As you read this article, there will be an ask of you at the end. I am looking for your opinion on traffic calming (from whichever side) and your ideas on what can be done to make more livable communities. So please read on...or if you have the solution then go to the end and let us know!
Traffic and how it Impacts the Local Community
As traffic volumes increase in our growing communities, there is more awareness and concern for how this impacts the local neighborhoods that make up our communities. Traffic is part of everyday life and will continue to affect how we live and it influences the character of communities. The impact is however hard to grasp and harder still to quantify. It is often determined by hard data such as speed, volume, geometry etc, but there often is a larger element that is much more difficult to quantify. It is these aspects that often drive the need for calming measures. The perception of speed, or volume, the awareness of increased activity, or a change in location or lifestyle can often result in new concerns that may not have been noticed in the past. In the end there is an expectation that communities in North America behave a certain way that create an environment that is inviting, safe, accessible and personal to the people that live there...the elements that we feel good about calling home.
The Car (and the crazy driver) is here to Stay
Thinking about what community means to me, I would say that things are at their best when people are out walking or moving through the area in a relaxed and engaging manner. What disrupts this atmosphere is traffic in general but specifically, that one speeding car that shoots out of the side street either making excessive noise, driving at a high speed or both! The calm of the space disappears in a flash and only thoughts of anger, possibly a chase and the hope that a calm day of the offender is somehow disrupted through some karmic balance of the universe. Living on an arterial route, this happens more often than not and appreciating that the car is here for some time to come, I assess my options. Being in the field, I know that physical speed controls are really not an option, more police presence would be helpful and maybe more public awareness might help. In the end my only real hope for change is what the Municipality might do for me.
The Role of the Municipality in Traffic Management
The Municipality is the only real option for frustrated residents who are seeking support for traffic concerns...and this is how it should be considering traffic and road management is a significantly important public service. The challenge for the Municipality often is that a balance has to be found between the needs of the many and the needs of the few. There needs to be methods to weight the priorities, identify the anomalies and render a resolution that finds the right balance. Let's face it, roads are built for cars and unfortunately there is little chance in separating these two. However, we also know that roads are built differently to accommodate differing transportation needs. So how do we best update the changing character of communities where what was once acceptable traffic/pedestrian patterns may no longer be so?
Balancing Policy, Public Perception and Engagement
This is one of the hardest areas of Municipal service to get right. Let's face it, as population continues to grow and communities become more dense, the problem will get worse before it ever gets better (barring a massive shift to public transit and alternate modes of transportation which will have to be left for another discussion). The influencing factors in this balancing act are also diverse and dynamic. Public opinion is pitted against technical data and further scrutinized by political debate. All parties are seeking a fair and equitable resolution, but differing perspectives can challenge the balance. Many communities have introduced policy and process around this issue and rightly so, and the topic is one that has mass popularity. But what constitutes a good policy? This is a question that is not easy to answer. For instance, existing policies from various progressive communities can be found here and they all have similar elements, but also are different in approach and ideology. Industry standards exist to guide us, but may are looking for new approaches and methods of engagement that bring the parties to a more speedy solution.
So What is the Right Answer?
This is where your opinion counts! Regardless of our individual roles in society , we all live with traffic in our communities. So please share your thoughts on this universal issue and help all of use develop tools and practices to further improve our public spaces. Take at look at what others have in place and see if these approaches add to the discussion.