Nestled in the San Ramon Valley just east of San Francisco lies Danville, a town over 44,000 people call home. At three crossings along the Iron Horse Regional Trail, the trail network that cut through the town, thousands of vehicles interacted with heavy pedestrian and bicycle traffic every day.
Danville needed integrated crosswalk visibility solutions that would maximize pedestrian safety without being intrusive — all from one vendor.
I sat down with Danville Transportation Manager Andrew Dillard and Danville Traffic Engineer Majid Hafezieh to learn more about the pedestrian safety challenges their town was facing and how they addressed them.
Can you share a little bit about the three trail crossings that needed safety improvements?
ANDREW: The Iron Horse Trail has lots of bicycle and pedestrian crossings. It serves as both recreation and as a commuter corridor because we have some business parks to the north and south of us. There are a number of schools along the trail at these three locations too, so a lot of different types of users.
All three crossings do go through residential neighborhoods…on two-lane roadways that get a few thousand vehicles each day.
At this particular corridor, the trail users are required to stop before proceeding, so there was already a presence of STOP signs and stop legends on the ground. We also had a combination of old RRFB systems that were out of compliance and/or flashing beacon systems…for probably 15 years at those locations. They were from a hodge-podge of vendors.
"A lot of the jurisdictions here, we all talk to each other. It’s a small industry. We talk about how products are performing."
How did you decide what safety solutions to deploy? What was your search process like?
ANDREW: It was just a process of feedback over many, many years.
Majid worked with the local [TAPCO] rep here, German [Paniagua]. He’s awesome, and he’s so helpful. He and Majid worked on the project, and he mentioned this new product that was out called the SafeWalk® [Crosswalk Illuminator]. It had been tried at just a couple locations at the time.
We were very interested in that because…we always have that issue of nighttime visibility. The fact that [SafeWalk®] only comes on when it’s activated is great because, being in a residential neighborhood, it doesn’t mean that there are streetlights on all the time and shining in people’s windows.
In addition to the illuminator, we were looking for some way to come up with better solutions for trail users to stop and respect the stop signs. The new RRFBs we went with, along with the LED stop signs, was another great element to solve this other issue.
The fact that TAPCO integrates all those [products] seamlessly together through both passive activation and push button activation was exactly what we were looking for.
Are the SafeWalk® Crosswalk Illuminators, RRFBs and BlinkerStop® LED-Enhanced Signs AC or Solar Powered? Why?
MAJID: Basically, we went with AC power for some. The previous [RRFBs] were AC. Some of the area was challenging. We wanted to do the solar, but due to shadows we couldn’t find a spot at the intersection. It was just mix and match; I would say like 50/50. We haven’t had any issues so far.
ANDREW: We had tried several different companies over the years. TAPCO, frankly, just from a price competition standpoint, was the best. Also, TAPCO is a member of [OMNIA Partners, Public Sector], so that allows us to go out and purchase directly from TAPCO, which streamlines our process for getting these projects done.
I would say that probably the biggest thing is just the performance of TAPCO. A lot of the jurisdictions here, we all talk to each other. It’s a small industry. We talk about how products are performing. TAPCO seemed to really have been tried and true over the years, so it was a combination of all those things.
MAJID: One of the other reasons as far as TAPCO goes is we wanted to have one installation from one company, rather than various ones… We wanted to deal with one person who is aware of the safety and how the RRFBs are working. If something happens tomorrow, we can get a hold of the person. In the past, we had experience with a company that went out of business. So far, TAPCO has been good and, as Andrew mentioned, the pricing [was a factor].
What do you think of OMNIA Partners, Public Sector?
ANDREW: It streamlines the process, and we don’t have to go out and seek bids for the product. We can buy direct. In the traffic industry, it’s no secret that most traffic engineers and transportation planners, they know the product they want. You research it. You do your due diligence. When it comes to a product, you know what you want.
So, this really streamlines the process and allows you to get the product you researched, and you know what you’re getting. You don’t have to rely on a low bid for a product.
Even if we did have to go through that bidding process though, TAPCO is pretty competitive and close to the lowest price compared to other vendors that we’ve used in the past.
How did installation go?
MAJID: We have contract technicians. Some of the solar panels, in the past we had to order a new one, so I was kind of reluctant. Fortunately, in this case we didn’t have a hard time... So far, it’s been good. We are a year already past the installation. We haven’t noticed anything with that.
ANDREW: Did we go to an 80-watt panel on each side?
MAJID: One of the intersections, yeah, I think it has an 80-watt panel. It was a newer, smaller panel than the previous one.
ANDREW: Your typical RRFB installation requires a bit smaller panel. The fact that we were running three devices on each side – the [illuminator], the LED stop sign and then the RRFBs – is obviously a little more of a draw. We haven’t had any issues at this point as far as those failing or running out of power. It’s gone through one full winter season.
MAJID: The only concern we had was that the flood light [in the illuminator] at one intersection would maybe shine into somebody’s house, but that was easily handled. Basically, we faced the light in a different direction, more downwards into the pavement.
Would you recommend SafeWalk® to other towns? Why?
MAJID: Yes. The bicyclists like it. They’d rather not have to stop. Even at the time of installation, we had people coming up to us and talking to us and they were really happy, especially the bicyclists. They were also saying, “How come you don’t install this here?” The feedback is all positive.
ANDREW: I would just add, related to SafeWalk®, I think the feature you added for it to gradually come on and then dim out, that was really great. That helps to minimize the, for lack of a better term, “shock factor” for drivers. So, I was really impressed with that.
Pedestrians, bicyclists and horse riders of all ages now have added security and peace of mind when using the Iron Horse Regional trail. When they reach a trail crossing, they know there are advanced, unintrusive lighting solutions there to protect them day and night — and they do not even have to push a button.
TAPCO | Product Manager
With over a decade in business development, marketing and product management, Robert strives to improve transportation safety through innovation.