Mayor Helene Schneider and Santa Barbara City Council:
Re: Council meeting on May 8, 2012. Subject: Pedestrian Crossing Treatment Alternatives on Milpas Street at Ortega And Yanonali Streets (530.04)
Cars Are Basic Inc. is a transportation advocacy organization concerned with the effect of transportation policies on jobs and safety. CAB’s position regarding item 530.04 (above) is to leave Milpas Street configuration as is. The assignment of at least one additional police officer from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. for traffic management will solve the majority if not eliminate traffic violations on this vital economic corridor.
To this end, CAB makes the following points:
» 1. How many pedestrian accidents and/or fatalities happen on four-lane streets in the City of Santa Barbara? Has staff presented comparison traffic statistics (vehicle vs. pedestrian) teasing out one-lane, two-lane and four-lane streets? Upper De la Vina is a classic example of claims of accidents that did not exist driving the removal of four lanes of travel to two lanes causing more than double the congestion on De la Vina at rush hour. It would appear the traffic staff is once again using questionable projections, based on what statistical evidence in the city?
» 2. In recommending option 3.a, staff appears to be engineering a condition with strange logic. Staff projects conditions under “benefits” of this option “no traffic delays.” Immediately below in “Tradeoffs” staff states, “Does not address overcrowding concerns related to narrow traffic lanes.” Obviously this is an attempt to cover the delays that will happen, leading to congestion at moderate to high traffic periods.
What about the ripple delay effect of starting from a stop magnifies delays? It is settled knowledge, traffic management classes, that narrowing from multiple lanes (e.g., two to one lane) results in delays and congestion. Anyone who has driven Shoreline Drive hill up to the Mesa at rush hour or Highway 101 where it narrows knows this. Staff makes the following statement: “The striping change offers the most overall benefits to traffic operations.” Admitted delays, not addressing congestion resulting from narrowing, and long-term effects on businesses are good? Why would staff make the statement “... traffic signals are not likely to reduce the overall number of pedestrian-involved crashes” and state it is a benefit to operations?
“Approximately eight parking spaces on Yanonali Street, and about four parking spaces on Ortega Street, would have to be eliminated.” Are streets begging for more parking? Staff further states that a median refuge island is recommended, but they have proven to be dangerous on Cabrillo Boulevard during high traffic use periods. Pedestrians stranded with traffic moving past them can become disoriented and in some instances try to dash across in dangerous conditions.
» 3. The City of Santa Barbara has heard from the majority of residents and businesses along this street multiple times, and the answer is “do not narrow or congest this street.” The business community on Milpas is heavily Hispanic, operating middle-class businesses, providing middle-class jobs, and goods and services of a blue-collar nature vital to the entire city and particularly to the Lower Eastside. Congestion by design and loss of badly needed parking of any degree jeopardizes the Milpas Street business community. One petition circulated by CAB collected over and over 90 percent of the businesses from Cannon Perdido to Carpinteria streets, and 600 signatures, the majority residents.
» 4. In the staff report, one of the options is to “eliminate” crosswalks, which was tried by former traffic czar George Gerth and supported by the senior most traffic staff, Rob Dayton. Gerth reported this was a successful application that did not increase pedestrian-car accidents. Reversal was not about statistics but pressure from the neighboring community. The unfortunate accident resulting in these potential changes, to narrow Milpas, occurred at night.
Not during the busiest daytime hours. Will narrowing Milpas stop reckless disregard for safe driving by speeders on one lane? No. How many of staff or council knowingly broke speed laws as a teenager or in their early 20s? The only real deterrent is a police officer on the street.
CAB recommends against changes to Milpas resulting in (a) lane or capacity reduction, (b) congestion by design as related to slowing, and (c) the urges the addition of pedestrian activated, solar powered flashing crossing lights.
Your attention to these concerns is appreciated.
Scott Wenz, president
Cars Are Basic Inc.