Learning to Love Your Traffic Engineer – Safety

Wednesday, November 27 by JerryFoster

Rt 571 Concept Illustration

Rt 571 Concept Illustration

Not only do traffic engineers prioritize safety lower than residents, the designs that supposedly increase safety cause more death and destruction. Why? Because motorists behave differently than engineers expect.

In 2012, there were 33,561 traffic fatalities, including 4743 pedestrians and 726 cyclists.

Traffic engineers? safety improvements include paving wider lanes and shoulders, removing roadside trees, straightening tight curves, etc.? According to AASHTO standards, ?every effort should be made to use as high a design speed as practical to attain a desired degree of safety.?

Traffic engineers believe that designing for high speed will provide safety.

The crash data, however, show ?wider lanes and shoulders were associated with statistically significant increases in crash frequencies.?

Noland reports that traditional ?road ?safety improvements? actually lead to ? increases in total fatalities and injuries,? because ?this type of approach tends to ignore behavioural reactions to safety improvements?.

Dumbaugh reports that ?a behavior-based understanding of safety performance is supported by research and literature in the field of psychology, which has focused on the subject of traffic safety as a means for understanding how individuals adapt their behavior to perceived risks and hazards.?

Marohn calls the traditional approach to safety ?professional malpractice?.

Despite WWBPA recommendations, the design for Rt 571 in downtown West Windsor follows the traditional approach – 45mph design speed, another lane and wide shoulders – all in the name of bicycle and pedestrian safety.

We?ve seen that traffic engineers might improve safety by becoming better social scientists. Before following that, however, our next installment of Learning to Love Your Traffic Engineer will look at cost.

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Transit Village Not Enough to Achieve Smart Growth

Sunday, December 25 by JerryFoster

This post was published as a Letter to the Editor in the West Windsor Plainsboro News December 16, 2011.? In response to Lucy Vandenberg’s letter in the West Windsor Plainsboro News December 2, 2011, WW Transit Village a Model for State. As I expect Ms. Vandenberg would agree, the Transit Village is a good start, but more needs to be done to achieve the benefits of Smart Growth.

It’s not enough that the Transit Village will “make it possible for people to get out of their cars and walk, bike, and take the train to their destinations.” We must be able to safely walk and bike to and from the Transit Village.

It’s not enough to have compact development – we need a grocery store within walking distance, like the Acme that used to be in downtown West Windsor. Land use law and/or policies must require diverse uses – we need more than banks and real estate offices downtown, so that people have a variety of walkable destinations.

It’s not enough that compact development could be environmentally beneficial – we need specific open space preservation tied to specific dense developments like the Transit Village. It’s irrelevant that other space in New Jersey is already preserved.

It’s not enough to have Smart Growth policies for land use – transportation policy must support land use policy, by implementing the flexible standards in the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s (NJDOT) Smart Transportation Guidebook.

It’s not enough that NJDOT and West Windsor Township adopted Complete Streets policies – Mercer County must also adopt the policy, which requires roadway improvements to support walking and biking. Otherwise major roads like CR 571 in downtown West Windsor are subject to expensive but counter-productive “improvements” that don’t meet the the township’s goal for “pedestrian-friendly, village scale development.” There’s nothing pedestrian-friendly about a wider road with 30% more cars going 45mph, with no place to safely wait in the middle when crossing.

The Rt 1 Regional Growth Strategy is not enough, since it doesn’t sufficiently support redevelopment in Trenton and New Brunswick, the two already-compact but underutilized “developments” anchoring the region. With the right policies, much of the region’s growth could fit into Trenton and New Brunswick with far less environmental and traffic impact. Without supporting our cities, the strategy’s Bus Rapid Transit system will effectively encourage sprawl in outlying areas, contrary to its stated goal.

Respectfully, it’s wrong to promise reduced congestion by implementing Smart Growth, even with Smart Transportation and the Bus Rapid Transit system. Like water, the transportation network balances itself as people choose to walk, bike, drive, or take the bus or train, depending on the cost and convenience of each. If there is less congestion, people will switch to driving until there is enough congestion to make it better to take another way.

The Transit Village is a good start, but doesn’t exist in a vacuum. We need complementary supporting policies to achieve the benefits of Smart Growth. If Smart Growth just means new and denser development, then it has already failed to achieve its goals.

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Proposed Route 571 Main Street Design Unsafe

Tuesday, September 13 by JerryFoster

571/Wallace-Cranbury morning commute 2The WWBPA responded to the county’s proposed CR 571 Main Street design recently, maintaining that it is unsafe for everyone: motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians alike. In the past 10 years, two pedestrians were killed on this stretch of roadway (2004 and 2005), while no motorists were killed.? A 17-year-old motorist was killed in 2006, however, just west of downtown Princeton Junction, when she lost control of her car on the curve coming off the bridge over the train tracks.

The proposed wider-straighter-faster design does nothing to address these safety issues. Instead, it preserves the current 45mph design speed and 40mph posted speed limit. Drivers don’t respect crosswalks when they have to slow from high speed, and the proposed design does nothing to provide pedestrian refuges in the center of the roadway to promote safe crossing.

Rt 571 Concept Illustration

The design also features a new two-way center left turn lane (TWLTL) that studies have shown to be unsafe; AARP calls them “suicide lanes.” One study even showed that artificially lowering the posted speed limit, but not the design speed, caused an increase in crashes.

Picture 7

Here’s a picture of Hamilton’s SR 33 that most resembles what is planned. The 45mph design speed is simply not appropriate for the pedestrian friendly Main Street that our Redevelopment Plan envisions. A survey of other Mercer County towns shows that Princeton, Lawrenceville, Hightstown, Hopewell and Pennington all have 25 – 30mph speed limits on their Main Streets. Why not in West Windsor?

The WWBPA is not just opining, and we’re not just complaining – our response, and our recommendations based on the December 2009 Public Review, are founded on research and guidelines from the New Jersey Department of Transportation. We are recommending constructive, Complete Streets alternatives to remedy the safety issues and make a Main Street that we can all be proud of.

The current design shows why Mercer County should adopt a Complete Streets policy to complement the state and West Windsor township policies – our transportation network needs jurisdictions with consistent policies to benefit our taxpayers.

Thanks to everyone who has gotten involved to support our position! We appreciate all of you who have signed our petition at the Farmers’ Market, or who have contacted the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, which recently conducted public outreach on this and other federally-funded projects.

More help is needed. Please contact our public officials to support our position. With a lower design speed and pedestrian refuges, our senior residents can cross Route 571 safely to the new Rite Aid, and our children can cross Route 571 safely to the new ex-Acme shopping center, as well as to the high school. And our teenage drivers should be able to keep control of their vehicles when going more slowly. Everyone benefits.

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Public Comment Needed on Route 571 Main Street Project

Wednesday, June 22 by JerryFoster

The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) is putting out the New Jersey? federal transportation improvement projects for comment, including the Route 571 project between Clarksville and Cranbury roads. You can find details here:

The West Windsor Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance’s recommendations for the project are here:

The current design calls for adding a center left turn lane, sidewalks and a bicycle-compatible shoulder, maintaining the existing design speed (45mph).

The problem is that the combination of same design speed, the additional center turn lane and roadway widening, but no pedestrian refuges halfway across the road will make it harder, not easier, to cross the street.

Essentially, there will be 30% more cars to dodge when crossing, which will be going faster than today, since they wouldn’t have to slow down for left-turning vehicles (which will be in the new center turn lane).

In our view, Route 571 is already too hard to cross, and this design will make it worse. Please join us in adding your comments to the DVRPC by following the instructions on their web page.

The stated goals are for a bicycle and pedestrian friendly main street, but the design details do not support the goals, according to the NJDOT Smart Transportation Guidebook. On the plus side, the recommended changes will save money and most importantly give us a Main Street we can be proud of, while still increasing? capacity.

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An Effective Pedestrian Crossing

Sunday, April 3 by JerryFoster


Check out the innovative pedestrian crossing in New Brunswick: Not only does it blink when a pedestrian is crossing, it shows the speed of approaching traffic. It’s even solar-powered. A possible solution for Sherbrooke and Route 571?

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