City policy and national standards discourage use of traffic calming on busier roads, such as collectors and arterials, which are designated for moving high-volumes of traffic through the city
City councillors have asked city staff to amend a policy so that traffic calming measures can be considered on collector routes near parks and schools.
Council had previously asked administration for an amendment to the city’s traffic calming policy, as any attempts to install calming measures on some collector routes were shut down after administration advised that it would be against both city policy and national traffic standards. After a lengthy debate during Monday’s executive committee meeting, a majority of councillors voted to reword the policy so traffic calming can be considered near parks and schools, no matter how busy traffic in the area may be.
The discussion came out of a previous committee ask to consider traffic calming on Sixth Avenue West near St. Anne School.
Director of public works Wes Hicks said traffic counting and speed monitoring on the street over a two-year period didn’t find any significant pattern of speeding. Still, councillors said, neighbours are concerned at the higher rate of traffic in the area and have requested that council take action.
The road, Hicks said, is also used as a city bus route and for ambulance, fire and police. It has two half signals for pedestrian crossings and two crosswalks.
“It’s our position that we would not need to do any traffic calming on Sixth Avenue West,” Hicks said.
“We were still asked to bring forward this report to make it possible to add traffic calming to that street.”
According to Hicks, all the cities surveyed use Transportation Association of Canada guidelines to determine when traffic calming is needed, and what forms can be used where.
Designated collectors collect traffic from surrounding neighbourhoods and provide traffic movement to arterials. Traffic movement is the primary consideration of designated collectors.
Designated collectors in Prince Albert include Sixth Ave. West, Central Ave. 22nd Street and 10th Ave. East. They are one step down from arterials, used to move traffic through the city. Arterials include Second Ave. West, Sixth Ave. East and 10th/9th Abe West, 15th Street, River Street and Marquis Road.
Under the current policy, traffic calming devices can only be requested where there is adequate traffic, speeds that are, at a minimum 10 km/h over the limit, have pedestrian use, and support from the neighbourhood for the calming device. Traffic calming devices include objects such as speed humps, raised crosswalks, rumble strips, curb extensions, traffic circles, raised medians, forced turn islands and on-street parking. The purpose of traffic calming, city staff wrote, is to restore streets to their intended function.
The policy is being amended, Hicks said, because “it would be difficult for us as administration to endorse putting some of those (traffic calming) devices on arterials and collectors and going against the Transportation Accommodation Standards of Canada.”
Ward 5 Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick said that while those standards are important, so is common sense.
“Tons of kids are crossing this area,” Ogrodnick said. ‘We need this. We need to start using some common sense. We need to slow traffic down. So that kids are safe. Kids are unpredictable whether they’re going to run out or not.”
Ogrodnick said that as the city spends thousands on upgrading parks and playgrounds, it needs to consider slowing down traffic in those areas, regardless of what roads they’re located by.
‘We could have a policy, but we need to break it a lot of times where we need to slow traffic down in this city.”
Ward 6 Coun. Blake Edwards said the clause allowing council to make exceptions is needed because “any discussion that came forward about traffic calming measures was shut down. The common sense factor went out the door,” he said.
“I understand why the public is frustrated with speed. There are more cars on the road every day. More traffic brings to light the speeding that occurs.”
Hicks, and the report, noted that making routes more difficult to traverse for emergency and public transportation vehicles isn’t the only concern. Traffic calming can lead to some drivers avoiding the area altogether. They could head down side streets instead, disrupting residential areas not intended to act as primary routes.
“If you put traffic calming on, people will take a different route,” Hicks said. “If it means cutting through a neighbourhood, they will.”
Creating the exemption option, Though, doesn’t mean that traffic calming will start popping up on collectors, said Ward 8 Coun. Ted Zurakowski.
‘There’s still a process,” he said. “There are lots of exits along that process.”
The proposed change passed unanimously. The proposed change, which would allow councillors to vote to accept the amendment allowing city council to approve traffic calming on collectors near parks and schools, will be forwarded to a future council meeting for approval.
Residential streets come with built-in traffic calming
Most residential routes through the city come with their own traffic calming measure — on-street parking. Street parking makes a road seem more narrow, he said, leading most drivers to slow down as they pass through the area. It’s the same concept used by curb extensions, also known as neckdowns, which tighten up at intersections. The narrower road causes most drivers to be careful.
Even though some residents dislike having parking out front of their house, Hicks said, that on-street parking can be a major factor in slowing people down.
An example he cited was Central Ave. downtown. On-street parking and neckdowns are present in the area, which sees most drivers travelling well below the 40 km/hr speed limit.