How To Decipher NYC Parking Signs In A Jiff

Summary & Quick Facts

  • A simple acronym to remember with parking signs is C A D E: Color, Arrow, Days/Time and Except.
  • As a general rule, a red parking sign means drivers in passenger cars should keep it moving: you cannot park there. 
  • The arrow(s) on the bottom of a sign designates which direction(s) the regulations on the parking signs apply. 
  • Look at the days and times listed on the sign, this tells you when the sign is in effect at specific times of the day and the week.
  • Signs with the word “except” have an exception or caveat to the rule. Keep an eye out for it.
  • Always read poles with multiple parking signs from the top to bottom; the top sign is often the most restrictive regulation on the pole.

Understanding NYC Parking Signs Can Be Tough

Deciphering NYC parking signs can definitely be one of the city’s most daunting challenges for drivers. Even for highly educated and experienced city motorists, interpreting NYC parking signs is no easy task. While the city does offer some resources to help drivers, reaching out to 311 may not necessarily be the best thing to do when you’re on the move.  Nevertheless, drivers often find themselves at a loss on how to follow the rules posted about time limits or even whether it is legal or illegal to park in a specific area. This post will help drivers understand the various and often confusing park signs and how to translate the ultimate parking quandary, the infamous NYC “gotcha” pole. 


Red Parking Signs

As a general rule, a red parking sign should be every motorists red flag. This means that the parking spot you’re trying to secure  has the most severe restrictions.  In general, red parking signs denote either No Parking, No Standing Or No Stopping. Red parking signs also indicate that they have the harshest time restrictions. For the most part, this means you cannot park there at any time, though some red signs do have time restrictions albeit quite long. Regardless, anytime you see these signs drivers, better keep it moving!

no stopping parking signs


White Parking Signs

alternate side parking signs

White parking signs are generally a little more relaxed than red parking signs. So if you’re driving and you see white, take a second and look closely at the sign There are two main types of white parking signs. The most common of these are white parking signs with a red colored font. These parking signs tend to restrict parking for a more limited time period as opposed to the red parking signs we’ve mentioned above. You can find these signs regulating alternate side parking rules, stating what kind of authorized vehicles are allowed to park in the area, and demarcating where taxicab stands begin.

The other parking sign you may see are white parking signs with green text. Generally, these signs denote metered parking spots. On these signs, you will see the days in which you must feed the meter as well as how long you are allowed to park at a metered parking spot.

Green parking signs


no stopping anytime sign

The arrow on the bottom of a sign designates which parking spots are regulated by the rules on the parking sign.  For example, if the arrow points to your left, the rule displayed on the parking sign regulates all the parking spaces to the left. In other instances, you will see a double-headed arrow pointing in opposite directions. Here, the parking regulations apply to both directions. Remember though drivers, the regulations only extend until the next parking sign or the end of the block. Another thing to note is that one parking sign at the far end of the block may regulate your parking space.


Multiple Parking Signs On A Single Pole

NYC parking signs

Sometimes drivers may encounter two,  three or more parking signs on a single pole. This is the famous NYC “gotcha” pole and is probably the most confusing situation that drivers can find themselves in. Here are some tips that can help you in this precarious position.


Always read the signs from top to bottom. Usually, the top sign is often the most restrictive parking regulation on the pole.  For this reason, always keep an eye out for red parking signs and follow this one the most. If it says no parking, anytime, no need to read any of the other parking signs. Just keep it moving and look for another spot.  Also, always look for the sign that has language with the word “except” written on it. These parking signs generally restrict parking or standing during certain days/hours for private passenger vehicles.

They also tend to prioritize access to either commercial vehicles, trucks or emergency vehicles.

multiple parking signs


Parking Sign Takeaways

The simple acronym you can remember as you are deciphering parking signs is C A D E: Color, Arrow, Days/Time and Except. Color should always be the first thing to pay attention to when analyzing a parking sign. Is the sign Red denoting the toughest restrictions? Or do you see a calming green, signaling that you may potentially have a spot to park at?

Next, always pay attention to the arrows on the sign. The arrows denote in which direction(s) the regulations of the sign apply. After, be sure to take a close look at the Days and Times listed on the sign, this is important information that tells you when the sign is in effect during specific times of the day and the week. Lastly always look for the word  “except” on the parking sign. If a sign has and except written on it” and you’re driving a private passenger vehicle, it generally means to keep it moving. It is common to see signs like No Standing “except” commercial vehicles or No Standing “except” trucks loading or unloading.

Since New York City traffic rules require only one sign for each block, drivers should check the whole block and read all signs carefully before even attempting to park. You can find parking sign information and signs at specific locations using the traffic sign database or the DOTMap. On the map, you will have to zoom into the street level of the location you want to view and then select “Parking Signs” from the GIS Layers menu on the right. If there is construction or a recent update to parking rules, the database information may not be current. Always follow the posted signs.


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