New Signage to Guide Pedestrians in Four Neighborhoods

This DOT rendering imagines what a new pedestrian wayfinding system could look like, with sidewalk maps and additional street signs hung from light posts. Image: NYC DOT

Improved sidewalk signage and maps for pedestrians will be the latest addition to the streetscape by the Department of Transportation, which just released a request for proposals for a new wayfinding system in four neighborhoods. In Long Island City, Prospect Heights and Crown Heights, Chinatown, and Midtown, DOT hopes the new information will encourage more people to walk and help them get where they’re going faster.

In a DOT survey conducted in preparation for the proposal, nine percent of New Yorkers and 27 percent of tourists said they had been lost in the past week. A good wayfinding system would alleviate confusion and make walking more attractive. After London implemented a similar wayfinding system in the Bond Street area called “Legible London,” pedestrian journeys in the neighborhood were an average of 16 percent faster. (For a look at the London sidewalk maps, check below the jump.)

Moreover, the fear of getting lost probably keeps some people from walking in the first place. Said 34th Street Partnership President Dan Biederman, “A standardized citywide pedestrian sign system would highlight our neighborhood’s offerings, and increase the number of people who walk instead of take taxis from our transit terminals, such as Penn Station.” With additional information, tourists in particular could confidently save a cab fare by walking to certain nearby destinations.

According to the Wall Street Journal, DOT is willing to spend up to $9.5 million on the project over time, but this first phase will only cost $1.5 million, with 80 percent of that covered by the federal government, and local business improvement districts contributing as well.

In London, wayfinding signs point to important destinations, map the area and show how far you can go with 15 minutes of walking.
  • Cberthet

    as a pedestrian , these signs are fine if locatied on wide  sidewalks. with little traffic . 
    in midtown, this signage takes way up too much real estate to be viable in most streets or avenues. Why not attach these signs to existing furniture, bus stops etc.. 

  • Cberthet

    as a pedestrian , these signs are fine if locatied on wide  sidewalks. with little traffic . 
    in midtown, this signage takes way up too much real estate to be viable in most streets or avenues. Why not attach these signs to existing furniture, bus stops etc.. 

  • Jeff

    Definitely a low-cost, presumably-non-controversial way to make the pedestrian experience feel more “substantial”, if you will.

    My suggestion would be focusing on getting people to Subway stops.  These should work similarly to the “To I-95” signs you see on local streets in the vicinity of on-/off-ramps (but for sidewalks and transit stops).

  • Jeff

    Definitely a low-cost, presumably-non-controversial way to make the pedestrian experience feel more “substantial”, if you will.

    My suggestion would be focusing on getting people to Subway stops.  These should work similarly to the “To I-95” signs you see on local streets in the vicinity of on-/off-ramps (but for sidewalks and transit stops).

  • Shemp

    As the image above shows, they will likely be implemented in the strip that has parking meters, trees and other stuff that you don’t walk through.

  • M. Olsen

    so it’s a map on the street?  this isn’t exactly revolutionary.  in this day and age, couldn’t this be a little more interactive?  i’ve mentioned this company before on blogs and suggest anyone interested to take a look –  They also have a decent youtube video here:
    As far as I’m concerned, a more interactive product seems much more valuable than a map on the street.  Just sayin’.  

  • BS McRaney

    This is such a freaking waste of my taxpayer money. Are you kidding me?
    I have to pay for this?
    Why not get company’s to donate or sponsor these signs? Flat out stupid.

  • Daisuke

    ?We just see future this at Samsung.?
    All with information on all. But more on much like giant iPad and television. ?
    We already bring next for agreement.

  • Emma Durant


    I was just at the London Urban Innovation Conference, and the coolest thing everyone was talking about was interactive, digital community information. Heard a phenomenal chat with the guy who thought up the NY 24×7 plan.
    You’ve got the future solution sitting right here… and you’re spending money on posted maps? Guess no one at DOT has a clue.

  • Zymurb

    This is a great first step.  NYC at present has pitiful wayfinding/community info for visitors and residents alike.  I’m not sure why so many here are whinging about the lack of “interactiveness.”  Sometimes a simple, low-tech solution will do the job just fine.

  • Eric McClure

    I have to agree with Zymurb. If I’m in Soho, I need a map of Soho and bordering areas. I don’t need access to Google Earth.  And I don’t particularly want to watch an ad in order to get some info about the neighborhood.  This seems like a perfectly good idea.

  • Nora

    Philadelphia has some signs like these in Center City and I (native New Yorker) have found them really helpful.  There are also some maps in the financial district here already, which I have also made use of, even as someone who makes it a point of pride to know the geography of NYC.  I think they could be quite helpful to both tourists and residents, particularly if they have accurate subway info.  I don’t think there needs to be a digital song and dance–much better to have easy-to-read information that everyone can understand.

  • Rxg243

    I wanted to share something I found to be fantastic. I was searching for NYC parking and found a new application called CityMaps and it is a one stop shop website. Made finding parking a breeze.

  • Anonymous

    I think this is great. However, graffiti “artists” will probably make these useless in short order. 
    I’ve always thought it would be great if they had something like this for the greenways they could encourage more use of those facilities (especially in the outer boroughs). Unfortunately, the graffiti problem would exist there too.

  • Ty

    In the grid part of manhattan (i.e., most of it), I would LOVE some sort of clear sign at an intersection that tells you which way is N, S, E and W.  I always seem to walk 1/2 a block in the wrong direction…. always.

  • Anon

    Agreed. What a complete waste. Everyone has smart phones now. There are far more pressing things the city could be spending 9 million dollars on and get a substantially greater ROI on.  

    If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have said “a faster horse”. – Henry Ford 

  • The maps should be the most useful away from the Manhattan grid,
    especially in Lower Manhattan and the oldest parts of Brooklyn.

    One thing they could do everywhere is modify street signage to tell you the street numbers on the block you’re walking on, and the name of the next intersection. For example, on the Upper West Side, instead of a plain “West 88th Street” sign you’d see a sign that says “West 88th Street, 200 > 100 Columbus.”

  • An Anon

    2:12 AM Anon: “…Everyone has smart phones now…”

    It was only a matter of time before the statement was made.  This is an elitist position, and a poor argument for unnecessarily taking wayfinding out of public view and putting it in the hands of the digerati.  If you’re walking on city streets, there’s no better place for the local area map than ON THE STREET.

    As for your Ford quote… quite revealing of your anti-pedestrian position.

  • To my eye, the facility depicted is sited on a curb extension.  If that’s an accurate indication of where they are going to go, then that by far is the most important and exciting feature of this program.

    Long Island City already has circular wayfinding signs branded as “Walk Long Island City” that indicate directions and mileage to most major and minor attractions.  I’m all for doing more to encouraging walking in LIC–I’m a former resident–but it’s hard to imagine signage doing much to reverse the strong trend toward quasi-suburbanization reflected in recent, intensive car-centric development along the East River.

    Personally I find the West Village the most confusing grid in the city and would benefit from signage there, but I expect most property owners in that community would reflexively fight to the death rather than see signs like these installed.

  • Anon


    It’s not an elitist statement at all. It’s logical and predictive.  Look at how quickly technology evolves and becomes cheap/accessible. By the time this project is completed, I imagine the population wielding smartphones will maps/GPS will be even greater. 

    The Ford quote is far from anti-pedestrian.  The point is that we should push boundaries, not focus on making past solutions better.  

    I read this blog because I’m a pro-pedestrian. I’d rather see 9 million be used more effectively to help pedestrianize NYC, rather then waste it on maps/signage (a problem that is already solved by technology). 

  • Ty

    By the way — I use the EXISTING signs on the streets in the lower Manhattan historic district ALL THE TIME to navigate.  They are super helpful…. low tech… and not “made useless by graffiti” 

  • The Cool Biker

    Olsen, where did you find this, man? I have not seen those
    screens… where can I find them? 

  • Ian Dutton

    I use this sort of signage extensively when I travel overseas. Yes, I have an iPhone. No, I’m not interested in paying $20/MB to look at my Google Map when a sign posted next to the subway exit works fine to get me on my way.

    A cheap, welcoming solution that is long overdue.

  • Ty

    Anon — “Everyone has smartphones” is just not true.  Not to mention this city has MILLIONS of tourist, many of them from overseas.  How many people from Europe or Asia are willing to pay the fees associated with using their phone in NYC?

  • Ty

    Another thought… Why are there subway and bus maps?!  Why don’t you just use your smartphone?  Imagine all of the money NYC could save by not having to post maps of the subway!

  • Andrew

    How Chicagoesque!

  • carma

    are they helpful?  Yes.

    But in a grid pattern like NYC, streets are a lot easier to find without a guide than lets say london or even worse, Tokyo.

    i question whether or not its the best use of funds when we barely averted a mass layoff of teachers.

  • carma

    right on.  most of nyc even outside of manhattan has a nice grid pattern.  our streets are not as much in disarray as other major cities of the world.

  • Ashton

    This is so helpful! Using this in addition to other NYC maps is going to make getting lost in the city almost impossible!

  • Wesley

    @Ashton, good call on City Maps! I have started using it and absolutely love it.

  • I was there a few weeks ago and the signage that I saw was very well layed out and the signs were very visible. I felt a really good sign job is being done. Great work!


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