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Traffic Calming Policy Information

Traffic Calming & Safety Initiative

Background

Philadelphia is the 5th largest metropolitan city with a population of approximately 1.5 million and with over 2,500 miles of roadway to maintain and operate. To function at its best, the streets need to serve people travelling by all modes. Unfortunately, due largely to the behavior of aggressive drivers, pedestrian and bike-related crashes are at an all time high.

Speeding has been identified as a major cause for accidents and this is a top concern of our staff, public officials and residents alike. Citizens want a better quality of life to make their neighborhoods more walkable, and the Streets Department is determined to employ effective ways to accomplish this by emphasizing traffic calming and safety.

The basic premise of this strategic Traffic Calming & Safety Plan rests on the three Es, which stand for Engineering, Education & Enforcement. The City is nationally recognized for its “Road Safety Not Rocket Science” education campaign. Also, it works very closely with the Police Department to focus their limited enforcement resources where they can be most effective in curbing the most extreme behaviors. The emphasis of the traffic calming and safety initiative is to establish a process for taking engineering steps to address these needs.

Objectives

  • Slow down vehicular traffic in residential neighborhoods of the City to under 25 mph, the standard posted speed limit in such area.
  • Discourage cut through traffic
  • Make City more walkable and pedestrian/bicycle friendly to make City multi-modal.
  • Enhance the quality of life for our citizens.
  • Provide universal accessibility for able and disabled pedestrians.
  • Comply with the “Complete Streets” Guidelines.

Tools

The range of engineering tools available for traffic calming falls into three categories: road right-sizing, traffic controls, and pavement undulations (which includes speed cushions.)

Right-sizing includes road or lane narrowing, Bump-outs (curb extension), added parking and staggered parking.

Traffic controls refers here mainly to signs and signals. This can include turn prohibitions, changes to permitted direction of travel, speed limit signs, new stop signs, signal to stop sign conversion, countdown pedestrian signal indicators, and signal timing and coordination changes, such as, leading pedestrian intervals.

Pavement undulations refer to soft rumble strips, raised crosswalks or speed cushions. For speed cushions, further description is provided below.

Speed Cushions

These are state-of-the-art traffic calming devices used all over the USA as it addresses many of the issues related to other traffic calming measures. The gaps between them allow emergency responders and SEPTA to straddle without any delays. Whereas cars whose front wheels are spaced closely have to go over them at a slow rate of speed which is mostly around 25 mph. They are ONLY 3-4 inches high and unlike speed bumps they are 12 feet long. The rising portion is 4 feet long, then a 4 foot long flat section followed by a 4-foot long down slope. This minimizes the impact on vehicles especially passenger cars.

Procedure

Requests for any traffic calming measure should follow this procedure:

  • Residents must prepare a petition requesting traffic calming measures on their block, signed by 70% or more residents who actually live on the block and their addresses state their support.
  • Residents must forward this petition to their elected City Councilperson whose area this block falls into.
  • The Councilperson then sends an official request to:
                Chief Traffic & Street Lighting Engineer Department of Streets
                900 Municipal Services Building, 1401 JFK Boulevard
                Philadelphia, PA 19102 – 1676
  • Traffic Engineering will conduct a Traffic Calming & Safety Study which will evaluate the situation and rank it as per established criteria based on State & Federal Guidelines. Based on these findings, TE determines the type of traffic calming tool, if any that will be appropriate for such conditions.
  • Traffic Engineering will add the location(s) to the City-wide master ranking list that will be used to implement the special traffic calming & safety initiative.
  • Traffic Engineering will conduct leaflet distribution to inform residents on  affected blocks prior to the devices being installed.
  • Traffic Engineering will conduct a comprehensive ‘before’ & ‘after’ analysis to determine the success of this initiative.
  • Traffic Engineering will conduct analysis of existing traffic conditions and subsequent development of a safety plan to reduce vehicular speeds by installing one or more traffic calming devices in the public right of way.

As a general principle, requests shall not be considered on major signalized arterial streets and State Routes for traffic calming tools that are specifically intended to reduce speed through vertical deflection.

Evaluation

Project evaluation will be based upon Project Ranking System established by Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s Publication # 383 (January 2001) as follows:

Scoring Rubric

Criteria Points Basis for Point Assignment
Speed 0 – 30 85th % > posted speed limit (2 points for each 1 mph)
Volume 0 – 25 ADT (1 point for every 120 vehicles/day)
Crashes 0 – 10 1 point for each State Reportable Accident in past 3 years
School 0 – 10 5 points for each school crossing guard location
Pedestrians 0 – 15 5 points for each pedestrian generator (park, playground strip mall, community center, major subway stop, etc.)
Sidewalk 0 – 10 5 points for no sidewalk, on either side, along the block
 

A few notes should be kept in mind:

  1. The minimum threshold to be considered for traffic calming measures is at 60 and above.
  2. Based on the findings of a traffic study, engineering judgment will be used for other factors that may influence traffic calming.