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Traffic Calming Policy Information

Traffic Calming & Safety Initiative

Background

Philadelphia is the 6th largest metropolitan city in the United States with a population of approximately 1.5 million. We have about 2,500 miles of roadways to maintain and operate. Streets Department is committed to provide fully accessible, multimodal, safe and efficient movement of all modes of transportation, including pedestrians & bicyclists.  Unfortunately, due largely to aggressive driving, pedestrian and bicycle related crashes are at an all time high, making our streets unsafe & less walkable. About 100 traffic related deaths per year is simply unacceptable.

Under Mayor James F. Kenney’s Executive Order 11-16, a Vision Zero Task Force was created to drastically reduce serious injuries & fatalities. Streets Department has been mandated to protect these most vulnerable of all road users, the pedestrians, especially disabled, children & elderly, and bicyclists.

Since speeding is mostly the underlying cause in most of our crashes, it is a top priority of Streets Department to slow down vehicles. Citizens are demanding better quality of life by making their neighborhoods more walkable and safe. Streets Department is committed to deploy tools, to effectively calm traffic.

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 close to 25 mph, the standard posted speed limit in such areas.
  • Discourage cut through traffic.
  • Make City truly multimodal by making it more walkable and pedestrian/bicycle friendly & safe. Enhance the quality of life for our citizens.
  • Provide universal accessibility for all able and disabled pedestrians.
  • Comply with the “Complete Streets” Guidelines.
  • Achieve Vision Zero goals by 2030.

Tools

The range of engineering tools available for traffic calming & safety, fall into three categories: road right-sizing, traffic controls, and pavement undulations.

Right-sizing includes traffic lane removal or parking addition for road narrowing, Bump-outs (curb extension), staggered parking, to create chicane like conditions.

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, intersection conversion (signal to all-way stop), countdown pedestrian signal indicators, and signal timing/coordination changes such as, leading pedestrian intervals.

Pavement undulations refer to soft rumble strips, raised crosswalks or speed tables & speed cushions (see description provided below.

Speed Cushions

These are state-of-the-art proven & most effective traffic calming devices used all over United States. They are essentially speed humps with cutouts. calm traffic by slowing down speeds in the vicinity of 27 mph without delaying emergency responders like Police, Fire, Ambulances and Transit. Drainage isn’t an issue. The gaps between them allow emergency responders and SEPTA to simply straddle without any significant delays. On the other hand cars whose front wheels are spaced so closely that they are forced to go over them at a much slower speed, which is mostly around 27 mph. They are ONLY 3 to 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 shall follow the below stated procedure:

  • Residents must request a traffic calming & safety study through the Streets Department to see if a block qualifies for speed cushions. In order to qualify for this particular treatment, it must meet the following conditions:
    • The block must not be a State Highway or an Arterial route.
    • The block must be at least 1000 feet long, typically 2 City blocks, between traffic controls (stop sign or signal).
    • Two-way streets must be at least 26 feet wide
    • One-way streets must be at least 20 feet wide
    • The block must not be on a very steep hill with sharp grade & downgrade.
    • The results of the study must show a demonstrated speeding problem. Speeding is currently defined as 85% speeds of more than 10 mph over the posted speed limit. Residential streets are posted 25 mph which is the lowest posting allowed under Penn DOT guidelines for an urban Street.

If the results of the study indicate a block does qualify, the requesting party must than prepare a petition requesting traffic calming measures on their block, signed by 75% or more of the properties whose address falls on the block. The petition must be signed by residents who are in favor & actually live on the block. They must state their full name, address and telephone numbers, on the petition and follow the procedure listed below:

  • Residents shall forward this petition to their locally elected City Councilperson.
  • If the petition is verified and acceptable to the local City Councilperson, he or she will then send an official letter  to the Chief Traffic Engineer, formally requesting speed cushions for traffic calming, at the following address:

Kasim Ali, PE

Acting Chief Traffic Engineer

900 Municipal Services Building

1401 JFK Boulevard

Philadelphia, PA 19102 - 1676

  • In line with the results of the study, Traffic Engineering will determine a score based on the ranking table, into a City-wide master list for implementation, depending upon resources & as funds are made available.
  • 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.
  • Traffic Engineering will notify the requesting City Councilperson about the planned installation of speed humps or speed cushions.
  • Traffic Engineering will conduct a comprehensive study to evaluate ‘before’ & ‘after’ conditions, to determine the success of this traffic calming & safety initiative.

Please note that if the community, or the residents, or the local Councilperson have a change of heart for any reason, and request Streets Department to remove these speed cushions, they shall be fully responsible for all the costs associated with this install & subsequent removal. This includes roadway restoration & pavement markings etc.

Evaluation

Speed shall be evaluated as part of all Traffic Calming studies.  The 85th percentile speed is used to evaluate speed during these studies, as a national standard practice. As per Traffic Engineering’s definition, treatable speeding is currently defined as when this 85th percentile speed is at least 10 mph over the posted speed limit.

Prioritization of implementation of traffic calming tools on individual blocks will be based upon Project Ranking System established by Pennsylvania State DOT, as follows:

Scoring Rubric

Criteria Points Basis for Point Assignment
Speed 0 – 30 Extent by which 85th percentile speeds exceed posted speed limit; 2 points assigned for every 1 mph
Volume 0 – 20 Average daily traffic volumes (1 point assigned for every 120 vehicles)
Crashes 0 – 10 1 point for every crash reported within past 3 years
Elementary or Middle Schools 0 – 10 5 points assigned for each designated school crossing guard location on the block
Pedestrians Generators 0 – 15 5 points assigned for each public facility like parks, rec centers, playfield, high schools, business, strip mall, etc. generating a significant number of pedestrians, abutting the block
Pedestrian Access

0 – 5

5 points assigned if there is no continuous sidewalk on either side of the street
High Injury Network (Vision Zero) 0 – 10 10 points assigned if the block falls within High Injury Network (HIN) as developed under Mayor’s Vision Zero initiative