Friday, August 24, 2012

A Better Strategy Than Widening Roads

Orange County and FDOT's knee-jerk reaction to traffic congestion is to add lanes.  We know the consequences--wider, faster thoroughfares are more deadly, helping us earn the distinction as the most dangerous metro area for pedestrians and bicyclists in the United States.

Orange County and its municipalities should look to Carmel, Indiana as a model.

Money magazine ranked Carmel, an affluent suburb of Indianapolis, the number 1 small city in America.  An article in the Indianapolis Star reports:

Notice the lack of traffic signals — there are only 38 in a city with about 400 miles of roads. Notice the lack of 4-way stops. Many have been replaced with roundabouts.  .... 
A few years ago, a five-mile trip down Keystone Avenue from 146th to 96th Street took 15-20 minutes and included long stops at several traffic lights — think SUV’s, mini-vans and Toyota’s mixed in with semi’s. It was a mess.  Today, thanks to new roundabout interchanges, there are no lights. And the trip takes about 6 minutes.
Over the past 15 years, Carmel aggressively replaced stop lights with free-flowing roundabouts and roundabout interchanges. The city has 57 roundabouts, more than any city its size in America. And there are 34 more planned in the near future.  .... There has also been aggression in the way the city has attacked traffic congestion, insisting on bike lanes, connecting pedestrian paths and even forcing developers to build roundabouts if they intend to create an intersection that could one day be a problem. 
The result of all this has been an influx of new residents, moving here from all parts of the country, the world....  
 Orange County's resistance to roundabouts represents an old way of thinking.  Windermere is a  wonderful local example of how roundabouts virtually eliminated traffic congestion--despite 20,000 vehicles passing through each day--while keeping the charm of two lane roads.  Carmel, Indiana shows what local governments can and should do on a larger scale.     

Windermere roundabout.  (Photo credit: Max Geller)  Who'd want to sit here if this was a conventional intersection?
As another person put it, roundabouts "vaporize" traffic congestion