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Section 4: Accessible Pedestrian Signals Guidelines

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The purpose of this section is to provide guidelines for the installation of Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS).

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An APS is a device that communicates information about pedestrian signal timing in non-visual format such as audible tones, verbal messages, and/or vibrating surfaces - Texas Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (TMUTCD).

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In June of 2002, the U.S. Access Board released a draft document entitled Draft Guidelines for Public Rights-Of-Way. These draft guidelines required APS systems at all new signalized intersections where pedestrian signals are installed. In July 2011, the Proposed Accessibility Guidelines for Pedestrian Facilities in the Public Right-of-Way, also known as the PROWAG, was issued. The PROWAG also included requirements for APS to be installed where pedestrian signals are provided.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that when pedestrian facilities are provided, they must be usable by all pedestrians. While the PROWAG has not been finalized by the U.S. Access Board nor adopted by the U.S. Department of Justice or U.S. Department of Transportation, it does provide a useful framework to meet our obligations to make our programs, services and activities in the public right-of-way readily accessible and usable by all individuals, including those with disabilities. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) stresses that the draft guidelines should be considered as best practices and the state of practice and should be followed regarding issues not covered by the existing ADA standards.

The following recommended practice is based on the above mentioned draft guidelines that were developed through the FHWA.

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Recommended Practice

Until such time that further rules or regulations are provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), FHWA, U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ), the U.S. Access Board, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR), the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO), or others, the installation of APS will be in accordance with the guidance that follows. This recommended practice is subject to change and will be updated as needed. Additionally, the Intersection Prioritization Tool Worksheets (See Appendix C) based on National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Project 3-62 should be utilized to evaluate signalized intersections for the need of APS based on comparative need. Priority to install APS systems will also depend on whether the signalized intersection is considered to be part of new construction, part of a modification project, or an existing installation as defined below.

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  • New Construction - New construction of traffic signals is considered either the installation of a new traffic signal at a previously non-signalized intersection or substantial replacement of a traffic signal. If pedestrian signals are installed, the traffic signal shall be designed and equipped with APS for all crosswalks that are to be equipped with pedestrian signals. Installation of APS will not be considered at intersection approaches where an engineering study has determined that pedestrian signals are to be prohibited. However, the designer should take into consideration that a non-visual format to prohibit pedestrian crossing (some sort of physical means of prohibiting the crossing such as railing, heavy vegetation, etc.) should be provided in addition to crossing prohibition signs.
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  • Traffic Signal Modifications - Traffic Signal Modifications are considered to be the modification of an existing traffic signal at an intersection. If there are existing pedestrian signals, or pedestrian signals are being added as part of the installation, the design shall include the installation of APS. Installation of APS will not be considered where pedestrian crossings are physically prohibited. Minor signal modifications, such as installation of left-turn signal heads, modification of existing signal phasing, or installation of vehicle detection systems that do not require substantial reworking of the intersection signal poles or wiring would not require a redesign of the intersection as mentioned above. The PROWAG states that existing pedestrian signals shall comply with APS requirements “when the signal controller and software are altered, or the signal head is replaced.”
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  • Existing Traffic Signals - TxDOT districts will schedule an evaluation of all existing signalized crosswalks at signalized intersections under their jurisdiction. Evaluations will include completion of the Intersection Prioritization Tool worksheet. Crosswalks should be evaluated to determine a priority for the installation of APS. The scores should be arranged in order from the highest to the lowest. Crosswalks with scores in the top 50 percent and associated with a specific request should be considered high priority. Districts shall develop a plan for installation of APS at all intersections with existing pedestrian signals based on the order established by the determined priority. Additionally, evaluations will be made when there is a written request for a specific intersection(s). Evaluations that result in a high priority or are associated with a specific request should be scheduled to have APS installed. At the completion of the high priority or specific request projects, the district should review the plan and move toward completing all APS installation.
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  • Engineering Judgment - Based on the engineer’s judgment, a higher priority may be given to the installation of APS at a crosswalk than an initial evaluation of the crosswalk would indicate.
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Engineering Study for APS

An engineering study of signalized intersections for each TxDOT district is needed to determine priority for providing APS at pedestrian signals. The Intersection Prioritization Tool should be completed by engineering staff. However, the study may include the input of an Orientation and Mobility Specialist. The Texas Workforce Commission, Vocational Rehabilitation Services, can be a good point of contact for consultants on orientation and mobility. TxDOT districts should develop a plan for upgrading pedestrian signals based on the priority established by the engineering study.

The TMUTCD provides the following information on the APS study:

Guidance: If a particular signalized location presents difficulties for pedestrians who have visual disabilities to cross the roadway, an engineering study should be conducted that considers the needs of pedestrians in general, as well as the information needs of pedestrians with visual disabilities. The engineering study should consider the following factors:

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  • Potential demand for accessible pedestrian signals;
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  • A request for accessible pedestrian signals;
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  • Traffic volumes during times when pedestrians might be present, including periods of low traffic volumes or high turn-on-red volumes;
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  • The complexity of traffic signal phasing (such as split phases, protected turn phases, leading pedestrian intervals, and exclusive pedestrian phases); and
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  • The complexity of intersection geometry.”

Research information indicates other considerations to study. According to the NCHRP publication Accessible Pedestrian Signals - A Guide to Best Practices:

“Too little traffic is as great a problem to pedestrians who are blind, as is too much traffic. In the absence of APS, blind pedestrians must be able to hear a surge of traffic parallel to their direction of travel in order to know when the walk interval begins. Locations that may need APS include those with:

Where these conditions occur, it may be difficult for pedestrians who are visually impaired or blind to determine the onset of the walk interval by listening for the onset of parallel traffic, or to obtain usable orientation and directional information about the crossing from cues that are available.”

There are potential traffic conflicts associated with signalized pedestrian crossings to be aware of whether audible APS systems are installed or not. These include: vehicles still clearing the intersection when the audible signal comes on, vehicles that fail to stop for the red light, motorists who stop and make a right turn on red while watching to the left and failing to notice pedestrians on their right, and vehicles that may turn right or protected on the same phase as the pedestrian.

Adjustments to vehicular phases and allowable movements, including prohibiting right turn on red, may need to be incorporated into the overall intersection operation. It may even be questionable whether the audible signal interferes with the sight impaired traveler’s ability to listen for these possible conflicts. These potential conflicts require that due caution be used when crossing a street whether there is an audible signal or not. Speech messages should never indicate that it is safe to cross, but rather that a walk light is on.

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Design Considerations

The draft Americans with Disabilities Act Revised Draft Guidelines for Accessible Public Rights-of-Way include specific requirements for pedestrian signals and a comprehensive list that the designer should review.

The TMUTCD, Section 4E. “Pedestrian Control Features” also covers many of the design requirements of APS systems. As with any traffic control device, the TMUTCD should be reviewed when designing accessible pedestrian signals. For example, the TMUTCD indicates that the push buttons should be separated by 10 feet and located near the curb ramp they serve, preferably at the landing for the curb ramp.

The APS units require mounting with proper orientation to direct pedestrians across the street.

The Accessible Pedestrian Signals - A Guide to Best Practices, which was developed by the NCHRP, is very comprehensive in regard to all aspects of APS. It goes into extensive detail regarding all aspects of APS and is recommended as a reference for APS design considerations.

APS have undergone several advancements throughout the years. The most current devices are the push button integrated systems. With these systems, the speaker, push button, and vibro-tactile arrow are all contained in the push button housing. Placement of the push button/APS is critical to the proper operation of the system. The pedestrian uses the arrow on the APS for orientation in crossing the street. The button stations serving adjacent crosswalks at the same corner require separation so that the user can tell which crossing is being served with a walk indication. The APS provides a locater tone and “walk” tone; the cuckoo and chirp tones are no longer considered effective. These systems have the capability to adjust to ambient noise levels and can be configured so that they are only discernible from a specific distance from the intersection, posing less of a noise issue for the surrounding environment. In consideration of the above, it is critical in design to locate the pushbuttons and crosswalks such that the installation of APS will be effective.

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When specifying an APS, it is necessary to know what will be needed at the crossing. It is recommended that a push button integrated APS system be specified. These systems have all the TMUTCD required features such as locater tones, volume control, vibro-tactile arrows, etc. Contact TRF for assistance with specifications.

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2011 Texas Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (TMUTCD)

July 26, 2011, Proposed Guidelines for Pedestrian Facilities in the Public Right-of-Way (U.S. Access Board)

NCHRP 3-62 Accessible Pedestrian Signals: Synthesis and Guide to Best Practice

Texas Accessibility Standards

Transportation Research Record, Journal of the Transportation Research Board, No. 1982, pp. 13-20, titled, “Development of Intersection Prioritization Tool for Accessible Pedestrian Signal Installation”

Accessible Pedestrian Signals - A Guide to Best Practices, Developed under the sponsorship of the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (

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Intersection Prioritization Tool Worksheet

The Intersection Prioritization Tool provided through the link and available from the Traffic Safety Division was recreated from National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) 3-62 research. The worksheets are a product of NCHRP 3-62 and are published in the Transportation Research Record, Journal of the Transportation Research Board, No. 1982, pp. 13-20, entitled “Development of an Intersection Prioritization Tool for Accessible Pedestrian Signal Installation”. The Intersection Prioritization Tool consists of two worksheets.

The Intersection Prioritization Tool provides a method of scoring individual crossings for relative crossing difficulty to visually impaired individuals. This provides a method to compare crossings for priority for installation of APS systems. In general, if one crossing generates a high priority, it would be desirable to provide APS for all crossings at the intersection.

The detailed instructions on the correct method for filling out and completing the worksheets are available on the internet at

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