Tag Archive

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency

Accessible Pedestrian Signals – Are They Working For You?

Accessible Pedestrian Signals – Are They Working For You?

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.

Get In-Touch with MAD Lab’s Tactile Intersection Crossings and Attend a Workshop, April 8

Get In-Touch with MAD Lab’s Tactile Intersection Crossings and Attend a Workshop, April 8

By Kathy Abrahamson, Director of Rehabilitation Services
We’re pleased to announce that we received a Safety – It’s Your Turn community grant from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) to support safer left turn education and encourage walking and biking, especially for San Franciscans who are blind or have low vision. Part of the outreach for the Safety – It’s Your Turn education campaign is to raise awareness of the new “left turn calming” intersections designed to slow drivers as they make left turns on the streets of San Francisco. These newly designed intersections use small speed bumps and vertical barriers to encourage drivers to slow down, square their left turns, and watch for people in the crosswalk. Currently there are seven such intersections in San Francisco. 
For this project, LightHouse Orientation and Mobility Specialist, Sarah McIntyre and the talented designers of Lighthouse’s Media and Accessible Design Lab have developed a tactile diagram of this new “left turn traffic calming intersection as well as a book of 13 detailed tactile diagrams of intersection types that may be found around San Francisco’s streets. Both of these tactile references are being made available to blind and low vision San Franciscans at no charge to the first sixty who contact the LightHouse with interest of obtaining a copy, and, participating in an informational workshop about these resources. 
The Tactile Diagram Workshop will be held Thursday, April 8 from 3:00 – 4:30 pm via Zoom. Invitation is open to those San Franciscans who have received a book of diagrams. The workshop will provide an overview of the intersections and basic information in how to use and read the diagrams. Each book provides information in both braille and large print. An electronic version of the text information from the book can be provided upon request. San Francisco Unified Orientation and Mobility Specialists are encouraged to ensure a copy for their students for supplemental training and support.
The goal of the project is to provide overall knowledge of the availability of tactile maps so that travelers who are blind or have low vision have the best understanding of their city streets and we graciously thank the SFMTA for the ability to produce the books for our San Francisco blind and low vision community. If you are a San Franciscan who is blind or has low vision and would like one copy of the LightHouse Tactile Intersection Book, along with the supplemental traffic calming intersection diagram, please email Briana Kusuma, LightHouse Program Associate at BKusuma@lighthouse-sf.org. Briana will send one copy (per person/household) via Free Matter for the Blind and sign you up for participation in the April 8 Tactile Diagram Workshop. For those persons who would like to purchase a copy of this book, please visit Adaptations, the LightHouse Store online, email adaptations@lighthouse-sf.org or call 1-888-400-8933.
For more information about the Safety – It’s Your Turn campaign visit VisionZeroSF.org/leftturns.

It’s Your Turn: LightHouse partners with SFTMA to make San Francisco a Safer City for All

It’s Your Turn: LightHouse partners with SFTMA to make San Francisco a Safer City for All

Making your way through busy city streets can be difficult for any pedestrian, but let’s face it, even more so for someone who is blind or has low vision. Between all the one-ways, left turns, U-turns, and unforeseen construction detours, at times it can feel as though your safety is being challenged by the ongoing street traffic. The city of San Francisco is working to keep all its residents and visitors safe, whether you are in the car, on public transportation, or on foot.

With that in mind, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) has launched its newest campaign entitled, “Safety—It’s Your Turn.” It is partnering with LightHouse to create a safer and more accessible city environment for all San Francisco travelers.

The shocking truth about traffic fatalities in the city is this: 40% of all fatal San Francisco traffic accidents in 2019 involved drivers making left turns. Drivers need a clearer indication of when pedestrians are crossing with enough time to stop. These tragedies are completely avoidable with a few seemingly minor changes to the way the city conducts traffic. SFMTA has centered the focus of their safety campaign specifically on left turns. For starters, the city has installed trial left turn guide bumps as a “calming” strategy. Similar to speed bumps, these left turn guide bumps are meant to incentivize drivers to slow down. This will allow the driver enough time to make complete left turns at the intersection, where the crosswalk and crossing pedestrians are in plain view. The goal of the campaign is not only to encourage better driving behaviors and increase the safety on the street for everyone, but hopefully to instill a sense of security and increase the number of cyclists, runners, and walkers in San Francisco.

Although we are always taught via general traffic rules that the “pedestrian has the right of way,” that unfortunately does not necessarily ensure their safety. It is our responsibility as pedestrians, both sighted and blind, to educate ourselves, be aware of our surroundings as much as possible, and to err on the side of caution when it comes to travel. As part of the Safety—It’s Your Turn campaign, SFMTA has partnered with LightHouse and a number of other community-based organizations throughout the city to provide more education and information regarding left turn safety and traffic protocol.

At LightHouse, our highly skilled Orientation & Mobility instructors have been reaching out to our community of blind and low vision city travelers to provide training and information to our mobility students. Along with tactile diagrams and accessible information designed and produced by our very own MAD Lab, LightHouse has been a viable resource in bringing awareness of the SFMTA safety campaign and building the confidence in independent travel skills of the local blind community.

To learn more about Safety—It’s Your Turn you can visit the SFMTA website. To inquire about orientation and mobility lessons with LightHouse call 415-431-1481 or email info@lighthouse-sf.org.

To get your hands on the accessible safety guides and tactile left turn diagrams, you may contact Briana Kusuma at BKusuma@lighthouse-sf.org or call 415-694-7335.