Archive for May 2011

Municipalities Need to Monitor & Respond to Changing Conditions

On days like today, I’m reminded of why the Pacific Northwest is a top tourist destination during the late spring and summer. Unlike 10 years ago, however, downtown Seattle remains lively through the evenings. This means more street traffic as well as a lot more foot traffic exists in many neighborhoods in and near the city’s core.

Street injuries arise when a municipality fails to monitor traffic/volume changes

Cities need to monitor changing conditions in traffic volume.

Increasing traffic volumes. A new mall near what used to be a subdued area of downtown. A new school with kids now crossing a busy street by the school. Municipalities need to monitor and respond to changing conditions, as what was once a safe street may have grown hazardous.

An unsafe condition develops when the lack of gaps in major street traffic creates frustration for turning vehicles or pedestrians attempting to cross the street, with people forced to use their bodies to challenge oncoming traffic to slow or stop.

Do cars turning left to get to the new mall need left-turn channelization and a left-turn green arrow?  Have there been left-turning collisions (failure to yield right of way) because there simply were inadequate gaps in traffic to safely turn within a reasonable waiting period? Is a pedestrian-actuated traffic signal needed to provide protected crossing for students?

Has a street become so busy that a pedestrian refuge island is needed halfway across?

Vehicle counts and collision data are just facts that governmental entities need to stay on top of, to identify needs for corrective measures.

Well-qualified transportation engineers are familiar not only with the tools available to state and local road departments for solutions, but they are also aware of applicable standards, warrants and requirements for the safe operation of streets and highways.  A violation of those standards, warrants and requirements, without a valid excuse, is evidence of negligence.