Traffic Calming Confusion: City Needs Clear Policy
A recent Brooklyn Community Board 6 vote has once again highlighted the problematic role of community boards in transportation planning, and the big inconsistencies in DOT's traffic calming policies. At its May meeting, the Board's Transportation Committee voted to oppose the Court Street sidewalk extensions (neckdowns) at Carroll and President Streets in the proposed Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming pilot project. While T.A. has other problems with the proposed pilot projects, Court Street is in desperate need of traffic calming; installing neckdowns is a sound idea and a good way to test their efficacy in Downtown Brooklyn. When asked about the vote, CB 6's District Manager stated that, "neckdowns don't solve every problem," and that the board was concerned about lost parking at the corners.
It is a sorry state of affairs when the community board in a community as progressive as Park Slope votes down sorely-needed pedestrian improvement for the sake of a couple of parking spaces. Neckdowns have been used in the city for years, and are extremely effective at protecting pedestrians by reducing road crossing distances and slowing vehicle turning speeds. Compounding this embarrassing situation is the fact that the neckdowns were part of the proposed pilot project -the whole point is to analyze how well they work in Downtown Brooklyn. CB 6 is turning in its verdict before the testing has even begun. Sadly, this is also in keeping with the Board's opposition to pedestrian improvements at locations such as 4th Avenue-one of the City's deadliest pedestrian locations.
A larger problem is community boards attempting to stipulate traffic calming policies. As T.A. detailed in the Fall 1999 issue, Staten Island community boards have rejected or waylaid speed hump requests. They have argued simultaneously that speed humps slow down traffic too much, and don't really work. Applicants for speed humps in Staten Island now receive a three-page letter from community boards that outlines all of the 'steps' needed to obtain a speed hump, and also lists several untrue 'negative aspects' of speed humps.
While community boards undoubtedly know much about their respective communities, they should not have the ability to dictate policy or derail projects based on whims or personal preferences. NYCDOT has clear and consistent policies on the installation of curb cuts and stop signs, and must develop the same for traffic calming measures, or requests for traffic calming will continue to be mired in chaos. T.A. urges NYCDOT to keep the Court Street neckdowns in the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming pilot program, and to apply traffic calming guidelines consistently across the city.