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Thread: Arguing in favor of maintaining narrow residential road section

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    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Arguing in favor of maintaining narrow residential road section

    I'm doing a presentation to my City Council next week regarding widths for standard residential roadways. Our current standard residential street section calls for a paved width of 27' (front-of-curb) in an overall right-of-way of 50'. The right-of-way includes 4' or 5' sidewalks with a landscape strip separating them from the back of curb.

    Two of our council members have complained about difficulty getting down these streets due to people parking on the street rather than in driveways. Even if someone parallel parks badly on the street, there is still typically a 12' travel lane. So cars going the opposite direction have to yield to each other--big deal right? Our fire marshal would like them a touch wider, but even he doesn't particularly care since they don't drive the biggest damn fire engines on Earth.

    I've already put together information on the costs associated with widening existing streets and increased development costs for new development. I've also done some streetview visuals of what a retrofit might look like (not pretty). What I really want to hang my hat on is the public safety element. I saw legit data at some point that discussed increased street widths and increased incidents of speeding and vehicle-pedestrian accidents. I'm looking for any information that I can use to hammer home the point.

    The options my presentation will evaluate include:
    • do nothing (position I advocate)
    • widen street to 33' (new development, and also evaluated for retrofit just to show cost)
    • restrict on-street parking to a single side (enforcement headache & pisses people off)
    • restrict on-street parking to a single side with permitted side alternating (even bigger enforcement headache & pisses people off even more)
    • prohibit all on-street parking (I don't think this is politically practical)

    Any thoughts, suggestions or war stories are appreciated. At least I'm not fighting this battle against a fire chief.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

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    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    If Fire is OK with it, then it is a political matter. But I guess the pols want to raise taxes to pay for the additional cost of street repaving and stormwater treatment, and the damage to tree roots in existing, resulting in increased tree hazard and increased staff to take care of it. Typical big gummint tax and spend liberals!
    -------
    Give a man a gun, and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank, and he can rob the world.

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    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    I can't find the study now but someone near Charleston SC did a model of pattern of development for Johns or James Island and the types of streets and showed that narrowing the streets even 4 feet reduced non-point source pollution in the estuaries by X%. That and less maintenance cost for the lifespan of the road should be good selling points.
    @GigCityPlanner

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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Suburb Repairman View post
    Any thoughts, suggestions or war stories are appreciated. At least I'm not fighting this battle against a fire chief.
    I'm sure you don't need to be told this, but don't tell the complainer that if the Fire Chief is okay with it, then what is the issue! It will come to bite ya.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Cyburbian
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    I think character is a strong argument, assuming the area in question has an existing character. Some of the narrowest streets in the country are kept that way mainly for this reason.

    I believe the narrowest traffic-bearing public street in America is Treasury St in St Augustine, FL (14' average, 12' at narrowest, up to 16') lot-line to lot-line (with no required setback). I believe that the narrowest life safety code compliant streets are 16' - 20' (e.g., 18' Margaret St in Boston, 16'-20' Bayside and 20' Strand in San Diego, 20' Staple in NYC, etc.), again lot-line to lot-line with no required setbacks.

    Speed reduction is another benefit.

    Check out this narrow street handbook, published by Oregon:

    http://www.oregon.gov/lcd/docs/publi...eighstreet.pdf

    Interestingly, there seems to be little relationship between very narrow streets and density. For example, Bayside and Strand in San Diego have lots zoned R4 (up to 108 units/acre).
    Last edited by Cismontane; 30 Jan 2013 at 1:02 PM.

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    Cyburbian UrbaneSprawler's avatar
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    Our standard residential street is 30' (front-of-curb) with a 51' right-of-way. I also live on one of these in a newer subdivision.

    Our fire department bought off on it years ago, though have since found instances in town where the truck drivers are cursing it (going around curves with parked cars). From what I've seen, 30' works fine for us provided that streets are straight and are broken up with driveways for vehicles to have a little more room on occasion. 30' going around a curve with parked cars on both sides can get really awkward in spots around town for two way traffic (let alone fire navigating it using up the full width). Personally I wouldn't feel comfortable going down to 27' unless streets were all basically straight and driveway access to prevent full parking on both sides aren't implemented just for everyday vehicles.

    We used to have a "narrow residential street" that we've now abandoned. Parking on one side of the street with 24' (front-of-curb) width. Enforcement (lack thereof) was the issue.

    Our downtown has some super wide street widths (70 feet or so?) and there's no general concerns regarding speeding. I think in many ways a true grid pattern with no curves and plenty of connectivity is a greater deterrent towards speeding than the different between a 27' or 36' wide street (with street mature street trees, etc).

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    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by UrbaneSprawler View post
    We used to have a "narrow residential street" that we've now abandoned. Parking on one side of the street with 24' (front-of-curb) width. Enforcement (lack thereof) was the issue.
    You'd be amazed at what a little signage and striping can do.
    @GigCityPlanner

  8. #8
    Cyburbian UrbaneSprawler's avatar
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    We have people parking in striped bikelanes with signs clearly posted no parking. It's an enforcement issue at least out here.

    I think parking on one side (or both) could work though if inset parking is used to clearly delineate where you can park. The Prospect development in Longmont, CO I thought did this well.

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    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by UrbaneSprawler View post
    Our standard residential street is 30' (front-of-curb) with a 51' right-of-way. I also live on one of these in a newer subdivision. ...

    I think parking on one side (or both) could work though if inset parking is used to clearly delineate where you can park. The Prospect development in Longmont, CO I thought did this well.
    Do you require your city trees to be in an easement behind the sidewalk with that narrow of a ROW??
    -------
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    Cyburbian UrbaneSprawler's avatar
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    Our City requires street trees to be in right-of-way along with the sidewalk, so right-of-way is from back of walk to back of walk. The example from the image of Prospect isn't where I work. From what I recall on a site tour of that project with the developer and Longmont staff, the development was developed outside of Longmont's own standards.

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    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by UrbaneSprawler View post
    Our City requires street trees to be in right-of-way along with the sidewalk, so right-of-way is from back of walk to back of walk. The example from the image of Prospect isn't where I work. From what I recall on a site tour of that project with the developer and Longmont staff, the development was developed outside of Longmont's own standards.
    Ouch. What is the typical width of treelawn, or do you have one wider on one side of the street (and if so, how do you determine which side)?
    -------
    Give a man a gun, and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank, and he can rob the world.

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    Cyburbian UrbaneSprawler's avatar
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    Our effective tree lawn width on local streets is 5.5 feet, same on both sides. Personally I think it's too narrow as getting turf to not turn into weeds in a few years is a challenge from my own experience in CO, and getting irrigation not to water half the sidewalk is tough. Turf at these widths surrounded by concrete under the sun in CO hasn't shown to be very sustainable in my book. Which is why I personally think attached sidewalks on local streets is a better way to go, realizing though it doesn't frame the street as well with trees framing the street in a treelawn.

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    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by UrbaneSprawler View post
    Our effective tree lawn width on local streets is 5.5 feet, same on both sides. Personally I think it's too narrow as getting turf to not turn into weeds in a few years is a challenge from my own experience in CO, and getting irrigation not to water half the sidewalk is tough. Turf at these widths surrounded by concrete under the sun in CO hasn't shown to be very sustainable in my book. Which is why I personally think attached sidewalks on local streets is a better way to go, realizing though it doesn't frame the street as well with trees framing the street in a treelawn.
    I'm with ya. Plus, 5.5 feet will result in broken curb and sidewalk with large trees installed, think $600/house every decade in 30 years. Anything I do & consulting arborists advocate for is 8 feet minimum. Ends up making a better streetscape in the long run too.

    But un-hijacking: what we get around here is that if Aurora Fire is good with this street width, then we guess its OK! Helps a lot.
    -------
    Give a man a gun, and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank, and he can rob the world.

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    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cismontane View post
    I think character is a strong argument, assuming the area in question has an existing character. Some of the narrowest streets in the country are kept that way mainly for this reason.

    I believe the narrowest traffic-bearing public street in America is Treasury St in St Augustine, FL (14' average, 12' at narrowest, up to 16') lot-line to lot-line (with no required setback). I believe that the narrowest life safety code compliant streets are 16' - 20' (e.g., 18' Margaret St in Boston, 16'-20' Bayside and 20' Strand in San Diego, 20' Staple in NYC, etc.), again lot-line to lot-line with no required setbacks.

    Speed reduction is another benefit.

    Check out this narrow street handbook, published by Oregon:

    http://www.oregon.gov/lcd/docs/publi...eighstreet.pdf

    Interestingly, there seems to be little relationship between very narrow streets and density. For example, Bayside and Strand in San Diego have lots zoned R4 (up to 108 units/acre).
    Thanks for the Oregon document link--that was quite helpful since it had some studies cited.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

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    Cyburbian dw914er's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by UrbaneSprawler View post
    Our effective tree lawn width on local streets is 5.5 feet, same on both sides. Personally I think it's too narrow as getting turf to not turn into weeds in a few years is a challenge from my own experience in CO, and getting irrigation not to water half the sidewalk is tough. Turf at these widths surrounded by concrete under the sun in CO hasn't shown to be very sustainable in my book. Which is why I personally think attached sidewalks on local streets is a better way to go, realizing though it doesn't frame the street as well with trees framing the street in a treelawn.
    It is easy to design an irrigation system that will not spray past your 5-6 foot landscaped parkway; there are plenty of products out there that can accommodate that short throw. The issue is that homeowners do not maintain their system.
    And that concludes staff’s presentation...

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