Traffic Calming is Hard
The traffic calming trial measures in Pleasantview are coming out soon. We’ve heard overwhelmingly from from the residents of this community that these measures have not worked. In fact, in a Banister survey, 93% of residents felt the measures made the community less safe. More importantly, the early traffic count data was striking. Our hope was the original high volume of traffic on 106 street would be diverted away from the community rather than dispersed through it. But local roads like 105 Street, which carried less than 1000 cars per day originally, were now approaching 3000 cars. This is not what we hoped for and many people are happy the trial has been ended.
However, there is no great cause for celebration in my view. Removing the trial does not solve the original issue that saw nearly 9000 cars a day on 106th street, with 60% of them speeding. 106 Street is a collector road designed for 5000 cars per day. The story is similar on 109 Street.
And it’s certainly difficult for the volunteer members of the community traffic safety committee who worked for 100s of hours collectively over two years, and in some cases longer, with our traffic engineers and planners to try to solve this problem. They no doubt feel their time and effort was wasted. They worked very hard to engage the community and achieve some degree of buy-in for measures they felt would make their neighbourhood safer. And when the trial began, they were even bullied and mistreated by some of their neighbours.
But as is the case with any trial measures, there is a fair degree of risk that they won’t deliver the results we hope for. In this case, while the trial was an important part of the overall public engagement about how to calm traffic in this community, the traffic counts and observable driver behaviour were the most important elements to consider.
Not a Permanent Solution
In the end, the trial ended early for these two reasons. The trial, at a minimum, needed to be altered to try to prevent the unfair disbursement of the original high volumes on 106 Street. If there was an overall community willingness to go there our transportation folks may have considered that. But the data was disappointing and the community buy-in was not forthcoming, which added up to the decision by our Transportation department to go back to the drawing board.
Ultimately, if our engineers and planners can’t see a trial becoming a permanent solution eventually, it only makes sense to move on to the next effort sooner than later.
So while it may appear and feel to some like a failed effort, and while many in the community are saying “I told you so”, we’ve have a learned a great deal from this experience. In an upcoming blog post I will detail the lessons I feel we’ve learned from this trial and the challenges we face in dealing with traffic management in a city like Edmonton. But if in fact we fail, “it’s good to fail fast and fail cheap”, and we cannot be afraid to fail again in the quest of making the improvements communities need.
In the meantime, we have to continue to work with Pleasantview to deal with the original problem. In the short term, Transportation will be installing driver feedback signs in both directions on both 109 St and 106 St. A recent pilot project in Jackson Heights saw a 8-10 km/h average reduction in speeds from these signs.
The trial measures will be removed (with the exception of the zebra crosswalk on 106 St) in the next few weeks, and definitely before March 23rd. Transportation will be considering other options for controlling speed, like speed limit reductions and speed humps, and will return to the community with those options.
There will also be a school site safety review that will examine adding more signals and markings for the school zone area on 106 St. Lastly, we will be asking the Edmonton Public School Board to make constructing a school drop off zone at Mount Pleasant School a priority. It is up to the School Board to determine the priorities for those projects, but I am hopeful that they will consider our request.
We know traffic calming is hard. We know we'll never please everyone. And we know we have to keep trying. Neighbourhoods are great neighbourhoods when they'e safe neighbourhoods.