Case Study — Portland, Oregon

Date: July 2003

History and background

Figure 9-3. APS mounted over 12 feet high on the pole broadcast speech messages at this location in Portland. City engineers expressed concerns about intelligibility of the message.

The City of Portland has had some form of audible pedestrian signal for over 20 years. In installing these devices, staff worked closely with the requester to identify specific needs.

During the past five years the City has greatly expanded its program. By mid-2003, the City had 53 signalized intersections with some form of audible signal.

The City of Portland was awarded a Pedestrian Project Award for 2003 from ITE and the Partnership for a Walkable America. The award was for the Elderly and Mobility category for Portland's project to retrofit existing signals with APS.

Process and procedure

A formal policy was established in 1996.

Key points of that policy:

In mid-1999 the requests for audible signals outstripped City resources for the program. A citizens advisory committee (CAC) was activated to review and rank the requests.


From 1996 through 2000, the City used approximately $150,000 in general transportation funds to install APS. That funding source for APS has been lost. To continue with new installations, the City received over $200,000 in transit mobility funds from the local transit agency. However, that grant expires in July 2004 and no replacement funding source has been identified yet.

APS types and features

Figure 9-4. Vibrawalk pushbutton installed in Portland includes a locator tone. The arrow vibrates during the WALK interval and WALK indication is provided from pushbutton or speaker mounted on the pedhead.

Pedhead-mounted at numerous intersections. Pushbutton-integrated at two intersections.

Pedhead-mounted devices manufactured by Novax and Mallory

Pedhead-mounted APS features

Pushbutton-integrated devices, manufactured by Polara Engineering and Campbell Company, have been installed recently with locator tones and additional features.

The City of Portland has also evaluated the Vibrawalk pushbutton manufactured by Novax Industries.

Special features

Portland staff has worked with manufacturers on developing features:

In 1999, the CAC and City staff expressed a desire to find lower cost options so that more intersections could be treated. City staff received approval from the CAC to install lower cost Mallory devices. Since the Mallory device has neither automatic volume adjustment nor Button Activated Timer, city staff is careful to use the device only in locations that are that are not close to residences.

Date installed

Between 1970's and present


Installation varies greatly from intersection to intersection. Portland transportation engineering staff reports that the largest problem faced is with existing infrastructure. The aging transportation system makes installing new wires in old, undersized conduits a challenge. Location of existing poles also poses a problem. As intersections evolve throughout their life span, poles for pushbutton locations are often located in areas that are less than desirable for accessible pedestrian installations.

Obstructions, such as utility and sign poles, also are a significant challenge. These obstacles often make placement of pushbutton locations difficult, translating into higher installation costs.

Proximity of poles, in relation to one another, also has to be taken to account. Volume level of the "WALK" cue and locator tone must be loud enough to tell pedestrians to go, but quiet enough to not give a false "WALK" cue to someone at a conflicting ped lane. This can be difficult at intersections with odd configurations, such as islands with separately actuated ped lanes.


Maintenance of equipment has been almost a non-issue. There have been few maintenance problems although it should be noted that most of the equipment with electronics mounted in the pedhead or pushbutton is relatively new. These installations are only one to six years old so there is not a long maintenance history on those devices.


Portland tested a variety of WALK indications

Community Response/reactions:


Bill Kloos, Signal and Street Lighting Manager
Portland Department of Transportation
1120 SW 5th Avenue / Suite 800
Portland, OR 97204-1971
Phone: 503-823-5382

Jason McRobbie, District Electrician
Portland Department of Transportation
1120 SW 5th Avenue / Suite 800
Portland, OR 97204-1971
Phone: 503-823-1773

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