All signs pointed toward a UCSB victory in Thursday night’s basketball match against Long Beach State – including three new digital signs purchased by the university.
The signs, which arrived late last week, look similar to those seen on freeways. They have programmable message boards and can be moved to different locations. The signs were bought in an effort to better direct vehicle circulation and disseminate information to drivers, Tom Roberts, UCSB director of Transportation & Parking Services, said.
“We needed to have better ways to direct people around campus,” Tana Lucido, assistant to the director of Transportation & Parking Services, said. “We want to be able to get good information to people, especially about night events.”
The signs will be used to direct traffic to different destinations around campus for events such as sports games and Arts & Lectures performances. One sign is also equipped with a traffic radar gun, which UC Police Dept. officers can use to deter speeding. They will be particularly useful for events such as Housing and Residential Services’ move-in day and graduation commencement when the majority of drivers are family members unfamiliar with the campus.
“Acquisition of the units is part of our department’s goal of providing better public information and wayfinding on campus,” Roberts said. “Particularly when you’re moving large numbers of people, you want to be able to give them clear information with enough advanced notice.”
In the past, staff using handmade signs and barricades directed traffic for big events.
“We’re not going to scrap that; we’re just going to try and use that in conjunction with [the digital signs],” Lucido said.
The signs will also help traffic flow more smoothly in emergency situations. In October 2002, a major automobile accident on Highway 217 forced emergency workers to block the east exit of campus, causing long delays for commuters. There was no way to inform drivers of the situation before they got to the congested area.
“It was really difficult because people were leaving campus and they had no idea that [Highway] 217 was closed, so they were all driving out as normal. There was no way to notify every single person on campus that there has been that kind of an emergency,” Lucido said. “If we had had those signs we could have put three message boards in different areas on the east side of campus letting people know that they had to exit to the west.”
The UCSB transportation department is trying to increase the amount of green technology it uses with this purchase, Lucido said. The signs are powered by solar panels and are equipped with backup batteries.
Each sign costs $17,874, but Parking & Transportation Services hopes the signs will save them money over time by reducing labor costs.
“They should help to reduce staffing costs for traffic direction at major events,” Roberts said. “In some cases, they will also improve safety by reducing the need to have staff standing in the street to direct traffic.”