APWA Book Review

Traffic Calming Primer
Pat Noyes & Associates
1998, 34 pp.

Public outcries of "too many people going too fast past my house," have public officials and transportation professionals trying creative and innovative strategies to slow traffic in neighborhoods. This effort, referred to by many as traffic calming, is demanding increased time and resources from public agencies.

Although traffic calming can be a very effective way to slow traffic, reduce cut-through traffic, and increase safety and neighborhood livability, some efforts have been more effective than others. In fact, some traffic calming has met with strong public disapproval while other efforts to calm traffic have been hailed a great success. The differences stem from many factors including the tools used, the approach taken to involving affected residents, and policy level issues of implementation.

A recently published Traffic Calming Primer provides some guidance on this highly public, often emotionally charged, arena of transportation. It suggests that the most effective traffic calming efforts take an integrative approach to traffic calming that combines engineering solutions with enforcement efforts, public education campaigns, and neighborhood enhancements. The most successful traffic calming is based on a comprehensive program that guides the process of developing neighborhood plans in a consistent way throughout the city or county. These programs establish policies and guidelines for traffic calming applications.

As part of a comprehensive traffic calming program, policy consideration should be given to funding criteria for traffic calming projects, prioritization of projects or neighborhoods, and potential impacts to emergency response. Funding is generally a very complex issue that should be addressed at the city or county level. There are numerous funding options that can be developed, and these, like other policy issues, must be appropriate to the community. Another significant policy issue is how agencies balance the demands for traffic calming with life safety impacts to emergency response times. If not addressed on a comprehensive policy level, significant problems can arise with unexpected negative impacts to the community.

Beyond the policy level issues for any community, individual neighborhoods and affected residents are a critical focus for planning traffic calming. Neighborhood level planning allows those most directly affected by residential traffic to shape the traffic calming plan for their streets. Working with residents to identify the critical traffic concerns and develop a neighborhood plan is an integral part of the traffic calming planning process. Residents and professionals alike need to fully understand the range of issues and the range of tools available to address those issues. Each tool in the traffic calming toolbox has specific applications and limitations. Each has advantages and disadvantages which should be fully understood before it is selected for use in a neighborhood. It is important that whatever devices are selected, they address the problems experienced in the neighborhood and don't create new, unexpected problems for the residents.

Traffic calming offers some exciting opportunities for improving our neighborhoods and reducing the negative effects of traffic in residential areas. Traffic calming tools can be very effective if used appropriately and with an appreciation of their strengths and limitations. It is critical that those involved in addressing residential traffic concerns understand the appropriate use of traffic calming tools and develop clear policies and processes to guide their application.

Traffic Calming Primer is available from APWA. To order it or any other American Public Works Association books, go on-line to www.apwa.net or call 816-472-6100.