Transportation
3:55 pm
Thu November 8, 2012

The City Hopes These Signs and Kiosks Will Help You Navigate Downtown Austin

The Austin City Council hopes to make downtown Austin easier to get around.

The city's Planning and Development Review Department presented progress on the Downtown Austin Wayfinding System this morning. Under this plan, inconsistent and vague signs downtown would become more uniform and detailed. Gateways into downtown (like the passage under I-35 on Seventh Street) would also get a facelift.

In addition to increased signage, the design firm the city has contracted with – Pennsylvania-based MERJE – has created signs that are in step with international logos for parking, transportation, information and more, with an Austin flair. 

At the council's meeting today, the design got mixed reviews: "It's supposed to be a signal that's the same around the country, around the world," Mayor Lee Leffingwell said of the Austinized logos. "I don't see anything to be gained by a little twist, any more than I could see a point of making stop signs triangular instead of octagonal." Council member Bill Spelman, however, liked the idea.

Council member Chris Riley expressed concern that expanding transportation options (like bike share programs and Capital Metro's rapid bus system) will outdate the signs. Planning and Development Review has met with Cap Metro to discuss accommodating growth. Funding for ongoing improvements comes from revenue from parking downtown.

Council member Kathie Tovo felt the team's sign designs don't do enough to encourage families to come downtown. Council member Laura Morrison suggested the design of "family friendly" logos for such establishments.

John Bosio is with MERJE. He says the system is about more than getting visitors from point A to point B. "That's certainly a component," Bosio says, "but it's also about building that awareness, so when families and visitors come and they want to know what to do, when they are aware of what's around them they're more likely to stay longer, they're more likely to understand the depth of destinations." 

A request for an additional $85,000 in funding comes before the City Council on Dec. 6. (The money will be used to crate a “wayfinding graphics manual” for all signage, provided the council approves the final design.) Implementation of the program, including signage, gateway improvements, a mobile parking app and more will begin in 2013.