"Traffic Calming in a Smart Growth Community"
Forinash 1 Traffic Calming in a Smart Growth Community By Christopher V. Forinash Christopher V. Forinash U.S. EPA – National Center for Environmental Innovation 1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW (Mailcode 1808T) Washington, DC 20460 202.566.2842 tel, 202.566.2868 fax firstname.lastname@example.org Abstract: Arlington, Virginia, is home to 190,000 residents and 201,000 workers in its 26 square miles. Located just across the Potomac River from Washington, DC, Arlington provides an extremely high quality of life in its dense, urban, mixed-use walkable neighborhoods and also in its primarily residential, single-family neighborhoods. Recently Arlington was recognized for its Overall Excellence in Smart Growth with the first EPA National Award for Smart Growth Achievement. As Arlington has intensively developed 12% of its land, county residents have become concerned with transportation spillover effects, including traffic speeds and volumes as well as parking. Through an intensive, two-year collaboration among staff, citizens, and elected leaders, the County developed a Neighborhood Traffic Calming program that began operation in 2000. This program has developed a successful approach driven by problem severity, applying many of the best tools developed elsewhere to moderate traffic impacts. Each project is developed by a team of stakeholders, including dedicated and experienced staff, citizen members of the committee, and residents of the affected streets. Several interested groups must vote their approval before the project is built, and follow-up includes monitoring changes in speeds and community acceptance. New programs are under development to improve major (arterial) streets, and to improve parking management tools. Like the Neighborhood Traffic Calming program, these will include process, tools, and outreach for improving Arlington’s quality of life. ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA Arlington County, Virginia, occupies 26 square miles directly across the Potomac River from Washington, DC. (See Map 1.) When the Metrorail system was proposed in the early 1960s, County leadership realized that the required financial commitment would exceed the means of the then-suburban jurisdiction. In response, an intensive and inclusive community process led to plans for centering high-density, mixed-use, walkable development on top of seven of the proposed eleven Metrorail stations. Over the generation since that decision, the two Metrorail corridors, Rosslyn-Ballston (R-BC) and Jefferson Davis (JDC), have received the vast majority of new development in the County, allowing preservation and ongoing investment into the surrounding single-family residential areas. The County remains in the soundest possible fiscal shape, compared to surrounding jurisdictions, with excellent schools, maximum bond ratings, declining tax rates, and a healthy balance of housing types and diversity of residents and employees. Today, Arlington County hosts 190,000 residents and 201,000 workers. In 2002, development of the R-BC earned the first EPA National Awa rd for Smart Growth Achievement in the category of Overall Excellence in Smart Growth (1). The 4% of County land comprising the R-BC accounts for 35,000 residents, 73,000 jobs, and 3000 hotel rooms. (See Picture 1.) Other major job centers are also located on Metrorail stations, including Crystal City in the JDC, as well as the Pentagon. Because of this emphasis on located intensive development near transportation choices, Arlington has not experienced the choking traffic that decimates quality of life in nearby places like Tyson’s Corner. In fact, traffic counts on many arterial streets in the R-BC indicate consistent levels of traffic over the past 10-20 years, rather than the 20-40% increase forecast prior to development. The intensive infill development in the corridors tapers down quickly to meet the surrounding neighborhoods. Within 0.25-0.5 miles from each station entrance, the vibrant “urban village”, where people live, shop, work and play using transit, pedestrian walkways, bicycles or cars, has yielded to WWII-era brick colonials on tree-lined streets. Much of Arlington was developed when urban street systems consisted of many, smaller streets in a connected network, rather than the sparse, cul-de-sac street patterns evident in conventional suburban development. In places, however, topography prevents connections, funneling traffic onto a small number of streets. Overall, however, the residential streets are still quite walkable and pleasant, but in some cases that character is Forinash 2 threatened by cars traveling too fast. The problems run the gamut: streets too wide, too narrow, too straight, too curvy, blocks too long. To citizens, however, it all comes down to cars going TOO FAST! Map 1 Picture 1: Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor from the air, looking east towards Rosslyn and beyond to Washington, DC Arlington CHAPTER I: ARLINGTON COUNTY NEIGHBORHOOD TRAFFIC CALMING COMMITTEE (NTCC) MISSION: Develop and oversee a program to support the County Board’s vision of an “urban village” by reducing the impact of vehicular traffic and improving pedestrian and bicyclist safety within and around neighborhood areas in Arlington County. GOALS: 1. Change the culture of neighborhood street use from “cars first” to “people first.” 2. Develop street design guidelines which will make speed limits and other traffic controls on neighborhood minor and principal streets “self-enforcing.” 3. Coordinate NTCC efforts with the Pedestrian, Bicyclist, and ADA advisory committees. 4. Establish for consideration by the County Board effective, fair, and consistent policies for implementing traffic calming measures. 5. Ensure that neighborhood street use is consistent with Master Transportation Plan designations and zoning to the greatest extent possible. 6. Redirect through traffic to the arterial road network, and strive to meet goals and objectives of the Master Transportation Plan. (See Appendix 1) 7. Foster collaboration and a shared sense of purpose between County residents and Staff in addressing traffic problems. 8. Reduce the number of cases requiring County Board intervention. OBJECTIVES: 1. Recommend changes to County policies governing the NTC program and application of traffic calming measures. 2. Develop the NTC Program. 3. Implement the NTC Program. 4. Evaluate and refine the NTC Program 5. Make recommendations to the County Board. 3 Forinash 4 NEIGHBORHOOD TRAFFIC CALMING PROCESS Through an intensive, two-year collaboration among staff, citizens, and elected leaders, the County developed a Neighborhood Traffic Calming program that began operation in 2000 (2). Prior to development of the NTCC process, the County Board was often involved in the low-level work of responding to citizen complaints about neighborhood traffic and developing solutions. By establishing a balanced, inclusive, public method for dealing with perceived neighborhood traffic problems, the elected County Board has achieved a key goal of limiting its need to intervene in such cases. The mission and goals of the Neighborhood Traffic Calming Committee (NTCC) are described in the excerpt attached as page 3 of this paper (2). First among the goals is explicitly putting pedestrians first rather than cars first. Other key goals include consistency in developing and funding solutions, and ensuring that measures make streets more “self-enforcing” than conventional street designs. The resulting program approach is driven by problem severity. When a resident or organizations reports unsafe conditions and requests intervention, County staff perform traffic counts, speed monitoring and other measurements to evaluate the scope of the problem. In general, to qualify for ranking at all, a street must experience 85th percentile speeds of more than 5 miles per hour over the speed limit. These data, along with other considerations like the presence of public facilities and use of the street for transit or emergency response, form the basis of a ranking of streets according to the severity of the traffic problem. Twice each year, the NTCC selects a set of streets from the top of the list. Each project is developed by a team of stakeholders, including dedicated and experienced staff, citizen members of the committee, and residents of the affected streets. The project team develops a proposed solution using the traffic calming toolbox described in the next section. This proposal is presented to interested neighborhood and other stakeholders, with County staff, NTCC members, and other project team members available to answer questions. Several interested groups must vote their approval before the project can be funded. First, residents of the affected area, defined by the street and its cross-streets, must vote in favor of the project as a whole. The threshold levels required to approve proposals range from 60-70%, depending on the types of measures employed. Should the project be approved by the community, the NTCC then must decide whether to recommend it to the County Board for funding. The NTCC considers a range of factors, including those used for problem ranking, as well as the level of neighborhood support, support from local institutions (schools, libraries, churches, etc.), cost, and other data. The NTCC votes for each project whether to recommend that the County Board allocate funding, and ultimately the elected County Board decides whether to fund the package of projects. Each step of the process described is intended to provide objective evaluation of traffic problems, development of solutions, and decisions about funding. Other elements of the process require follow-up after projects are built, including monitoring changes in speeds and community acceptance. A periodic review of the process was built into the program as developed in 1999, and the first of those is ongoing in 2003. TRAFFIC CALMING TOOLBOX The toolbox available for traffic calming was developed from best practices in other communities and national publications (3). The tools are described in the excerpt attached as pages 5-6 in this paper (2). A list of considerations guides selection of measures that are: • the most effective available • the least adverse in impact • the simplest available • the least costly possible • a stand-alone or single measure or in combination with other(s) • within the range of professional traffic management guidelines • a contribution to the overall attractiveness of County streets • legally permissible under Virginia law (2) Traffic Calming Toolbox Minimum Community Used for Measure Criteria Support Needed Relative Cost Comments Convenience, safety 1 Roadway Markings* MUTCD none low information cut-through traffic 70% of households in the 2 Cut through traffic Street Closure high County Board Approval problem designated area of impact^ cut-through traffic 70% of households in the 3 Cut through traffic Diverters high County Board Approval problem designated area of impact^ cut-through traffic 70% of households in the 4 Cut through traffic Half Street Closure high County Board Approval problem designated area of impact^ Turn / Access cut-through traffic 70% of households in the Cut-through problem at 5 Cut through traffic low Restrictions problem designated area of impact^ certain times of the day cut-through traffic 70% of households in the 6 Cut through traffic One-Way Streets low County Board Approval problem designated area of impact^ 5% of total traffic and 7 Cut through traffic Truck Restrictions an Alternative Arterial Approval of civic association low County Board Approval nearby Cut through traffic, 60% of households in the 8 Woonerf Case by Case basis high speeding designated area of impact See revised warrants Hi expectation of non- Intersection safety, 9 Multiway Stop Signs* adopted by the Co. Bd. Approval of civic association low compliance if vpd is not pedestrian safety On 10/7/99 high -significant 60% of households in the 10 Pedestrian safety Midblock Crosswalk* concentration of low designated area of impact pedestrian traffic - 85th% > 5mph above the speed limit -only after consultation 60% of households within one Not for 3-way or offset 11 Speeding Traffic Circle with fire dept. and high block of circle intersections transit authority. -major street to have low left-turn volume - 85th% > 5mph above 60% of households in blocks Usually done where no 12 Speeding Narrow Streets high the speed limit to be narrowed curb and gutter in place - 85th% > 5mph above 60% of households in block to May impact on-street 13 Speeding Slow Points high the speed limit' be installed parking - 85th% > 5mph above 60% of households in the Affects driveway access 14 Speeding Median high the speed limit'' designated area of impact^ to residences 60% of households in the 15 Speeding Chicane Case by Case basis high designated area of impact^ $200 Fine Used where chronic 16 Speeding Speed Warning excessive speeding Approval of civic association low Signs* problems exist - 85th% > 5mph above the speed limit May be used to enhance Median Bollards -not on roads with >1 60% of households in block(s) pedestrian safety, 17 Speeding low (SPCCD) lane in each direction where installed messages on signs can -requires painted or change raised median Traffic Calming Toolbox Minimum Community Used for Measure Criteria Support Needed Relative Cost Comments - 85th% > 32mph -only after consultation Area petitioned may need 60% of households on street 18 Speeding Flat-top Speed Hump with fire dept. and medium to be adjusted based on to receive humps transit authority. street network -street grades <8% -May cause noise 85th% > 5mph above 60% of households in block to 19 Warning Rumble Strips medium complaints the speed limit be installed -Dangerous for bicyclists 20 Speeding Speed Display - any citizen complaint As requested none -Affected area to be determined on a case by Speeding, cut- 85th% > 5mph above 60% of households in affected 21 Gateway high case basis through traffic the speed limit area -May discourage cut- through Speeding, pedestrian Nubs (curb 85th% > 5mph above 60% of households within one 22 high Also pedestrian benefits safety extensions, chokers) the speed limit block - 85th% > 32mph - only after consultation Speeding, pedestrian with fire dept. and 60% of households on street 23 Raised Crosswalk medium safety transit authority where installed -major ped crossing point Traffic Volume Arterial Direction 24 MUTCD Approval of civic association low Reduction Signs *- Administrative measures can be implemented by staff without going through the NTC process ^- Areas of impact for these measures are to be determined on a case-by-case basis Note: All measures can be used on neighborhood minor and principal streets, but measures 1, 9, 10, 20, 24 can also be used on arterials and 12, 17, 22 can be used on minor arterials. Traffic issues involving arterial streets will be referred to County Staff and the Transportation Commission. An excessive cut-through problem exists when more than 30% of the traffic in any given hour during the day uses the street/streets as a through street. Cut through traffic is defined as traffic not originating in or destined to the immediate neigh borhood. Forinash 7 RESULTS The first internal review of Arlington’s Neighborhood Traffic Calming program is underway during 2003. Elements of the review include surveying of affected residents, monitoring of traffic conditions on and near streets with traffic calming in place, and fine-tuning of the criteria used for ranking streets for project development and funding. In addition, the specific measures in the toolbox continue to evolve, with speed humps and cushions replacing speed bumps, and refined geometric design for traffic circles. In general, the program has become very well accepted by neighborhoods, drivers, and elected officials, and funding support through annual funds and bonds continues to grow. NEW PROGRAMS As residents have seen the success of traffic calming on neighborhood streets, they have continued to clamor for similar approaches on major arterial streets. Of course, these larger streets are typically designed even more to suit the needs of cars rather than people, and efforts at retrofitting them require a different set of tools. In Virginia, they also will require a different process, as the Virginia Department of Transportation controls changes to these facilities. Thus far, the County has experienced limited success in civilizing traffic on arterials, but efforts continue. A major new project will identify ways to improve the function and design of streets in the Clarendon Metrorail station area, the middle of five along the R-BC. Other areas have developed new streets and reworked old streets to provide for pedestrian travel, on-street parking, vibrant sidewalk activity, and bicycling, along with vehicle travel. Examples from Maryland and Oregon detail how to transition rural highways into downtowns, offering some lessons for Arlington and elsewhere (4, 5). The Congress for the New Urbanism has highlighted good examples from California (6). Great new design guidelines will incorporate sensitivity to the surrounding land uses and users, and offer specifics on travelway widths, street trees and furniture, and other elements to make these critical streets work for all. Emerging examples from Minneapolis (7), Ottawa (8), and Western Australia (9) lead the way, but such ideas have yet to penetrate most state highway departments. Residents are also concerned with parking issues, which are closely related to other perceived traffic problems. Again, Arlington looks to examples of the innovative management of parking to serve all users of the area. Techniques in use or under consideration include parking permit districts and other availability measures, improving transit service and other demand measures, and appropriate pricing. Arlington represents significant Smart Growth Achievement, as the EPA recognized long after its many residents reached the same conclusion. Through the extensive public process known as the Arlington Way, it continues to evolve in its response to perceived threats to its high quality of life. REFERENCES 1. Office of Policy, Economics and Innovation. National Award for Smart Growth Achievement 2002. Report EPA-231-F-02-002. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, November 2002. 2. Neighborhood Traffic Calming Committee. Neighborhood Traffic Calming Program: Process, Criteria and Measures. Arlington County, Virginia, March 14, 2000. 3. Ewing, R. Traffic Calming: State of the Practice. Institute of Transportation Engineers, 1999. 4. State Highway Administration. When Main Street Is A State Highway. Maryland Department of Transportation, 2001. 5. Transportation and Growth Management Program. Main Street … when a highway runs through it: A Handbook for Oregon Communities. State of Oregon, November 1999. 6. Congress for the New Urbanism. Civilizing Downtown Highways: Putting New Urbanism to Work on California’s Highways. 2002 7. Design Center for American Urban Landscape. Design and Development Principles for Livable Suburban Arterials. University of Minnesota, 2001. 8. Region of Ottawa-Carleton. Guidelines for Regional Road Corridors. 2002. 9. Western Australia Planning Commission. Liveable Neighbourhoods: Street Layout, Design and Traffic Management Guidelines. State of Western Australia, June 2000.