On Monday, November 16, 2020, Council unanimously supported a new traffic calming strategy for the Township of King. This is the first top to bottom comprehensive traffic calming policy King Township has enacted. The new policy eliminates the uncertainty many residents have complained about and replaces it with a logical process that will ensure that every compliant is heard and the appropriate actions are taken.
I am so proud to have been part of this and to be able to deliver on the promise that I made to residents. This was a monumental effort to get done but this will truly make the Township a safer and better place to call home.
The report is named A Slower, Safer King. Please find the entire report here.
I will go over the report at a high level to discuss some of the changes that will make the new strategy effective and how this policy will affect Ward 1.
Background information, this term Council including myself emphasized that speeding was the number one issue we heard about during the election. Personally I heard over and over that residents felt frustrated that there was no logical system in place to deal with complaints. I heard from residents on Elizabeth Grove, Banner Lane, and many other that it seemed like their complaints were not being investigated and there was a lack of motivation to solve the issue of speeding in the subdivisions.
Being a lifelong resident in Ward 1, I have seen first hand the speeding of commuters infiltrating subdivisions, distracted drivers on their phones, and vehicles just rolling through stop signs. In a 2016 study commissioned by the previous Council they found that speeding was a universal issue. Please see some of the findings below.
The 2016 study was clear, the 85th percentile was significantly above the posted limit. Since the first day on Council I have advocated this point on behalf of the residents. Swift action was needed.
Through 2019 and 2020 extensive public consultation was done. This public consultation was to identify hotspots, hear ideas from the community on how traffic calming should look like and to collect data with pilot projects. A number of identified hotspots provided by Council and the public were given a variety of traffic calming measures. These areas were studied and the results recorded.
Below is a list of areas that received these measures as part of the 2020 pilot. I advocated for four areas in specific Elizabeth Grove, Banner Lane, Auston Rumble and 19th Sideroad between Dufferin and Bathurst.
With information from the public, Council input and best practices from municipalities across Ontario, staff and WSP created a new Community Approach. I will highlight some key elements below.
1. Default Speed Limits
Posted speed limits are important, they send a message to the motorist about the expected behaviours on that road and speed is a significant factor related to the frequency and severity of collisions. Speed limits are determined by the classification of the road, below is the current speed limits on local urban roads in the three villages.
As you can observe most established areas the limit is 50 km/h with some newer areas being 40 km/h. The report recommends to change all urban local and collector roads to a uniform speed of 40 km/h. This will provide a uniform reduction and a consistent message to all drivers to slow down. To help ensure that the message is clear. A 40 km/h speed limit sign will be posted at every single gateway road into a neighbourhood.
2. Permeant Installation of Pilot Projects
This item is budget dependant. I will be advocating that the speed humps on Banner and Elizabeth Grove be made permeant with modification. Before I get a ton of emails about the height of the speed hump. Please note I hear you, the ones that will be installed will be to the TAC standard. If you are unaware of what that looks like please visit the TAC standard speed hump on Banner Lane nearest to King Road. Please see picture for reference.
I will also be asking for a slight modification to the location of these speed humps due to residents concerns. For full transparency I have also shown below the cost of each method of traffic calming.
3. Requests and a Brand New Process to Evaluate
Perhaps the most important part of this whole process was bringing in a new transparent way for residents to request traffic calming. Unlike before there is now clearly listed steps, warrants and process that will be followed with every single request. I will highlight the process below.
Traffic Calming Requests - can be received via phone calls, emails and letters from residents, Councillors and Township staff. A neighbourhood petition that includes the statement of concern and support from 20% of affected households along the identified area of concern. Below this is what the form looks like.
The Township staff can confirm the petition area based on the surrounding road characteristics with similar operating characteristics to the location of the request. The requestor is responsible for gathering signatures on the petition form. This petition process demonstrates some buy-in from the neighbourhood and confirms the problem statement. Once the neighbourhood support is confirmed, staff should ensure that they have the basic information of the requested location. Requests can also be initiated by a staff or Council recommendation, which do not require signatures from residents. I know as a Councillor I can request an area of study but I am asking residents to first speak to neighbours and try to gather a uniform opinion. This helps ensure that the approach is community shaped.
Screening Criteria - The screening process filters locations based on geometry, classification and qualifications. This is important since data collection is essential to determine the severity of the issue and the Township has limited resources to conduct data collection within a given year. If the response is ‘No’ for any of the criteria, the location is considered ineligible for traffic calming.
Selection - Once the location passes the screening criteria, the Township should check whether there is available data within the last two years for the study location. If data is required, it should be scheduled. The Township uses an Armadillo Tracker device installed on the side of the road. Setup is a fast and simple "point and go" installation and the radar technology facilitates accurate traffic speed and volume readings.
Warrants Evaluation and Point System - The warrant criteria assess the location for eligibility of traffic calming and the point system, shown below, allows for prioritization between eligible locations.
Based on the available funding, the locations with higher points will be prioritized. The point system is developed to give appropriate weighting based on the road classification (local/collector) and the location type (urban/rural). Locations with total points less than the required minimum points are considered a lessor priority for traffic calming. The Township will continue to seek for solutions to mitigate the initial concern through passive and educational measures.
Above is the clearly listed warrants. I believe this measuring system is truly better that the old system that just measured the 85th percentile and if it was not 15 km/h above the posted speed the area was not considered. This approach accounts for many more variables and is significantly less reliant on just raw speed data. I personally pushed during this process that the evaluating system be more open and broad.
Treatment, Selection and Design - Based on the available annual budget, the Township will prioritize and determine an approximate number of locations that can be implemented. Once a location scores above the threshold, suitable traffic calming devices will be reviewed for the location based on the initial concern, data collected, warrant results and the local-specific context. Appropriate traffic calming measures are discussed further in the report and I am not going to get into all the details here.
Implementation - During implementation, a letter will be provided to affected residents notifying them of the proposed plan, including the objective, rationale on the selected device and the intended outcome of the installation. It will also be posted on the Township’s website. In addition, the Mayor and members of Council will be advised. The final design will include the location of the implementation, spacing, specifications of the treatment, and estimated cost.
Evaluation - All traffic calming devices should be monitored and the effects of the devices evaluated. The monitoring plan includes speed and volume data collection over two days (before and after installation), and a summary of public input and feedback received. This information will help determine whether design and/or location adjustments and any additional efforts are required. When conducting traffic volume data collection, it should be noted that adjacent roadways may have increased volume from traffic diversion. This should be considered to ensure that by installing traffic calming in one place does not create an issue somewhere elsewhere.
In Conclusion - In my opinion, this is not one step forward. This is a full 10 steps in the right direction. Safety on our local community roads is an issue I take with the highest level of seriousness. This will always be an area that I seek nothing but the best solutions. I am truly proud of this report and the impact it will have in King.
Please reach out if you have any questions or comments.