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May 16, 2005 12:05 AM

Broken: Atlanta parking garage sign

Which_way_2Sean Romer writes:

An Atlanta parking garage provides information that, while perfectly accurate, is practically useless. The added information with the cashiers' schedule is easy to overlook without stopping, and even then it doesn't really help in making a decision.

Remove the "Park" sign (this is a parking garage after all), and provide two exit signs that indicate which streets you exit onto.


Whooo! I'm First!

Posted by: Bob at May 16, 2005 07:35 AM

I can make neither heads nor tails of that sign. If you're leaving,whythe heck would you care to know the hours of the cashier? Can somebody tell me why there's a cashier for the exit line? Oh, and if you pay on the way out, then why do you need a cashier coming in? Can Mr. S. Romer clarify this? it doesn't seem to make sense.

Oh, btw, there's something wrong with typing here. Instead of moving everything up a space, it deleted the letter in front of the typy line thingy. and, if you move the | to insert any characters, it does the same thing, i.e. it inserts your char. on top of the one that was there before. what's wrong with me, doctor?

Posted by: Bob at May 16, 2005 07:44 AM

The spacebar, that is. I forgot to add it.

Should read- ...Instead of the spacebar moving everything up...

Dang! it works normally again! A 3-minute glitch?!

Posted by: Bob at May 16, 2005 07:46 AM

Learn about the function of the Insert button on your keyboard ;). You probably accidentally hit Insert and put it into the "overtype mode". Hit it again and it switches back into "insert mode". Big deal :P

Posted by: FL at May 16, 2005 08:03 AM

I can't agree with the poster that these signs are broken just because they seem redundant. They don't provide false or misleading information. If you need to park, or exit, either direction is fine. And it's necessary to show which ways lead to more parking, so people don't think the arrow leads ONLY to the exit. After all, what if all the spots in the immediate vicinty are full?

Bob's little experience with the INSERT/OVERWRITE feature of modern computers in his comment is worthy of it's own discussion! I have never liked the concept of having modes---i.e. do people actually USE the caps lock key on purpose more often than they turn it on accidentally? But regardless, Bob thought this website was broken when in fact the problem he was experiencing had nothing to do with the website and was entierly contained in his own computer. Now that's a fascinating user story!

Posted by: Robby Slaughter at May 16, 2005 09:13 AM

I don't really think these signs are broken. Based on my experinece, but this is just in PA, every parking garage is different. Some you can only travel one way (i.e. you are only allowed to make left hand turns either up or down). Others you are allowed to go in any direction. The park sign is obviously telling you that you may either turn to the left or the right to park, which in PA would be a legitimate question if there were no arrows. The fact that the cashier's hours are posted is also useful. It saves the person leaving the trouble of going to the wrong cashier, not being able to get out, and then having to turn around or back up and risk and accident.

Posted by: Chaos at May 16, 2005 10:07 AM

What's broken about the sign is the chaotic and confusing layout. The last thing someone needs in tight quarters with little light and non-standardized driving mores (like Chaos mentioned, in some garages you aren't allowed to make certain turns) is a confusing sign. It should be laid out more like this:

Only, you know, not ugly ASCII art ;)

Posted by: brian w at May 16, 2005 11:32 AM

Looks like TypePad ate my bracket arrows, so I'll try again with curly brackets. Pretend they're arrowheads!

{- PARK -}

{- EXIT (3pm-7pm only) EXIT (24 hours) -}

Posted by: brian w at May 16, 2005 11:34 AM

Although the signage could be a bit better, it isn't really all that bad. Parking garages are usually a maze unto themselves, and it isn't always obvious which way to go for additional parking especially in multi-story facilities. As such, signage indicating directions for parking are needed.

As for teh cashier times, perhaps it could be a little clearer, but sign does a reasonable job as is.

Posted by: Carlos Gomez at May 16, 2005 11:39 AM

Chaos and Carlos, I agree totally with your points, it seems like when I read either one of your comments, I had similar thoughts on the matter. >95%. It could just be that I'm used to the complexities of PA traffic signage.

Brian W your sign is a little more straight forward, and is probably the better choice, but I suspect that the cashier signage was added after the fact to save money, since it looks like the words overlap some of the words above it.

Posted by: Joshua Wood at May 16, 2005 02:04 PM

Ha! If you think this sign is bad, the first time I had to travel to Emmaus, PA to go to a new client I was coming home on 22W. The sign posted on the highway said I-476N use exit 3. Ok, So I take exit three and get lost for an hour. It turns out it is actually the fifth exit. The first two exits are for South 'A' Street and North 'A' Street, respectively. The same was true for the next two exits. They were south and north 'whatever' street. Even though they are two separate exits, the sign with directions for 476 considered them as 1 exit. Now that is broken!

Posted by: Chaos at May 16, 2005 02:34 PM

For every post about something broken, why is there always someone to disagree that it's not broken? Clearly this sign is broken, but there's always someone trying to justify that it's not! I mean come on now, if there are justifications for everything that you feel is not broken, then what do you guys feel is TRULY broken?

Posted by: Cameron at May 16, 2005 03:31 PM

Chaos - The exits I've experienced (in NY (definitely, and it seems like most other places too) add the direction (ex: 3N and 3S) to designate that while this is a unique interchange is actually an exit on to the same road (only one way is north on 476 the other south on 476). A lot of places also use distance to mark exit numbers (exit 17 is the next exit after exit 12 because they are 5 miles away). You shouldn't assume anything about exit numbers.

Posted by: michael at May 16, 2005 03:43 PM

Cameron, what are your arguments against the points made by myself and Chaos? Lots of stuff is really broken. I think many of us want to reserve the word "broken" for the worst possible case: systems or pieces of information that at least partially or totally fail to provide their intended function. The "Exit" and "Park" arrows in this case, do actually lead to places to Exit and Park. The sign would be flat out wrong (broken) if they led to brick walls.

I think understanding exactly why something is displeasant is really, really valuable. Just labeling all the stuff on this site under the blanket category "broken" does not help very much. In order to advance the cause of improving user experiences, I think we need a way to talk intellegently about the design errors and their ramifications, which means having different terms for various levels of negative user experience.

Mark Hurst, the maintainer of this website, does not seem to have any editorial policy (other than avoiding submissions of websites and preferring pictures, and insisting that the This Is Broken Website is immune from This Is Broken criticism). So, people like me chime in with our own editorial commentary --- trying to determine exactly what the problems are with any particular submission.

Posted by: Robby Slaughter at May 16, 2005 04:14 PM

Michael, I guess I should have been more clear. The directional sign said it was the third exit - clearly meaning the exit after the first two. I wasn't assuming anything. I know that the north and south directions indicate the same street, just different directions. However, regardless of whether or not the two exits lead to the same street, if there are two separate off ramps, then they are two separate exits, AND... I know about mile marking the exits.

Posted by: Chaos at May 16, 2005 04:40 PM

OK, i guess that's what I did. I never really use any of the Insert group of buttons anyway.

Posted by: Bob at May 16, 2005 04:44 PM

What a small world, I'm actually moving to Emmaus, PA. I'll be on the lookout for the mislabled exits.

Posted by: Joshua Wood at May 16, 2005 04:58 PM

I'm going to add to the road signage issue here:

CHICAGO I-290 northbound after Illinois 72:

There used to be a sign for the exit to Illinois 62 that said the exit was 1/4 mile. The next sign said 1/2 mile; the final sign said 1/4 mile.

As it turns out this was only partly broken, really being a matter more of layout. It took many trips past these signs to figure it out, and I believe they've since been changed, but:

The first sign was on the main section of I-290 right around IL-72; the next two signs were in something of a "local lane" that started just past IL-72 and ran to just past IL-62. So, technically, the first sign indicated that the exit was the local lane in 1/4 mile, with the second and third signs indicating the distance once you were in the local.

Confusing, to be sure!

Posted by: Robert A. Dugger at May 16, 2005 06:15 PM

Broken = Not usable. Right? I could go the with a dictionary to define broken, but really, don't we all know what it means? Is the sign usable? Yes it is. Is it confusing, I am sure it could be. Whoever hung the sign originally almost certainly knew what they wanted to say. It does look like the cashiers' hours were added as an afterthought and contributed to what was already at the very least unclear verbiage. Is it broken? That is up to you. If you can't use it, it is broken for you.

Posted by: Randy at May 16, 2005 06:33 PM

Wouldn't it have been easier to just put in one sign saying something like ""? That's what I typically see in parking lots like these.

Of course, there could actually be three ways to find parking space AND exit, and the third one could be the region between the two middle arrows.

Posted by: Ophelia at May 16, 2005 07:53 PM

Argh, the the French brackets and everything in them were annihilated. What I meant to say was:

Wouldn't it have been easier to just put in one sign saying something like '« Parking and Exit »'? That's what I typically see in parking lots like these.

Posted by: Ophelia at May 16, 2005 07:57 PM

So, hey, it's Hotlanta. What do you expect, common sense or something?

Posted by: William at May 16, 2005 10:53 PM

"can make neither heads nor tails of that sign. If you're leaving,whythe heck would you care to know the hours of the cashier? Can somebody tell me why there's a cashier for the exit line? Oh, and if you pay on the way out, then why do you need a cashier coming in? Can Mr. S. Romer clarify this? it doesn't seem to make sense.


Most airport parking garages are long term parking lots.. and as such charge you on the way out only... you get a ticket on the way in to display on windshield saying the time/day you drove in and parked...

Posted by: Infinity at May 16, 2005 11:35 PM

to the comments about modes, Caps lock and insert are commonly used in programing, such as html. it is also a matter of speedyness to those who type alot, for the insert key. why push a key over an over, only to type everything out again when you could over write? though, im not sure why there is a num lock, caps lock and scroll lock but no insert light. that being said.. what in the world does the scoll lock key do? caps lock is used to make things all in caps ( also good with legal documents and offical business paper work) and num lock switchs between diffrent numpad modes (arrows and numbers) but scroll lock?

Posted by: Picho at May 17, 2005 01:07 AM

Joshua, If you want to see something broken in Emmaus, drive over to their fire department. The sign there says "Emaus Fire Dept." Somehow one of the M's was left out. And a little word of advice... don't eat at the Emmaus Diner.

Posted by: Chaos at May 17, 2005 09:04 AM

All parking garages I've ever seen charge as you leave since they are pay per length of stay. The only exception I can think of is stadium parking, where they know exactly how long you'll be there (until the end of the event).

Posted by: michael at May 17, 2005 09:27 AM

I agree with Randy that if I simply can't use something.....then it's broken to me.

Posted by: Cameron at May 18, 2005 04:14 PM

Scroll lock was probably useful before mice were invented, and is still useful if you don't feel like using a mouse. It was probably like: If it was on, the arrow keys would act like scrollbars, i.e. to scroll a web page up/down, and if it was off, it'd do what it was originally meant to do.

But now, it's pretty much useless, except in stuff like Microsoft Excel. (Try pressing the arrow keys with and without scroll lock on in Excel.)

Posted by: Shadow at May 18, 2005 09:39 PM

William: I agree with you, but it's not just Atlanta. It's all of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi.

Everyone (but in response to William): When we went to Birmingham along I-20 from Atlanta, there were (in Alabama): STOP signs on the onramps (about 30 feet from the point where it merges with the Interstate), signs that read "Slow traffic keep right", immediately followed by signs reading "Trucks use left lane." The stop signs defeated the purpose of an onramp (allowing you to accelerate to traffic speed.) The "Slow traffic keep right"/"Trucks use left lane" signs made it impossible to travel more than 60 or 65, because you had grandma and grandpa in the right lane, next to a truck. Also they had signs telling you to remove wrecked cars from the roadway.

Another story: on the way back from Chattanooga to Atlanta, there was a rather bad accident between 2 or 3 semi-trucks, in the right lane and half of the middle lane (there were 3), and yet the police decided to close all lanes of traffic for 2 1/2 hours. The left lane was perfectly clear except for a couple of police cruisers, obstructing traffic. The police were standing around chatting, holding up traffic for a good 15-20 miles. A few guys finally got up their courage and gave the police heck until a DOT guy came and said to open the left lane.

BTW, when there are multiple exits here that have the same number, they number them 2A, 2B, 2C. And they make sure to tell you which one goes where on signs. Like for "So-and-so Street, use exit 2B."

Posted by: Brian at May 18, 2005 10:27 PM

Strangely enough, I was just in north Alabama.

Posted by: Mark Hurst at May 23, 2005 11:10 AM

This sign illustrates how it is possible to provide information that really doesn't enable someone to make a better decision. All the info is accurate -- not false or misleading -- but I still have to fill in an important gap. That is, I can exit in either direction, but I don't have enough info to know which direction is better for me. Knowing which exit has a 24-hour attendant is some info, but not quite enough to make an informed decision when I want to get onto a certain street during rush hour.

BTW, you pay on exit from this garage, not on entrance. There is no backing up, but the exit is actually a short turn at the end of a lane; thus, if you come to an exit that is closed, you can continue forward to the next exit.

At least in theory: one time I pulled a 22-hour day, and when I went to the garage, it had been locked down while the attendant on duty did the rounds to the other several garages on his checklist. My car was literally locked up, and I couldn't get it out.

I hope I haven't tread too much on anyone's sensibilities by submitting something that only staggers and limps, and isn't entirely incapacitating. If anyone ever starts a forum for only partially broken items -- maybe a "This is Cracked" site -- let me know.

Posted by: Sean at May 25, 2005 05:03 PM

I am new to this site but have quickly noticed that each post draws a number of dissenters as to the "brokeness" of a given posting. Given that I am bored right now I thought I'd take a moment to chime in.

I used to do UI (User Interface) design for commerical software. There is a great book I used as a reference having to do with design deficiencies (sorry but the title and author name have slipped from my memory) which had the standard kitchen stove controls as an example I have always remembered of broken design. The burners are laid out in a square but the controls are almost always laid out in a line above and behnd the burners. While the controls for the left and right burners are clear. there is no intrinsic clue as to which control goes to the front/back left and right burners. Ie. does the inside control indicate the back burner or the front burner? While the controls are usually labeled *most* people will make an assumption about the positioning before or in lieu of reading the lableing. The problem? The assumption will only work if your reasoning matches that of the designer. Is this broken? Well... no not if you take the term literally, you will select the correct control if you take a moment to get them clear in your head. But the fact is most people will attempt to rely on memory or their own intuition before reading the labels and as often as not will turn on the wrong burner possibly creating a dangerous situation. I know I have, as for some reason it seems to me the outside the control ought to coincide with the back burner but on my particular stove it doesn't. I don't know if my perception of which control is which has any logic to it whatsoever (it probably doesn't, I would wager a significantl percentage if not the majority of people would see it the other way) but it has "burned" me figuratively and literally enough times so that I now never touch the controls until I read the label. Ok so, to make a long possibly pointless narrative shorter, yes I consider this broken. Ideally there should be a spatial relation to the controls and the burners.

My point is that if the signage is not clear enough to avoid a signicant number of people making the wrong choice a signicant percentage of the time, it is indeed broken. Yes making anything moron proof is impossible, making signage guide a reasonable person to the correct conclusion in almost every instance is not impossible. And I would maintain the sign indicated in this post and most of the signs I have seen on this site are broken by that definition.

The original Murphy's Law was not the pessimistic conclusion that most plans fail as people think it is now, it was that given two ways to hook up a piece of equipment human beings will pick the wrong way the majority of the time (not half the time as you would expect but the majority of the time). If you start with this assumption you realize that design is broken if it offers more than one choice (to a reasonable person) as to the possible conclusion or meaning.

I am sure I have not convinced anyone who disagrees but I would suggest this definition is better than most I interpretations and arguments I have read here so far.

Posted by: Contrarian at September 26, 2005 02:27 AM

Contrarian, I couldnt have said it better myself.

- Ben

Posted by: ShizzleMe at January 9, 2006 04:26 AM

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