Still No Wayfinding in Downtown

Downtown Provo still lacks any significant wayfinding. That means there are insufficient signs, maps and guides to help people get around. And in case I wasn’t sufficiently clear in this post from March, when I say “wayfinding,” I’m specifically referring to pedestrian wayfinding.

Not long after I wrote that post above, I heard rumors that Provo actually was working on adding more signs. Then, a couple months later, the parking signs in this post went up.

I sincerely hope those signs were not the rumored “wayfinding” efforts. While they’re great — other than the fact that they’re a bit unclear — one of downtown Provo’s greatest assets is its walkability. Consequently, over the long term pedestrian-oriented signs will matter at least as much as their car-oriented counterparts. And without sufficient guides in place, tourists and newcomers alike are adrift (Note: the grid system, as logical as it seems, somehow confuses some visitors).

By contrast, for all of its many weaknesses, Salt Lake City’s new City Creek mall has fairly adequate wayfinding.

This sign isn’t perfect, but it’s at eye level for pedestrians and set back far enough on the sign walk to both catch people’s eye and not imperil them by placing them too close to street traffic.

In fact, downtown Salt Lake generally has some decent wayfinding in the area around City Creek.

A map of downtown Salt Lake that is specifically geared toward pedestrians.

If I had designed the signs above, I might have done a few things differently. But ultimately they’re effective and easy to use.

Why doesn’t Provo have something like that? Perhaps in the form of a single map, say on the corner of Center and University Ave or Freedom?

Instead, however, Provo has signs like this:

Signs on University Ave. I’m about six feet tall and extending my arm straight up I couldn’t reach the bottom of the parking sign. That means it’s at least seven or eight feet high. For pedestrians — who might benefit from the top convention center sign — that’s too high to be immediately visible while walking on the sidewalk.

Other signs in downtown Provo accomplish even less:

The blue visitor information sign in this picture is barely visible beneath a banner. If this picture were taken from a different angle, it’d also be apparent that the sign is largely obscured by a tree and a parking sign. And like the signs in the picture above, this one is too high to really benefit pedestrians. All of that means that almost no one is getting anything out of this sign.

The downtown signs in the picture above also have other problems. They give no indication, for example, of how far users will have to travel to arrive at their destinations. It could be a block, a mile, or more. The simply don’t say. By contrast, many cities will include distances on their signs — for example, “Convention Center, 100 meters”.

The visitor information sign is also simply hard to understand. Is visitor information in the building immediately to the right? Is it just around the corner? If I was new to Provo, I seriously doubt that this sign would help me find the visitor information office two and half blocks to the southwest.

The point here is that the existing signs in Provo are ineffective for pedestrians, and they’re not particularly great for drivers either. I’d also go so far as to say the visitor information sign was a flat out waste of time and money.

As a result, Provo still needs more wayfinding. Examples abound in cities across the world, but right now Provo just needs to get started.

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2 Comments

Filed under Development, Downtown, driving

2 responses to “Still No Wayfinding in Downtown

  1. Helen Anderson

    Jim, hang on! We’re working on it. No, the signs above are not the wayfinding signs we have in mind. When you’re wondering about something like that, feel free to call me.

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