Case study — Newton, Massachusetts
Date: July 2003
History and background
APS were installed at the major intersection in Newton, Massachusetts in 2001, as part of a major signalization upgrade project, and at the recommendation of the Mayor's Committee for People with Disabilities (Mayor's Committee). This is Newton's first experience with this signal type.
Process and procedure
New construction and signal up-grades
When new signals are installed in Newton, the Mayor's Committee considers whether they should have accessible pedestrian signals. Their recommendation is then referred to the departments of Public Works and Planning. For example, when signalization at an intersection is being upgraded from a flashing beacon to full signalization, input is obtained from the Mayor's Committee.
Handling individual requests
Individual requests are referred simultaneously to the Mayor's Committee and to the Traffic Council. The Traffic Council is required to respond to requests by making a decision within 12 weeks.
Consultation with local agency for the blind
The City Traffic Engineer also consults with an orientation and mobility specialist at the Carroll Center for the Blind regarding the need for APS and for suggestions regarding the most appropriate type of APS for a particular intersection.
APS in Newton were funded jointly by Public Works and Planning, with a portion of the cost being covered through the Community Development Block Grant program.
The City of Newton currently has $10,000/yr earmarked for APS.
Description of intersection
The APS were installed at a complex intersection with high pedestrian and vehicular traffic counts. At this intersection, three crosswalks share the same exclusive pedestrian phase timing:
- One is a mid-block arterial crossing;
- One is a minor street intersecting the arterial in a "T", near the mid-block crossing;
- The other is across a third street that enters the arterial diagonally, close to the "T" intersection of the minor street.
Because of abundant turning traffic during all vehicular phases, there is no safe crossing time for pedestrians, except during the exclusive pedestrian phase.
APS type and features
Pushbutton-integrated APS manufactured by Bob Panich Consultancy.
- WALK indication — audible rapidly repeating tones
- Vibrotactile WALK indication
- Pushbutton locator tone
- Alert tone
- Tactile arrow
- Automatic volume adjustment in response to ambient sound.
Figure 9-5. Panich APS at mid-block crossing, Newton, Mass. APS should have been mounted on side of pole closest to crosswalk, with arrow parallel to crosswalk rather than pointing up.
At another intersection at which APS were installed, a stub pole was installed in order to locate the pushbutton properly for one crosswalk.
Installation presented no technical difficulties.
Initially the APS volume was set so loud at one location that the WALK signal was audible from a nearby intersection, possibly leading pedestrians at that intersection to believe they had the WALK interval when they did not. The volume was turned down several months after the APS were installed.
Although the basic requirement in Newton for conduit in public rights-of-way is a 36" trench, actual construction may be less than 36" depending on site conditions. It is important that such an installation be based on direct field knowledge, rather than be designed in the shop.
No maintenance, except for volume adjustment, has been necessary since the audio-tactile pushbuttons were installed. Weather does not seem to affect their performance, and there has been no vandalism.
The APS have been well-received by blind users, and there have been no objections from neighbors.
The APS are in a small business area, not close to any residences.
City Traffic Engineer
City of Newton, MA
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