from other cities. Los Angeles; New Haven, Connecticut; and parts of Illinois have adopted similar versions.
The first iteration came from a designer in Los Angeles who was tired of the perplexing parking signs in her area. When she moved to New York City, she went rogue and printed up the block-type schedules before posting them around, according to Wired.
The city is in the process of finalizing the design for the second version of its own signs after collecting “great feedback from customers” the last few months, said Fiandaca.
There’s no timeline for putting them up in other parts of Boston just yet — but it’s not out of the question.
“Potentially they could provide a model for how to make our signs less confusing and reduce the number of signs out there,” Fiandaca said. “If we can clearly communicate what the parking regulations are on one sign, it certainly makes it a lot more visually appealing on our streetscape.”
Although a handful of workers at Charles Street businesses didn’t favor the signs, others said they’ve made life easier for customers since they first appeared.
“With some of the older ones, it’s tough to know when the street cleaning is. It’s like second and fifth Sunday, and then you’ve kind of got to do math, and you’re looking at your calendar,” said James Christoffels, a sales manager at the hardware store Charles Street Supply. “With that [sign] it’s right in front of you. It boils it down pretty easy.”Steve Annear can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.