Four years after rolling out the original Complete Streets program, City Hall has decided to embark on a new traffic-calming project, “Complete Streets 2.0.”
Spearheaded by transit chief Doug Hausladen ’04 and city engineer Giovanni Zinn ’05, the new initiative aims to coordinate transit between cyclists, pedestrians and motor vehicles through quick and inexpensive means such as painting new crosswalks, putting boxed plants in illegal parking spaces and using delineator tubes to separate bike paths. The city aims to roll out twenty to thirty of these projects by the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2015, Hausladen said.
“With our budget, we can only afford to do one or two projects a year,” said Hausladen. “And with the amount of calming we need to do, the mayor made it very clear that we need to find solutions that can get to more neighborhoods and have a more broad impact.”
According to the Complete Streets manual from the original program, the program seeks to enable safe access for everyone on the roads.
In 2008, the Board of Aldermen approved the creation of a Complete Streets steering committee to oversee development of the city’s road system. The move came in response to community-wide concern over the amount of traffic accidents in the city. That year, two pedestrians were killed in traffic accidents.
Hausladen noted that New Haven drivers rank among the worst nationwide. According to All State America’s Best Drivers Report, released in August, New Haven had the 10th worst driving record ranking among 200 cities across the country.
Carol Brown, who has worked as a crossing guard in New Haven for the past eight years, said that the city has a bad traffic problem.
“People don’t even want to stop for school buses,” she said. “It’s pretty dangerous down here.”
Shirley Goforth, another crossing guard, said that crossing times in the downtown area should be longer, as pedestrians have only nine seconds to cross the street in certain locations, including at the Church and Elm intersection.
Hausladen said that his office has received around 75 requests for traffic calming since Mayor Toni Harp appointed him as head of transportation, traffic and parking at the end of January this year. He also said that he would draw on inspiration from larger cities that have taken on similar traffic-calming challenges, citing New York City as an example.
New Haven resident Ed Rugemer, who often rides his bike to get around the city, often compared the potential traffic-calming project in New Haven to programs that have been implemented in Boston. Rugemer said he lived in Boston when the city narrowed the streets to add bike paths, which he said did not worsen motor traffic.
Hausladen agreed with him, saying that a bike path on Church Street, one of New Haven’s major transit arteries, would not impede traffic flow for cars.
“We have to rethink how we do roads,” Hausladen said. “There are 12-foot travel lanes on Church Street. We can make them 10 feet.”
In a New Haven Independent poll asking 112 people how they thought a Church Street bike lane should be structured, only 12.5 percent of respondents said that there was no need for a bike lane on Church Street. The majority of the other respondents said the bike lane should be separated by planters.
“I think [more bike paths] would be a good idea and it’s safer for people, especially now that it’s getting dark earlier,” said New Haven resident Tanise Clark.
Travis Smith, another resident who said he rides his bike every day to and from work, echoed Clark’s statement that having more bike paths would increase safety.
However, Hausladen said that there are three potential challenges to Complete Streets 2.0: adhering to the proposed timeline, maintaining the new traffic markers and communicating with residents about the project.
Hausladen added that the city would consistently update their website with project developments, through which he hopes to quash residents’ concern that the city is not doing enough to limit traffic.