Learn more about Traffic Calming in Philadelphia

by | August 8, 2022 | News, Biking in Philly, Vision Zero | 0 comments

In 2020, the number of fatal crashes increased significantly. A total of 156 people died due to traffic violence in Philadelphia which was an 82% increase from the previous five years. 

Traffic deaths are unacceptable and preventable. Speed is the number one contributing factor in determining if a crash is fatal. 

In this blog post we will be going over what traffic calming is and how a neighborhood can request traffic calming measures. 

You can read the full guide via google docs including a presentation and recording of a community meeting with the Northwest Traffic Calming Committee.

What is Traffic Calming?

Traffic calming is the combination of measures that reduce the negative effects of motor vehicle use, alter driver behavior, and improve conditions for non-motorized street users. There are three main types of traffic calming measures which are:

  • Horizontal deflection that hinders the ability of a motorist to drive in a straight path by creating a horizontal shift in the roadway. This shift reduces the ability of a motorist to maintain speed while comfortably navigating. Ex: Roundabouts and traffic circles. 
  • Vertical deflection creates a change in the height of the roadway that typically forces a motorist to slow down to maintain an acceptable level of comfort. Ex: Speed cushions, raised intersections, raised crosswalk, hardened center lines.
  • Street width reduction narrows the width of a vehicle travel lane or roadway, so a motorist likely needs to slow the vehicle to maintain an acceptable level of comfort and safety. The measure can also reduce the distance required for pedestrian crossings, reducing exposure to vehicular conflicts. Ex: Curb extensions, pedestrian refuge island, bike lanes. 

Requesting a Traffic Calming Study in Philadelphia

Step one is all about eligibility. The city and most agencies have very specific guidelines about where traffic calming measures can and cannot go. Before you have a conversation with the city or your council member you should make sure your block is eligible. Arterial streets have caused many blocks to be ineligible but speed survey are oftentimes the most needed in those areas. Arterial streets, however, can be included if they serve a downtown district.

Block Eligibility 

  • Must not be a state road or an arterial route.
  • Must be at least 1,000 feet long (typically two city blocks) between stop signs or traffic signals.
  • Must not have uphill or downhill grades of 15% or more, or be a curving street.
  • Must have a speeding problem

Then once you’ve determined that you are eligible for traffic calming you can request a speed survey be done. An example of what this looks like is a speed truck being placed on a street then the truck will collect data for around 2 weeks then the Department of Streets will analyze the data. This process could take between 4-6 weeks. Write to the chief traffic engineer of the Department of Streets with the location, block eligibility and traffic issues.

Kasim Ali, PE
Chief traffic engineer
Department of Streets, Room 980
Municipal Services Building
1401 John F. Kennedy Blvd.
Philadelphia, PA 19102

Requesting a Traffic Sign: 

For some traffic calming measures like traffic signals/signs or striping you have to fill out a separate request form. An example would be a stop sign that has been knocked down or needs to be replaced or an intersection that witnesses a lot of speeding and would benefit from a traffic signal.

If a traffic light is damaged or isn’t working correctly, you can use an online form to report it to the City. You can also request a new traffic signal or changes to an existing one by writing a letter to the Department of Streets.

  • Four-way stop sign or other traffic sign
    • Write to the chief traffic engineer of the Department of Streets
  • Flashing school zone light
    • The school principal should contact the chief traffic engineer to request an application
  • Requesting traffic light problem
    • Write to the chief traffic engineer of the Department of Streets

Kasim Ali, PE
Chief traffic engineer
Department of Streets, Room 980
Municipal Services Building
1401 John F. Kennedy Blvd.
Philadelphia, PA 19102

Online Application: 

Traffic Sign: https://bit.ly/TrafficSignRequest-PHL

Traffic Signal: https://bit.ly/TrafficLightRequest-PHL

Requesting a Pavement Marking / Line Striping

If your street is overdue for repaving and re-striping, this can affect the people’s speeds on that block. Repainting bike lanes and crosswalks is extremely important for visibility for pedestrians and cyclists to motorists. Pavement markings can include bike lanes, crosswalks, and more. 

  • Information that must be included in the request: 
    • The kind of lines that need to be repainted. (For example, you can describe whether they mark a traffic lane, bike lane, or crosswalk.)
    • The color of the lines.
    • Whether the lines separate traffic that is going in the same direction or in different directions.
    • Whether any turning or directional arrows are missing.

Online Application: https://bit.ly/PHL-RequestLineStriping-PHL

Slow Zones

A Slow Zone has a lower posted speed limit than other neighborhoods, usually 20 mph. So far, only two slow zones have been completed and three more that have been selected. Willard Elementary and Fairhill were the first neighborhoods to be selected to receive slow zones in the first round of the program. 

Slow Zone Measures include:

  1. Speed cushions at over 20 locations 
  2. Intersection improvements
  3. delineated corner clearances and turn wedges 
  4. Painted curb extensions 
  5. Traffic Calming through updated pavement markings 
  6. New instructional street signs 
  7. New and refreshed pavement markings 
  8. A reduced 20 MPH speed limit

The City announced three more selections of Tenth Memorial Way, West Passyunk Slow Zones, and Cramp Elementary; these slow zones will begin construction in 2024. 

The Neighborhood Slow Zone Program is made possible by Automated Red Light Enforcement (ARLE) funding, which is distributed by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. The total ARLE funding award was $1M, which includes design and construction costs associated with the two (2) Neighborhood Slow Zones. The City continues to explore additional funding sources for the Neighborhood Slow Zone program.

More Info: https://bit.ly/SlowZones

Automated Speed Cameras:

In 2018, the state passed legislation approving a 5 year pilot program for Speed Cameras on Roosevelt Blvd. Once the an ordinance was passed through city council, the cameras were placed on the boulevard in 2020.

Before the automated speed cameras were installed, drivers on Roosevelt Boulevard were clocked at speeds of 130 mph. About 10% to 13% of the city’s traffic fatalities happened on Roosevelt Blvd each year prior to the pandemic.

PPA published their annual report on the automated speed cameras in 2022, and it showed that speeding has decreased on the Boulevard by over 90% since the cameras were installed in the summer of 2020.

But at this time, Roosevelt Boulevard is the only place where the state has approved the pilot program. The program is set to expire in 2023 but the city wants to expand the program longer and throughout the county. There will be an opportunity to advocate for expanding this program this fall. 

More information can be found on page 4 and 5 of the PPA Report

This information is oriented to Philadelphia but we can put together information about other PA counties and/or New Jersey if it would be helpful. Please email nicole@bicyclecoalition.org 

Other Resources:
PPA Report 2021
PPA Report 2022
Traffic Fatalities 2022

More Content Like This

Veronica Vanterpool to Give Keynote Address

Veronica Vanterpool to Give Keynote Address

The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia is excited to announce that Veronica Vanterpool, Deputy Administrator at the Federal Transit Administration, will give the Keynote Address at the 2023 Vision Zero PHL Conference catered luncheon. Leslie Richards, CEO and...

0 Comments
Share This