The Bumpy Road To Calming Traffic

City of New HavenThomas Breen photoFirst fix the speeding by drivers on Anarchy Road. Then we can talk about bike lanes.

Fifty Westville neighbors sent that message to city officials Thursday night as they blasted an early draft of a city proposal to reconfigure the layout of Yale Avenue’s bike lanes, pedestrian walkways, and parking spots. Many of the neighbors criticized the plan for paying insufficient attention to what they saw as the most important problem on the block: high-speed traffic.

The criticism — along with appreciative praise — emerged at a community meeting organized by Westville Alder Adam Marchand, Transportation, Traffic and Parking (TTP) Director Doug Hausladen, and City Engineer Giovanni Zinn. They called the meeting at Edgewood School to discuss a city proposal to reconfigure portions of Yale Avenue, a wide cut-through that winds for just under a mile along the west side of Edgewood Park from West Rock Avenue to Route 34. The dangerous speeding on the avenue has bedeviled the neighborhood for years. (Click here to read about the police department’s efforts to catch speeders.)

The city’s new proposal is an offshoot of a much larger new-urbanist plan that Zinn and Hausladen crafted with the neighborhood: two-way bike lanes (aka a “cycletrack”) on Edgewood Avenue from Forest Road all the way to Park Street downtown. The city’s about to start building that project.

Now Hausladen and Zinn have turned to a stretch of road intersecting that cycletrack, on Yale Avenue. As Thursday night’s meeting showed, traffic-calming matters a lot to people in New Haven. And finding solutions is rarely simple, as officials juggle the needs of parkers, businesses, pedestrians, and cyclists in an era when roads are now seen as serving more than just drivers seeking the quickest routes.

As Thursday’s meeting also reflected, city officials have made a priority of devising solutions — then taking flack from angry neighbors and working with them on tweaks to win consensus (as they did in this case to win consensus for the Edgewood cycletrack). 

Room For All?

Hausladen and Zinn said they are seeking address two major concerns with Yale Avenue that they have heard from Westville residents and alders alike: that cars travel way too quickly along the north-south road, and that parking spots are scarce, particularly outside of Edgewood School.

Their proposed solution involved setting up a protected two-way bike-and-pedestrian path on the park side of the road. They also proposed restriping the road to allow for 150 newly legalized parking spots.

City of New Haven

Yale Avenue currently has bike lines on both the north and south sides of the road. It has a sidewalk on the same side as Edgewood School, but it lacks any pedestrian path on the side closer to the park. Hausladen said parking is currently illegal on the park side of the road, though plenty of cars park there anyway.

“We’re looking for a way to organize the road better,” Zinn said. He stressed that the Yale Avenue project is less about bike lanes than about creating a roadway that caters to a diversity of uses.

He and Hausladen presented mock ups that showed two adjacent four-and-a-half-foot-wide bike and pedestrian lanes abutting the park side of the road. That shared use path would be protected by delineators.

Next to the protected path would be newly striped, seven-foot-wide parking spaces, followed by two 10-and-a-half-foot-wide driving lanes, followed by another row of eight-foot-wide parking spaces abutting the sidewalk.

Hausladen and Zinn said the restriping work would be relatively inexpensive as far as road improvements go. They estimated the plan would cost somewhere in the low tens of thousands of dollars to implement.

They said the money would come out of their departments’ capital budgets. After they get sign off from the community and from the city’s Traffic Authority, the work would take only a few days to complete.

Many of the neighbors who showed up at Edgewood School on Thursday night found much to criticize about the proposal. Of the nearly 20 who spoke up, nearly everyone said the proposal did not go far enough in reining in traffic speeds on a road that some said resembled a parkway instead of a residential city street.

Thomas Breen photoHarold Houston, a retiree who has lived on Yale Avenue for 30 years, said the block is bedeviled every summer by groups of dirt bikers and quads traveling as quickly as 40 or 50 miles per hour.

“The wild, wild West exists on Yale Avenue,” he said. “It’s complete anarchy.” He said no road improvements or traffic calming measures will make any difference on the block unless if New Haven police step up their enforcement of the existing 25 mile-per-hour speed limit.

A number of residents brought up their concerns with the intersection at Yale Avenue and Chapel Street. Paul Stabach said the intersection deserves a traffic light. Sharon Ostfeld-Johns, who lives nearby said she, her husband, and her young son Cliff are inundated day and night with the sights and sounds of car crashes.

“I can’t emphasize enough how many car crashes we hear,” she said.

Steven Judd, who lives three doors away from Edgewood School on Yale Avenue, criticized the plan for not including heavy duty traffic calming measures like speed tables and bump outs.

“We all desperately want traffic calming,” he said. “This is really a bike plan. … Moving lines around on the road just won’t do it.”

He said he was also wary of the proposal because it did not address the problem he and his neighbors face in getting blocked into their driveways by school buses that park on Yale Avenue while waiting to pick up students at Edgewood School. He said he would only support a city proposal to change up the roadway if it addressed the problem of school bus parking as well as the problem of cars speeding up and down the block.

Paul Bass PhotoAmidst the hypercritical voices of the plan were a few neighbors who greeted the proposal with some enthusiasm, even while recognizing that Yale Avenue has a speeding problem.

Tim Holahan said he welcomes any kind of bike infrastructure improvements to the neighborhood, considering that he, his wife, and his child bike downtown every day for work and school. He said this proposal, while not perfect, may be the best the city can do right now with limited funds to improve on the status quo. He stressed that any apparent narrowing of the roadway, which this plan would accomplish through the striping of the protected bike-and-pedestrian path and parking spots, is a proven way to reduce car speeds.

“I think this is going to be brilliant,” said Ida Nelson, who lives at the corner of West Rock Avenue and Yale Avenue. She said she sees cars flying through the stop signs at her intersection nearly every day, and that she thought the proposal as presented would help reduce some of that speeding.

Hausladen, Zinn and Marchand promised to set up another community meeting before the end of June to discuss an updated version of the Yale Avenue reconfiguration proposal.

Hausladen and Zinn pointed out that traffic-calming measures fall into different pricing tiers: restriping and speed humps cost in the low tens of thousands of dollars; raised intersections and speed tables cost in the mid-to-high tens of thousands of dollars; and roundabouts and traffic lights cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

They said the Chapel and Yale intersection will require its own intensive planning and community discussion process, but that they will incorporate neighbors’ calls for speed humps, clear parking regulations, and improved signage into their Yale Avenue proposal before the next community meeting.

“This is the right way to do government,” Zinn said at the end of the meeting. He said the technical expertise that he and Hausladen brought to the proposal was only as good as the specific and informed direction offered by people who actually live in the neighborhood in achieving some kind of higher quality of life and roadway use on Yale Avenue.

Edgewood Cycletrack Nears Construction

Hausladen and Zinn also said during the meeting that city is just about ready to go out to bid for the construction of the Edgewood Avenue two-way protected cycletrack.

The $1.2 million largely state-funded dedicated cycletrack will stretch along Edgewood Avenue from Forest Road to Park Street. After a contentious public deliberation process two years ago, the cycletrack ultimately received the thumbs up from the Traffic Authority.

Zinn said he is waiting on only a few more state approvals, including from the State Historic Preservation Office, before the city can officially put out a bid for a contractor to build the cycletrack. He did not want to put a specific date on just when the state would deliver the last of those approvals, but said that the project should be completed well before the end of the calendar year.

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posted by: Fairhavener on June 1, 2018  10:35am

The 11% tax hike will ensure traffic calming right?

posted by: Esbey on June 1, 2018  10:37am

This is a good article.

Narrowing the road will significantly reduce speeding, so this is an excellent speed reduction plan.

posted by: Noteworthy on June 1, 2018  10:44am

Re-Cycled Notes:

1. The only people who think the cycle track on Edgewood are bike nuts. There is no community agreement - there’s agreement from a relative handful of people in the 25th Ward.

2. I drive this stretch every day - never pass more than a couple of bikers - even on a nice day. I did drive next to a family of bikers the other day - who ran red lights with a kid on the bike; took up the entire lane because they wanted to ride side by side; rode their bikes around a school bus with its flashers on and then cut off traffic on Elm.

3. Zinn says this is how government is supposed to work. They propose, get bitched it and then come up with a better plan. Really? I attended numerous budget meetings - they proposed, we bitched and then they jammed an 11% tax hike, $30 million in new taxes down our throats.

4. I’m glad Ald Marchand was there - did he hold up his little timer cards here too? Did he actually listen better than he did during budget hearings? Because he just voted in one of the largest tax hikes in New Haven history and has overseen a chronic budget deficit for the last several years including the current year that is ending with a nearly $15 million deficit that’s been ignored all year.

posted by: anonymous on June 1, 2018  10:56am

The new configuration will greatly reduce speeds, at basically no cost, which I think is the goal for the current calendar year.

Some of the other things, like traffic lights or more signs, or an underground bus way so school buses don’t have to pull up in front of your house for a few minutes a day, can be added at a later date, as funding becomes available.

Saying you won’t support a project like this because it doesn’t do everything it could do at some point is like throwing away a $100 bill because it has a tiny scratch on one corner.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on June 1, 2018  11:15am

Narrowing travel lanes with visual demarcations like paint striping and physical barriers like parked cars and delineator tubes can help reduce travel speeds. While increased traffic enforcement and larger scale permanent traffic calming measures would also help, I don’t see the downside of the current proposal presented by the City. This sounds like a good project and it does not prevent additional measures being implemented in the future should funding be available and residents call for it.

posted by: FacChec on June 1, 2018  11:20am

Marvelous opportunity for Alder Marchand to be shown looking like a choir boy in five photos looking attentive and without a stop watch, monitoring speaker time preventing them from seeking the truth through public comment, as he does during city hall public hearings. By the way, this project involves more than one city ward, why were there not more recalcitrant Alders present. Pay back is -a- coming.

posted by: anonymous on June 1, 2018  11:37am

“I drive this stretch every day - never pass more than a couple of bikers - even on a nice day.”

That’s odd. I walk, bike, or drive on it at least twice every day, and between the Boulevard and Dwight Street, it is common to travel for a mile without seeing a single car, even between 8am and 9am.  There are tons of pedestrians and many people riding bikes. 

Keep in mind that most of the funding for this is going towards improvements that benefit pedestrians & bus riders, not bicyclists.  I’m not an expert on the project, but it seems inaccurate for this newspaper to say that it is a $1.2 million cycle track.

posted by: HewNaven on June 1, 2018  11:44am

There is probably a solution that involves corporate advertising. We’re just not thinking hard enough.

posted by: RHeerema on June 1, 2018  11:52am

If ONLY the East Shore neighbors were accorded this level of communication and engagement regarding the City’s desire to pave more runway over wetlands at Tweed!!  Giovanni Zinn says it (now): “This is the right way to do government.” Well, that comment stings.

Day after day and week after week, I read news articles about how Management Teams are meeting with responsive and communicative city officials and developers, grappling with hard decisions. East Shore neighbors learned AFTER City Plan approved a major set of plans—without ANY notice or community involvement.

Not meaning to hijack this important dialogue…  I’m glad for the respect afforded other neighborhoods in New Haven. Glad, jealous and a wee bit bewildered.

posted by: Patricia Kane on June 1, 2018  1:05pm

We look forward to Hausladen and Zinn’s solutions to the 100 mph zone that is Quinnipiac Avenue.

posted by: westville man on June 1, 2018  1:17pm

As i understand it,  no $$ goes to the city for speeding tickets and the like.  The state gets it.  A solution would be to double the fines and let the city keep half of it for enforcement costs.  The change would need to come at the state level, but would cost the state no loss of revenue and give the city incentive to enforce its traffic laws.
Perhaps then the cops can stop harassing people coming down Chapel st at the park where no one lives and instead set up the traps where we do. 

RHeerema-  dont you have traffic calming on Woodward by the ball fields?  And don’t forget we have our own NIMBYISM here in Westville as I have previously posted.  That’s why you can’t see a concert at Yale Bowl or the Tennis Center anymore, much like I can’t fly anywhere except Philly from your neighborhood.

posted by: ADAK on June 1, 2018  1:53pm

I don’t believe DOT enforces speeding tickets, so anyone at this meeting that wasted time discussing this should have sat down.

Implementing some sort of traffic calming (Park Ave on the other side of the park has a speed table) is worth considering. However, it should be fairly obvious that people speed on Yale Ave because of how wide it is. Adding dedicated bike lanes and *more* parking spaces (there is currently one one lane allotted) would tighten the road and force people to drive slower.

Why oh why do we criticize almost any and all improvements to our city?

posted by: JCFremont on June 1, 2018  1:57pm

How long until the city floats the idea of adding bicycles to property tax rolls. You don’t have to pay it if you own a home or have a car registered in New Haven.

posted by: Nadine H on June 1, 2018  4:21pm

We’ve been begging for traffic calming relief on Whalley Avenue for at least the 15 years that I’ve lived in the neighborhood! We’d LOVE to see something like this come here on the city-owned stretch of Whalley between Ella Grasso Blvd. and Dwight Street.

As someone who bikes to work on Whalley, I usually ride in the street but there are times when I need to jump on the sidewalk in order not to get mowed down by a car as people tend to drive pretty fast. There are LOTS of people who ride bikes in my neighborhood because that is their main form of transportation, as well as folks who now ride Whalley because it is the fastest way to get to and from downtown. Whalley is so wide that it could EASILY accommodate something like this with room to spare AND we have sections of Whalley that have no parking, so why this wasn’t brought here first I will never understand…

We realize that any traffic calming measures on Whalley would benefit EVERYONE: drivers, pedestrians, and yes bike riders. I’ve personally spoken to Doug many times about bringing traffic calming to the Avenue, and it has been a topic of conversation at our management team and Main Street meetings so he knows he has support for something like this from the residents and business owners in the area.

I have to tell you I’m frustrated at times at the amount of pushback generated by a few neighbors toward measures that would benefit the majority of the neighborhood.

posted by: __quinnchionn__ on June 1, 2018  4:39pm

I personally like the idea. Except that it won’t really do anything for school buses that wait to pick up students at the school. I definitely agree that there should be a traffic light at Chapel and Yale Avenue. Anybody with sense would think that particular intersection would be a good spot to put a traffic light in order to help calm the speeding of drivers. There should also be speed tables and bump outs on every corner of the Yale Avenue stretch as well.

posted by: Noteworthy on June 1, 2018  5:16pm

Money and Fake Issues Notes:

1. The issues are parking around Edgewood School and traffic calming. It is not 2 way cycle tracks.

2. Hausladen and Zinn always want to make it about bikes. Solve the real problems. 

3. There are so few bikes on Yale Ave a sole lane does fine. Add parking to the park side. A single cycle lane runs next to it. Extend the parking for 300 feet or so. Done.

4. You don’t need a light at Yale and Chapel. A block later you have another light. A stop sign is just fine if anything.

5. Put up signs for speeders. Put cops out there. We have lots of those. Put them out there when speeding is most common. Commuting times are likely the best.

6. Be practical. Not every solution neefs to cost a lot of money.

posted by: BevHills730 on June 2, 2018  11:27am

Great project! I’m excited to see all of the projects that are connecting neighborhoods and making the city more bike friendly.  Out city’s compact size really makes biking a great strength of the city.  Noteworthy, leave the car at home and use a bike for a commute.  Its fun, builds support for an important shift to using less carbon, and will help you stay healthy!

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on June 2, 2018  1:21pm

Westville Man, your first sentence is mostly correct. Municipalities keep part of the ticket revenue. But the bulk of the revenue goes to the Special Transportation Fund, which pays for mass transit as well as roads.

I staffed the legislature’s Transportation Committee for ten years.
Previous proposals along the lines you suggest ran into two arguments. The first was from the Judicial Department. Currently, most people simply pay their tickets. If the state substantially raises fines, more people will contest them, further slowing cases in a clogged court system. A number of legislators were also wary of giving municipalities an incentive to set up speed traps.

posted by: John Bodnar on June 3, 2018  4:11pm

Years ago I lived in the working,blue collar,section,of West Hartford and we had a speeding problem on our street.After begging the Town for help they installed chicanes,it helped.

I hope the residents of Westville explore all options.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on June 4, 2018  6:31am

JCFremont, the state, not the city, determines what is subject to the property tax.  Bikes and other personal property owned by individuals is not taxable. Personal property owned by businesses generally is taxable.

Patricia, one thing your neighbors might want to explore as an adjunct to traffic calming is working with the Urban Resources Initiative to plant more street trees. In addition to their other benefits, trees make the road appear to be narrower, slowing traffic as Jonathan Hopkins describes.

posted by: westville man on June 4, 2018  9:53am

Kevin,  Typical State responses:  “incentive to set up speed traps”.....yes- to catch speeders-isn’t that the point?;  And,  claiming unsubstantiated consequences as a reason not to raise tix for violations. The system we have now isn’t working, we KNOW that much.

posted by: Patricia Kane on June 4, 2018  10:17am

@John Bodnar:unfortunately chicanes are likely not possible on Quinnipiac Avenue, which has maybe one bend between Foxon Blvd and Ferry St.
@Kevin McCarthy: There is a plan for something at the corner of Q. Ave and Hemingway, the site of numerous collisions.
Trees may just be objects for more collisions. Love the sign on Clifton St that says: CAUTION: TREE.
  The road is wide enough for a bike lane, but the road goes downhill from Hemingway to E. Grand Ave, which encourages speeding.
  The biggest offenders are police vehicles traveling 80+ mph mostly to Foxon Blvd and beyond.
  Bumps may be a problem for emergency vehicles, but they are in place on Front St., so why not on the Fair Haven Heights side as well?
    Doug Hausladen is aware of the issues here, but until we clone him and Giovanni Zinn, we have to wait our turn.

posted by: Seth Poole on June 4, 2018  10:25am

“Why oh why do we criticize almost any and all improvements to our city?” - ADAK

Residents have been experiencing traffic noise that can be deafening and they live in the vicinity of schools and parks where traffic calming is standard in every community on the planet with the exception of our own.  We understand that transportation in our city is in need of an overhaul, and that there have been several issues regarding said changes on the docket for decades.  The answer has always been, “we don’t have the money.”  With an 11% tax hike, we are giving the city the money to do as we see fit.  Thank you for hosting community conversations, and now to inform the community better of when they are happening.

I would like to see the safety of our children be prioritized at some point in the near future.  Bike lanes are fantastic, and traffic calming measure are decades overdue.  If the plan is for the chicken comes before the egg because budget constraints, then let’s see this to fruition and acknowledge that the case for traffic calming has been made.  These changes may lead to traffic calming inadvertently, or they may lead to more accidents.  Only time will tell.

posted by: Nadine H on June 4, 2018  11:40am

Amen Seth!

posted by: HewNaven on June 4, 2018  12:51pm

Why not design a chicane that incorporates advertising? It would pay for itself. And, there’s no harm in more advertising.

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on June 6, 2018  7:29am

Westville man, I didn’t say they were good arguments. But at the legislature (where I worked for 30 years, with Democrats and Republicans), they have been persuasive. Increasing the fines modestly and allowing municipalities to keep the new revenues probably would not create any problems. But I doubt it would have much impact on driver behavior or NHPD priorities.

Patricia, I believe more trees are the answer to many questions. But you’re right- they do need to be sited properly to avoid creating hazards.