Signs of stupidity

hand.jpgdont.jpgSigns of stupidity

: I’m walking through Manhattan the other day and suddenly realize that the WALK/DON’T WALK signs have all changed, practically overnight.

Who the hell made this numb-nutty decision?

We’re struggling to come out of a recession. We’re struggling to defend ourselves against terrorism. We’re struggling to pay for a few wars. We’re struggling to get people employed. We’re struggling with ever-increasing taxes. We’re struggling with ever-decreasing services.

And some nitwit decided we had to change WALK/DON’T WALK to HAND/WALKMAN.

Why? Because we’re all illiterate (well, the way the schools are going…)? Because we want to be nice to foreigners (as if they couldn’t figure out what the red letters DON’T WALK coinciding with a red traffic light meant?).

It’s idiotic but worse, it reflects an utterly irresponsible stewardship of our money.

People will make fun of me saying this one more time but it’s relevant in this discussion: I’m a liberal. Thus I don’t object to spending tax money for good ends of a civilized society, such as education and protection and, yes, safety nets for the poorest among us.

But I do object to spending money on stupidity.

And this is far from a Republican/Democratic thing. This is a power thing. People in power spend the money because it’s there and because they can. They don’t act as if the money is their own. They don’t say, do we really need to spend that? And they don’t say, do we really need to spend that right now while suffering budget hell.

littleman.jpgwalk.jpgNo, they put up stupid signs for the stupid.

Now this is not entirely New York’s fault — nor will it be limited to crosswalks here. The AAA reports:

The days of the old-fashioned WALK message are numbered. In the world of traffic signals, symbols are in, words are out. Symbolic pedestrian signals have long been the staple in Europe, and can be found in many parts of this country. New York City has announced that it is joining the crowd for the same reason that new federal guidelines will soon call for symbolic signals: They’re just plain easier to see and comprehend. Plus, people don’t like to spell anymore. So look for a brightly lit pedestrian figure to tell you when to walk, and a red hand to tell you when to stay put.

And one other thing that bugs me about this: Schoolmarmish government. I hate the government treating us like a bunch of idiots.

moving.jpg: But even more idiotic is this sign that has spread across New Jersey faster than the West Nile Virus:

Keep New Jersey Moving. (signed) Our Governor.

What the F does that mean? Go faster? Rear-end the guy in front of you? Get out of town? Eat fiber?

The pinhead who decided to spend tax dollars to buy and install those signs should be strung up from any of the signs he installed. Actually, I’m sure it’s a committee of pinheads. I can’t imagine the meeting at which this was decided. Wasn’t there just one sane soul in the room who (a) asked what the F that sign was supposed to mean (b) asked why the F the state should spend money on it, and (c) reminded everyone else in the room that the economy is still in the crapper (see rant above)?

: I’m on a rant-roll here. I’ve started shouting about similar issues on my hometown blog.

My city fathers and mothers (Republican, every one) just put up a new and expensive sign at the pool for no reason; we all know where the pool is.

They built a road to and from nowhere.

They want to raise parking fees.

They plan to spend a lot of money to create a town TV channel.

STOP! Spend money on my kids’ education, great. Spend it on plowing the snow, fine. But don’t waste it on this stupidity.

  • Q

    Based on the pictures of the signs, it looks like the new walk signs are made with LEDs while the old are made with old fashion light bulbs. LEDs use less power and last much longer than light bulbs (so less money is spent sending crews out to change light bulbs). The new LED signs and stop lights will end up saving the city money. Many other towns are doing the same to save money (which they will just waste on something else.)

  • ken

    I’ve heard the same explanation for the new signs. That the LEDs will save money. And also that the “symbol” angle was done to appease the U.N. (ok, i made that up. but it may have something to do with the bid for the olympics)

  • Jeff,
    I hate to be impolite, but this is precisely what drives me (a libertarian) nuts about the Democrats.
    They spend because they can, not because the spending will make/has made a significant positive contribution.
    Education is a prime example. Ask the Dems to spend money on education and they are all for it. Ask them to spend money so that people can put their kids in schools that actually teach and they are against it.
    The social safety net is another. It is more like a hammock. And in most states, being a single parent on welfare can receive close to $20,000 per year in total benefits. Couple that with harm done by children not being raised by BOTH parents, and one wonders why the Dems don’t take a closer look at their handiwork.
    Effective ideas (like medical savings accounts, privatizing socialist insecurity, home schooling, etc.) seem to be outside of Democratic consideration. Frankly, I’m shocked that they are supporting the idea of letting people buy their medications from other countries.
    Just to be fair, the GOP’s blind allegiance to our failed War on Drugs is also an example of spending for the sake of power as opposed to spending that advances our civilization. And I will note that GW’s GOP has plumb lost its collective mind when it comes to pork barrel spending.

  • Sorry, but I don’t buy the green LED argument. This still took a considerable capital and labor expense that could have been better used elsewhere in the midst of a terrible fiscal crisis. This is mismanagement of our money.

  • The LED argument is quite valid. They are expensive up front, but as of a couple of years ago had a 5 to 8 year cost recovery. Things could be better now.
    That’s why most new OTR trucks have LED lights. They cost less long term and the reduced power load lets them add more computers to monitor other things.

  • balbulican

    Jeff, be careful. You’re channelling the ghost of Andy Rooney.

  • Ain’t it the truth that pedestrians are the littlest of “details” to most people on the road. With cellphones, louder radios, CDs, TVs, GPS, and other distractions it’s a wonder that the number of pedestrians being killed every year isn’t on the rise. Here’s a message to all drivers: pedestrians have something known as the RIGHT OF WAY.

  • EnsRegis

    Um… Just pointing out a funny spelling error:
    Last line of the rant misspells “stupidity.” :-)

  • EnsRegis: [blushing] Thanks. I was sputtering.
    TDavid: You prove my point: a 5-8 year payout means that this was not an urgent thing to do in the midst of the worst fiscal crisis in memory. We could have waited a year or two or replaced them on some sane schedule. But they are suddenly everywhere. This was a lump of cash.

  • They did seem to go up overnight, at least west of First Avenue (the East Village still seems to have the old signs).
    Personally I agree with the cost-saving points, LEDs are a huge improvement in terms of maintenance and durability. Considering how fast they managed to replace the signs, it looks as though they did find a responsible system. The fixtures that house the signs and relay boxes that control them were not replaced.
    The thing that amazes me is how bright they are. Looking up any of the avenues at night now, the walk signs are blinding. I haven’t actually counted how many blocks I can see on a clear night, but it’s a lot.
    As for international symbols, this city has more languages spoken than just about anywhere in the world. I’ve got no problem with non-verbal symbols.
    Also note that despite Bloomberg’s poor popularity, something is apparently working: New York City Pulls Back From Fiscal Brink

  • “DOT Continues To Improve Pedestrian Safety In The Bronx And Manhattan”
    “The contract awarded to Welsbach Electric has 12-month duration at a cost of $10.4 million.”
    They started doing this back in the year 2000.
    “LED signals have a projected life of 100,000 burning hours (more than 12 years) compared with the maximum life span of 16,000 hours (2 years) of the existing incandescent bulbs. The new displays use only 8 to 20 watts, while the old lamps require 67 watts.”

  • Catherine

    I am sorry Joe, but I completely disagree with that article you posted. If we are going into a recovery already, then raising my taxes (property alone, 18%) this year wasn’t needed. Raising these taxes including the commuter tax is NOT the way to keep businesses in NY. It’s the reason why Stamford, CT and Greenwich have become important business centers. Why I and many others are disappointed in Bloomberg is that has been his answer to everything – raise taxes. Granted, with 9/11 we had a few more issues than other cities, however, we had federal funding (which Hillary had a few dollars diverted to Buffalo to fill some political promises – where’s the uproar?)and there is so much WASTE in this city you would expect the “tight ship” business man to be better about the accounting. Instead, he was lazy and proved he was the democrat (he was a lifelong dem until the election) in republican clothing he was accused of being (the smoking ban too).
    You want to talk about waste? We have had a shortage of public toilets for 30 years. Since 1986, different public toilets have been in “committee” being approved by different city agencies. 17 years later, the city approved 15! 15! DO you know how many dumb paper pushers were employed at the cost of God knows what for these GD’d 15 toilets???? You can NOT tell me there is money to be found at city hall.
    This is not to mention the STATE taxes we pay to NY state, with NYC getting the lowest rate of state funding for projects return dollar for dollar than Rochester or Buffalo by at least 50 cents. We totally get screwed by the state. Not to mention, they didn’t kick in one nickel towards rebuilding downtown. That is in sharp contrast to CA that kicked in millions to rebuild SF after the earthquake in 1989.
    And we could have waited a few years for the stupid pedestrian lights to change (as if anyone pays attention to them anyway).
    I agree wholeheartedly with Jeff on this one. Now I am steamed too!

  • ken

    I’d say that Matt’s point ties in, oddly enough, with Catherine’s. These things are typically budgeted years in advance, then it takes the city and the workforce (no doubt unionized) sempty some odd years to actually execute. Too much jaw-jaw, not enough work-work.
    As Matt points out, the lights were budgeted in 2000, back when the city was on top of the world. ON TOP OF THE WORLD. And as far as I know, governments typically don’t go and unbudget something… especially in an environment when pundits and the media consider it a budget CUT just because the budget INCREASE is smaller than last year’s budget increase.

  • John

    On the other hand, the MTA did decide about a decade ago to stop trying to place multilingual signs and make multilingual announcements in the subway system, since, while the dominant second language in New York is Spanish, there are many other neighborhoods where residents speak some other language, and designing signs/announcements for all of them apparently would have been just too much of a logistical nightmare.

  • quark2

    Let me ask a basic question.
    Were The Lights Broken?
    If the lights were not broken then why were they ‘fixed’?
    If the lights that were not broken but were replaced by LED’s anyway, what happened to the lights that were replaced but were not broken?
    Are the unbroken lights that were replaced being recycled?
    If the lights that were replaced are not being recycled, why not?
    Is it not a waste of resources and money to replace unbroken fixtures and then not recycle the unbroken fixtures?
    Just asking a basic question here. *?)

  • opstock

    It never ceases to amaze me when a professed liberal who supports a “nanny” State full of huge government entitlement programs and safety nets, and whose solution to giant failing government bureaucracies, like education, is to throw more money at them, complains about out-of-control government spending. You can’t be serious.
    You remind me of those puerto rican citizens on that island down there (I forget the name, sorry) that we use for military exercises, who protested and protested against our using their island, then when we acquiesced and decided to pull out, they went into a tizzy because now their economy will be ruined.
    You can’t have it both ways.

  • R C Dean

    And one other thing that bugs me about this: Schoolmarmish government. I hate the government treating us like a bunch of idiots.”
    Then you must hate about 90% of what government does these days, because most of it is premised on citizens being too stupid to look out for themselves.

  • Karen

    But will the replacement of the old lights with LED ones result in the reduction of workers? Or will they just get fat union contracts to do even less?

  • Perhaps you ought to do a little research before you complain. The issue of the walk/don’t walk signs was covered months ago in one of Brooklyn’s free newspapers: “The new pedestrian signals will save the city $1.6 million in annual electricity costs once they’re installed citywide at a cost of $7.5 million.” The new signs also require less maintenance, since they will last about 12 years, compared to the current signs, whose bulbs burn out after 11 months.

  • Man, you’re just now getting the LED hand/walking person lights? We’ve had them in Florida for years. I don’t even notice the things anymore. But look on the bright side: I’ll bet you’ll be able to get the old ones on Ebay now.

  • If what John McRory says is correct, then what they ALSO needed to do was spend $200 to tape a sign to each of the light poles, explaining how it will save money for govt. and taxpayers in the not-too-long run.
    Not depend on everyone catching a freebie paper’s article.
    Govt. needs to do a better job of telling folks why it’s doing what it does, and what it’s doing right. That’s not wasteful PR – it’s anti-Rush L. antidote, to counter the “government does nothing right” mantra that is tearing us apart.

  • John Anderson, RI USA

    Had the hand/walker lights for some time. In downtown though, they are being replaced with a hand and a count-down timer. Actually makes some sense: that walker reverted to the hand with the traffic light – many is the time I’ve been cuaght, and had to dodge some twit.
    But then I believe in crossing in the middle of the block: I only have to look two ways, not four (or more, some places), and have some warning when someone turns into the street I am crossing.

  • Adam

    Haven’t you ever taken an Economics course?
    The economy’s GDP can be described (assuming it’s a closed economy for simplicity sake) with the equation Y(GDP)=C(consumtion)+I(investment)+G(government spending).
    The more that is spent by the government during a recession, the more the GDP goes up, the less time we’re in a recession (which many believe we aren’t anymore).
    If you don’t believe me, look at FDR’s New Deal program that brought us out of the Great Depression.
    Oh, and quit fucking whining.

  • Adam:
    It’s about priorities, man! In my town, if we’re going to undergo capital spending, I’d far rather see it go into a classroom than a road to and from nowhere. If we’re going to spend in the operating budget, then have it go to something that is going to benefit the people, not some stupid frigging sign. Priorities, that’s what leadership is supposed to be about. Otherwise, you could run the world with a formula and no judgment and no intelligence. I’ll quit my frigging whining if you’ll quit your friging pomposity.

  • Jeff,
    The NYCDOT started this project of replacing our WALK/DON’T WALK signs way back in the year 2000. Wouldn’t you agree that means that the replacements were probably planned and budgeted for sometime in the mid- to late-1990s? Those were flush times, so your point about stewardship of our money and priorities during a fiscal crisis really doesn’t apply in this case.
    You say that spending money on the pictographic signals is stupid. But, as I pointed out above, the new signals will save us money pretty quickly, they don’t cost that much ($7.9 million is chump change in the context of the city’s budgets, and it wouldn’t go very far towards building a school), and their universally understandable, to boot. That sounds pretty smart. The stupids in government are those who won’t bother to do anything new, but just want to do things the same old way they’ve always been done.
    The vitriol of your rant does not match the importance of the subject. Better luck next time!

  • Adam,
    Sorry to disagree, but FDR’s New Deal drove us deeper into recession. It didn’t save the country. It made things worse. Every reasonable metric indicates that the recession didn’t end until we began shifting over to war production for the lend-lease program in WWII in the late 1930’s.
    While some of the WPA projects were worthwhile, (i.e. finishing Hoover Dam) the endless regulation of who could do what job and when they could do it was counter productive. His continuation of paying farmers not to farm during a time of increasing food costs was most certainly counter productive and inflationary.
    Government spending towards a specific objective (roads, planes, tanks, needed buildings, etc.) help the economy.
    Government spending just because it can (transfers of wealth, buildings that sit empty, $100 hammers, etc.) do not.