Traffic Calming: Once Again On The City Commission Agenda
City staff is still searching for a balance to its Neighborhood Traffic Calming Policy (PlanforTC). We’ve written about it before and there hasn’t been that many changes to the draft since last time. That said, it is no longer written in a negative voice. It seems that advice to create a proactive policy was accepted. I still think it is overly cautious and narrowly focused, but if the new master plan is written to make traffic calming a basic product of all reconstruction projects, this citizen initiated policy might be a nice complement.
However, it remains cautious, if not restrictive, and unnecessarily creates a divide for city streets between neighborhood vs. non-neighborhood streets (Framework vs. non-framework). Who is going to champion the great divides in town that are part of our neighborhoods, but that sit in between “associations?” 14th, 8th, Garfield, W. Front are all mixed use corridors where residents deserve healthy, vibrant streets.
It also gives too much authority to adjacent property owners. This last point is critical because it extends the ideology that the ROW in front of our homes is “personal” space that is shared with the masses vs. the idea that it is the commons and we all have a right to say what investments we desire city-wide. The policy also fails to recognize that renters are citizens who are valuable assets to our community. Why does an absentee landlord have more authority than someone living in a neighborhood? I think a petition of 50% of residents and/or property owners needs to be adopted.
Mayor Chris Bzdok’s latest post at Plan for TC sums up the process, objectives and financing well, and he is rightly asking for the city commission to make some changes before adopting it. As he argues, “If the city is serious about traffic calming, we need a policy designed to generate projects, not generate barriers to doing projects.” He has two specific concerns: the number of signatures required to initiate a project (a majority vs. a super majority) and the percentage of the project that the neighborhood requesting the project would be assessed. The plan now says 50-50, but the Mayor would like that changed to 25-75, where the City would pay for 75% of the project.
I support those two changes, as well as including residents, whether owners or renters, into the petitioning process. I also think definitions of what constitute a neighborhood need addressing so that we can better address what the plan calls the “framework” streets.
I have a disagreement in the language of the policy and with the Mayor’s assessment that traffic calming is used primarily to “reduce cut-through” traffic. Although traffic reduction may occur with a good traffic calming plan, the goals of traffic calming are primarily to create behavior that is more conducive to shared streets. I would rather have 2000-vpd pass by my house going 20-mph and traveling smoothly, than 600-vpd with many of them reaching 45-mph and revving up after each stop sign. This argument may need to wait for another day though and may be more properly addressed in the master plan and future complete streets ordinance. I just think traffic reduction is a much broader investment.
Tonight’s meeting is an opportunity to provide comment, but comments in support of the Mayor’s changes, and other suggestions, can and need to be sent into the City this week to make the final draft that the City commission will vote to adopt at their March 20th meeting. Tonight • 7pm • Governmental Center.