Learning to Love Your Traffic Engineer – Speed and Volume

Wednesday, November 20 by JerryFoster

us-vmt-projectionsUnlike residents, our traffic engineers prioritize speed and volume over safety and low cost ? why? It?s how they were trained.

We?re long past the era where roads provide orders-of-magnitude improvement, e.g. from walking to motoring, but policy still encourages speeding, e.g., engineers design for 5-10mph over posted speed, so 74% of drivers on Rt 1 in Plainsboro exceeded the speed limit recently.

Going faster means getting there faster, right? Only if you?re on the mythical open road – in densely populated New Jersey, we have traffic.

Speed can work against getting there faster in traffic, since cars stay further apart – the best volume throughput is at 30-46mph. Improved signal coordination and speed harmonization allow people to get there faster even though they?re going slower, by delaying the onset of stop-and-go congestion.

Historically, traffic increased year after year, but in 2004 per capita volume (vehicle miles traveled) declined (!), followed in 2007 by a total volume decline as the recession took hold.? Though the Great Recession ended June 2009, total volume remains at recession levels, and per capita volume continues to slide.

Is it the end of ?build it and they will come?? If so, engineers will have one more reason to change their priorities. In our next installment of Learning to Love Your Traffic Engineer we?ll look at safety.

 

 

 

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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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What Makes a Main Street Work for Everyone?

Monday, July 18 by JerryFoster

Bicycle and pedestrian friendliness doesn’t have to be a win-lose battle between competing interests, but can be a win-win for everyone.? The right design balances safety, capacity and livability for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians in a way that makes all groups comfortable sharing the space.

Notably, the roadway design should make motorists comfortable traveling at the posted speed limit, which should be 35mph or less so drivers will stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk.

One nearby example of pedestrian friendliness sometimes discussed is Mercer County Rt 526 in Robbinsville, where recent development included all the design items to make a pedestrian friendly area.

Does it work? Check these pictures – they apparently need a lighted sign board to remind drivers re: the speed limit, and to watch for pedestrians. Why might the roadway design not support the speed limit?

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