Monday, September 12, 2011

Neighborhood Traffic Calming, by Steve Tracy (74)


It looks like we need to rally around one more time.  There are three things that we should speak to before the Planning Commission this week:  Traffic calming to slow down cut-through speeding in Old North Davis, selecting success/failure criteria BEFORE the project is completed, and another year of delay in construction that has the schedule slipping yet again.

First, the motion that was passed two years ago by the Council approving the redesign of 5th Street included an addition made by Don Saylor to address cut-through traffic in the neighborhoods.  That would affect us in Old North, and Old East Davis, primarily.

Of course, we have been suffering from that impatient traffic ever since the signal timing was changed in early 2005, but this is our chance to get some physical features in the streets in Old North to discourage speeding.  These do not have to be curb extensions of other expensive things that mess with the historic curbs we have that are pretty much intact.  A lot of traffic calming can be achieved with the judicious placement of bollards (decorative ones) that can mimic the configuration of cement traffic circles or curbs extensions.

Anyway, if you look at the bottom of page 3 of the attached staff report, you will see that only if cut-through traffic rises to unacceptable levels will it be dealt with.  I would argue that it already is unacceptable, and has been for several years.  We may not see that traffic diminish even after the improvements to traffic flow on 5th Street are in place, because the irresponsible speeders we see whose travel habits are set may never venture onto the new street to test it.

So we need to speak up and demand that traffic calming in Old North Davis to deal with the unacceptable spillover traffic 5th Street is already causing should be part of this construction phase.

Second, in the middle paragraph on page 4 is a comment that City staff met with neighborhood representatives to discuss "metrics" (code for data) that can be used to determine the success or failure of this redesign.  Additionally, there is a comment that the conclusion was reached that it is premature to define those measures at this time.

Two things are relevant about this paragraph:

1.  Can any of you recall attending such a meeting with City staff to discuss metrics and concluding that it was premature to decide now what measures we would use to determine the success or failure of the redesign?  I can't.

2.  It is not premature.  In fact, NOW is the time to choose our criteria.  To wait opens the door for someone to insist a particular issue that may not concern most people is critical to viewing the success of the street, and push for that hoping for a negative result.

The best studies on similar redesigns that I have seen (and shared with staff over the past ten years) included a careful selection of criteria ahead of time that the community agreed on.  Failure to do this threatens the accuracy of the results, and the definition of success for this project.

Third, at the top of page 3 of the staff report is a comment that the City may advance the funds so the project can be built ahead of the grant funds arriving in year 2013/14, and that would allow construction to proceed in the summer of 2013.  This isn't advancing the funds at all, and it is a year later than the already discouraging timeline we have endured.  Except for a few months when staff said the project would be built this summer that just passed, they have consistently said the summer of 2012.  We need to push for these safety improvements sooner, not later.

I hope you can all be in the Chambers at City Hall Wednesday evening at 7 pm.  This item will come up immediately on the Planning Commission agenda, and we need to speak up to these three issues.  A line like we have done in the past is appropriate, even if each of us just takes a few polite seconds.

Thanks for reading this lengthy note.

Steve Tracy, President
Old North Davis Neighborhood Association