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Thread: Street width - residential subdivision

  1. #1
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    Street width - residential subdivision

    I like to ramble on and throw in a lot of anectdotes. But for brevity, I'll cut to the chase. I'm arguing with my own public works staff (no surprise).

    They insist the minimum width, measured from curb face to curb face, that they would accept for a local street in a residential subdivision, with on street parking on one side of the street, is 29 feet. As typical, their reasoning is based on emergency vehicle (fire truck) clearance. I certainly don't want to hinder emergency vehicle access, but I know from my own personal experience, years of research, and review of standards from all over that in many locations, local streets of less than 29 feet width work fine for local streets. I am trying to create walkable communities with slower vehicular traffic, hoping this also leads to less vehicle (and vehicle-ped) crashes, and therefore, less demand for emergency response, as well!

    BTW, I had never been to Seaside (TND community) but visited there today, and just like in the literature, it had narrow streets...no one seemed to suffer as a result. I am trying to get my colleagues to at least go down to 27 feet with parking on one side, if not less. Dan Burden notes few problems with properly designed narrow streets (I am starting to break my no anecdotes rule). WHAT DO YOU THINK?

    Rx: Thanks, the Doctor

  2. #2
    Cyburbian AubieTurtle's avatar
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    A bigger question would be why do emergency vehicles require such a wide street? Are the emergency vehicles properly sized for your community or has the city let ego drive a need for the largest fire trucks available? If they have, well, not much you can do since that's such a large investment (and an ego investment too). If they're more reasonably sized (I assume you're not in a town with tall buildings that require long ladder trucks), it may be that the width that is being asked for is coming out of a reference manual that assumes the largest fire vehicles so you may want to check on that.
    As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron. - H.L. Mencken

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    22 to 24 feet has become common around here. That includes parking on both sides of the street - AND accounts for snow load.

    I did work with an engineer about 15 years ago that would not go below 36 feet face to face. He gave in eventually.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    30' back to bacl is what everyone has around here. Whenever I suggest less, I get looks like I'm from Mars.

  5. #5
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    In the urban service area, 26-feet curb-to-curb is as narrow I've seen (unless a special exception is granted). It worked.

  6. #6
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    Thanks for the replies. While our fire dept does have to be equipped with ladder trucks to handle taller building fires, I'm not so sure that the obsession with the street widths can be traced directly to that, particularly since they can respond with selected apparatus to a specific site (wouldn't necessarily send a ladder truck to one and two-story residential subdivision). I did notice, that according to the Fire Dpt web site, they respond to over 19,000 incidents annually of which approximately 61% are Emergency Medical Service calls. And certainly, vehicular access and clearance is important for these responses, but as many others critical of excessive street width have argued, if the streets were designed to reduce speed (and therefore, # of and intensity of crashes and injury probability) perhaps the number of responses could be reduced, as well.

    AubieTurtle noted the issue of ego investment, and actually, I had heard of this being a real issue regarding fire departments and other service providers being bent on purchasing the largest equipment with the most bells and whistles possible; now I don't know if that is a factor in my community, but I do know of other locales where it came into play.

    Rx: Have a great Holiday/be safe and happy! - The Doctor

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    A fire truck is not muche wider than a a Hummer H2, and they are a hell of alot more maneuverable. They are designed to get down tight streets and alleys..

    Any vehicle over 8' wide needs a Wide Load placard.

    The emergency vehicle access thing is getting to be the "race card" of land development. Nobody wants to call it into question.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian craines's avatar
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    it would seem that 24' would be sufficent. I know some residentual areas here are that. Also if the curbs, walkways and what ever is in the right of way is design to accomodate the vehicular load aren't we just talking about ease of manuvability. And i believe most emergancy vehicles deal with curbing quite well.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Budgie's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by savemattoon View post
    30' back to bacl is what everyone has around here. Whenever I suggest less, I get looks like I'm from Mars.
    Yep, this is where I am. However, we amended the code to allow flexibility in the PUD district.
    "And all this terrible change had come about because he had ceased to believe himself and had taken to believing others. " - Leo Tolstoy

  10. #10
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    Our subdivision regulations (which were re-written in 2000 when the town was in between planners) moved the street width requirement from 24' and open drainage to 28' and closed drainage. We're currently "battling" with our DPW on reducing the requirement back at least to the 24' level.
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  11. #11
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Wish we had this "wide" street problems here.

    local streets = 34' curb to curb, 11' lanes
    Residential collectors = 44' curb to curb, 12' lanes <--sometimes (ok, most of the time) PW prohibits parking on these streets.

    we've been in battle with our PW and FD for 2 years to get them to allow reduced roadway widths. We've talked them down to 32' and 10' lanes for local residential streets.

    Our FD insists they need to exceed pavement so they can have two of their largest ladder trucks parked side-by-side, with outriggers extended in new neighborhoods of 2 story homes.
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Budgie's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by boiker View post
    we've been in battle with our PW and FD for 2 years to get them to allow reduced roadway widths.
    Our police chief is very explicit when talking about street widths. His message is, "street width is directly related to speeds and therefore wider streets are less safe for all".
    "And all this terrible change had come about because he had ceased to believe himself and had taken to believing others. " - Leo Tolstoy

  13. #13
    Our subdivision control ordinance requires 28 ' boc to boc, although we have approved 24' in puds. I have one in-fill subdivision based on traditional design standards with 18' foc to foc (face of curb). I had a huge fight with the fire department over this one and had the developer retrofit mountable curbs so they could deploy outriggers for the ladder truck. (Mind you, the ladder truck's outriggers deploy in 16', but no, they had to have more....)
    On pitching to Stan Musial:
    "Once he timed your fastball, your infielders were in jeopardy."
    Warren Spahn

  14. #14
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    There is definitely a wide cross-section of responses (pardon the pun). Thanks, Doc

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Clore's avatar
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    I'd like to support what Jeff said. As a previous career paramedic, I've seen ridiculously large trucks which were simply an extension of um.. well, you know what I'm getting at.
    As for the "race card issue", it does seem that the FD and EMS Depts are the sacred cow, which no one wants to touch. If they're not professional departments, they would benefit more from better training and more experience than wider streets.
    I have personally maneuvered large ambulances down tight alleys in cities with parking on at least one side, if not two. These excessive widths are uncalled for and you shouldn't hesitate to question the whole emergency response issue. As far as fire depts, that's why they make hose couplings- to make the hoses longer. You don't need to park a fire truck directly in front of the scene. Don't be afraid to pull some hose and get a bit of a workout. No one is going to die because someone took and extra 30 seconds or minute to pull some hose. The old phrase of "seconds count" doesn't really apply anywhere. Minutes may count when it comes to someone in VFib, needing a surgeon or an airway...
    Just tell the concerned people the faster you go, the skinnier it gets!
    ...Moving at the speed of local government

  16. #16
    27' back to back, depending on the need (if no driveways along street) - parking allowed on both sides. Resultant width is 11' drive lane, enough for the 10' snow plow blades, but not enough width for 2 vehicles to pass at the same time. PM me if you would like a .pdf of our standard - I tried to upload it, but it must be too big.
    Who's gonna re-invent the wheel today?

  17. #17
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    Emergency access Vehicles

    Jeff's statement was interesting- can somone elaborate on this.What is it that they don't want to call to question.
    The emergency vehicle access thing is getting to be the "race card" of land development. Nobody wants to call it into question.

    __________________

  18. #18
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    The narrower the better. Residential areas shouldn't be speed zones. I'm constantly telling my neighbors that.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Budgie's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by coldmount View post
    The narrower the better. Residential areas shouldn't be speed zones. I'm constantly telling my neighbors that.
    These are the same neighbors who decry speeder and bitch about on-street parking. Yep, I know the type.
    "And all this terrible change had come about because he had ceased to believe himself and had taken to believing others. " - Leo Tolstoy

  20. #20
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mpor View post
    Jeff's statement was interesting- can somone elaborate on this.What is it that they don't want to call to question.
    The emergency vehicle access thing is getting to be the "race card" of land development. Nobody wants to call it into question.

    __________________
    Not sure what you dont understand? Basically the point is peeps have given the FD free reign because they are afraid to say no...."how dare someone question what the FD wants."

    Note....I am a fireman.

  21. #21
          Downtown's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Jeff View post
    Basically the point is peeps have given the FD free reign because they are afraid to say no...."how dare someone question what the FD wants."
    This is exactly the attitude here as well.

    We just were able to talk our DPW down from 36' to 34'.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian
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    I agree with Jeff.

    My street is only 24 feet front face of curb to front face of curb with parking on both sides. we have had the largest ladder trucks up or street before. It can be done.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Downtown View post
    This is exactly the attitude here as well.

    We just were able to talk our DPW down from 36' to 34'.
    I'm in your shoes.. see my posts above
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  24. #24
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    I'm getting some resistance from our DPW when I simply bring up the issue of participating in the development of gov't's design guidelines. Talk about parochial!

    An example of this phenomenon - albeit a bit different issue: A couple of months ago, I asked them (public wx) why they needed so wide an accessway to service stormwater management facilities (I think they want 20 feet wide, minimum) and they told me, in part, that it is because of the size and width of their service maintenance vehicles. So I asked them why didn't they use smaller and narrower vehicles and they just glared at me and gave some non-answer.

    This subject gets me cranky for several reasons, but one is that this is one of the few issues where I can sit at a table with developers, and NIMBY neighbors, planners, urban designers, environmental planners, and everyone is in agreement, but yet my own staff derails a good response.

    Rx: pray for a rain of intelligence, the Dr.

  25. #25
    What about streets in snow belt areas?

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