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FHWA Home / Safety / Pedestrian & Bicycle / San Francisco PedSafe Phase II

San Francisco PedSafe Phase II

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2. Countermeasure Implementation

This chapter discusses the deployment of the countermeasures. It first presents an overview of the countermeasures and the installation challenges. Also presented is a comparison of the countermeasures in terms of cost and device availability. A description of each individual countermeasure, its purpose, the setting for each San Francisco installation, device availability and approval status, cost information, and key issues are presented in Chapter 3.

2.1. Overview of Installation Challenges

Phase II involved the installation and evaluation of a broad range of pedestrian safety measures, from nearly routine signal timing changes to customized infrared and video detection equipment. However, there were several common challenges that the San Francisco team faced:

2.2. Comparison of Countermeasures: Ease of Implementation

Four countermeasures proved especially challenging to deploy:

All involved procurement or deployment of sophisticated electronic equipment that engineering staff and electricians were not highly familiar with. All required customized design layouts.

The portable radar Portable Changeable Message Speed Limit Sign required extensive staff support for several reasons. First, comprehensive testing and adjustment were necessary after delivery to ensure that the device worked properly. Second, it required a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the SFMTA and the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD), as the latter stored, maintained, transported, and set up the device. Third, it required continuing coordination between SFMTA and the SFPD, including scheduling deployment to coincide with data collection. Finally, to avoid vandalism and to heighten the novelty impact of the device, it was moved to different sites on a daily basis, requiring extensive labor.

The primary challenge with the Changeable Message Speed Limit signs was to locate them on poles where they could both utilize existing electrical power and also be effective and visible. Additionally, the devices required extensive fine-tuning by SFMTA electricians, primarily to adjust the detection zone.

The video detection of pedestrians to extend crossing time was a completely innovative use of the technology, which Econolite believes is the only U.S. application of this type. A customized detection zone scheme and logic for adjusting the signal timing had to be developed, tested, and refined, and the Econolite Autoscope detection software needed to be coordinated with the D4 traffic signal controller software.

The flashing beacons with infrared bollards required the most substantial construction of any countermeasure, and included installation of conduit and wiring the device across a four-lane arterial street. This required investigation of possible conflicts with high-risk utilities (including contacting numerous utility providers). While individual components (the detection bollards and the beacons themselves) were commercially available, the combination was custom-designed. The detection bollards included an in-surface activation device (ISAD), which was not widely in use. The detection bollards’ effectiveness was highly sensitive to their location and placement.

2.3. Comparison of Countermeasures: Costs

The overall cost of this project was slightly greater than $1.1 million, including $681,000 in federal funding. The federal funding averaged roughly $120,000 per year.

The total costs of the nearly six-year-long project included the following rough estimates:

Design of Countermeasures:$145,000
Installation/Deployment Labor:$125,000
Materials and Equipment:$ 95,000
Data Collection & Evaluation:$225,000
Other Program Management Costs:
(including planning and design of
countermeasures not installed)

It should be noted that San Francisco construction and labor costs are substantially higher than the national average. On an annual basis, the project cost was actually a relatively small share of the total San Francisco public expenditures for pedestrian safety planning, design, enforcement, and outreach/education.

The federal funding was limited in comparison to the unit cost of higher-cost pedestrian safety countermeasures. This influenced the selection of countermeasures.

If this project were replicated with a focus strictly on improving pedestrian safety cost-effectively, the data collection/evaluation and other program management costs could be substantially lower than the above rough estimates. These costs were driven partly by an extensive data collection and analysis effort using extremely labor-intensive video observations and a major intercept survey of over 1,000 pedestrians. “Other Program Management Costs” include primarily SFMTA costs for such items as: preparation of major technical reports, progress reports, and contract documents; planning and design work on countermeasures that were never implemented; meetings and tele-conferences with FHWA and SAIC (including several site visits); preparation of invoices and financial reports; internal progress reporting; work planning meetings and memos; coordination with other projects and departments; and background research activities directly related to the project.

Cost estimates provided in the body of this report include: materials/equipment, installation labor, and engineering/administration labor. This includes shop and engineering/planning labor from conceptual design through fine-tuning and initial operations/maintenance. (See Table 2.3-1 for a summary of estimated capital costs. Additional detail is provided in Chapter 3, including a breakdown of estimated costs into materials, installation labor, and engineering/administrative labor. San Francisco construction costs tend to be significantly higher than national averages.)

It was not possible to track costs precisely due to the accounting system limitations. Material/equipment costs are precise figures, whereas labor costs are based on careful estimates by key project staff. Labor costs also include overhead and fringe benefits.

The Portable Changeable Message Speed Limit Sign and the outreach program carried significant operating costs for operating personnel but, once installed, other countermeasures did not require personnel for operation except for small modifications and maintenance for many of the devices. In general, the labor costs far exceeded the equipment and materials costs.

The least expensive countermeasures in total per-unit costs were the “LOOK” pavement stencils ($300 per stencil) and the “TURNING TRAFFIC MUST YIELD TO PEDESTRIANS” signs ($800/sign). The retroreflective materials averaged less than $3 per item, but several thousand were distributed. The most expensive countermeasures were the video detection system to adjust signal timing (out of pocket costs of $17,300) and the flashing beacon with automated (infrared) detection ($62,600). Although several other countermeasures appear to be higher, the video detection costs as listed are significantly understated since the PedSafe project did not pay for the video detection camera equipment or its initial installation, and substantial technical assistance was provided free of charge by Econolite, the manufacturer of the equipment.

Table 2.3-1
Summary of Estimated Capital Costs

(including installation labor, materials/equipment, and engineering/administrative costs)

Countermeasure Estimated Total
Cost Per Unit
Unit Operations/Maintenance
Needs and Other Notes
In-Street Pedestrian Sign $1,800SignHigh level of damage if not on
raised island
$800SignLow level of maintenance
LOOK Pavement Stencils $300StencilSignificant level of fading.
Modified Signal Timing $2,600IntersectionNegligible maintenance costs
(beyond fine tuning)
Pedestrian Head Start Signal Timing
(“leading pedestrian interval”)
$2,600IntersectionNegligible maintenance costs
(beyond fine tuning)
Red Curb Zone/Advance Limit Lines $2,000IntersectionAverage for intersections, some with
and new red curb zones. Engineering/
Admin. Costs increased by need for
legislative approval of red curb zones
Flashing Beacons: Push Button Activated $21,000CrosswalkModerate level of maintenance
Flashing Beacons: Infrared Activation $62,600CrosswalkModerate to high level of maintenance
Portable Changeable Message Speed
Limit Sign
$40,200 Sign with TrailerIncludes estimated one-year of
operation, as the operating costs
can easily exceed equipment costs
Fixed Radar Speed Sign$12,000 SignModerate level of maintenance
Automated (Video) Detection of
Pedestrians to Adjust Crossing Time
$17,300IntersectionOut-of-pocket costs much lower than for
new installation, since project “borrowed”
existing camera and vendor donated design
and installation time. Moderate to high level
of maintenance needed.
Median Refuge Island$8,600 IslandLow level of maintenance needed.
ADA Curb Ramps$27,000 IntersectionLow level of maintenance needed.
Retroreflective Clothing Accessories$2.69 ItemCost heavily dependent on specific item.
Video PSA Production $1,200ContractOnly includes contract cost for vendor
to record voices and produce copies

In general, the engineering/administrative costs were quite substantial, and often exceeded the material/equipment costs and the installation labor. The engineering/administrative costs for the first-time use of a technology are often much higher than continuing costs. Therefore, the listed costs, especially for the most innovative or complicated countermeasures, would not be good predictors of future costs for new installations.

2.4. Comparison of Countermeasures: Availability and Standard Use

All countermeasures were explicitly or implicitly consistent with the Federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) and the California MUTCD. It was not necessary to obtain special approval to experiment with any of the countermeasures from FHWA or the California Department of Transportation. Several countermeasures considered experimental when initially proposed by the San Francisco team were added to the MUTCD in the 2003 revision. Formal local approval from the Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors and the County Board of Supervisors were required for visibility red curb zones.

The following countermeasures are considered approved or standard devices or treatments and are now widely used in California, although they were regarded as innovative when they were initially proposed:

The following countermeasures are in limited use as “off the shelf” products, but not considered experimental:

The following countermeasures were “custom-made” and involved innovative technologies, although they did not require approval as formal experiments:

6The LOOK pavement stencils included a Chinese-English stencil that was custom designed by SFMTA staff, working with the vendor.


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Page last modified on February 1, 2013
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