This Way To Wooster Street


Elihu Rubin took a look at a sign of 9th Square pole patterns inspired by iconic New Haven features like Yale University, New Haven-style pizza and Union Station. He liked the concept—but looked for similar signs for other neighborhoods.

Rubin, a Yale assistant architecture professor, was among the people who got a first look at some of the 250 new vehicular and pedestrian signs being planned for the city.

A city staffer and a consultant unveiled the latest stage in a new “wayfinding” plan, and sought feedback, at a City Hall hearing Tuesday night. The idea is to update green signs with yellow stripes that pointed the way for drivers and walkers for the past 27 years.

“I think if you’re going to do that, it would be important to have one for every neighborhood.” Rubin said of the 9th Square sign. “You’d have to have one on Howard Avenue, and one for Newhallville, and one on Dixwell, or else you’re just celebrating a handful and not all of them … how the neighborhoods define themselves is actually important.”

Anne Hartjen, a senior project manager and landscape architect in the City Plan Department, and John Bosio and Peter Reed of Pennsylvania-basec Merje design firm presented the plan, and sample signs, at the Tuesday night meeting. The presentation drew 15 people.

The city hired Merje for the $458,000 project, which has been in the works for 2011. A federal grant is paying 80 percent ($366,000) of the tab, the city the remaining 20 percent (or $92,000).

“A lot of them are tipping over, a lot of them are missing blades, and a lot of the destinations have changed,” Hartjen said of current signs. “It’s looking a little dated.”

The biggest challenge with this project, Bosio said, is to make the signs unique to New Haven and its districts, while making sure they’‘ll last.

“If you [created designs for each neighborhood], you would need to do it everywhere,” he said. “It would just be a matter of how many different ones do you have to come up with. When you do a customization like that with finials, or colors or graphics, there’s that long-term maintenance issue that comes up.”

Bosio and Reed presented four designs Tuesday night. Each sign contains a pattern on the back, with the name of the neighborhood or district. The backs of the signs have a graphic pattern of an aerial view of the New Haven Green. The signs use icons for identifying neighborhoods and districts and have a brighter color pallet.

The plan, Bosio said, is to put up 125 vehicular and 125 pedestrian signs, containing either three or five messages. Additionally, solar-paneled information kiosks will be installed to help people navigate on foot.

The vehicular signs would have reflective vinyl panels. These signs also have a UV protection layer to prevent fading and discoloration over time.

Meanwhile, the pedestrian signs are contained to the downtown area and other small pockets with heavy foot traffic. They will report the distance to various destinations, as well as the amount of time in minutes it would take to reach.

The pedestrian signs will point the way mostly to not-for-profit and government buildings as well as parks, though the Omni Hotel will be included.

Liana Teixeira	PhotoDesign-wise, Bosio (pictured) advised against using too much color.

“We have to be careful with color coding in the long run on urban systems. People don’t pick it up as much as you think they would,” he said. “You don’t want to have all green signs in one part of town and all blue sings in another.”

Hartjen and the Merje design will next evaluate the feedback and refine their designs. By July, Merje is scheduled to present construction documents including all sign locations and designs. The project must be approved by the state Department of Transportation by September, or the federal funding is lost.

The city plans to put the project out to bid this fall, with a fabrication period through the winter and installation next spring.

MerjeHartjen and the designers have been walking around New Haven recently to inspect the current condition of signs.

“We’re looking at the message on the signs. We’re checking if arrows are pointing in the right direction. For example, if we had a sign that had all the arrows pointing straight ahead, that is the first sign we’d eliminate because people tend to move in a linear direction until something tells them to turn,” she said.

Merje has created wayfinding signage for downtown Phoneix, Missoula, Mont., Tampa, and is currently working with downtown Austin. With extremely hot temperatures, Phoenix has the harshest conditions out of all the places Merje has worked. The signs are holding up very well, Bosio said.

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posted by: BetweenTwoRocks on May 1, 2014  3:48pm

Any way we can get a higher resolution picture of the signs?

posted by: wendy1 on May 1, 2014  4:25pm

We definitely need more signs.  I live in WooSq. Park area and am constantly asked for directions to Pepe’s on Wooster St.  We need to publicize the info kiosk at Chapel and College where free maps are available.  This city is confusing to drive in because one street has 2 names, but in this case, several streets.  Elm becomes Grand, Bway becomes Elm or Whalley.  Church becomes Whitney.  I could go on.

Bring on the signs!!!!

posted by: absolutmakes on May 1, 2014  5:10pm

A couple thoughts:

1) I like the reassurance that a ‘straight ahead’ arrow provides. No reason to ditch them.

2) Provide directions to public spaces (NH Green, Parks), Neighborhoods, and govt buildings. Sell a limited number of other slides to hotels or restaurants to bring in some income

3) Are any digital signs being included?

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on May 1, 2014  5:48pm

The only sign you will start seeing is I-95 south.

Why Half of Connecticut’s Residents Want to Move to Another State.

posted by: Elizabethaiken on May 1, 2014  8:04pm

Why didn’t the city hire a graphics firm from Connecticut, or even from New Haven? There are great graphics firms in Connecticut.

posted by: robn on May 1, 2014  10:49pm

Does the red stripe on the side of the pictured post a directional indicator? Why are the fonts sans serif and serif? What is the sculpted thing on top? Can decoration also carry information?

posted by: DingDong on May 2, 2014  12:05am

Not that I feel very strongly about the question, but why are the main options on the poll “yes” and “no way”?  Shouldn’t there be symmetry between them, i.e. either “yes” and “no” or “Absolutely!” and “No way!”  Otherwise, you have the choice between a neutral affirmative and a strong negative, which means people without strong feelings will skew toward the more neutral affirmative side.

posted by: robn on May 2, 2014  8:49am

DingDong is right. The polls are often binary focused only on the solution presented in an article and they leave out the possibility of a third way.

posted by: Kevin on May 2, 2014  9:25am

Someday, 3/5ths will respond positively to a development in the city. Of course, that will be the day the universe comes to an end, but it is still worth waiting for.

On a more serious note, I was reading the Chicago Tribune yesterday (I’m an expatriate Chicagoan) and saw an article that found the same proportion of Illinois residents want to leave the state.

posted by: HewNaven on May 2, 2014  12:40pm

Not that I feel very strongly about the question, but why are the main options on the poll “yes” and “no way”?  Shouldn’t there be symmetry between them, i.e. either “yes” and “no” or “Absolutely!” and “No way!”  Otherwise, you have the choice between a neutral affirmative and a strong negative, which means people without strong feelings will skew toward the more neutral affirmative side.

Be wary of binary thinkers. They will lead you to destruction…. or misunderstanding:

posted by: mohovs on May 2, 2014  1:57pm

Lets not forget to add arrow signs that point to the tax collectors office.

posted by: Stylo on May 2, 2014  4:31pm

Should Dixwell, the Hill, and Newhallville get new signs?

Curious question as it targets the poorest neighborhoods in the state. Seems like a politically baited question.

My answer yes and no.

Wayfinding primarily serves visitors, tourists, outsiders.

Many enter downtown via Whalley, Dixwell, and 34. Great candidates from a traffic standpoint. Why you’d have way finding in Newhallville, an isolated residential area that no one wants to visit is beyond me. Again, politically charged.

posted by: jdoss-gollin on May 4, 2014  10:31am

Couple things. 1) The emphasis on signs is great and all, but they should be easy to change—the city’s changing. 2) Signs are expensive. This is the GPS age—the 21st century—and most people don’t need signs to find where they’re going anyways. Certainly not the younger crowd that the city is working so hard to attract. They’re great for branding, but not much more. 3) I agree with Stylo that putting in signs to the poorest neighborhoods in the state is a poor use of money. Better to put that money directly into the community. Signs are to inform outsiders.

posted by: citoyen on May 4, 2014  3:37pm

I think the multiplicity of designs is a *terrible* idea!  They should all be consistent!

New Haven already has so many different kinds of signs scattered along its roadways that many become all but invisible—at any rate, hardly noticed.

Signs of one particular design would become immediately recognized as signaling Location Information Here (as the current green and yellow signs do).

I rather like the first design illustrated, with the terra-cotta orangey color—the color stands out, grabs your attention, and the sign seems to have an exclamation mark on its top—or maybe it is an arrow pointing downward, directing your attention to the information below.

I think Mr. Bosio’s suggestion of being careful about color coding has merit, except that he seems to be talking about having different colors for different parts of town.  As I suggest above, I think the colors should be consistent.

And I wish the NHI had provided a larger, readable illustration of what the backs of the signs would look like, with the map/location information.

posted by: Stylo on May 4, 2014  4:12pm

I agree on the consistency. Too many variations will lack impact.

The color should coincide with the branding of the city.