City Trying Out Smart Crosswalk

Before long, so-called smart crosswalks may soon be providing safer paths across busy streets for Thousand Oaks pedestrians.

The city is experimenting with its first technologically advanced crosswalk, located next to Amgen Inc.'s facility in Newbury Park. If the early results are positive, the new traffic signal system could start appearing in other Thousand Oaks locations.

When pedestrians are present, a smart crosswalk does not look very different to someone in a moving car. However, when a pedestrian passes through a laser beam at either end of the crosswalk, the system triggers a yellow flashing light a few hundred feet away.

Lights also blink on the crosswalk sign and the street itself, outlining the crosswalk.

The flashing lights help alert drivers in both directions that there may be people crossing the street.

Jim Mashiko, associate civil engineer for the city, said that before a crosswalk is installed, the city looks at traffic conditions, such as vehicle speed, number of pedestrians and visibility. Those factors would be considered before a smart crosswalk would be installed.

Also, the advanced technology's high price tag means that the city would have to be judicious with how many it installs.

"This is more involved than just putting paint on the road," Mashiko said. "Something like this is around $20,000 apiece. You can't just put them on every corner at that cost. These things are intended to be put at locations with a high volume of pedestrian crossings."

One street where such crosswalks may appear is on Thousand Oaks Boulevard, where the city is in the early stages of planning renovations. The crosswalks could make it easier for pedestrians to cross without forcing traffic to stop for lights.

Mark Asturias, Thousand Oaks housing and redevelopment manager, said the city would have to talk to business owners and merchants to determine whether they would want the smart crosswalks there.

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