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LED Street Name Signs

To make streets safer for pedestrians at night, we experimented with the use of street name signs lit by LED lights.

During our pilot, we hung signs at a few locations in Downtown Crossing, a vibrant mixed-use neighborhood.

Why we did this

As part of Boston’s Complete Streets agenda, the City is exploring new ways to make its streets safer for pedestrians. The City heard a lot — especially from visitors — about how Boston’s curvy streets are hard to navigate. This was true for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers. The City was interested in finding new ways to make key intersections more legible, and streets more inviting.

The experiment

Our hypothesis? Illuminated street name signs can help people navigating less familiar neighborhoods.

In the winter of 2012, the City hung street name signs at three locations in Downtown Crossing. We illuminated them with high-efficiency LED (light emitting diode) technology. They could be seen at night from several hundred feet away. These 3- to 4-feet long by 1 foot tall signs were 35% bigger than the street name signs in the area.

To make the signs, we used three separate vendors after reaching out to a variety of sign companies. The signs — which were free — were tested for about a year. In that year, the City learned what it would take to maintain them. Also, local residents and businesses were able to offer to offer feedback.

Results and lessons learned

Scaling up

Based on the signs’ popularity, we plan to scale up these signs throughout Downtown Crossing in 2013-2014. This project is funded through the Streetscape Innovation Fund.

Creating better signs

City staff, based on their experience with the two initial signs, re-drafted the specifics for signs before the full roll out. This re-working of the details will make the signs easier to hang and maintain.