The minute something doesn't work, somebody says it has to be that way because there's not enough money to do it right.
This may be. But a great deal can be done by applying the intelligence of a bright 10-year-old to the problem, as I shall convince you in an example or two.
Chevy Chase Circle: People are forever crashing into something when entering the circle from Maryland. Any nitwit who has ever entered the city on Connecticut Avenue can see why. After no telling how many accidents, the authorities have hung a sign saying Circle Ahead, up at the level of the moon. Many will never see it, concentrating on the traffic at ground level. Those who do see it may have no idea what Circle Ahead means.
Solution: Erect a reasonably large sign two blocks before the circle, PREPARE TO STOP. The driver does not need to know there is a circle. He needs to know he must be ready to stop. Nearer the circle the YIELD sign may be effective. But for somebody arriving from Montana, the urgent message is to get ready to put on the brakes.
Subway: When trains stop at a station, blocking the view, it is often impossible to find a sign telling which station it is. This is particularly true if a train coming the opposite direction is also stopped -- a thing that happens all the time. This could be corrected by painting a few more signs. It could have been avoided in the first place if more gifted people had been chosen to handle the subway graphics.
Another unnecessary source of passenger anxiety arises from the lack of signs as one descends the escalators. There is enormous space available at the entrance to the stairways, and above the stairways, and even at the bottom of the stairways. As it is, you get to the bottom of the stairs and start looking around. The first post, with small lettering, points you merely to Silver Spring or Shady Grove. You go some feet further and the second post tells you, in small letters, which side you catch the train to Tenleytown.
Apart from the natural anxiety of the passenger who sees trains coming and has no idea whether to leap on, rush-hour crowds make it difficult to reach the second post. All this could be avoided by having large placards for passengers to glance at, before reaching the train platform itself, or, at least large placards on the platform.
If designers could not figure this out in their heads, as a bright toddler could, they could examine the system in London, where it is fully impossible to go wrong, even if you've never used that subway system before.
National Airport: It was, of course, sublimely stupid not to run the subway all the way to the terminals. But even as it is, it would be a help to have large readable signs in appropriate places telling people who are getting off the trains exactly how to walk the half-mile to the terminal or exactly where to catch the free shuttle buses. Signs are the answer in every civilized city in the world except this one.
Auto Inspection: From time to time people heat up and deluge the Letters to the Editor columns with complaints about hours-long waits. An investigation of how all city officials, feeding at the taxpayers' trough, get their own cars inspected would probably be quite entertaining. The present inefficiency of long lines (I speak of my last experience in them) can be explained by lack of money to hire more inspectors, etc., etc., but the real reason is that citizens lack a well-organized militia to march on City Hall. My most recent experiences at renewing a driver's license (a very happy experience indeed, to see how efficiently that office is managed) shows that city offices can be changed for the better without spending fortunes.
The improvement in the noise level of garbage collection (formerly the men screamed and roared at dawn beneath every bedroom in the capital) is a perfect example that tremendous improvements can be made primarily by applying a few brains to the problem, and hiring a few managers who comprehend management.