Friday, October 23, 2009

Aldermen Loving Stop Signs

An equal parts encouraging and dispiriting Public Safety & Transportation committee meeting this week. The encouraging part is a proposal to use an apron of ribbed concrete in conjunction with a bumpout as a compromise to the full Daniel/Jackson Street intersection redesign that's in place now. Devil, details, &c. But, the proposal has promise.

The dispiriting part was the vote by the committee to overrule a Traffic Council denial of a request for two additional stop signs at the intersection. Actually, that wasn't the most dispiriting part, because the actual intention of the committee on stop signs was not clear given the very confusing procedural posture of the item. What was most dispiriting was the argument made by the one alderman who made the case against stop signs.

Keep in mind that Traffic Council has rejected stop signs at this location on three separate occasions over the years. Three different city traffic engineers have argued that using stop signs to slow traffic at an intersection like this is a disfavored practice and that has several documented secondary effects that outweigh the apparent slowing benefit: increased noise, operating costs borne by motorists, environmental degradation, without providing the expected safety benefits. Stop signs to slow traffic are officially discouraged by the manual that defines the best practices for street signs, traffic signal, and striping, the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which is official state policy by act of law. The MUTCD policies are drafted by traffic engineers and are adopted only after a rigorous review process.

Here is the argument the alderman made in favor of against stop signs:

I actually I found Clint's commentary interesting in that there are reasons he gave why excessive use of stop signs would be a bad idea in theory but then said people would continue to go zipping through without a stop sign, implying that a stop sign would in fact have a traffic calming effect without being a change to the road surface.

Associate City Engineer Clint Schuckel said, yet again, that improperly used stop signs are not recognized traffic calming because changes to the roadway are more desirable, slowing but not stopping cars; that slowing cars is not consistent with the recognized purpose of a stop sign, and that there are secondary consequences -- noise, pollution, operating costs, &c. -- to using stop signs to calm traffic. He never said, nor would it be credible, to claim that stop signs don't slow traffic compared to no stop signs. Of course they do. The question is whether stop signs are preferable to modern traffic calming practices.

So my suggestion is that if there's a concern about driver confusion, having just two of the three entrances to the intersection having stop signs that we do all three because that does seem for many years that's what the Board of Alderman did at intersections not only throughout Ward 6 but throughout the city. And, you know, I live with them and have them in the neighborhood and deal with them all the time and I don't you know I don't find them to be that inconvenient.

Forget the data that say unnecessary stop signs waste time, waste fuel, and put wear on brakes and other systems, I don't have any problem with them.

We have four-way and three-way stops all over Newton Highlands and Newton Centre. You know ... There are ... It may well be that in some theoretical model that's not the best practice but it is the reality on the ground.

Data you don't agree with and professional standards are now "some theoretical model."

And, I think that if you were to apply the standards that Clint articulated, to our existing stop signs, you'd have to take most of them out and I don't .. so I think as a matter of consistency with what ... the way we live in the City of Newton that theoretical model doesn't apply to our reality.

Between past practices and modern practices, choose past practices. Newton's special. What applies to the rest of the world doesn't apply to us

So, I would suggest that what we ought to do is put both of the stop signs that were requested in. And so make it a true three-way stop to avoid any issue of confusion about who's stopping and who's not. And, so that would be an action on the stop-sign action.

This from a man who has repeatedly claimed that we need to question the way we do things in the city, adopt proven best practices from elsewhere, and make data-driven decisions.


Anonymous said...

You are leaving out the fact that this site was visited by the PS&T aldermen. They now have an understanding of what it is to drive through the site. Aldermen Ciccone, who is also a police officer said the site was dangerous with the bumpout. Alderman Harney said that some intersections are inherently dangerous and should have stop signs regardless of the warrants. And worst of all, you appear to be sidestepping the issue that the MUTCD are guidelines. The authors realize that it does not fit every situation, yet you are implying they are to be used as regulations. Not to mention the fact that this intersection, given the traffic flow, etc. would not require traffic calming measures either. David Koses said it wouldn't be high on the list for any modifications. Given the history of no accidents. Your neighbors are trying to appease you Sean, and find a way of doing something for the intersection, and all you're trying to do is push a bumpout on them, that is both dangerous and unnecessary.

Anonymous said...

When George Mansfield finally saves Ward 6 from the widely hated, life threatening bumpout, he will be an even more beloved hero and win scores more votes for his reelection campaign. Go, George, Go!

Anonymous said...

True. He's got my vote back. I have not been thrilled with the level of involvement from the aldermen. However, George has remained consistent in his statements. And when he steps in, as he has done recently, there's a level of calmness in addition to fair play. And, with the objective of a decision to be made at the end of the day. I can stick with that. Thanks George.

Anonymous said...

And Sean we all know this "Mister Traffic" thing you've been doing is all about building yourself up to run for something someday. You could learn from George. He listens to people, tries to find out what they want and build consensus, and knows when to stop talking.

Steve Runge said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MindWhispers said...

I was reading "streetblog" and saw your comment about the Walk Bridge in Chattanooga. There is a picture of the "zig zag" walk that (no steps) you can ride or walk your bike up to the level of the bridge. It is great for bikers or runners.