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Soundtrack

Talking crosswalks in Brookline

New advanced signals are especially chatty.

“Wait,” the man’s voice says. “Wait.” He’s insistent. A bit terse even. I press the button to cross the street, and he’s after me again, firmly. “WAIT!” he says, like an exasperated parent. I’ll give the guy a break, though. He has my — and our — best interests at heart. I say “he” — I’m anthropomorphizing a crossing signal at a Brookline intersection. Boy, is this one chatty. It turns out that where I’m standing on Beacon Street is part of a town experiment of sorts to test out more advanced signals, especially helpful to the visually impaired. When it’s not safe to walk, the black boxes quietly, repeatedly say “Wait” and beep at regular intervals. Push the button to cross, and the “Wait” grows louder. When the walk light finally appears, the box, vibrating and ringing like an old rotary phone, says, “Walk sign is on for all crossings.” Brookline officials say these signals may be installed at other locations and even customized to broadcast the name of the street where they’re located. That little glowing man has sure ambled into the future.

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Scott Helman is a Globe Magazine staff writer. He can be reached at shelman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @swhelman.
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