Installation Issues

Issue 1. APS volume (louder is not better)
Issue 2. Location, location, location
Issue 3. Which signal? Speech indications necessary
Issue 4. Wrong pole …Wrong message
Issue 5. Tactile arrow (In-line)
Issue 6. Pre-timed installations (an APS is more than a pushbutton)
Issue 7. Repair/replacement (put it back right!)
Issue 8. Rest-in-WALK installations (quiet time OK)
Issue 9. Reach (how far?)
Issue 10. Braille (right side up!)
Issue 11. Good vibrations (vibrotactile indications)
Issue 12. Audible beaconing
Issue 13. Stub poles
Issue 14. Inspection (beware of field changes)
Issue 15. Installation errors increase risk


Issue 1: APS volume
Louder is NOT better. It is common to find APS volumes set so loud that the pushbutton locator tone and audible walk indication can be heard at midblock or across the street -- or in a quiet office or bedroom nearby. This can lead to neighborhood as well as user concerns, since excessive volume will mask other sounds that are important to pedestrians who are blind (such as the sound of traffic surges or the indication of another APS on the same corner). 

An APS signal should be audible at the beginning of the crosswalk, but no more than 3.7 m (12 ft) from the pushbutton, or to the building line, whichever is closer (2003 MUTCD). Technologies that broadcast from above require higher- volume settings to be effective, and often are labeled neighborhood nuisances. Modern pushbutton-integrated devices provide the signal right where it is needed -– at the departure curb –- so it needs to provide only a 2-5 dB gain over ambient noise to signal the pedestrian interval. Click or tick tones are less apt to annoy and are more detectable in traffic noise than the older cuckoo/chirp outputs.9 They are also less likely to be confused with a bird.10 11

Remedy: When APS noise annoys, reduce the signal volume. Volume adjustments differ by manufacturer: some devices can be set through a hand-held PDA, while others require adjusting set screws on a control board mounted in the pedestrian signal head. APS volume should be set individually at every location. Note that nearby building facades or other hard surfaces that reflect the APS signal may actually cause the APS to increase in volume in reaction to its own sound, if the sound or ambient sound response is set too loud. Sound baffles may also be necessary in some locations. It’s important to adjust the APS and listen carefully. For particularly difficult situations with very near neighbors or nearby hard reflective surfaces, consider a change in sound type from a beep to a tick or click, which may be less annoying to listeners.

In most devices, the pushbutton locator tone volume and the WALK indication volume are set separately, and each has a minimum/maximum range. If there is a lot of traffic noise at some times of the day, the maximum volume of both the pushbutton locator tone and the WALK indication may need to be relatively loud, near 90 dB. However, the minimum volumes could be set in the 30 – 40 dB range to avoid annoyance at night, or when traffic volumes and ambient sound levels are low. 

The response-to-ambient sound operates in conjunction with the volume settings, but is usually set separately. If the ambient sound adjustment is set to respond at 15 dB over ambient, APS are likely to be too loud when there is noise at the intersection, even if volume is appropriate for times when the intersection is quiet. The 2003 MUTCD specifies a sound volume at least 2, but no more than 5, dB over ambient. 

The installer or an assistant should walk approximately 10 feet away from the device and listen to its volume during fluctuations in traffic before finalizing the volume adjustments. The installer should also listen from a distance of approximately 30 feet away. If adjusting an APS requires opening the pedestrian signal head to get to the control board to make the sound adjustments, the pedhead should be closed, and all reflective materials, such as ladders, should be moved away before this ‘final listen.’

Issue 2: Location relative to the crosswalk

An APS that is mounted outside the crosswalk area may provide misleading information about the crossing location. Pedestrians who are blind may stand beside the pushbutton while waiting to cross, particularly if they use the vibrotactile indication.

 

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Figure 5: APS is located about 8 feet from the crosswalk and curb ramp landing.

In the situation pictured in Figure 5, pedestrians who begin their crossing beside the pushbutton would be outside the crosswalk lines and may not be anticipated by turning drivers. 

If the pedestrian who is blind also encounters the median island and stops, there is no APS or pushbutton on the median to call a WALK to complete the second half of the crossing. Since the APS is not close to the crosswalk and curb ramp, the volume of the audible walk indication and pushbutton locator tone must also be louder in order to be heard from the crossing location. 

Remedy: One solution is to move the pole closer to the crosswalk lines, so the device is in reach of the landing of the curb ramp and adjacent to the crosswalk. This will assist pedestrians who are blind in finding the APS pushbutton and in beginning crossing from within the crosswalk area.

In existing streetscapes, without a median, it may also be possible to widen the crosswalk (and adjust the stop line accordingly) to eliminate the offset. 

Vehicular signal poles are rarely in optimal position for mounting APS pushbuttons. A better choice is to provide an individual stub pole or pedestrian signal pole at the top of every curb ramp. Where the sidewalk is separated from the curb, use a returned curb rather than a flare at the ramp (good for wayfinding, if properly aligned) and locate the stub pole within the border adjacent to the landing at the top of the ramp. For recommended pedestrian pushbutton locations at a variety of ramp types, see Chapter 6 in Special Report: Accessible Public Rights-of-Way, Planning and Designing for Alterations, which was developed by a subcommittee of the Public Rights-of-Way Access Advisory Committee (PROWAAC).

Issue 3: Which signal? Speech WALK messages necessary

In numerous installations evaluated in the field, where two APS were mounted on the same pole, installers failed to customize the messages and used the manufacturer’s default message, ‘WALK sign is on’. With two APS located closer than five feet to each other, it is impossible to distinguish which one is sounding based on the location and direction of the sound. Pedestrians standing at one crosswalk could mistake the message of the other crosswalk for their indication to begin crossing.

  Photo of island with two APS mounted on a signal pole between the two cut-through sidewalk paths. Callout box pointing to one device says: Pushbutton message: Wait to cross Grand at Howard. Wait. Speech walk message: Grand, Walk sign is on to cross Grand. Callout box pointing to other device says: Pushbutton message: Wait to cross Howard at Grand. Wait. Speech walk message: Howard, Walk sign is on to cross Howard.
 

Figure 6: Example of pushbutton information messages and speech walk messages, if two APS must be mounted on the same pole Alterations only.

 

Remedy: If possible, move the APS to separated poles, each close to the crosswalk it controls and indicates (see Figures 3 & 4). 

In Figure 6, it appears that the required APS separation (10 feet minimum) could have been achieved here by locating stub poles to the left side of the left ramp and the right side of the top crossing. That would have provided much less ambiguous information for pedestrians using these crossings. While a common pole can be made to work, it should not be the selected solution where separated poles are possible. 

Mounting two pushbuttons on the same pole will require ordering and installing -- in the proper device! -- custom speech chips for both the WALK message and the pushbutton information message to identify, by name, the street that the device controls. Some manufacturers provide equipment so jurisdictions can record their own messages. If used, care must be taken in recording messages with proper wording and clear speech.

Speech messages should include the street name and use this tested format: ‘Howard. WALK sign is on to cross Howard’. A pushbutton information message (activated by an extended button push) must say: ‘WAIT to cross Howard at Grand. WAIT.’ (See Figure 6). In addition, the APS should include Braille street name identification and a tactile arrow, carefully aimed to be in line with the crosswalk lines.12

Issue 4: Wrong pole! …Wrong message!

In Figure 7, APS have been installed on the wrong poles. The APS on the pole in the left of the photo has an arrow pointing toward the street on the right in the photo. Since the APS is closer to the departure curb and curb ramp for crossing straight ahead (in line with the photographer’s direction of travel), a pedestrian hearing the sound from that APS would expect that the APS governs that crossing, and may not even be able to hear the further distant APS that is actually for the crossing he/she intends (in the foreground of Figure 7).

Photo of crossing, looking across street from sidewalk, with street parallel to photographer on right.  Pushbutton with arrow pointing toward the right side of the photo (toward parallel street) is on a pole on the left side of the photo, beside the landing and curb ramp for the street in front of the photographer.  Another pushbutton is located on a large signal pole in forefront of the photo, with arrow pointing toward street in front of photographer, close to the ramp for the parallel street, but more than 15 feet from the street the arrow points toward.

Figure 7: Installation where APS are installed in wrong locations; both are too far from street they control and will be heard as closer to the other street.

 Photo of crossing, looking across street from sidewalk, with street parallel to photographer on right. Pushbutton with arrow pointing toward the street in front of the photographer is on a pole on the left side of the photo, beside the landing and curb ramp for the street in front of the photographer. Another pedestrian signal pole is located on the right side of the photo, beside the curb ramp for the street to the right in the photo.

 Figure 8: Installation where APS are installed in correct locations in relation to crosswalks.

Remedy: Each APS should have been installed on the pole closest to the crosswalk it controls, as shown in Figure 8 (pushbutton for street on right is on the back side of the pole, out of view from photographer’s angle). For example, the APS for the crossing on the right in Figure 7 should be installed on the pole near the right side of the photo, and on the side of the pole toward the curb ramp, but still reachable from the level sidewalk. This will allow pedestrians to push the button and then hear the APS at the crosswalk departure point. The APS on the pole to the left in Figure 7 should be installed parallel to the crosswalk that it controls (the one straight ahead in the photographer’s view). 

It may be possible to realign the APS on each pole and reconnect the wiring. However, APS can be wired to a control board in the pedestrian signal head or through the controller, so it may be necessary to move the pedestrian signal head (or to completely rewire each APS) to conform. The wiring and device output needs to be checked after modification to assure that the APS is signaling the correct crossing phase. 

If the APS has a speech message, the APS needs to be moved to the pole closer to the crosswalk it signals, which will also require reversing the arrow and signs on the APS housing. If speech WALK messages or pushbutton information messages are installed, the functioning and accuracy of both should be checked after re-installation of APS devices. 

Installation of the APS on a stub pole or separate pedestrian signal pole, as shown in Figure 8, rather than on a mast arm pole, is likely to provide better placement.

Issue 5: Tactile arrow (in line)

 

On left side of photo, APS pushbutton unit with tactile arrow is mounted on a large pole. Crosswalk line extends across street slightly to left; arrow angles right toward center of intersection.

 

Figure 9: Tactile arrow not aligned with crosswalk direction.

 

On right side of photo, APS pushbutton unit with tactile arrow is mounted on a large pole. Crosswalk line extends across street in line with arrow and pushbutton unit.

  Figure 10: Location where tactile arrow is aligned with direction of travel on the crosswalk.
   
  APS that was damaged in a crash and temporarily reinstalled with wire. Description:  Photo with pole on right and intersection visible to left.  Several strands of wire are wrapped around the pole and APS unit.  The APS aims diagonally across intersection.
 

Figure 11: APS that was damaged in a crash and temporarily reinstalled with wire.

 

At an intersection corner, a man on a scooter is leaning far to his left to try to reach a pushbutton that is located in a grassy area behind a raised curb. It is a couple of feet out of reach.

 

Figure 12: In this new construction, APS is located too far from the sidewalk to be reached by a user of a wheelchair or scooter.

 

Photo of crossing, looking across street from sidewalk, with street parallel to photographer on left. Landscape strips are located between the sidewalks and streets. Pushbutton with arrow pointing toward the street in front of the photographer is on a pole on the right side of the photo, in the landscape strip at the edge of the sidewalk and landing for the street in front of the photographer. Another pedestrian signal pole is located on the left side of the photo, in the landscape strip beside the curb ramp for the street to the left in the photo. Sign and pushbutton are on the back side of pole, barely visible in photo.

  Figure 13: APS installed on poles in the landscape strip, and still within reach from a level paved sidewalk surface.
 

Closeup photo of sign above APS. Pedestrian symbol is centered on sign, with small print label and Braille below it.

 

Figure 14: Braille sign installed backwards, with manufacturers’ label showing. Label includes street name and print of how Braille should look. Braille beneath arrow is backwards version of the print version shown on label and is indented, rather than raised.

Misleading wayfinding information will be conveyed if the tactile arrow is oriented toward the center of the intersection, rather than parallel to the crosswalk. In the photo below (Figure 9), the arrow is out of alignment with the crosswalk direction. Even small misalignments can inadvertently direct a blind pedestrian outside the crosswalk area or into the parallel traffic.

Remedy: The APS needs to be removed and reinstalled. The arrow must be aligned with the direction of travel on the crosswalk (2003 MUTCD).

Since the tactile arrow is on the face of the device or on the pushbutton, the APS mounting affects arrow alignment. If the needed adjustment is minor, it may be possible to shim behind one side of the device to align the arrow with the crosswalk. In other cases, it may be necessary to drill new mounting holes and reposition the APS on the pole. The arrow should be aligned as shown in Figure 10.

Issue 6: Pre-timed signals (an APS is more than a pushbutton)

Since pedestrians don’t need to use the pushbutton to get a WALK signal at pre-timed signals or where pedestrian signals are on recall, some transportation professionals have concerns and questions about installation of pushbutton-integrated APS at those locations. 

The pushbutton locator tone in a pushbutton-integrated APS provides access to other information provided by the APS unit: the vibrotactile WALK; the tactile arrow for wayfinding; tactile mapping; if provided, and messages and actions available with an extended button push, such as audible beaconing or an extended crossing time. Thus pushbutton-integrated APS should be installed at pre-timed locations even if it is not necessary to use the pushbutton to call the WALK. 

Some pedestrians may push the pushbutton when it is unnecessary, but that is not really a problem if the pushbutton is beside the crossing departure location. Regular intersection users will come to understand that they don’t have to push the pushbutton. If the actuation light is lit when the call is made, pedestrians who can see the actuation indicator will be able to recognize that the pedestrian call has already been made.

Remedy: Pushbutton-integrated APS are typically wired to the pedestrian signal and function as the pedestrian signal functions. APS, in typical operation, provide relatively quiet sounds from a location beside the crosswalk. Previous concerns about APS at pre-timed locations in downtown areas mainly stemmed from too-loud signals mounted on pedestrian signal heads, which echoed off buildings.

Issue 7: Repair/replacement (put it back right!)

An APS that was knocked down in a crash was reinstalled by workers who did not know how the device was supposed to function. After reinstallation, the APS was turned 90 degrees from its prior placement, and the tactile arrow was no longer pointing at the street the pushbutton controlled. The WALK message was provided at the wrong time for the street toward which the arrow pointed.

In another situation, shown in Figure 11, the APS was temporarily reinstalled, still functioning, but oriented incorrectly. It was several weeks before a crew reinstalled it properly. Meanwhile it provided inaccurate information. When the APS is not correctly installed, there is a risk that a person who is blind will cross a street with the wrong WALK indication or in the wrong direction.

Remedy: All maintenance personnel need to know enough about APS installations to recognize an APS, and to either call someone to check details of reinstallation, or to correctly re-install the APS themselves. Training is needed to avoid dangerous errors in reinstallation or repair.

Issue 8: Rest-in-WALK (quiet time ok)

In some locations, the pedestrian signals ‘rest-in-WALK’ and it may not be desirable to have the WALK indication repeat constantly during the long walk interval, because the WALK indication is a more constant sound than the locator tone. 

Remedy: Draft PROWAG and proposed MUTCD language provides specific exceptions for ‘rest-in-walk’ situations.The audible WALK indication can be set to sound during the first seven seconds of the walk interval only and then revert to the locator tone. If someone presses the pushbutton during the walk interval, the WALK message can be set to sound again for seven seconds, or as long as the remaining time in the WALK, whichever is less. The vibrotactile indication usually vibrates during the entire walk interval. 

When ordering APS for use in rest-in-WALK locations, or where pedestrian signal is on recall with long walk intervals, designers should check that the manufacturer offers options for rest-in-WALK settings. 

Issue 9: Reach (how far?)

APS devices can be located in landscaped areas if the pushbutton is reachable from a level paved area. Figure 12 shows a location where new APS (and new sidewalks) were installed, but the APS are not usable. Besides the inaccessibility for wheelchair users, a person who is blind will have difficulty finding and getting to the pushbutton, even with the pushbutton locator tone sounding. 

Remedy: Installation in landscaped areas must be carefully planned and monitored for accessibility. APS should be within the reach range (1.2 m/48 inches vertically, .25m/10 inches horizontally) for an individual who uses a wheelchair (draft PROWAG, R404). The APS shown in Figure 13 are appropriately located within the landscape strip, reachable from a paved level surface, and aligned with the crosswalk lines.

Issue 10: Braille (right side up?)

Where the APS device includes the street name in Braille, care must be taken to install the signs in the correct location and orientation. 

Manufacturers usually impress the Braille into a standard metal sign attached to the APS housing. The typical sign includes print arrows and pedestrian symbols, often on both sides of the sign so that it can be flipped over to be installed on either side of the street. However, when Braille is added, the sign can no longer be reversed. Flipping the sign results in indented and backwards Braille symbols, which are unreadable.

Remedy: Braille is made up of small dots in a grid which are raised on the surface to be read by fingertip. Contractors and installers need to know that the Braille dots should be raised and should check all labels and instructions carefully.

Manufacturers may provide a paper tape label, showing the street name in print and in Braille, on the back side of the sign. The print label is not intended to be visible after the sign is mounted on the pole. In Figure 14, the label can be seen on the outside of the device. Careful inspection reveals that the actual Braille (below the arrow) is indented and all symbols are reversed from those shown on the label. This is not readable by touch! Braille dots must be raised, not indented.

A person who reads Braille could be asked to assist in checking the labels after installations. If the installation agency is not in contact with someone who reads Braille, individuals may be located through vocational rehabilitation agencies, schools for the blind, special education departments of public schools, or consumer groups.13 

Issue 11: Good vibrations (vibrotactile indications)

APS device usability is compromised if the vibrotactile indicator doesn’t vibrate during the WALK. The vibrotactile indication provides WALK signal information for pedestrians who are both visually and hearing impaired and also may be used by pedestrians who are visually impaired (with normal hearing) to clarify or confirm which street’s audible WALK is sounding. 

Where mounting two APS on one pole can’t be avoided, take care to ensure that the activation of the vibration of one device doesn’t cause vibration of the device for the perpendicular crossing.

Remedy: The functioning of the vibrotactile indication needs to be carefully checked before installation is considered complete and should be a part of regular maintenance checks. 

Troubleshooting: If the arrow does not vibrate during WALK, there are several potential areas to check:

  • the basic settings of the device;
  • wiring to the vibrotactile feature; and
  • attachment of the arrow to the device. 

The vibrotactile indication can be turned off in some devices by a setting either on the control board or within the PDA device. Check settings to be sure vibration is on. Vibrotactile indications may have separate wires to attach in order to enable the feature. If those wires are not attached properly, or are attached to the wrong places, or are pinched when reclosing the device, the arrow may not vibrate properly. 

If the plate holding the arrow is screwed in, over-tightening the screws can prevent the vibration. If the arrow is attached with glue, as found on some manufacturers’ APS, too much glue under the arrow can prevent the vibration of the arrow. The arrow needs to be glued down, but it also needs to contact the vibrating plate. It seems to work best to put a thin layer of glue around the outside edges of the recess, then insert the arrow and align it with the direction of travel on the crossing the device indicates. 

If the arrow seems to be vibrating during flashing or steady don’t walk and there are two devices on the same pole, the devices are probably touching each other and causing vibrations. Installing insulation between the pole and the APS and between the two APS will probably remedy the problem.

Issue 12: Audible beaconing
Audible beaconing -- providing a louder audible WALK signal in order to provide directional guidance to pedestrians who are blind -- is not needed at all intersections or during every pedestrian phase. If installed at inappropriate locations, or incorrectly adjusted, audible beaconing can provide confusing or even dangerous information. 

In the pedhead-mounted APS models installed in the US over the past 30 years, sounds were broadcast simultaneously from overhead speakers at each end of the crosswalk and at two parallel crosswalks at an intersection. Research now shows that pedestrians are not able to use the signal for directional information.14

Even with today’s newer technologies, audible beaconing (or a too-loud signal volume) from an APS at a ‘porkchop’ island with a channelized right turn lane may lead a pedestrian who is blind to cross the channelized turn lane, thinking it is signalized after hearing the audible WALK indication. And at locations where two parallel crosswalks are timed separately, such as locations with split phasing, a loud signal can lead a pedestrian to begin crossing with the wrong crossing indication.

Remedy: New types of APS allow calling a louder signal by holding the pushbutton in for more than one second, so audible beaconing is a feature that can be called ‘on request’. This allows a pedestrian who is blind to decide when a louder signal might be helpful and limits the impact of sound on the neighborhood.

Proposed MUTCD has recommendations for audible beaconing in section 4E.06. 

Recent research has shown that a louder locator tone during the flashing DON’T WALK, from a speaker at the opposite end of the crosswalk from the pushbutton where audible beaconing was requested, improves performance in ‘ending within the crosswalk.’15 

Issue 13: Stub poles

Photo from sidewalk looking across street with street parallel to photographer on left. Pedestrian is crossing the street. Pole on right in photo, with two pushbuttons on it, is over 10 feet to the right of the crosswalk line. A fire hydrant is located between pole and crosswalk.

Figure 15: APS is located on mast arm pole more than 10 feet outside the crosswalk lines. In addition, a fire hydrant is between the crosswalk location (and the curb ramp) and the APS.

Photo from sidewalk looking across street with street parallel to photographer on left. Pole and fire hydrant are on right in photo. Additional small pole, about 4 feet high, is located near the crosswalk line, about 2 feet from the curb; APS is installed on that pole.

Figure 16: Stub pole was installed to locate APS near the crosswalk.

By installing APS on existing poles without careful evaluation of usability and function, jurisdictions may be obviating the benefits such devices provide. In the location shown in Figure 15 (a pre-timed intersection), the APS was installed on the available mast arm pole, resulting in an installation in which the APS volume had to be set to be quite loud in order to be heard at the crosswalk and where using the tactile arrow and vibrotactile WALK indication could result in a hazardous crossing. 

In addition, the street names are similar -- Penn and Tenth -- and it is quite difficult to discern which is being announced in the speech WALK message, particularly at the crosswalk for crossing Tenth (the street to the left in Figure 15), where the APS is too far from the street.

Remedy: In a similar location, shown in Figure 16, a stub pole was installed within five feet of the crosswalk in order to place the APS in a usable location. A signal pull box was already in the sidewalk area near the new stub pole location, so concrete work was minimized. Stub poles are commonly used in some jurisdictions. 

Requirements for wiring and for mounting poles vary in different areas of the country. Flexibility in requirements may make it easier to install usable facilities for pedestrians.

Some examples of stub pole installations across the US:

Four photos of poles that are about 4 to 6 inches in diameter and short (less than 4 foot high) with APS installed. First photo shows pole that looks like a pipe installed in sidewalk with a flat base and four bolts into the concrete. Second photo shows a similar pole with a 12 inch square base and a rounded cap on the pole. Third photo show a capped pole just mounted into the concrete. Fourth photo shows a green pole with a flared 12 inch base and a decorative pointed metal cap on the short pole.

Figure 17: Examples of stub poles – different materials and installation.

Issue 14: Inspection of contractor’s work - Beware of field changes!

 

View of corner from the middle of the crosswalk, looking West, with parallel street to photographer’s right. APS are visible on pole on left side of crosswalk behind the sidewalk, and on another pole to the right of the crosswalk, also behind the sidewalk. Arrow on APS on right aims northwest. Sidewalk slopes down to a perpendicular ramp with a good deal of cross slope.

 

Figure 18: APS and curb ramps that were not installed as designed.

 

View of corner from the middle of the crosswalk, approaching the corner. Curb ramp is directly in the middle of the crosswalk with a steep cross slope from the right; both pedestrian signal poles and pushbuttons are to the left of the crosswalk behind raised curbing at the back of the sidewalk. An APS for the crosswalk is visible with arrow pointing toward the right of the photo (should be aligned toward the photographer).

 

Figure 19: Another view of the same corner. Note shifting slopes and cross slopes on the ramps in addition to poor APS location.

 
A man stands on a corner beside a pole, with a white cane in his left hand and his right hand on top of an APS on the pole.
 

Figure 20: Deaf-blind user stands with his hand on the original APS to feel the vibration in order to know when to begin to cross.

 
Two men stand beside a pole on a street corner. One has his arm on top of an APS pushbutton and his other hand under the hand of the second man. A woman is to their right gesturing. APS are visible on two sides of the pole.
 

Figure 21: Orientation and mobility specialist explains the APS to two individuals who will be crossing there (two APS on same pole). One crossing is a few feet to the left of the photo; the other is approximately 20 feet to the right, straight ahead of individual standing with his arm on top of the APS.

 
Graphic of sidewalks and crosswalks at one corner of an intersection, (representing northwest corner), overhead view, streets are across bottom and right of drawing. One pole near the left side of the graphic is shown, with two APS mounted on it. The pole is near the ramp and crosswalk for a crosswalk labeled B(to cross street across bottom of graphic). Pedestrian is shown facing toward the right of the drawing, waiting on the curb ramp to cross the street that is also on the right side of the drawing, labeled crosswalk A. APS for that street is back by the curb ramp for the other street.
 

Figure 22: When two APS are mounted on an existing signal pole, one is poorly located. The pushbutton for crosswalk B is near the crosswalk, but the pushbutton (and vibrotactile arrow) for crosswalk A is a long way from the crosswalk.

While design drawings showed level landings and APS beside the level landings and crosswalks, the finished construction did not match the plans. At the location shown in Figures 18 and 19, the contractor made some decisions in the field that affected the usability of the APS and the curb ramps. 

The APS to cross the street that is on the right in Figure 18 is not located according to the plans and the arrow points to the curb ramp, rather than being aligned with the direction of travel on the crosswalk. The poor location is more easily seen in Figure 19, taken from across the street. A red circle highlights where the pedestrian signal pole was supposed to be installed. 

By the time the designer saw the installation, however, and noted the lack of compliance with specifications and with ADA requirements, the inspector had signed off on the job. The contractor and inspector both need to understand APS installation and use before making decisions in the field about revisions to plans.

Issue 15: Installation Errors Increase Risk
This account shows clearly why it’s critical for installers to understand how APS work and something about how pedestrians use them -- particularly when the APS is installed in response to a user request. 

Some years ago, a city highway agency was contacted by a pedestrian who requested that an APS be installed at an intersection he crossed twice a day, going to and from work. He was a colleague of a local orientation and mobility instructor, who emphasized the urgency of the need in follow-up communications with the DOT, as one of the streets was a busy arterial. 

After a lengthy wait, APS were installed for all crosswalks of the intersection. On one corner, the APS were installed on the wrong poles (as discussed in Issue 4) and the tactile arrows had also not been installed, but the orientation and mobility specialist explained to the user which buttons were intended for which crosswalk, and he was able to use them satisfactorily. However, after a few months he began complaining that the APS were no longer working. Technicians checked the devices more than once and didn’t find any problems. 

Eventually, the pedestrian and the DOT signal technicians arranged to meet at the site. Demonstrating the APS, the technician said: “See? The button ticks so you know it’s there. When you press the button, the light comes on to let you know that it’s working. When the WALK signal begins, you hear a fast ticking sound”. After the interpreter signed that information in the pedestrian’s palm, the user shook his head sadly and signed back: “I am 100% deaf. I am 100% blind. I need the signal to vibrate.” The vibrotactile feature on the APS was not working and the technicians hadn’t noticed. (See figure 20).

After several more attempts to correct the installation and many months of delay that led to the filing of an ADA complaint against the agency, the DOT’s ADA coordinator reported that a replacement APS from a different manufacturer had been ordered and installed. 

When the ADA coordinator went to check the installation, however, he realized that the APS on one corner of the intersection, while installed on two separated poles, were still installed on the wrong poles (see Issue #4). He had the mistake corrected; each APS was moved and reoriented on the pole close to the crosswalk it controlled. At a subsequent meeting with the deaf-blind user and the orientation and mobility specialist at the intersection, the pedestrian demonstrated how he used the APS. Using the now ‘wrong’ pedestrian pushbutton, he prepared to start his crossing … but no one had told him that the APS had been switched to the correct poles. Before he could step into the street, he was stopped, and the change of the APS was explained to him. He paused, stepped back and looked dismayed, and then signed: “If you switch them again, please inform me!”

On the other corner, APS for the two different crossings were both installed on one pole, as shown in figure 21 and 22. The distance to the crossing (on crosswalk A) results in other problems. While there, it was noted that the Flashing Don’t Walk (FDW) signal also was extremely short – so short (3 seconds) that it was possible for a pedestrian to leave the pushbutton and prepare to cross the street while the vibrotactile indication was still active, but step into the street after the FDW had ended. 

This timing issue is complicated by the fact that the pedestrian pushbutton for THIS crossing is well over 10 feet from the street (see figures 21 and 22). It takes this deaf-blind pedestrian nine seconds to get to the crosswalk after detecting the vibrotactile signal. After he arrives at the departure curb, it takes him 18 more seconds to complete the crossing. 

Because the FDW is much shorter than the pedestrian needs for crossing, he cannot be confident of having enough time to cross unless he waits to start until the beginning of the WALK vibration, which causes him unnecessary delay. For this individual and APS location, the pedestrian clearance time should be set at 27 seconds. While signal timing here meetsMUTCD minimums, the engineering of an accommodation like this, installed in response to a request, must be based upon individual use (Title II of the ADA requires that jurisdictions alter policies, practices and procedures when necessary for accessibility.16) To complete an effective accommodation for this pedestrian, a stub pole should be installed at the second crosswalk, so the two APS can be separated and each APS will be located close to the crosswalk it controls. 

Another confusing complication here is that while the visual pedestrian signal comes on for each cycle, and the APS vibration for crossing the street from one direction comes on for each cycle, the APS vibration for the same crosswalk from the other direction comes up only in response to a pedestrian call (button press). This requires the pedestrian to use different strategies in timing of his button press at each corner, or he might start his crossing too late in the phase. At the corner where the vibration comes on with each cycle, he crosses at the beginning of the vibration. At the APS which requires a button press, if it starts to vibrate when he presses it, he needs to wait until the next cycle, because it could begin vibrating halfway through the walk interval. He must wait until it finishes vibrating, then press it again and start to cross as soon as it starts to vibrate for the second time in order to be sure he has enough time to cross. This inconsistency is the result of a simple incorrect setting in the APS, which needs to be changed so that the APS on each end of the crosswalk work in the same manner. 

Small details can add up to big differences in the usability – and safety! -- of APS devices. The jurisdiction is still working on correcting the problems, more than 6 years after the APS were first requested. Meanwhile, the requestor continues to cross this street to and from work, as he’s done hundreds of times since his first request to the city. His risk is his safety; the city’s risk is that unreasonable delay may be seen by the courts as discrimination.