Home > Complete Streets, Design the Details, Engineering Design > The State Of Traffic Calming In Traverse City

The State Of Traffic Calming In Traverse City

NOTE: This post is a bit rushed because I need to go the studio, sorry, I will clean it up this afternoon.

I’ll be on the Vic McCarty show today from 10-11:30 talking about Traffic Calming with Uncle Vic, Traverse City’s City Planner and Matt Skeels from the NWMCOG & TCTALUS. You can listen at AM-1270 or online at www.wmktthetalkstation.com.

Traverse City is currently creating policy for citizens wishing for traffic calming in their neighborhoods. I’ve been very critical of it mainly because the approach doesn’t encourage and support the implementation strongly enough; it’s controlling and has too many roadblocks for successful engagement.

In a parallel process, I’m serving on a sub-committee of the planning commission that is drafting the transportation elements for the City’s master plan. One of the sections addresses traffic calming and the following pre-amble is what I’ve submitted for the group’s approval.

Transportation Elements: Traffic Calming

For the City’s Master Plan (not yet approved)

Traffic calming is a basic component of the engineering & design for a complete street network. It serves a variety of needs for maintaining and creating a safer, less noisy, less polluted, more active and attractive community.

Traffic calming that is implemented and included in the regular process of maintenance and (re)construction is required to minimize cost and to more quickly address problem areas. Recommendations by staff for prioritization of traffic calming projects will be annually updated with clear communication with residents and appropriate commissions. Achieving a successful traffic calming program develops through efficient involvement, education and acceptance by city residents, and the continual training of city staff. A level of experimentation and innovation is expected.

The attempt is to create a culture and policy aimed at implementing traffic calming as the default. If you’re already (re)constructing a street, why wouldn’t you create a better place?

The Traffic Calming Starter Kit via Project for Public Spaces and how/where we might see these tools used in Traverse City, sooner rather than Later:

  • Diagonal Parking: We already have this in a few places, namely Hall St. We might also consider back-in diagonal parking and I’d nominate a retrofitted Lake Ave.  to be the first places for this. It makes sense near McGough’s with all of the loading and unloading that occurs there.
  • Changing One-Way Streets to Two-Way: We’ve written about this  before. Our one-ways: 7th, 8th, State and Front St.
  • Widening Sidewalks/Narrowing Streets and Traffic Lanes: Practically all of our streets are too wide. Lanes widths on City streets need to be set at 9-10 feet, with exceptions made for extreme cases-not the other way around. Our neighborhood streets need to be 24-27 feet wide, not 32-36ft.
  • Bulbs – Chokers – Neckdowns: We use these in our downtown area, but have yet to apply the measures in our neighborhoods. We need to, beginning on the edges of the neighborhoods and slowly working inward as projects come online.
  • Chicanes: Anywhere where there is a serious speed issue with cut-through traffic may benefit with Chicanes. In some places bulb-outs would achieve the same effect, but in other areas, like Sheridan Drive, a chicane system would work nicely.
  • Roundabouts: Hey, look at this, there is a map for Traverse City’s prime roundabout locations.
  • Traffic Circles: We have two of them on Webster St. They get mixed reviews, but I lived next to both of them and never had an issues. They force drivers to pay attention.
  • Raised Medians: The Old Town traffic committee swears that a median is needed along Cass St. It just may in places.
  • Tight Corner Curbs: Let’s not build our city for the largest vehicles on the road: change the vehicles, not the city. The longer the curve, the faster cars/trucks can take the corner. This needs to be a standard consideration.
  • Diverters: These barriers are really aimed at reducing the amount of traffic a particular area gets. A note of caution is that they turn an otherwise healthy grid into a disconnected one. Still, in some places where there are short cut throughs with motorists using the streets to avoid traffic signals, they may have their place. If it came to it, a diverter at Maple and 11 St. may ease fears along that stretch about a roundabout on Division creating more neighborhood traffic.
  • Road Humps, Speed Tables, and Cushions: Again, these can be used almost anywhere in the city, but primarily where there are high numbers of people walking and high speeds. I also like completely raised intersections. Cass St., up for reconstruction in 2012, is a good candiate for experimentation.
  • Rumble Strips and Other Surface Treatments: Traverse City does use textured streets for traffic calming. Central neighborhoods brick streets are an example as well as several ped. crossings. One thing I’d like see included on these streets are smooth bike lanes on all the brick streets.

This isn’t a complete list of traffic calming measures an isn’t meant to be absolute in it’s prescriptions.

Notice: stop signs are not included in this list, because they aren’t a traffic calming device.

  1. Raymond Minervini
    February 22, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    Great list with some very goo suggestions for implementation/locations.

    Back-in diagonal parking is a great choice, used in San Fran, Portland… and Elk Rapids! Curb extensions: great for neighborhoods. Also the raised crosswalks. Your suggestion for the Diverters is very reasonable suggestion to allay fears on 11th Street re: a roundabout at 11th-Division.

    These ideas are not “cheap”– but not expensive– and I think the resulting changes in driver behavior bring major improvements to the character of the neighborhoods. In short: an investment that improves safety and adds huge value.

  2. Raymond Minervini
    February 22, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    “Goo” is the hip street lingo for “good.”

  3. February 23, 2011 at 10:57 am

    Thanks Raymond. Just to note, I actually don’t think traffic calming is expensive if it is 1) assumed necessity’s for a street and 2) has long-term impact of improving livability and preserving property values. Do we build streets with-out stormwater considerations? Those are expensive as well, but we’d never think of not doing it.

    Why do we continue to build streets without considering the impact on people?

  4. Raymond Minervini
    February 23, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    Understood. I only meant that the City has not historically prioritized complete street expenditures, so making these kinds of vehicle-calming retrofits is, in a way, a whole new line item for infrastructure expenditures. But it is a line item that has significant and necessary public benefits, and should always be included in any street designs going forward.

  5. June 6, 2011 at 11:54 pm

    My British friend, Astrid, who at 52 years old biked around the world solo, has a blog you may enjoy (http://www.cyclingfullcircle.com). In her latest entry she describes traffic circles in Belgium:

    “Belgium was predominantly pleasurable cycling with a plethora of cycle lanes and, easily the best benefit, red painted lanes around the perimeter of roundabouts, within which cyclists are kept safe and given priority from other traffic.”

  1. March 7, 2011 at 11:35 am

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