The City of Parsons, KS is investing in its future with innovative smart city technology for critical safety assets. On Monday, Public Works, with the assistance of Wichita-based traffic equipment supplier Gades Sales, installed a new solar-powered crosswalk system at the corner of Main St and N 10th, a well-used pedestrian route linking the north and south sides of the community as well as two parks.
The new system, manufactured by Carmanah Technologies, is the first of its kind to be installed anywhere. Known in the industry as a rectangular rapid flashing beacon (RRFB), it uses high-intensity LEDs to signal to drivers when a pedestrian is present and waiting to cross. Traffic engineers selected RRFBs because they have been shown to result in driver yield rates as high as 98%—far better than the circular flashing beacons that were previously in place.
What makes Parsons’ new RRFBs stand apart is the addition of embedded connectivity, which allows city personnel to manage their systems remotely. The MX Series system comes with cloud-based software that can be used to monitor battery health, review event logs, and enable alerts that ensure optimal uptime and safety.
“It’s a boon for our team,” said Public Works Director, Darrel Moyer. “It used to be we had to rely on our citizens to tip us off to problems, which could mean a significant lag between an issue occurring and one of our guys getting out there to fix it. Now, I’ve got an alert coming in to staff phones as soon as something happens, so we can respond a lot faster.”
The new system also comes with a smartphone app that provides local system access, speeds installation, and makes for a convenient way to confirm the system is working as intended from the ground.
“The app eliminates a huge amount of work and expense,” said Moyer. “Things we used to need a bucket truck for—changing the flash duration, adjusting the intensity, even just checking the battery—we can now do in the app, without exiting our vehicle.”
Having the systems ‘online’ also means the City will be able to gain insight into their efficacy. Logging into the cloud, staff can view and download usage data like daily activation counts that can be used to demonstrate engagement and inform future investments.
“This is just another example of Parsons’ commitment to public safety” said Fred Hammack, Streets & Parks Supervisor. “We’re happy to take advantage of the effectiveness of RRFBs and novel technology to ensure the availability of a critical public safety installation, while reducing maintenance efforts.”
The crosswalk upgrade was funded by Parsons’ Public Safety Tax, which has been in place since 2014 and has funded a variety of improvements to emergency services and critical infrastructure. The tax is up for reapproval next month, but already the City is planning upgrades that will make Parsons safer to get around, regardless of transportation mode.