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Accessible Pedestrian Signals: Charlotte, NC

Project Abstract

This case study is one of nine case studies on accessible pedestrian signals posted by Pedestrian and Bike Information Center. These studies describe experiences of US cities that have installed Accessible Pedestrian Signals. Some of these cities have a long history of installing APS; others have more recently installed APS at one or two intersections. This and each case study includes information on the municipality's history of APS installation, process and procedures, types of devices installed, dates installed, installation, maintenance, and evaluation issues, and contact information.



nc 1:  An early Polara installation in Charlotte.
An early Polara installation in Charlotte.
History and background Charlotte began installing pushbutton-integrated APS in 1999 after discussion with the Charlotte/Mecklenburg Advocacy Council of People with Disabilities Committee. Approximately twelve intersections with forty-two pushbutton-integrated APS devices are now installed. Before that, pedhead-mounted APS had been installed upon request; current staff are not sure when those devices were installed or how the decision was made to install them. They state that they are replacing current "chirpers" with pushbutton-integrated devices.
Orientation and Mobility specialists helped evaluate APS products in advance and made recommendations to engineers.
Process and procedure APS are requested by citizens and installed after review by staff of Metrolina Association for the Blind. In general, devices are installed in the order of request, depending on how much construction is involved.
The Charlotte/Mecklenburg Advocacy Council for People with Disabilities Committee and the Metrolina Association for the Blind serve as liaisons between the person who is visually impaired and the city.
Funding City council approved $95,000 in a restricted fund that is carried over year to year for purchase of equipment. The installation cost is covered in the normal budget. The public and individuals who are blind were involved in making the request for funding and getting it approved.
APS type and features Pedhead-mounted devices before 1999
Pushbutton-integrated devices from Polara Engineering since July 1999
APS features (pushbutton-integrated device installations):
  • Speech WALK indication
  • Vibrotactile WALK indication
  • Raised tactile arrow
  • Pushbutton locator tone
  • Actuation indicator
  • Pushbutton information message
  • Automatic volume adjustment in response to ambient sound

Installation issues The first generation Polara device did not accommodate pre-timed or "ped recall" locations. It was designed to look for a logic common signal from the controller. Using instructions provided by Polara, city technicians in the signal shop modified the printed circuit board, including adding a resistor and two jumpers. This being done, the devices were usable in these situations.
A simple jumper setting has addressed this problem with the newer Polara product. The first generation Polara (installed at four locations) was also more labor intensive to install. Installers drilled holes in the top of the device to accept conduit on wood pole locations.
The newer version Polara Navigator has addressed all installation concerns.
When it is necessary to install new poles to locate the device more appropriately, it takes longer and more funds, because traffic engineering has to coordinate with various departments to fix curb ramps and work around other utilities. Installation can be time-consuming when a new pole is needed.
Maintenance No problems reported.
In early installation where two devices were on the same metal pole, it was possible to feel the vibration during walk on both devices at the same time (separate walk phases). This was solved by insulating between the device and pole. A speaker problem was resolved by improving the installation method through efforts between the City Electronics Tech and the manufacturer.
Evaluation The Public Service Department has no complaints regarding the devices. However, staff of Metrolina Association for the Blind received some complaints about the noise level of the locator tones, especially in residential areas. The volume can easily be adjusted.
The City of Charlotte placed in the top ten U.S. cities in the Accessible America contest a year ago and in the top seven this past year. Metrolina Association for the Blind has provided very favorable input and review of this project. Communication between all agencies involved has made this project a success.
Contact Tamara (Tammy) Drozd, Signal System Specialist City of Charlotte NC 600 East Fourth Street, Charlotte, NC, 28202-2858 Phone: 704-336-4385 - Fax: 704-336-4400 E-mail: tdrozd@ci.charlotte.nc.us
More information:
http://www.walkinginfo.org/aps/14-26.cfm

 An early Polara installation in Charlotte.     
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An early Polara installation in Charlotte.
Recent Polara Navigator installation.     
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Recent Polara Navigator installation.


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