Monday, October 29, 2012

Positive Progress on the Stonington Traffic Calming Initiative

Today I met with Councilman John Heneghan and Director of Public Works Michael Smith, both of whom were kind enough to make some time to discuss Stonington.  We hit a broad range of topics, so I will do my best to organize this blog post so that the broad discussions that occurred have some semblance of organization, but please read this with the idea that I am hoping to fix three problems: excessive speeds, disregarding traffic signage, improper cut-through traffic.  

The broad strokes we discussed are- (1) the study that was conducted on Stonington, (2) discussions regarding the need to study solutions (benefits and costs), and (3) timeframes under which future efforts will occur.  If you have questions about the following, do not hesitate to contact me through this blog.

1.  The Study - Mr. Smith was kind enough to provide me with the results of the study that was performed on Stonington Road, which I will happily share with any interested parties.  The study was conducted on October 3, 2012 for the entire 24 hour day.  As you may recall, the hoses for the counting device were at or near the lowest point on Stonington.  They revealed that 85% of the traffic travels at speeds of 34 mph or less.  They also revealed that during this time period, 1,072 cars traveled over Stonington.  To automatically qualify for a calming study, the travel speed must be 11 mph over the speed limit or 36 mph.  One flaw with the study is that it took place on "Walk to School" day, so an appreciable amount of the usual traffic was likely foot traffic on that occasion.  John shared this fact with Mr. Smith, and it appears that the results of the study will not impede getting Stonington's situation looked at further. 

2.  Solutions - After looking at the study results, Mr. Smith has indicated a willingness to proceed with evaluating and proposing solutions for Stonington's traffic problems.  He visited Stonington Road, and noted that the stop signs were in clear visibility areas.  According to Mr. Smith, stop signs in such locations are usually less effective simply because folks that were inclined to ignore the signs can quickly assess whether or not they will need to yield the right of way.  He also noted the sweeping hill, and the problems that this can cause.

After discussing some easier, but less effective solutions such as replacing the old signs with new ones, painting lines on the street (which are often used on major vessels that travel at faster speeds than 25 mph), or adding speed humps, which may solve certain problems, but create others, we came to discuss solutions more likely to address the speed and signage problems.  

I have included drawings of three such solutions below that Mr. Smith have indicated are worthwhile solutions.  We spent much of our time discussing the first drawing below, Chicanes, and also mini-roundabouts (not pictured).  The City's study will determine the optimal locations of each of these, but preliminary indications are that there would be two or three of these features, perhaps one at each stop sign, and one at the bottom of the hill.  This is by no means finalized, and has not been formally offered by the city, but Mr. Smith regarded them as effective and mutually desirable solutions for the problems we face.  He also indicated that these could be built in such a manner as to not impede the ability of emergency personnel to travel through the neighborhood.

So what is required to get this going?  Again, the affected parties, this time likely including portions of other roads than Stonington, must agree with a 65% majority that whatever the new study reveals is the best way to proceed.  Also, these solutions will likely replace the stop signs that are currently in place.  While removing the signs sounds like a risk, it is clear that many disregard the stop signs presently, so forcing traffic through channels may not result in the total stopping of traffic, but certainly will cause traffic to slow down.  Finally, all affected parties, as defined by the city, will have $25 added to their taxes yearly.  I know that this is not an ideal end, but for added safety, reduced speeds, and potentially higher land values I believe that the juice is worth the squeeze, and I hope you do too.

3.  Timeframes - Once the design proposal has been drafted, it will be made available for review by all affected parties.  The estimated arrival time on this document will be mid-December, after which we collectively decide (again by petition) the fate of the project.  This petition will require 65% buy-in from all concerned parties (as defined by the city).

Once I have heard from Mr. Smith regarding the study, I will be reaching out to friends and neighbors all over the affected areas to educate and discuss the proposed plans.  If you are so moved, when this process starts, I would be most appreciative if you would pick a neighbor or two to discuss this with, and share this information and the need for their support.

I believe that if our collective voice is loud enough, we can create change, and make our roads safer, more desirable, and nicer through-ways on which to live.  As always, please feel free to share this with any concerned parties who are not online, and please contact me if you have input or suggestions.

I met with Public Works...

...and the outlook for this project looks a good bit better than it did a week ago.  I will be sharing the news (some good, and some challenging) in a blog entry shortly, but I wanted to let all interested parties know that this is not the end of the road.

I want to thank John Heneghan for his efforts on our neighborhood's behalf. More to come...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A letter to our neighbors sharing the study results

I sent this letter to our neighbors and several City Officials with a copy of the email from the city.  In short, I am upset about the lack of response to the problems that were voiced in the original request.  

Good afternoon all,

After hearing absolutely nothing from the City of Dunwoody regarding the Stonington Road study that was conducted a couple of weeks ago, I reached out to a city representative for an update yesterday and received the following reply (attached below). In short, the speed is not sufficient to warrant the city's attention (despite being nearly 9mph in excess of the speed limit). What was not addressed in the study, despite clear requests to the contrary, was an analysis of drivers' adherence to the signage (stop signs), and the volume of cut through traffic. I am of the position that the study conducted by the city is insufficient, and that we are being given the brush-off.

I am disappointed with the effort and communication conducted by the city to say the least, and am disappointed with the amount of effort put forth to enforce existing traffic laws and preserve our neighborhoods. As such, I will be regrouping and determining a way to make our efforts more difficult to dismiss. I am somewhat discouraged by the behavior of our city bureaucracy since quality of life and a strong police presence were the major underpinings of my decision to vote in favor of the creation of a city. This level of customer (taxpayer) service does not reflect the ideals with which the city was created.

I will keep you posted regarding my future efforts.

Kind regards,
Thomas O'Brien

A Brush-Off from the City of Dunwoody

The letter below was the City's reply and encapsulation of the study.  As you can see, the results are unfavorable to the traffic calming cause.

Mr. O’Brien,
According to the study, Stonington Rd did not qualify for traffic calming at this time as the 85th percentile speed is 34 mph. However, the results also revealed that the numbers were probably close enough to warrant a follow up study in the future.
For the speeding problem at the moment we can try to work with the Police Department on enforcement, if you’d like. I can get you in contact with Deputy Chief Sides.
Jada Drysdale
Public Works Administrative Assistant
City of Dunwoody
41 Perimeter Center E, Suite 250, Dunwoody, GA 30346
(678) 382-6850 direct | (770) 396-4828 fax

Letter of 10/22/2012

I have yet to hear an update from the City of Dunwoody, so wrote the following email to Ms. Drysdale with the city.

Ms. Drysdale,
I wanted to check in with you regarding whether or not the city had received the results of the Stonington Road study.
Kind thanks,
Thomas O’Brien

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Study is Underway!

Good news for folks following the efforts underway to calm the traffic on Stonington!  Two tubes cross the street near the bottom of the Stonington hill, midway between the two central stop signs.  Though I am no expert on the hardware, I would believe that these will give the city the opportunity to track volume of traffic by each side of the street by hour (tracking cut-through traffic), as well as speed (at a location that should capture cars at their fastest).

My one concern regarding the nature of this study would be the lack of attention to tracking compliance with the stop signs.  I will wait for results before raising this issue in a formal sense.  It certainly is possible that the tubes will be moved near the stop signs at some point during the study, or perhaps there will be stop sign calculations based on automobile speed that may help gauge compliance.  It is also possible that solutions which would be considered could cure the stop sign issue by implication.  We shall see.

Anyway, forward progress on this project is welcome, and I will share any communications from the city as I receive them.  Thank you for your support!