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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

 

New road signs! Yippee!

There seems to be an established idea amongst politicians of all parties that technology is the answer to every question. In order to prize the votes out of Mrs / Mrs / Ms Joe(sephine) Public they come out with wonderful ideas produced by marvellous (& highly expensive) consultants which will be the answer to every problem. Read this article in the Guardian about the Highways Agency to see an outline of the politicians thought processes.

Sorry guys. Great IT is only useful with good and prudent management practices. Whilst there is a lot of good (ish) IT out there, the management practices are so way behind they are at the red shifted end of the spectrum. Not that this is a head in the sand situation, far from it, it’s just that the techies and the managers speak distinctly differing languages.

To add to the confusion, the politicians and decision makers, to whom the managers’ report; can’t really understand either the technical or the managerial side of things as these are so specialised. Lobby groups (Tending to be vociferous minorities or commercial vested interests), who understand even less than the politicians, make a lot of noise that ‘something must be done’ and make like they are the voice of the electorate. Instead of telling the lobby groups to shut up and go and get lives so that they can look at the real issues (Whatever they are), in their ignorance the politicians panic and make broad brushstroke decisions which fail to address any of the real issues at all. The lobby group then goes away happy or not with the compromise fudge the politicians came up with, leaving the managers to say “Do this.” To the techies, whose response is often; “Okay. If you want us to be enthusiastic about this, show us the money.” before wandering back to their closed little code world shaking their heads at the futility of it all, just glad to be gainfully employed.

Of course, this is only a thumbnail sketch of the whole process, but it’s a one-time insiders thumbnail sketch of how big IT projects are doomed to failure before a single line of code is written. Mrs Sticker calls the politicians and their answers ‘One step judgement junkies’. In other words, their proposed solutions are not properly thought through, with little consideration of how the whizzy flashy stuff will be managed and maintained, or where the money for this will come from.

So what has this rant got to do with parking enforcement? In a nutshell, signage; the lines, signs and Traffic Regulation Orders which tell you where and when you may stop and for how long etc. The politicians tend to go for whatever is new, forgetting that a simple maintenance regime, properly managed and funded (Costing a tenth of the proposed new high tech kit) will more than adequately do the job. Our own high tech car park signs being a case in point. They cost several million pounds to install but they are constantly going wrong and have never ever worked properly.

As Parking Enforcement Officers, our biggest gripe is about the state of the road markings, which can make our job next to impossible in some areas. The solutions we need aren’t high tech, they are low tech and proven. Just bits of alloy with plastic lettering on and some thermoplastic paint properly applied.

High tech is great if you have a clear and uncluttered idea of what is to be achieved and how much it will cost to run properly, but here is my point. What is the point of spending gazillions on new, whizzy high tech road signs if most of the motoring dyslexic can’t or won’t pay attention to the ones we’ve got already?

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Exasperated expatriate expostulations all the way from British Columbia, Canada. As if anyone really cared. Oh, I also watch Icelandic Volcanoes and seismic activity. Don't ask me why.

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