Learning to Love Your Traffic Engineer – Context Sensitive Solutions

Wednesday, October 30 by JerryFoster

Clarksville Pedestrians 2In our previous posts, we’ve seen that traffic engineers see urban where we see suburban or rural, and destroy downtowns by putting fast and wide arterials through them. As a result, conversations between residents and engineers are fraught with possible misunderstandings, making it very difficult to find the love.

Fortunately, this problem is well known, so the traffic engineering profession (Federal Highway Administration) developed Context Sensitive Solutions, to “develop a transportation facility that fits its physical setting and preserves scenic, aesthetic, historic and environmental resources, while maintaining safety and mobility.”  In other words, it encourages engineers to see farms and neighborhoods where we already see them, and to build appropriate roads for those places.

NJDOT and PennDOT even published the Smart Transportation Guidebook in 2008, which provides flexible roadway designs, e.g. for a community collector through a suburban neighborhood, 100% compatible with existing design standards (the flexibility was already there, who knew).

Problem solved? Not quite – NJDOT didn’t adopt the principles and practices in the Smart Transportation Guidebook. Why not, and how can we learn to love our traffic engineers if we can’t even agree on neighborhoods? Stay tuned for the next installment – Social Scientist.

 

 

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Learning to Love Your Traffic Engineer – Collect Local Arterials

Wednesday, October 23 by JerryFoster

NJ Turnpike Crash Stops Rt 1The last installment showed that traffic engineers see West Windsor’s roads as urban, even when bordered by farms. To learn to love them, we need to speak their language, so let’s look at the roadway functional hierarchy. Arterials are major roads, Local roads are self descriptive, and Collector roads connect them.

So what? Each type has its own design, e.g. nobody would live on an interstate, the design precludes driveways.

Princeton Sharrow Nassau Witherspoon 2Let’s look at our Principal Arterials – US 1, Princeton Hightstown Road (CR 571) in downtown West Windsor and Nassau Street (SR 27) in downtown Princeton. How can such different roads be considered the same? Traffic engineers don’t see places, but they do identify “traffic generators”. Downtowns aren’t relevant, except that they generate enough traffic to warrant an arterial to connect them.

As traffic engineers “improve” CR571 and SR27 to design standards like Route 1, they destroy the places they don’t recognize, favoring getting through over getting to a place. It’s up to residents to demand local arterials that preserve places for people.

571 East speed 40 1Traffic engineers are an enigma – they don’t see suburbs or downtowns, and destroy the places they don’t see. How will we learn to love them? Find out in the next installment – Context Sensitive Solutions.

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Learning to Love Your Traffic Engineer – Suburbs?

Wednesday, October 16 by JerryFoster

Windsor Rd speed limit 50Don’t we live in the suburbs? Wouldn’t it be nice if there were Complete Streets designs that could make suburban living even better – for motorists, cyclists, walkers, runners, children and seniors?

Consider the suburbs from the point of view of the traffic engineer. After all, the invention of the automobile made the suburbs available to so many people over the last half century, so traffic engineers are largely responsible for how we suburbanites live so much of our lives.

As it turns out, traffic engineers don’t see suburbs, sort of like Stephen Colbert doesn’t see race. The traffic engineering world is governed by urban or rural designs only, and what we think of as suburban is by definition urban.

What about our farms, like all along Windsor Road – rural, right? Sorry, the region’s population, not just the adjacent properties’, determine that all our roads are urban, since we’re in an urban area as defined by the Census Bureau (generally, over 5000 people).

So the first step in learning to love your traffic engineer is to see West Windsor from their big picture point of view – urban.

Stay tuned for our next installment of Learning to Love Your Traffic Engineer – Collect Local Arterials.

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