Consultants hired to develop a wayfinding signage program for Evanston told city committees Wednesday night that the city has far too many signs already.

Evanston has 1,180 wayfinding signs now, said John Bosio a partner at Merje design, and that’s “an extraordinarily large number of signs for a city this size.”

And that count doesn’t include traffic regulatory signs or street naming signs.

And, folks, the consultants also think our signs are pretty ugly.

The city has 16 different designs just for signs intended to direct people to parking garages and lots, and there’s no consistency, Bosio said.

Top: Consultant John Bosio with examples of some of the signs used to identify parking lots and garages in Evanstson. Above: Consultant Pat Saldan Natke of Urban Works

And most of the signs don’t meet current Federal Highway Administration standards for wayfinding signage, which, among other things, require type at least four inches tall on signs meant to be read by drivers on urban streets with speed limits of 25 miles per hour or less, and that they list no more than three destinations.

An current sign with type too small and too many destinations listed — including one that’s no longer in Evanston.

In presentations to the Transportation and Parking Committee and the Economic Development Committee, the consultants suggested developing a clear-cut signage system, like ones they’ve worked on in a variety of other communities, from Phoenix to Charlottesville, Va.

From the consultants’ presentation: A contemporary-looking sign directing traffic to a parking garage in Phoenix and indicating the destinations served by the garage.

A sampling of more traditional signs designed for Charlottesville, Va., home of the University of Virginia.

The city only has funds allocated to implement a new wayfinding system in a handful of areas, but hopes the consultants will develop an overall system that can eventually be applied citywide.

Consultant Pat Saldan Natke said the next step in the process is for the consultants to meet with representatives of various stakeholder groups to help develop the signage plan. Those meetings are expected to take place in January.

And for those old enough to remember, here’s the 1971 hit by the Five Man Electrical Band that our story’s headline riffs on.

Related story

Welcome to … sign pollution?

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. And we pay elected officials,

    And we pay elected officials, why? They don't live in Evanston and know the number of signs are ridiculous? How much money went into this consult to state the obvious?  At some point aren't elected officials supposed to have some kind of ideas…vision…on their own?

  2. Signs

    The proliferation of various traffic, warning,  and notice signs In Evanston has been astounding.  For example, to inform drivers in Evanston that state law requires them to stop for pedestrians in a cross walk takes anywhere from 8 to 10 signs for the same crosswalk and that does not count signs that may warn that there is a pedestrian cross walk ahead.  If you don't believe that try counting them and remember that signs are placed so the drivers can see them from both directions.   Not only are they expensive to install and maintain, but if every driver obeyed them at every crosswalt where pedistrians are waiting to cross, traffic in Evanston would slow to a crawl.  That's particularly true around Northwestern.  Additionally, there is the wasted time as drivers slow to make sure the crosswalk is empty, the increased gasoline to come back to speed and the wear on the brakes.  When calculated over all of the cars passing an intersection, the costs are enormous. 

    There is also the issue of superfluous stop signs and lights.  At the intersection at the lake of Church and Sheridan Road a stop light was installed some time ago.  There is very little traffic that enters Sheridan from Church, but when the light turns red, cars stop.  In the summer time, when festivals are held along the lake front, the light is close to useless.  Without a crossing guard, pedestrians cross at will, regardles of the lights.  

    1. Real purpose of the signs?

      I often wonder if the purpose of all the signs is like what happened to a friend in Chicago years ago.

      He made a left turn sign at, I think, Lawerence and Kimball.  As soon as he turned a policeman in his car pulled him over and issued a ticket.  Sure enough there was a no left turn sign—but also so many other signs people do not see the no left turn sign.  Speculation, no.  That night he went to a bar on Howard and mentioned this.  Two other people told the same story.  When he went to the Belmont(?) police station to pay the fine, three of the five other people in line had the same experience at the same spot.  The police knew it was an easy trap to make money for the city and up their 'score.' 

      I don't know if Evanston planned like that but the number of signs makes me wonder.

  3. Signs

    Signs should be larger and brighter, but they need to be placed in such a way that people can see them.  Example why is Church Street Plaza  Mechant sign facing east on a street which is a one way east bound.  People who are driving or cycling  (in the direction of traffic) can not read said sign.

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