“Participatory Budgeting” Takes On Olive Street Speeding

Aliyya Swaby PhotoThomas Breen photoOlive Street will be the beneficiary of a new mobile, radar speed sign next year as the result of an annual exercise in “participatory budgeting”: a democratic decision-making process that empowers a neighborhood to decide how to spend a small share of the city budget.

During its monthly meeting at City Hall this week, the Downtown-Wooster Square Community Management Team (DWSCT) voted to dedicate $5,000 of its annual $10,000 in “Neighborhood Public Improvement Program (NPIP)” allotment towards traffic calming on Olive Street.

For the past three years, the Livable City Initiative (LCI), the city’s anti-blight agency, has distributed $10,000 in NPIP money to each community management team in New Haven to spend as it chooses. The program allows community members themselves to debate and decide on which quality-of-life issues they would like to address in any given year.

As the fiscal year draws to a close, some teams are leaning towards using the money to combat nuisance graffiti, others towards buying poles to hang banners that would advertise neighborhood events above major city streets.

At their monthly meeting Tuesday night, Wooster Square/Downtown neighbors decided that their top priority for this annual allotment of city funds is traffic safety on a street plagued by high speeds and automobile collisions.

“We’re voting on spending the money on traffic safety measures in Wooster Square, a radar speed sign on Oliver Street, and five in-street pedestrian signs and a planter,” DWSCT president Peter Webster said. “As you know, Olive Street is the street of death, literally. We lost one of our neighbors there. And even with the flashing lights at crosswalks, we still have people going 50mph down there to get to the highway.’

The proposed radar speed sign would display a car’s speed as the driver approaches. The signpost itself will also be mobile, allowing the community to try it out at different locations depending on need and efficacy.

The community management team vote on Tuesday night was also as much about hyperlocal democracy in action as it was about traffic calming or any other particular cause.

As DWSCMT Secretary Aaron Goode explained, the annual decision-making about NPIP funds allows New Haveners to participate in a truly democratic debate about community priorities and distribution of resources. He pointed to similar “participatory budgeting” procedures in bigger cities like New York and Chicago as models for what he hoped community management teams would achieve through this process in New Haven.

“Despite the relatively small dollar amount, our management team takes the allocation of this small amount very seriously,” he said. “We kept hearing from all of you that there was a desire for traffic calming in the neighborhood, particularly along Olive Street. So, after considerable discussion amount our executive board, a public deliberation session in February hosted by our development committee, more discussion among our executive board, negotiation with the Department of Transportation, Traffic, and Parking, we have come up with an agreement.”

The team members present voted unanimously to approve a resolution that authorized the chair to direct LCI to transfer $5,000 in NPIP funds to the city’s transit department to install a radar speed sign along Olive Street, and five in-street pedestrian signs and one sidewalk or parking lane planter on or near Olive Street.

The resolution states that the city’s transit department must implement the specified traffic calming measures within six months of receipt of the NPIP funds.

The other $5,000 included in NPIP’s annual allotment to the DWSCMT had been voted on and spent earlier in the fiscal year, and had been used towards funding movie screenings in the park, the installment of bike corrals and bike racks in the neighborhood, and a new bench in Wooster Square park.

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posted by: Frank Columbo on May 19, 2017  9:14am

This is wonderful news for our neighborhood. The citizens who actually live there know the truth about this highway speeding corridor, despite what some public officials would have you believe. You can be about to start your car and have another pass by so fast that your car shakes from wind velocity.

Yes we lost one of our neighbors on this street, a life long resident Dolores Dogolo, on her way to her daily walk in the park, a little over 2 years ago.  Although the official police report concluded that driver Patricia Cofrancesco’s minimum rate of speed was just under the posted 25mph, witnesses stated the car appeared to be traveling at a higher rate than the posted limit. Curious they never calculated a maximum rate of speed.

posted by: Dwightstreeter on May 19, 2017  10:30am

As a regular walker/biker in the area, I’ve witnessed cars blast thru the blinking lights at the cross walk at Court and Olive when people were IN the crosswalk.
We all know people regularly blast thru red lights all over New Haven, so unless we see more enforcement of the law, lawlessness will carry no penalty and we will all be at risk for these routine events.
It’s not enough to put blinking lights in at a cross walk (not that many have them), so it’s time to get some police on the scene to enforce the law. Once people have to pay tickets for running red lights or failing to yield to pedestrians at cross walks, people will change their behavior.
Let’s not wait for more deaths to get serious.

posted by: theNEWnewhaven on May 19, 2017  11:44am

SOMEONE DIED HERE, let’s get serious about this?

Why not make that crosswalk RAISED? Like a table in the road? Add a speed bump or two to help even the speed throughout the stretch?

IT worked on Edwards between Whitney and Orange in East Rock!

Don’t waste money telling these people (who don’t care) what their speed is.

...and instead, tell their CAR when it smashed into the speed hump.

That’ll be a quick change for the stretch.

posted by: Frank Columbo on May 19, 2017  1:13pm


Yes raised tables would startle distracted drivers from their phones that they claim not to have while they speed for the thrill, or perhaps they are Running Late for Meetings.

posted by: JCFremont on May 21, 2017  2:17pm

Been a long time walker and driver, in New York City and New Haven. Think about this, maybe all these extra walking signs have made walkers less careful. I think those middle of the road stop/yeild for predestrians have younger people assuming that the car is going to stop. We seem to be teaching pedestrians to be less careful.

posted by: t4nk on May 21, 2017  3:52pm

Chapel street by the school and park could use the sign as well since it is mobile.  Do these signs record speeds detected?  It would be nice to see the average speed traveled on Olive and Chapel in these areas to make a case for speed tables/humps.