NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — New York City may be a ‘helluva town,” as the old song goes. The Bronx is up and the Battery’s down.
But if you need help getting any place else, well, the Department of Transportation wants to stop you from getting lost, reports CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.
“You know, Ross Perot used to say that New Yorkers couldn’t find their way out of New York City if they had a map,” said Carnegie Hill resident Debbie Dickinson.
Kramer decided to expand on the politician’s words and conduct an informal poll. It turns out he could have been on to something.
She asked two New Yorkers how to get to ground zero.
“It’s a trick question,” Bonnie Luria said.
“I know where it is, but I don’t know how to get there. Okay, I’m a little dippy, dipsy,” added Terry Phelan.
Kramer then asked another how to get to the Empire State Building.
“We walk. That’s all we know,” the person answered.
And that pretty much sums up why the city is launching a $1.5 million program called “Wayfinding,” putting up signs to help pedestrians — tourists and locals — navigate the city.
Officials hope the pedestrian sign system will also relieve overcrowding on mass transit by encouraging walking.
1010 WINS’ John Montone reports: Having Trouble Finding Your Way?
DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said the signs would help both tourists and locals and make the city more accessible.
“From our pedestrian surveys we found that 27 percent of visitors admitted that they got lost in the previous week and 33 percent of New Yorkers did not know which direction was north,” she said. “So, clearly it would be great to have more information on the streets.
“We’ve all had the experience of coming out of a subway and not knowing which direction to go, coming out of a building and not knowing where we need to go and this is a way to unlock the city,” Sadik-Khan added.
The new signs should start popping up next year in Chinatown and parts of Midtown, Long Island City in Queens, and Prospect Heights and Crown Heights in Brooklyn.
“No one knows that we are only three to four minutes from the Brooklyn Bridge and only a minute or two from the court complexes,” said Wellington Chen, the executive director of Chinatown Partnership. “The street grid can be confusing, even to people who live here.”
Mitchell Moss, director of the NYU Rudin Center for Transportation, broke down for Kramer the thought process behind the idea.
“All of the signage in the city is designed for automobiles, one way or stop, basically. We’re now going to have a system to help the people. This is a pedestrian city,” Moss said.
“New Yorkers are now becoming explorers in their own city and what are they finding out … they’re finding out they don’t know how to get around when they leave the kind of four-block area where they function,” Moss said.
WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reports: Helping Tourists And Locals
One visitor from Washington said that he never has any problems getting around town thanks to the kindness of strangers.
“All you have to do is stop and people are very friendly and they help you and even take you by the hand,” he told 1010 WINS’ John Montone.
One native New Yorker said he has no problem getting around Manhattan but Queens is another story. Unlike the grid layout of the city, you can easily get lost in Queens by mistaking 30th Avenue for 30th Street, 30th Road or even 30th Drive.
Companies have until July 27 to submit their ideas to the DOT website of a design for the signs.
The good news is that much of the cost of the program will be born by the federal government and local businesses. In Union Square Park, there is a statue of Abraham Lincoln and the nearby “R” train will take you to Courtland Street at ground zero.
Ever get lost in the city? Do you think the signs are necessary? Sound off below…