In defense of street dieting

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10464364_328237074007142_2788209830279754703_nSubmitted to Triad City Beat by Monica Peters of We Heart High Point:

Following is our response to the anonymous post card paid for by the Citizens Coalition to Save Our Main Street. Please read the facts! We all want what is best for High Point so we welcome an open public debate, we believe these naysayers are just misinformed and that through well presented factual information everyone will be much more open minded about this concept!

SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT WITH FACTS

A Response to “Save High Point’s Main Street”

Claim 1: Special interest organizations City Project and Heart High Point are preparing to reduce Main Street from four to just two lanes to benefit a handful of wealthy property owners.

Truth: The City Project and We Heart High Point are not “special interest organizations.” They are all-volunteer organizations (The City Project is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit) that seek to promote the revitalization of High Point. No one involved in these organizations receives a salary or will receive any direct economic benefit from either group’s activities. The members of these two groups are well known. They don’t hide who they are.

The proposed road diet would be from four and five lanes to three. A new North Main Street would benefit all the citizens of High Point by creating a walkable, pedestrian-friendly place that will be attractive and create vitality in a way High Pointers cannot now experience and will enjoy. North Main Street will become a “drive to” place instead of a “drive thru” place. The claim that improving North Main Street will only benefit “wealthy property owners” is preposterous and is a pitiful attempt to promote class division in our city. There are many landowners in the area and not all are wealthy. Additionally, it is contradictory to say that wealthy property owners will benefit while at the same time claiming that the proposed changes will only result in disaster. If dieting will result in disaster, how will landowners benefit?

Claim 2: An additional 10,000 to 15,000 vehicles per day will be diverted onto neighboring parallel streets such as Johnson, Hamilton, Elm and Lindsay … Permanently!

Truth: There is no evidence to support this claim. They simply made it up. Preliminary numbers from the ongoing North Main Street Road Diet Study indicate traffic counts of roughly 21,000 cars per day on North Main Street. The idea that 50-75 percent of cars will no longer travel North Main Street after a road diet is completely ridiculous. Case studies of road diets across the nation show that, while traffic volumes initially drop by roughly 10-15 percent, original traffic volumes return and are either maintained or increase after conversion. “Increasing traffic on neighborhood streets always comes up as a worry, says [Peter] Lagerwey. But it’s just something that doesn’t happen with road diets. People stay on the streets.”

Claim 3: A massive bond package will be passed requiring an initial investment of $12 to $15 million dollars which will be up to the average High Pointer to repay… this money will come out of your pocket!

Truth: There is no evidence to support this claim. They just made it up. Implementation costs can vary widely depending on what is done. Simply repainting the street could be done at a minimum of cost without any bond package. Athens, Ga. dieted 1.9 miles of a street at a cost of $190,000. Vancouver, Wash. dieted 1 mile of a street and buried power lines for $1.26 million. Like anything else, cost depends on how much you choose to do, but there are no estimates at this time on cost. Also, any bond package of this size would have to approved by High Point voters and no such package has even been formally proposed.

Claim 4: Main Street businesses will be devastated as they lose more than half of their daily traffic count.

Truth: Nonsense! Half? Another made up figure. See above — traffic counts typically stay the same or increase with road diets. Reducing the number of traffic lanes in each direction eliminates lane changes and weaving which actually improves traffic flow and safety. Slower speeds mean less required distance between cars, increasing the capacity of the street. Not only are traffic counts not adversely affected, but pedestrian and bicycle traffic increases dramatically. Road dieted streets become “park once” areas where people are more likely to park, walk around, linger, and enjoy the setting… and shop and eat. Road dieting is a proven method for revitalizing an area and attracting new development, and has proven to improve economic conditions by both increasing property values and improving sales for merchants along the street. Charlotte dieted East Boulevard through Dilworth in three phases mainly by repainting the street and saw crashes fall by 35 percent, injuries fall by 68 percent, bicycle use climb 23 percent, walking increase 30 percent, and property values increase 47 percent (even during the “Great Recession”). “All of a sudden there are million dollar condos, it has become a real restaurant row, and it wasn’t before we got the road dieted.” (Dan Gallagher, transportation planning section planning manager for the city of Charlotte). After phases 1 and 2 were completed, 77 percent of respondents approved of the construction of phase 3.

Claim 5: Traffic gridlock on Main Street will be the normal daily result during peak hour drive times.

Truth: Gridlock? I thought they said 50-75 percent of the cars will divert elsewhere. How can you have major diversion of traffic and gridlock? One councilman asked the High Point transportation director directly if the road diet would result in gridlock. His answer? No. As stated above, reducing the number of travel lanes actually improves traffic flow. If done while also maximizing traffic light timing, proper flow can be maintained. Traffic flow and traffic speed are different. By design, a road diet will slow traffic… which is a good thing… but flow will actually be smoother. Good for business because slower traffic gives drivers more opportunity to see the businesses on the street. Good for safety… right now the crash rate on North Main Street is 59 percent higher than the state average. Road dieted streets experience an average reduction rate of 30 percent.

If you want more information (including case studies) on road diets, take the time to inform yourself, and don’t believe people or groups who lie to you.

The information for this response can be found in the following publications

1. Going on a Road Diet. Carol H. Tan, US Department of Transportation

2. The Economic Merits of Road Diets

3. Road Diet White Paper

4. Complete Streets Spark Economic Revitalization

5. Complete the Streets for Smart Growth, by Barbara McCann

6. Road Diet Conversions: A synthesis of Safety Research, by Libby Thomas, for the Federal Highway Administration

  • Ben Stuart

    Monica Peters of We Heart High Point why are you all stuck on that one stretch of road? Even Andres Duany said he is not sure that is the best place for what you are trying to accomplish. There are plenty of ideas that won’t cost millions of TAXPAYER DOLLARS to accomplish. The best idea that I have heard is having a street closer to High Point University as your retail, entertainment, shopping district. Several people have proposed using the stretch of Centennial street between East Hartley Drive and Eastchester Drive. This could be a joint venture between The city of High Point, High Point University and private developers. You would only have to repaint the lines to make it a three lane road. Eastchester Drive is more than capable of handling additional traffic.

    You want a town center? Wesleyan will be moving in the future. There is your town center and your retail and shopping could be built out surrounding that area. There is enough room for an outdoor arena. the campus boasts a performing arts center with a 750-seat auditorium with theatrical stage and lighting, two gymnasiums, indoor Olympic-size swimming pool, soccer field, softball field, six lighted tennis courts, outside hard-court play area, and five playgrounds,

    You have thousands of students within walking distance. This area could become the main street for the University. I have heard this is not in the core city plan. The core city plan is outdated and needs to be amended, many things have changed in High Point since 2007. What we are looking for is what is best for High Point and will not cost the TAXPAYERS millions.

    At one of the first meetings that The City Project had with Andres Duany he proposed that an area close to the University be developed as an Uptown he stated that The City Project committee he was meeting with told him that they wanted Uptown where it was originally proposed and they wanted him to make a plan for Uptown only. Do not believe me. I have a copy of the email from Mr. Duany where he states this to a private citizen that posed the question to him.

    Why do you want to subject the citizens of High Point to years of construction, traffic backups, the road will be closed in one direction or another at points during the construction. Businesses will suffer and some will close. But your group and The City Project don’t really care about the business owner that is making a living and will be hurt by this. All you care about is that Uptown is near where you live.

    • Observer

      Better keep an eye on the “plan” to close off/tinker with a section of Lexington Ave adjacent to the school; another High Cost Point “done deal” in the making.

  • Observer

    Same letter to the letter that she sent to our newspaper, and on hpe.com she received all of the response that she deserved.
    Not a word of truth, and another fine example of how a few local insider “visionaries” who spend the taxpayers money control so carefully in small town America.
    And we wonder why we’re the most expensive city in the state.
    The more our “leaders”, elected and not, push forward, the further behind we fall.