By Sheri Albers, Community Outreach Coordinator
Many years ago, during my initial Orientation & Mobility training, I was taught to cross an intersection by listening for the “surge” and always going with parallel traffic. This was in the days before an Audio Pedestrian Signal (APS). The intention of the APS was never to replace my learned blindness skills, but to enhance my safe travel experience. Sometimes when I am downtown in San Francisco, there is so much noise from people, music, or construction, that it can be difficult to discern the traffic patterns with an elevated level of confidence. Intersections are also more complicated due to the high volume of hybrid vehicles which eliminate the phenomena of the “surge” because there is a lack of sound. I am always relieved to find an APS as a backup to let me know that it’s safe to cross. I was also elated to learn of the vibration feature to notify DeafBlind people!
One of the organizational goals of LightHouse is to strengthen partnerships with state and local agencies, and advocate for our community. We have worked on many projects with San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), including the most recent “Safety – It’s Your Turn” Campaign to help make intersections safer for pedestrians as they are crossing streets when there are drivers making left turns. Discussions to increase communication with SFMTA on intersection safety ARE ongoing, and the focus has now turned to APS. LightHouse is concerned that there is a need for more APSs throughout the city, that there is little known about how to request an APS, and that the SFMTA website is confusing to navigate.
What is an Accessible Pedestrian Signal?
An Accessible Pedestrian Signal (APS) is a pedestrian push button that communicates when to cross the street in a non-visual manner, such as audible tones, speech messages and vibrating surfaces. Read more on the SFMTA website about APS.
Watch a short video where Polara partnered with LightHouse to show how APS work in San Francisco.
There was an SFMTA policy established in 2010 that required the transit agency to report to LightHouse on a semiannual basis the number of APS installations, status of request for APS, and status of APS maintenance requests. Through my discussions with the SFMTA APS Team, I was able to convey the importance of this report and re-establish this practice. These reports will begin to be distributed starting July 2022 and updated every six months.
Is there an intersection in San Francisco near you or the places you frequent that needs an APS? How do you request one?
There are two ways to request an APS. The first is to call 311. The second way is to fill out an online form at the San Francisco 311 Customer Service Center website. If outside the city, call 415-701-2311. When you call, all you need to do is submit your name, contact information, the desired intersection and the format in which you wish to receive a response. SFMTA will respond to you withing 90 days with the status of your request.
Is there an APS near in San Francisco that needs repair?
Any maintenance concerns regarding APS buttons, including volume, should be submitted by contacting 311 as noted above. SFMTA will make any necessary repairs typically within 24 hours of receiving the maintenance request.
Learn All About San Francisco APS by Listening to an Interview and Attending an Online Discussion
To learn much more about APS in San Francisco, please listen to my interview with Bryant Woo who is a Senior Traffic Engineer on the SFMTA APS team. According to Mr. Woo, as of March 31, 2022, 33% of all intersections with traffic signals in San Francisco have an Accessible Pedestrian Signal. SFMTA is proud to say that our city is the leader in the country for this statistic. Woo goes on to say, “We are not happy until we hit 100%!” If you have any questions for Mr. Woo about matters concerning APS, you may contact him by email at Bryant.Woo@sfmta.com.