Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Traffic safety messages on traffic signal boxes (Florida Department of Transportation)

Traffic signal boxes are often used as a medium for protest posters.  While I did see official use of this medium in Essen, Germany, mostly it's unofficial, like this signal box near Union Station.

In the past I've written about using traffic signal boxes as "canvases" for art treatments.

These kinds of programs are exploding, for example recently media have covered such campaigns in Toronto ("Traffic signal boxes reimagined as works of art," Toronto Star) and Spokane ("Spokane Arts installs second round of local traffic signal box art," Pacific NW Insider blog).

The Northeast Florida/District 2 section of the Florida Department of Transportation is testing "wraps" of traffic signal boxes to communicate messages about how to use pedestrian crossing signals ("FDOT launches pilot crosswalk program in Jacksonville," News4 Jacksonville).

From the story:
The Florida Department of Transportation wants people walking through crosswalks to pay more attention to signals that are designed to help them get safely across the street. Jacksonville is the first place where DOT officials are attempting a new method: wrapping large traffic control boxes with instructions to help make the crosswalk signals more visible at 10 intersections across town.
Photo courtesy of the Florida Department of Transportation.  Note that FDOT's District 2 has a simple and direct blog covering current actions.

Pedestrians can push a button at a crosswalk to get safely across, but officials said people weren’t always noticing the buttons on the poles. Many are hard to see or are simply ignored, they said. DOT's solution is to make the signals hard to miss at 10 intersections with high levels of pedestrian traffic.
Officials have wrapped large boxes near the poles with large-print instructions that include visual aids and the slogan, “No regrets when you cross with care.”
I think the FDOT initiative could be extended to include other types of traffic safety and transportation messages.  For example, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation has developed a series of traffic safety messages that they mail to county households.

Eugene, Oregon has a project called "History Here," using the boxes to display cultural history interpretation posters.  (Although I also suggest such a function being appropriate for transit shelters and stations.)

But the Florida DOT and Eugene, Oregon initiatives show us another way to think about what can often be unattractive elements of the streetscape, and there are ways to improve how they look, limit the potential problems of graffiti on this element of street furniture, while communicating traffic safety messages or other information.

But putting these messages in the public space, such as by using otherwise underutilized often well located traffic signal boxes, in places where people are walking, biking, or driving errantly may make more sense.

... not that I have anything against art projects for traffic signal boxes.

Some of the projects even use transportation themes.

Stamford, Connecticut.  New York Times image.

graffiti adorned

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At 12:32 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

Great point!

I hate those boxes.

But they are a very essential element -- electricity -- and can also be used for your various ideas on signage.

(Imagine if you can electrify the various police call boxes and historic signs as well)

At 11:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Google street view Barclay MD SE corner of MD313 and MD302. I'm pretty sure theres some kind of utility box and they're also using it as kind of a low-budget gateway sign.

At 7:20 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Very interesting. Thanks.

Looking at the image, do you think they built a small marker/sign in front of the utility box, to hide it? So it's a little different than the Carrollton TX example.


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