WZBN reporter Rose Eiklor interviewed Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh and WWBPA President Jerry Foster and 2nd Vice President Alison Miller. The broadcast was on December 6, 2011.
Jerry made the case for a revised plan: “While the new plans will allow pedestrians to walk along Route 571 much more easily due to the new sidewalks, they won’t be able to cross as easily. And it’s not enough, in our view, to be able to just walk along a road; we’ve got to be able to cross it safely as well. Any median or refuge island that goes in the middle would be a huge improvement to being able to cross the road safely. The other main thing that we’re looking for is less speed through this section of our ‘Main Street.'”
There also are many, many commuters who will cross right here [the intersection of Route 571 with Wallace/Cranbury], because this is the way to the train station, and it’s expensive to buy a parking space, especially when you can walk. And commuters are always in a hurry, and we’re very concerned about commuter safety.”
Mayor Hsueh worries that any changes in the design at this point will require the Township and County “to go back to square one again…I have reservations about [their design], because they didn’t know that we’d already discussed with County about those concerns. But County…also has certain kinds of ground rules regarding a county roadway, and we have to compromise with them.”
The mayor continued: “The speed limit is decided by the state DOT, so my feeling is, once we have this design done and once we have people riding bicycles around, [there will be] opportunities we can request for reevaluation of the speed limits, and there are technical standards–it’s not even political negotiations, it’s all based on statistical analysis.”
Commenting on the YouTube site, WWBPA trustee Chris Scherer notes, “It is not financially or socially responsible to implement a ‘ solution’ that requires rework to be considered safe and effective.”
Plainsboro’s township committee voted last month to lower the speed limit on Edgemere Avenue, in a residential area in the center of town and next to a school, from 35 mph to 25 mph. The change will take effect later this summer.
Getting a speed limit reduced is no easy feat, but it has become easier because of a change in the law in 2008. As the Princeton Packet noted, township engineers now can change speed limits without DOT approval. They just need approval from their engineering department and governing bodies. This should encourage all of us who want speed limits reduced on other roads.
Edgemere Avenue is getting roadway improvements, including repaving, and new speed limit signs will be installed followed by the police conducting an educational enforcement campaign.
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?
The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC), funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, introduced the Walk-Friendly program to encourage communities to make walking safer and to encourage families to be more active, with a goal of improving health and reducing our need for fuel.
Walk Friendly Communities (WFC) is a national recognition program developed to encourage towns and cities across the U.S. to establish or recommit to a high priority for supporting safer walking environments. The WFC program recognizes communities that are working to improve a wide range of conditions related to walking, including safety, mobility, access, and comfort.
What’s your suggestion for making West Windsor more walkable?
Volkswagen would like to encourage creative thinking to change people’s behavior. Its website TheFunTheory.com “is dedicated to the thought that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better.”
This year’s winner of the Fun Theory Award is Kevin Richardson for The Speed Camera Lottery, which turns a gadget aimed at catching speeders into one that rewards those who follow the rules. Here’s the premise:
Can we get more people to obey the speed limit by making it fun to do? The idea here is capture on camera the people who keep to the speed limit. They would have their photos taken and registration numbers recorded and entered into a lottery. Winners would receive cash prizes and be notified by post. Better still, the winning pot would come from the people who were caught speeding.
A revolution is underway in how towns are being redesigned for livability, and it’s playing out right here in West Windsor. The late Hans Monderman launched a movement for better safety without signs and signals, while in the Confessions of a Recovering Engineer, another engineer realizes that “Wider, faster, treeless roads not only ruin our public places, they kill people.”
Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), recounts the work of the late Hans Monderman, a Dutch traffic engineer who held to a maxim: “When you treat people like idiots, they’ll behave like idiots.” In appropriate settings, he removed the signs and signals that tell drivers what to do. His goal? “I don’t want traffic behavior, I want social behavior.” His work underlies the design for the promenade in the new transit village west of the train tracks.
In Confessions of a Recovering Engineer, Charles Marohn relates his professional experience “convincing people that, when it came to their road, I knew more than they did.” Why? “I had books and books of standards to follow.” Finally, “In retrospect I understand that this was utter insanity. Wider, faster, treeless roads not only ruin our public places, they kill people.”
Please help the county engineers learn from the transit village engineers by supporting the WWBPA’s recommendations for Rt 571 Main Street – slower speed, medians with pedestrian refuges and a pedestrian-activated signal that stops traffic at the crossing at Sherbrooke Drive.
This redesign is our chance to make drivers comfortable with the slower speed – just posting a lower speed limit will not effectively slow traffic. Our tale of two West Windsors might have the happy ending of a pedestrian-friendly Main Street and transit village promenade, leading to higher property values for us all.
Township Council adopted a new concept Monday night for shared streets, also called a woonerf, for the Princeton Junction Transit Village. What’s a woonerf, and how does it work?
Developed by Dutch traffic engineer Hans Monderman, a woonerf is a street where pedestrians and bicyclists share the roadway with motorists as equals. This concept goes by a number of other names, such as Living Streets, Home Zones or shared space.
The WWBPA made several recommendations to improve the bikeability of the proposed area, including more bike parking at the Farmers Market and in residential parking structures, as well as requiring back-in diagonal parking for improved safety.
The WWBPA is confident that this plan, if built as shown in the pattern book, will be eminently walkable, and will provide those bicyclists who are comfortable in traffic with a wonderful place to stop and enjoy the amenities, like the Farmers Market. We are hopeful that motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians will embrace the new shared street and quickly learn to navigate without traditional traffic control.
What is a Main Street and how can we tell a Main Street design when we see it? For West Windsor, this question is important because the county reviewed a Concept Design for Rt 571 in December 2009. Is it a main street design?
The Princeton Junction Redevelopment Plan adopted in March 2009 has a goal to “create a “Main Street” through incremental development that would transform the existing strip commercial form of development along Route 571 into a village form, with buildings close to the street. The objective is to achieve a desirable mix of pedestrian-friendly, village scale development with an emphasis on uses that service local needs. A village character would be created by encouraging pedestrian flow and stores and shops and personal service establishments on the ground floor of buildings and the use of upper floors for offices and residential dwelling units.”
Excellent so far, but what of the roadway itself? How do we know if the street supports these planned uses, or if it’s pedestrian-friendly?
Fortunately for West Windsor, many communities have faced these issues in the past, and based on that experience NJDOT and PennDOT compiled a comprehensive and flexible set of design standards in the Smart Transportation Guidebook, published March 2008. Following is a high level introduction, with extensive quotations.
Why Smart Transportation?
“NJDOT and PennDOT cannot always solve congestion by building more, wider and faster state roadways. There will never be enough financial resources to supply the endless demand for capacity. Further, both states realize that the ‘wider and faster’ approach to road construction cannot ultimately solve the problem. … The desire to go ‘through’ a place must be balanced with the desire to go ‘to’ a place.”
Context Sensitive Design
“Roadways should respect the character of the community,and its current and planned land uses. If appropriately designed, vehicular speeds should fit local context. The concept of desired operating speed … is key to the context sensitive roadway.”
Three kinds of design elements are described:
“Desired Operating Speed: This is the speed at which it is intended that vehicles travel.
Roadway: The design team should select roadway elements and geometry with a clear understanding of surrounding land uses.
Roadside: The roadside primarily serves the pedestrian and the transit rider and provides a transition between public and private space.”
Land Use Context
Seven land use contexts are described – Rural, Suburban Neighborhood, Suburban Corridor, Suburban Center, Town/Village Neighborhood, Town Center, and Urban Core.
Overlaying traditional functional categories, the guidebook describes a typology “which better captures the role of the roadway within the community.” These categories are Regional Arterial, Community Arterial, Community Collector, Neighborhood Collector and Local.
“Main Street is characterized by:
• Wide sidewalks and regular pedestrian activity;
• Street furniture and public art;
• Heavy use of on-street parking;
• Speeds of 30 mph or less;
• Preferably no more than two travel lanes, although three to four lanes are seen on occasion.
The Main Street would typically belong to the Community Arterial road type, or to the Collector road type. This is the case on Route 27 in New Jersey; this roadway hosts two Main Street segments between New Brunswick and Trenton, in the towns of Princeton and Kingston.”
Tables are provided which describe the appropriate roadway design standards for each type of roadway and land use context.
Based on the provided descriptions, the WWBPA believes Rt 571 is a Community Arterial in a Suburban Center, with the plan to become a Town Center over time. The table for a Community Arterial in a Suburban Center recommends the following (in part):
Lane Width: 10 – 12 ft
Shoulder Width: 4 – 6 ft
Bike Lane: 5 – 6 ft
Median: 12 – 18 ft for Left Turn, 6 – 8 ft for Pedestrian
Clear Sidewalk Width: 6 ft
Desired Operating Speed: 30 mph
The WWBPA believes the county engineers should consider these design standards in developing a Route 571 roadway that supports our goal of a Main Street for West Windsor. Please support our call for the engineers to review the design against the Smart Transportation Guidebook by contacting our public officials.
“Desired operating speed is best explained by its relationship to three other concepts of speed: operating speed, posted speed, and design speed.
Operating speed is the speed at which a typical vehicle operates, commonly measured as the 85th percentile speed of all vehicles.
Posted speed is the legal speed limit on a roadway. It is often set without any means of self enforcement, and drivers tend to travel at what they perceive as a safe speed regardless of the posted speed. Fewer than a third of drivers go the speed limit on urban and suburban arterials.
Design speed (as defined in the AASHTO Green Book) is the speed used to determine various geometric design features, including horizontal curvature, gradient, superelevation, stopping sight distance, and, for rural highways only, lane width.
Historically, New Jersey has required the design speed to be 5 mph above posted speed for existing roadways, and 10 mph for new roads.
The greatest drawback to the existing design speed approach is that drivers usually drive as fast as they believe the road can safely accommodate.
Existing policy may thus encourage operating speeds higher than the posted speed limit and/or selected design speed in an area.
In the interest of highway safety, it is desirable to have a stronger relationship between the posted speed limit, design speed, and operating speed. Therefore, this guidebook recommends that the desired operating speed for most roadway types be the same as the design speed, and also the same as the posted speed.”
According to the Rt 571 Concept Design reviewed by county engineers in December 2009, the Main Street Princeton Junction design speed is 45mph, posted speed is 40mph, keeping the same values as exist currently.
Vehicle speed affects pedestrians’ safety in a number of different ways.
The WWBPA has requested the township to work with the county to follow the new NJDOT approach (called Context Sensitive Design) to choosing a desired operating speed, to support our emerging Main Street. NJDOT guidelines for a Community Arterial in a Suburban Center or Town Center context call for a desired operating speed of 25 – 30mph. Please support the WWBPA by contacting our officials, or write us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Residents around Wicoff School in Plainsboro want police to strictly enforce the 35 mph speed limit and the 25 mph limit during school hours or that the speed limits be reduced, and both the police chief and mayor say they understand. Police have issued 59 tickets in the area over the past year, or a bit more than one a week.
But here’s some insight into how hard it can be to change a speed limit and how much we tolerate breaking the speed limit: According to an an article in The Packet, a police traffic survey done this summer found that about 90% of cars were traveling at 40 mph, with the remainder traveling above 40 mph. Under New Jersey Department of Transportation’s regulations, this isn’t a problem because at least 85% of cars are traveling within 5 mph of the speed limit.