What is Traffic Calming?
Most often, traffic calming describes techniques for managing speeds and volumes of vehicular traffic in residential areas. The purpose of the City's Traffic Calming Program is to implement traffic calming techniques, when appropriate, in response to neighborhood requests for assistance with residential traffic concerns. Typically, these techniques include installation of one or more devices in the street that make it inconvenient for drivers to drive fast or to use the street as a through way.
The program provides a way for neighborhoods to request assistance in calming traffic on residential neighborhood streets. The City then reviews and evaluates the requests or proposals. Consensus with a majority of the neighborhood is reached about appropriate strategies to address the problems identified, and the selected strategy is implemented by the neighborhood and the City.
For more information, view the application packet for the City of Missoula Traffic Calming Program.
Several kinds of devices are available; which is used depends on the specific situation on the street. Customarily, rather than a particular device, residents want a result: slower traffic and less of it, with the consequent improvement in noise levels and safety. Often, residents also want the physical enhancement to their streetscape that some installations can provide.
Traffic calming publicly began with a grant from the State of Montana that funded a workshop in November 1995 for neighborhood groups and others. Subsequently, seven neighborhoods submitted applications for temporary traffic calming. Four were accepted for preliminary review. The city analyzed traffic data, met with residents, and eventually selected two neighborhoods for the temporary devices.
Citizens are familiar with the curbing we installed on S. 4th Street West and on Evans. We had three intersections with curb bulb-outs on 4th Street, two intersections with bulb-outs, and two with elaborate roundabouts on Evans.
Our evaluation of the projects showed that on 4th Street, traffic slowed from 6% to 12% and volumes decreased by 7%. On Evans, speeds decreased from 2% to 8% and traffic volume decreased by 30%. Further, the devices eliminated 1/3 of all speeds over 35 mph and 1/4 of speeds over 25 mph.
Residents on Evans St. appreciated the effectiveness of the devices enough to petition the City to install permanent ones. In the summer of 1998, the City installed permanent, landscaped traffic circles at the intersections of Evans with Ronald, Hilda, and Helen.
Costs of these techniques were split by the residents, who formed a Special Improvement District (SID), and the City, which utilized grant funds to establish the circles as a demonstration project. Today, the majority of funding for a traffic calming project would have to come for the surrounding residents through the creation of an SID.
For more information or to initiate a traffic calming program in your neighborhood, contact Ben Weiss at 406-552-6352.