Trying to de-clutter downtown Houston and lessen driver confusion

Confusing downtown parking signs to be simplified
September 10, 2013 4:06:41 PM PDT
Have you ever driven downtown and found yourself completely confused as to where you can and cannot park? The city is finally about to do something about it.

The brand new Downtown Parking Signage Project to de-clutter and simplify Houston's downtown parking system has officially kicked off. The project will improve signage, meters, mobility lanes, commercial zones and parking communications to make parking easier for the 20,000 to 30,000 drivers who park downtown each day.

"This new project will re-vamp the parking system in one of the busiest and most frequented areas of Houston," said Mayor Annise Parker. "Parking downtown will soon be less stressful and confusing for tens of thousands of residents, workers and visitors each day. We've done the research, we see the issues and we're doing something about it."

The need for an overhaul of the downtown parking system was a result of a comprehensive survey conducted by the Houston Downtown Management District in 2012. The survey revealed that of about 3,200 parking signs, there are more than 108 different parking messages. In addition to numerous and often times confusing signage, other issues such as meters, mobility lanes, commercial zones and a lack of effective communication hinder customer-friendly parking.

"Parking has always been a hot button for visitors as it is the first and last impression they have of downtown," said Bob Eury, executive director of the Downtown District. "Making the parking experience as easy and customer-friendly as possible is the goal. We also hope to educate patrons that on-street parking is for short-term parking and there are a variety of off-street options, garages and surface lots if you are planning a longer stay."

The following changes will take place over the next year:

  • Reduce sign types and eliminate totem poles with multiple signs (from more than 108 signs to 22)
  • Implement 24/7 Commercial Zones to prevent confusion
  • Implement consistent parking meter time limits of 3 hours; rates are analyzed for high demand areas
  • Implement parking meter bag color coding: Red for no parking, blue if parking is available under special conditions
  • Reduce or eliminate mobility lanes where the Traffic Engineer determines it is feasible
  • Implement a public relations campaign to educate public on parking

The Downtown Parking Signage Project completion is targeted for Summer 2014. The project is being implemented using a phased approach across downtown. The Central Business District was divided into three geographic areas. Work has begun in Zone 1, and will continue until all work is complete in the three zones.

City Council approved the funding for this project earlier this year and preliminary work began this summer.

FACT SHEET

Every day, 20,000 to 30,000 patrons park in downtown Houston. A survey conducted by the Houston Downtown Management District in 2012 revealed that of about 3,200 downtown parking signs, there were 108 different signs. Other parking issues hindering customer-friendly parking were also revealed. Specific customer issues include:

  • Downtown parking signage often leaves patrons wondering if they are parking in a legal zone because signage is confusing or conflicting
  • Signage also becomes overwhelming for patrons; poles may have 5 or more signs for drivers to decipher
  • Mobility lanes exist during peak hours in locations where mobility may not be an issue
  • Varying meter rates and time limits also caused confusion among drivers

Following the 2012 survey, a committee developed a plan to:

  • Improve parking signage in the downtown area
  • Review mobility lanes and commercial zones to potentially increase parking supply
  • Evaluate meter rates and durations to improve public parking for patrons and employees of Downtown Houston
  • Improve parking sign communication and implement more effective educational tools that improve patrons' parking experience
  • Based on recommendations by the committee, the following changes will take place over the next year:

  • Reduce sign types and eliminate totem poles with multiple signs (from over 108 signs to 22)
  • Implement 24/7 Commercial Zones to prevent confusion
  • Implement consistent parking meter time limits of 3 hours; rates are analyzed for high demand areas
  • Implement parking meter bag color coding: Red for no parking, blue if parking is available under special conditions
  • Reduce or eliminate mobility lanes where the Traffic Engineer determines it is feasible
  • Implement a public relations campaign to educate public on parking
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