Affordable & effective solutions.
By James DeCocq
First, let me start by stating that I am not a traffic engineer nor an expert on traffic calming, however, I have dealt in depth with the design, installation, and public education of traffic calming schemes and devices in at least 20 different communities over the last two decades in my capacity as a City Manager, a Special District Manager, and a Government Efficiency Consultant.
To my understanding, there has been some discussion about the desire for traffic calming on Golden Rain Tree Drive, as well as possibly other neighborhood roads in Avalon Park. As one of the more experienced residents on the subject, I wanted to take an opportunity to share my findings to the advantage of the entire community. Obviously, this is the beginning of the discussion and these statements are not based on any formal study specific to the roadways being considered. But rather, this document should be used as a jumping off point, as well as, to help guide future discussions and studies as appropriate.
Traffic Calming in General
Speed management is a significant challenge in the United States, particularly on roadways that have been established for a considerable amount of time. Avalon Park presents a few roadway design flaws that have most likely led to the perceived speeding problem on neighborhood roads, particularly on the main access ways into each village.
Avalon Park Boulevard provides for higher speeds of 45 mph while many main neighborhood access roads, especially Golden Rain Tree Drive, are immediately 25 mph with little change in the way the road is presented, while trying to accommodate local access from side streets and driveways, pedestrian access, on-street parking, bicycles, and other features unique to Avalon Park.
Unfortunately, enforcement alone does not work to control speed as it is only temporary, can be expensive, and takes manned resources away from possibly other, more important tasks.
So, in order to permanently address a perceived speeding problem, you must change the psychology of the driver by changing their perception of the road. The simple fact is, drivers drive as fast as they feel comfortable, which is why you have people who travel 55 mph on a 70 mph highway, and others who drive 55 mph in a school zone. While most experts agree that the most effective way to guarantee drivers slowdown is to place a vertical impediment in the roadway, such as speed bumps, speed humps, and/or speed tables (figure 1), these devices have numerous drawbacks, not the least of which is high initial installation cost, as well as ongoing maintenance.
Figure 1 – Typical Vertical Roadway Impediments
Just to touch upon some of the negatives of vertical impediments, these devices while effective, can cause vehicle damage, can slow Fire Rescue response by 6 seconds per device, can be damaged by heavy trucks such as moving vans and delivery vehicles, and can actually increase speed between devices or even at the device itself. Moreover, in order to truly be effective as a standalone solution, experts suggest that depending on height and width of the impediment, you need to install a device at no greater than every 120 to 180 foot intervals which could lead to quit a few expensive additions to the roadway.
It has been my experience that these types of devices should be a last resort, and utilized only after, and definitely always in tandem with, other simpler, less expensive roadway treatments, which are fairly common to most streets.
Begin with the Basics
Before considering moving forward on any sort of construction measures, we should first consider what is missing that gives drivers the impression that our neighborhood streets can be traveled at speeds significantly greater than the posted limit.
One glaring omission is roadway striping (Figure 2). When drivers turn off of Avalon Park Boulevard onto Golden Rain Tree, it appears to be a 4-lane highway; a nice broad road, with plenty of room to maneuver. Even when cars are randomly parked along the shoulder, without proper lining, the road still feels like it can be traveled speedily, which is why it may be being used as such.
Figure 2 – Typical Avalon Park Street with a Very Wide Feel and No Striping
It is, therefore, my suggestion that we do what should have been done from the beginning and start by painting designated parking spaces and double yellow center lines, thus forcing driver into a lane, and changing their perception of the road from one that is open and fast, to one that is confined and slower (Figure 3).
Figure 3 – Example of How Typical Striping Makes the Road Appear Narrower
Additional Effective Inexpensive Treatments
In addition to the standard stripping, and perhaps sometime later, after we can determine the effectiveness of stage one striping, we should consider painting speed limits on the pavement within a (brick) red box (Figure 4), placed, and spaced apart, appropriately.
Figure 4 – Pavement Speed Limit Indicators Can Be Very Effective and Inexpensive
According to one Traffic Calming Study, this type of on road speed limit signage was the most effective and affordable of several different traffic calming treatments, reducing speed by as much as 9 mph (Table 1)
$ – Under $2,500, $$ – $2,500 to $5,000, $$$ – $5,000 to $12,000
To increase the effect, these types of markings can be inset in stamped asphalt or concrete to not only better differentiate them from the roadway itself, but to also change the physical feel of the road, making drivers even more aware of the change in the nature of the roadway. And to be most efficient, these could even be worked in as designated pedestrian crosswalks.
Considerations Moving Forward
The aforementioned roadway treatments are simply the quickest, most affordable solutions to the immediate problem. Moving forward, Avalon Park Residents should be aware that reducing speed on a roadway is not as simple as installing speed bumps, and in many cases doing so is exactly the wrong approach. A “Gateway” treatment intended to elicit slower speeds works best when followed by a series of other measures repeated throughout the community to encourage drivers to maintain appropriate speeds. Moreover, the roads being discussed are not through streets, but are our neighborhood roads, which mean basically mostly Avalon Park Residents and their guests are indeed responsible for the perceived speeding issue.
It is for these reasons that there are numerous considerations involved in developing an overall Traffic Calming Plan, including but not limited to:
Public Consultation: Public consultation is sometimes neglected; however, it is critical for achieving effective traffic calming.The key to successful traffic calming is acceptance by the local community, which can only be achieved through early involvement in the preparation, design and implementation of the scheme, followed up with feedback throughout the process.
Public Services Consultation: Police, Fire Rescue, Trash Collections, and other public services, as well as local law makers, should be included in early formal discussions to elicit their opinions on how such roadway changes can impact their delivery of essential services. As mentioned before, one study showed that each speed hump slowed Fire Rescue’s response time by 6 seconds, not to mention the impact on patients as they are transported over such devices, which could literally be life altering.
Types of Vehicle Usage: The types of vehicles utilizing the roadway must be taken very heavily into consideration. Not only cars use Avalon Park neighborhood roads, but delivery trucks, moving vans and semi-tractor trailers, Fire Trucks, Ambulances, etc.
Cost and Long-Term Maintenance: Cost and responsibility are major factors to traffic calming schemes. Not only should initial installation costs be a factor, but the long-term maintenance must also be calculated. More importantly, who should and will ultimately be responsible for such costs. While an argument can easily be made that the County should properly stripe the roadways at their cost, a counter argument is even stronger for Avalon Park residents to foot the bill for any construction cost for physically changing the roadway, as these are indeed not through streets regularly traveled by County-wide residents, but are mostly only used by Avalon Park residents.
Cost Effectiveness: Return on the investment must be weighed very heavily. As shown in Table 1, there are varying degrees of speed reduction with each traffic calming treatment, which should be measured against each individual financial investment. Paint seems to be a fairly expensive, yet effective technique, while speed humps are effective but expensive and have numerous drawbacks.
Durability: In looking at long-term maintenance and cost effectiveness, durability of materials for each proposed technique should be analyzed (i.e. thermoplastic tape/epoxy versus paint, stamped asphalt or concrete versus brick inlay, concrete versus asphalt, etc.).
Logical Progression: An overall Traffic Calming Scheme should be developed which outlines a natural progression both from the standpoint of investment versus affordability, and to most effectively change the psychology of the driver.
Relocating the Problem: Many times good intentions have disastrous results. A community-wide Traffic Calming Scheme should be developed and implemented in a logical timeframe. Many times, as soon as physical impediments are placed in a roadway to slow traffic, drivers reroute themselves to other faster, or less troublesome streets, thus transferring the problem from one area of the community to another. Traffic calming cannot be conceived or implemented like we are putting out fires. There must be a great amount of thought and care invested to make certain that traffic calming is successful.
In short, I believe it is best to combine pavement color changes, physical/perceived lane narrowing, signage, and landscaping to best, and most affordably, achieve the desired traffic calming effect.
Traffic calming and speed reduction requires a three-pronged approach: Education, Enforcement, and Physical Street Treatments.
If I had to rank in general the most effective and affordable techniques that I have implemented over the last 20 years of dealing with this subject, without a formal study for Avalon Park, I would suggest the following for initial consideration and discussion, ranked best to worst:
- Speed Limit Painted with Red Background: Very Effective and Very Affordable.
- Perceived Lane Narrowing with Designated On Street Parking and Double Yellow Center Striping: Effective and Affordable.
- Temporary Portable Electronic Speed Feedback Sign: Very Effective but Expensive
- Landscaped Median Islands: Very Effective but Very Expensive (Figure 5)
- Speed Tables: Very Effective but Very Expensive
Figure 5 – Example of a Landscaped Median Island
As always, I offer my advice and services gratis to the Avalon Park POA Board, Commissioner Thompson, the Board of County Commissioners, and any other entity or organization involved in these considerations.
Only together can we devise appropriate solutions and build the best Community possible.
James D. DeCocq, is President NJC Corporate Enterprises, Inc. He is an Avalon Park resident and government efficiency expert.