As part of a PennDOT improvement project, the pedestrian signals at Market and Chestnut streets between 30th and Schuylkill Avenue have been upgraded with an automated-voice feature telling pedestrians when it is safe to cross the street. According to Plan Philly, the automated-voice signals have had mixed reviews. While the audible cues are intended to increase pedestrian safety by making it clearer when it is safe to cross, some people maintain that the signals are confusing, and that they are sometimes difficult to hear over the volume of traffic and other ambient noise.
This is not the first time that Philadelphia has implemented automated-voice pedestrian signals, however. Philadelphia first experimented with a vocal signal in the 90’s. The voice of this signal? Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who recorded an audible pedestrian signal message during a visit to the city. Between 1997 and 2006, his voice advised pedestrians that it was safe to cross Broad Street at a few intersections in the Temple University area of North Broad.