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October 5, 2010

Federal government and local street signs?

Is this something they really should be getting involved with?

Apparently so.

According to the NY Post (h/t: Fred Schwarz at The Corner), the Federal Highway Administration is forcing municipalities all over the country to change their street signs from the typical "All Caps" text to a "upper-case/lower-case" text, and using the "Clearview" font.

Supposedly, studies show that this is easier for motorists to read, though they don't really cite any studies.

Never mind for the moment whether that's actually true or not. Never mind whether the split second less that it might take actually would make a difference or not. No, let's instead talk about the Federal Government forcing the states and municipalities, many that are already going bankrupt, to spend millions of dollars to meet this mandate.

According to the Post, this is going to cost New York City $27 Million to change all of their signs (around 250,000 of them). Supposedly, because of this, the government is giving them until 2018 to fully comply with this mandate.

How nice of them!

A couple of things.

First, why couldn't this be encouraged rather than mandated? New York City supposedly replaces about 8000 signs a year due to wear-and-tear. Why not just say "hey, when you're replacing signs, why not use these new ones?"

Secondly, I think the FHA is over-stepping its bounds here. They are supposed to be in charge of highways, roads that are not part of any municipality and cross state lines. Why are they getting involved with city regulations?

This certainly strikes me as a 10th amendment thing, where the Federal Government is not supposed to be meddling.

Finally, Schwarz makes a good point in his Corner piece:

"The idea, supposedly, is that u&lc [upper & lower case] is easier to read, so drivers will spend less time looking at signs, and this will reduce accidents. That’s true, perhaps, though I’m not sure how it would play out with someone who has trouble reading English, since people tend to learn capitals before lower-case letters. A few weeks ago, in New York’s Penn Station, an Asian-looking man asked me haltingly how to get to Rahway, N.J. I wrote “NJ TRANSIT” on his slip of paper and told him to look for those words on a sign. A few minutes later, I saw him again, looking back and forth between the slip of paper and a sign that said “NJ Transit” — obviously wondering if the two were the same."

Yeah, let's make things even more confusing for those who come here to visit!

I'm not against easier-to-read signs (though part of me doubts whether this makes *that* much difference). What I'm against is yet more over-reaching government.

Some city planners see a bright side, though.

"On the Internet, writing in all caps means you are shouting," [NYC Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan] said. "Our new signs can quiet down, as well."

Oh, well. I guess there's that, anyway.

(Note: I know this is from last week, but I wasn't really doing much blogging last week and I wanted to get this off my chest)


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