City of Decatur, GA. Speed Limits Study and Proposal

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1 City of Decatur, GA Speed Limits Study and Proposal

2 Table of Contents SUMMARY 2 HEALTH IMPACTS 5 EXAMPLES 6 ASSESSMENT 7 Current Speed Limits 7 Safe Routes To School 9 Speed Limit Enforcement 11 Accidents 13 Community Facilities 15 Infrastructure 17 Street Typology 19 PROPOSAL 21 APPENDIX A: CURRENT STREET CLASIFICATIONS 22 APPENDIX B: COMMUNITY TRASNPORTATION PLAN STREET TYPOLOGY 25

3 SUMMARY At the request of a number of residents, the City of Decatur, GA conducted a review of speed limits and several other traffic related issues within the jurisdiction. Based on this research and adopted policies a comprehensive, City-wide update for speed limits is being proposed to improve consistency and to improve conditions to support the community s vision of Decatur as a safe, walkable and bike-friendly place for all ages. This proposal is, in large part, inspired by the Georgia Department of Transportation s adoption of a Complete Streets Policy in This policy requires the Department to routinely incorporate bicycle, pedestrian, and transit (user and transit vehicle) accommodations into transportation infrastructure projects as a means for improving mobility, access, and safety for the traveling public. This mirrors the Complete Streets policy adopted by the City as part of the Community Transportation Plan (CTP) enacted in 2008, which was the first transportation plan in the United States to incorporate a Health Impact Assessment. As Decatur s sense of place has evolved in recent years, so has the understanding of how streets and the built environment impact human health. The plan states that, The CTP employs a Complete Streets philosophy that defines the street by more than juts its mobility and accessibility functions, but by its role as a critical community character shaper. The design of our environment affects how people connect with one another and how a community establishes a sense of place. Revising speed limits at a comprehensive community level provides the opportunity to create a consistent policy for areas of similar land use and character. This approach has not been used previously in the State of Georgia. Traditionally, speed limits are addressed on individual basis, with specific vehicular traffic data and research presented to the Georgia Department of Transportation for each street. Decatur is well suited to take a broader approach to the issue. In addition to being one of the most densely populated cities in the State of Georgia, the community has a longstanding tradition of smart-growth planning with emphasis on capital projects that enhance transportation options for its residents. Why else is Decatur a unique location for this project? A population density of over 4,500 residents per square mile. Award winning Safe Routes to School program. A thriving downtown business district with over 200 retail and restaurant locations. 3 MARTA rail stations within the jurisdiction. Diligent traffic enforcement, which was expanded in 2009 to included dedicated traffic patrol. A property tax base comprised of 85% residential property. Popular events that attract thousands of attendees each year. A 10-year sidewalk improvement campaign. Bronze level Bike Friendly Community status and Silver level Walk Friendly Community status. Significant interest among residents in issues related to traffic calming. Page 2

4 For this proposal, the City carefully assessed current street conditions and recent infrastructure improvements. Posted speed limits for all streets were inventoried. Additionally, information was gathered and analyzed on speeding violations, traffic accidents, sidewalk coverage, bicycle lanes, safe routes to school and community facilities. Based on this analysis, the City of Decatur is proposing that a comprehensive update of all speed limits be made to better align with the street typologies identified in the Decatur Community Transportation Plan and to implement recommendations for creating healthy environments. The typology classification serves as an overlay to the functional classification system currently used by Georgia Department of Transportation that is designed to more accurately represent the character of Decatur s community streets. The CTP identifies a typology for each street in the City. The typology takes into account the function of the street, as well as recognizing that the adopted land use, building form, mix of uses and density of development play an important part in the overall transportation needs of the community. Decatur streets do more than simply serve a function: they help build relationships between buildings and sites along the way; they offer a connection between places and people; and, they can serve to support a healthy lifestyle. They are a public resource for all modes of travel. The typology categories adopted in the CTP are listed below, along with the targeted speed limits. Table 1: Street Typology- Community Transportation Plan Arterials Regional Boulevard Downtown Core Urban Mixed Use Neighborhood Conservation Targeted Limit (mph) Non Arterials Medium and High Density Residential Low Density Residential Alley/Service Page 3

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6 HEALTH IMPACTS The built environment, particularly our transportation system, plays a large role in facilitating the opportunity to live a healthy lifestyle. The Georgia Department of Health reports that the leading cause of death in Georgia is cardiovascular disease. 1, 2 One of the primary prevention strategies is to create environments where people can routinely incorporate physical activity as part of their daily lives. Vulnerable populations such as those who are transit dependent, elderly and/or minorities experience poor health at a greater rate due to lack of access to safe transportation options and nutritious food. The implementation of a Complete Streets policy is a critical tool to help create access for all populations for safe, active modes of travel. Lower vehicle speeds are fundamental to creating actual and perceived safety for pedestrians or cyclists. The Health Impact Assessment for the Decatur Community Transportation Plan contained several recommendations on how the City could encourage good health for its residents and visitors through the transportation system. This included emphasizing mobility, increasing the use of alternative transportation, partnering with the schools to implement Safe Routes to Schools and making traffic safety a priority. Implementing a consistent speed limit is a key strategy to improve traffic safety in the City. Studies show that speed has a direct relationship to the severity of the injuries sustained in a crash. 3 While there have been numerous safety improvements to vehicles in the past decade to protect drivers during a crash, pedestrians still remain the most vulnerable and most likely to die in an accident when struck by a vehicle. As driving speed increases, so does the likelihood of a collision. Increased impact speed, in turn, results in a sharp increase in injury severity because of the power relationship between impact speed and the energy released in a crash. 3 As the City of Decatur continues to encourage its population to use alternative methods of transportation, lowering speed limits is part of the strategy to create a safe environment and minimize the chances of injury and death. This proposal shows how the City s current land use and programs are encouraging walking, cycling and transit use. It describes our efforts to manage speed through road design, enforcement and public education. Ultimately, this proposal is based on a policy of improving public health by enhancing safety and promoting physical activity. Obesity and other forms of chronic disease are preventable and the City of Decatur is committed to addressing this leading cause of death in Georgia. 1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2008). Georgia: Burden of Chronic Diseases. Retrieved from 2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Georgia Fact Sheet. Retrieved from 3 Transportation Research Board; National Research Council. (1998). Managing Speed: Review of Current Practices for Setting and Enforcing Speed Limits. Page 5

7 EXAMPLES Aspen, Colorado Population: 6,680 (35,000 estimated in tourist season) Size: 3.87 square miles In March, 2013, the Aspen City Council voted to reduce speed limits through much of the City from 25 mph to 20 mph with only a handful of exceptions. The change was initiated by resident complaints that 25 mph was too fast for neighborhood streets, especially those used as shortcuts to avoid the main streets. Streets with an 85th percentile operating speed of 26 mph or above were targeted for future traffic calming projects, because with the new speed limit these streets would now experience speeds that exceeded the speed limit. To reduce signage costs, and sign pollution, the City put signs at main entryways that say Speed Limit is 20mph unless Otherwise Posted. Portland, Oregon Population: 603,106 Size: 133 square miles Portland s Neighborhood Greenway program was established to create a network of world-class residential streets that connect schools and parks while providing access to business and transit. The Greenways provide safe options for walking and bicycling that work in concert with the Safe Routes to School Program. Based on a review of traffic data, the Portland Bureau of Transportation identified several of these streets to be designated 20 MPH streets because they have fewer than 2,000 motor vehicles per day, have 85th percentile speeds lower than 30 MPH, and have pavement markings to indicate the presence of pedestrians and bicyclists. Columbia, Missouri Population: 113,000 Size: 63 square miles In 2009, the Columbia City Council approved a consistent methodology for speed limits on residential streets with traffic volumes of less than 2,000 cars per day. The community has a long tradition of traffic calming initiatives and promoting non-motorized transportation alternatives. The goal of the project was to create a consistent methodology of setting speed limits and placing signs on residential streets in order to minimize speed and traffic on low volume residential streets and facilitate the safest possible traffic movement on collector and arterial streets. Additionally, the Council directed that kid friendly neighborhood signs be erected in conjunction with the speed limit change. Page 6

8 ASSESSMENT CURRENT SPEED LIMITS Incongruities exist in the current established speed limits in the City of Decatur. Areas of similar character and typology have varying speed limits that do not reflect current usage. This results in confusion among drivers and inequity between neighborhoods. HIGHLIGHTS (SEE MAP ON NEXT PAGE) Posted speed limits range from 15mph to 40mph. Neighborhoods with similar demographics and usage do not necessarily have consistent speed limits. Several streets have no posted limits which default to 30 mph. Speed limits on major streets vary as follows: o o o o o o o o Scott Boulevard- 40mph Church Street- 35mph Clairemont Avenue- 35mph College Avenue/Howard Avenue- 35mph Commerce Drive- 35mph South Candler Street- 35mph Ponce de Leon Avenue- 30mph East Lake Drive- 30mph Page 7

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10 SAFE ROUTES TO SCHOOL Decatur has had an active Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program since Beginning with the school year, the Decatur Active Living Division took on the management and development of Decatur s program. With strong support from the school system, parents, and students, Decatur has developed an award winning and innovative program. HIGHLIGHTS (SEE MAP ON NEXT PAGE) The Centers for Disease Control reports that in 2010, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. Schools play a particularly critical role by establishing a safe and supportive environment with policies and practices that support healthy behaviors. Schools also provide opportunities for students to learn about and practice healthy eating and physical activity behaviors. 4 The Decatur Safe Routes to Schools programs utilizes the Four E s Engineering, Enforcement, Education, Encouragement to make it safe and attractive for students to walk and bicycle to our neighborhood schools. The Safe Routes program began as a Georgia Department of Transportation funded pilot project in January 2005 at 2 school sites and has since expanded to 6 public school sites and 1 private school site. The routes identified for the SRTS program span the entire community. Several routes involve crossing busy streets and state highways. 4 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Childhood Obesity Facts. Retrieved from Page 9

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12 SPEED LIMIT ENFORCEMENT The Decatur Police Department has an active traffic enforcement program which was expanded in 2009 to include dedicated traffic patrol. Enforcement of speed limits, especially in school zones, is a critical component of this effort. HIGHLIGHTS (SEE MAP ON NEXT PAGE) The highest volume of speeding violations in 2011 was on Scott Blvd. (SR 8), Clairemont Avenue (SR 155), College Avenue, and West Ponce de Leon Avenue. Many of the streets where speeding is an issue is in close proximity to schools and other community facilities. Page 11

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14 ACCIDENTS Increasing the safety of motorists and pedestrians is a significant motivation for this project. While the correlation between speed limits and traffic accidents is not absolute, a more comprehensive speed limit strategy, combined with traffic enforcement and calming efforts is expected to reduce the number of accidents. HIGHLIGHTS (SEE MAP ON NEXT PAGE) Traffic accidents were most common on streets with speed limits of 35 mph or higher and around business districts. Accidents in non-arterial roads were less common. A literature review sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that pedestrians have a five percent chance of fatal injury when hit by a car traveling 20 miles per hour (mph) or less. This risk increases to 40% at a vehicle speed of 30 mph, 80% at 40 mph, and nearly 100% at 50 mph or more. Page 13

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16 COMMUNITY FACILITIES With a population density of nearly 5,000 residents per square mile, community facilities and points of interest are spread throughout the City. These facilities include schools, places of worship, assisted living facilities, municipal buildings, parks, and other recreation facilities. Setting appropriate speed limits to protect the people who travel to these destinations helps increase safety while also encouraging active, healthy lifestyles. HIGHLIGHTS (SEE MAP ON NEXT PAGE) Facility Types Assisted Living Facilities- 3 K-12 Schools- 13 Higher Education- 5 Places of Worship- 20+ City Parks- 9 MARTA Rail Stations- 3 Business Districts- 3 Retail/Restaurant Locations Public Safety Facilities- 3 Schools located in close proximity to streets with high volumes of speeding violations: Renfroe Middle School College Avenue (SR 10) Agnes Scott College College Avenue (SR 10) Decatur High School College Avenue (SR 10) Westchester Elementary Scott Blvd. (SR 8) *reopens in 2014 Page 15

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18 INFRASTRUCTURE In addition to the education and outreach efforts, significant capital investment has been made in Decatur s pedestrian infrastructure.. Recently Decatur was awarded Bronze level certification in the Bike Friendly Communities Program and Silver level certification in the Walk Friendly Communities program. Encouraging and supporting alternative modes of transportation is a primary focus of the Community Transportation Plan. The City-wide sidewalk improvement program began in 2004 with funding from annual appropriations by the City Commission, and was further strengthened by a bond referendum approved in Additionally, the City hosts many events that promote alternate modes of transportation. HIGHLIGHTS (SEE MAP ON NEXT PAGE) Capital investments to facilitate alternative modes of transportation (approximate) o Sidewalks-$2M o Bike Lanes-$400,000 o Clif Shuttle- $3500 per year o G060+ Shuttle- $12,000 per year (pilot phase) o MARTA Plaza Redevelopment- $1M o Focused Neighborhood Traffic Calming Initiatives- Ponce de Leon Terrace South Columbia Drive, Ponce de Leon Court and the Great Lakes o Crosswalks o Paths/Trails o Agnes Scott crosswalk Biking & Walking Events/Promotions: o Employee Walking Works o Car Free Day o Sidewalk Saturdays o Walk and Roll to School o Walk there Decatur o Bike Training Page 17

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20 STREET TYPOLOGY Decatur s Community Transportation Plan identifies a street typology for each street in Decatur. The typology accounts for the street s function, the adopted land use, building form and mix of uses. Therefore, it is appropriate for target speed limits to be assigned based on the street typology.. Downtown Core streets are located within high density mixed use commercial, retail, office and residential areas with substantial pedestrian activity. They should accommodate bicyclists as vehicles and target reasonable motor vehicle speeds. Regional Boulevards are designed to balance traffic mobility and land access. Typically businesses are setback from the street and the emphasis for these corridors is not on pedestrian mobility as much as other typologies. Urban Mixed Use: No definition included in CTP Neighborhood Conservation streets carry more traffic than most residential local streets, but they must be safe for walkers and bicyclists by providing reasonable automobile travel speeds. Non-arterial Streets consists of Alleys, Residential Local Streets and Downtown Local Streets. Downtown Local Streets provide alternative rotes for congested areas in the downtown. Alleys are for loading goods for local business. Residential local streets provide not just a way to and from home but a shared space in the neighborhood for walking, biking conversing with neighbors. Page 19

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22 PROPOSAL The City of Decatur is proposing that the speed limits be comprehensively updated to better align with the typology identified in the Community Transportation Plan (CTP), to support the policy of improving public health and to recognize the community building aspects that are related to transportation policy. The CTP typology classification serves as an enhancement of the functional classification system currently used by Georgia Department of Transportation and is designed to more accurately represent the character of Decatur s community streets. Table 2: State Functional Classifications and Community Transportation Plan Street Typology Current Functional Community Transportation Plan Street Typology Classification System (GDOT) Urban Principal Arterials Urban Minor Arterials Urban Collectors Roads Arterials Regional Boulevard Downtown Core Urban Mixed Use Neighborhood Conservation Targeted Limit (mph) Non Arterials Medium and High Density Residential Low Density Residential Alley/Service Proposed Changes (See Map on Next Page) 1. All streets will have a speed limit of 25mph unless otherwise posted. This includes streets identified as Downtown Core, Neighborhood Conservation, or High/Medium/Low Density Residential. 2. Streets identified as Regional Boulevard change to 35mph. a. Scott Boulevard (SR 8) is the only Regional Boulevard. It has a current speed limit of 40mph. 3. Streets identified as Urban Mixed Use change to 30mph. a. College Avenue (SR 10) & Howard Avenue change 30mph despite their mixed designation as Urban Mixed Use and Neighborhood Conservation. b. Small street sections designated as Urban Mixed Use will revert to 25mph due to the short distance (ex. Trinity Place and East Lake Drive). c. Church Street is proposed to change to 25mph in light of the lane narrowing that occurred after the CTP was prepared. Page 21

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24 APPENDIX A: CURRENT STREET CLASIFICATIONS The following provides a summary of the current classification of Decatur s street network as collected from the Georgia Department of Transportation DeKalb County database. Urban Principal Arterials The City of Decatur has one principal arterial, Scott Boulevard (SR 8 & US29). It traverses the northwest corner of the City connecting downtown Atlanta to Stone Mountain and points further east. Urban Minor Arterials Decatur has good east-west and north-south connectivity provided for by a number of minor arterials. The City s minor arterials include: East/West College Avenue (SR 10 & US 278) East/West Howard Avenue East/West Ponce de Leon Avenue North Decatur Road Urban Collectors Second Avenue East Lake Drive South Candler Street (E. College south to Kirk Road) East Trinity Place Church Street North Arcadia Avenue South Candler Street (Kirk Road south to City limits) South Columbia Drive Commerce Drive Clairemont Avenue East Lake Road Local Roads The remaining streets in Decatur are considered local roads. The vast majority is located within the City s numerous single-family residential neighborhoods. State Routes within Decatur The City currently has 6.8 miles of State routes within the City limits, including the sections of the following roads which fall within the City s limits: State Route 8: Scott Boulevard State Route 155: Commerce Drive (from Clairemont Avenue east to College Avenue), Clairemont Avenue, South Candler Street State Route 10: College Avenue, Park Place (from East Lake Drive west to City limits), East Lake Drive (from City limits south to Park Place) Page 23

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26 APPENDIX B: COMMUNITY TRASNPORTATION PLAN STREET TYPOLOGY Page 25

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