Is traffic getting any better on Parker Street? by Greg Reibman | Sep 29, 2013 | Newton | 40 comments Tags: history | Parker Street It’s been just two under two weeks since the new traffic light was installed on Parker St. at Route 9, with early reports of backups all the way to Dedham Street. Has the situation gotten any better? Note: If you have a question, or expect a reply from Village 14 Staff, use Contact Us, not comments. 40 Comments Joseph Roth on September 29, 2013 at 1:37 am Nope, still awful. Has anyone tried to estimate the environmental impact of the changes in terms of increased trip time for the thousands of people traveling on Rt 9 and Newton Centre? The amount of extra fuel consumption due to increased trip time must be enormous. Next years DPW campaign should involve removing the “bumpouts” that were installed in newton centre and straightening out the Centre/Cypress intersection so it doesn’t involve sharp turns. These impede the flow of traffic by creating artificial bottlenecks, and are forcing bicyclists into the flow of car traffic. Poor traffic flow on Centre street is contributing to problems elsewhere in Newton. The 2013 DPW campaign has been a miserable failure. The city should continue to undo the damage and perform a root cause analysis of what lead to these flawed idea’s being proposed and accepted. The people involved should be ignored in the future. Kim on September 29, 2013 at 5:29 am I wanna cry over this traffic. It’s just ridiculous. Ira on September 29, 2013 at 9:37 am Since the lights at rte 9 and Parker are just blinking, they are essentially off. Everyone on the knows they are supposed to stop, and Parker St. traffic just blows by as usual. Dave Turocy responded once with an explanation that due to the extra traffic from construction on Dedham St., they would set the lights to blinking to avoid further back up. In response, I sent the following note to Dave Turocy, Setti Warren, Vicki Danberg, etc. and have not gotten a response. Bill Paille emailed, saying he would call, but haven’t heard from him either. To be fair, I did tell him I thought email was a better method, taking my interpretation out of the picture for others, but neither method was used. (Also, I had asked for an explanation of how they are supposed to work – are sensors going to scan how many cars are waiting on the rte 9 ramp? – Some folks thought there was a blinking red component for the lights facing Parker. In any case I never received an answer). Here is what I sent: Hi folks, I’m sorry, but the more I think about this, and the more people I talk to, the logic seems flawed. The lights were justified in the first place because of heavy traffic. Isn’t it the norm that the more traffic there is, the more it needs to be controlled to avoid accidents between cars and between cars and pedestrians? The drivers are going to be even more impatient if Parker St. is clogged, resulting in greater likelihood of an accident. Having more traffic on Parker St., may mean that you need to take the time to tune the lights such that the folks on the ramp will just have to wait longer. And actually, wouldn’t it only be just the folks on the ramp that are making left turns that would need to wait for the full length of the light? (of course the folks on Parker have to wait too, but that would be less frequent – forgot to add that to my note, but I thought it would be obvious as well) As far as the pedestrian crossing, I don’t see why traffic anywhere should take precedence over pedestrian safety. Besides, there must be some sort of a lock out timer, whereby the pedestrians won’t be given the right of way until sufficient time has passed since the last time a pedestrian activated the signal. The pedestrians will just have to wait a while longer as well. If that’s the price they pay for safety, personally, I think it’s worth it. If I’m somehow off base here, I’d appreciate you telling me how. It just doesn’t make sense right now, that the lights should be essentially disconnected due to heavier traffic. As I stated up front, it was heavy traffic that justified the lights in the first place. If those lights are going to be disconnected for another two weeks, I’d like a clearer explanation. Joseph Roth on September 29, 2013 at 1:20 pm Blinking lights still affect traffic. The current situation is worse than the original situation for all road users. The people who advocated for these change and who supplied the analysis in support of these changes, have demonstrated a profound ignorance of traffic design to all the world. Those people should be ignored in the future. When you have a heavy flow of traffic you must take an extra effort not to impede it and decrease level of service. The safest traffic flows involve cars moving at same speed and without changes in speed or sharp turns. The purpose of a highway off ramp is to clear traffic from the highway. Traffic coming off the highway has priority over all other traffic flows because the impact of delaying is so great. When traffic on the ramp backs up onto Rt 9, it converts Rt 9 from 2 lanes of traffic flowing at 50mph to 1 lane flowing at 15mph. This reduces the capacity of a state highway by 5/6th. It affects thousands of people whenever it happens. Pedestrian safety is independent of traffic flows because pedestrians can activate the walk signal whenever they need it. Pedestrian safety is being used as a “flag of convenience” by people with a different agenda that is unrelated to pedestrian safety. Ira on September 29, 2013 at 1:52 pm I don’t disagree with you about the people who designed this being ignored in the future. But the lights are there now. And I would say they should try to be utilized for whatever value they might have. They can help the kids crossing, and they should be able to help eliminate accidents between Parker St. traffic and the exit ramp. While I see your logic about the purpose of an off ramp, I’ve never seen that ramp backed up far enough to impede route 9. Until that happens, the accidents, near accidents, and the slowing of Parker St. due to drivers jutting out into Parker St. seem more of a concern. Are there going to be sensors to examine how many cars are on the ramp, that would help your concern about backing up rte 9, right? I’d also agree that blinking lights can affect traffic, but I don’t see how these blinking lights have had any effect. Once in a while you’ll have someone on Parker st. decide to be “nice”, disregard the basic traffic rules and stop for a few cars to turn onto the ramp or exit the ramp. That happened before the blinking lights as well. Having a working light would help in those cases too since some folks wouldn’t feel obligated to arbitrarily and unexpectedly change the rules on their own. Lucia on September 29, 2013 at 3:23 pm Joseph – the walk signals don’t work when the lights are blinking yellow. I was told they weren’t turning on the walk signals because they didn’t want to slow car traffic (could be a false rumor – I don’t know who ‘they’ are – the City? the State?). Could you explain how the bump outs in Newton Centre slow traffic? They jut out into the road no more than the parked cars. Ira on September 29, 2013 at 5:31 pm I was also told that the walk signals cannot be used if the lights were set to blink. That seems like a poor electronic design to not have the option of using those settings together. If a regular traffic signal blinks late at night, I could have sworn that the pedestrian signal would still activate the lights to allow someone to cross safely. I asked the city representative to check, but haven’t heard anything back. tomsheff on September 29, 2013 at 6:27 pm Does anyone know how much this set back the city? This seems to be yet another financial disaster. What did we lose out on in favor of these screw ups? I think the city wants to eliminate car accidents by having us all go 5 mph. mgwa on September 29, 2013 at 6:41 pm I don’t see how you all think you can judge the impact of the lights before they are working! Obviously this blinking nonsense is screwing things up, but I assume that’s not the long term plan. Before people declare lights a disastrous idea, how about seeing how things go once they are set to work properly? Jane on September 29, 2013 at 7:58 pm Do people here realize that traffic is a huge problem in entire metro Boston area? We don’t live in a bubble. Adam on September 29, 2013 at 9:16 pm Joseph, meet Robert Kim on September 30, 2013 at 10:07 pm I was on Floral taking a right to get on the on ramp to Rt 9 West when a kind person in a vehicle waved me ahead of him in the line. I was delighted to see that it was Greg Reibman! Guy is just spreading cheer everywhere he goes! Greg Reibman on September 30, 2013 at 10:33 pm Actually I was so stunned to see another Newton driver who wasn’t talking on their cell phone that I had to let you go ahead out of respect. Then I noticed who it was. BOB BURKE on October 1, 2013 at 8:09 am @Kim. I’d expect nothing less from Greg. Bruce Henderson on October 1, 2013 at 12:02 pm Have you noticed that since the last mayoral election, traffic back-ups have become worse on Parker Street, while traffic on Warren Road flows freely? Hmmm. Greg Reibman on October 1, 2013 at 1:35 pm @Bruce: Good one. Joseph Roth on October 3, 2013 at 7:39 pm @Lucia To understand the effects of the bumpouts you should observe traffic during peak flows during the morning evening rush hours. They cut into the road about a foot more than parked cars do. The Pelham and Langley bumpouts cause delays by making the left/right turns into these streets more difficult. These transient pauses slow down the overall flow of traffic because it takes time for the traffic behind the turning driver to resume speed. The narrow entrance of these streets violate good design practices for older drivers. The bumpouts in the middle of centre street create an artificial constriction (a “stenosis”) that causes opposing traffic to flow much closer together than they naturally would. This reduces room to maneuver, and increases the risk of head on collisions/side swipes. It becomes especially dangerous if any kind of wider vehicle such as a garbage truck, dump truck, or tractor trailer attempts to pass the constrictions. The net result of the bumpouts is that that instead of flowing smoothly, traffic on Centre street now has a “slip stick” quality, due to intermittant delays from turning cars and drivers forced to pass through the main constriction one by one, and serious blockage in case anyone tries to use the parking spaces next to the bumpouts. The effect is obvious if you try to drive towards Needham street from Commonwealth Ave through Newton Centre. It feels much less congested after bumpouts end. The road users at greatest risk from the new bumpouts are bicyclists who now get thrust into the flow faster moving vehicular traffic. A classic source of fatal accidents and donated organs. If the city really wanted to improve pedestrian safety, they would pave the crosswalk in a different color, which would increase the visual contrast of pedestrians in the crosswalk. Let us not forget that responsible pedestrians and bicyclists can bring the flow of traffic to a complete halt at any time by activating the walk signals. Ultimately bumpouts are not about actually about pedestrian safety, so much as they are about creating an artificially hazardous situation, and then forcing drivers and bicyclists to deal with it. The bumpouts are a typical bad idea emanating from our city’s traffic council/DPW, currently 0/2 on making useful improvements to Newton in 2013.Overall, the 2013 DPW campaign has been a miserable failure. The city should continue to undo the damage and perform a root cause analysis of what lead to these flawed idea’s being proposed and accepted. The people involved should be ignored in the future. Lucia on October 3, 2013 at 8:20 pm @Joseph. Could you provide support for your statements? FHWA Safety supports your idea of painting crosswalks, but also supports bump-outs and medians. Unfortunately, traffic speed and pedestrian safety are inversely related. https://www.aaafoundation.org/sites/default/files/2011PedestrianRiskVsSpeed.pdf According to the AAA doc above, the older your are the more dangerous traffic speed becomes. A 70 year old hit by a car travelling 25 mph has the injury/death rate of a 30 year old hit by a car travelling 35 mph. Robert Williams on October 3, 2013 at 11:54 pm @Lucia I believe that Joseph was talking about making the roads more difficult and harder to navigate for older drivers (and everyone else as well). Centre St is a major road, it should be easy to navigate. One point he forgot to raise is emergency vehicles. How easy it is to move a fire truck down Pelham or Langley at speed these days? The AAA study is about old people getting hit by cars. Old people are more frail than young people. This is not news, and does not seem immediately relevant to his point about the new configuration being more challenging for older drivers. Doug Haslam on October 4, 2013 at 9:38 am As a driver, I can see pedestrians (who should have the right of way much better with the bumpouts, and I am less likely to violate that right of way as I am more aware of my surroundings driving. As a pedestrian (which I am frequently there), I feel the cars can see me better. If they slow traffic- well, this is a village center where people are encourage, and need to, walk from shop to shop; it’s not a freeway, I’m quite alright with cars slowing there. I don’t see or feel the increased danger of car-on-car collisions there, but I guess data will prove this one way or the other. I also have a hard time believing these bumpouts don’t leave enough room for emergency vehicles. We can question what these, and the new lights and stops, do to traffic flow, but I can’t imagine road width requirements would be left out. Lucia on October 4, 2013 at 9:52 am Is Centre St. harder to navigate or do drivers need to drive more slowly? Centre Street is a residential street and goes through a village. I, personally, do not want it to look like Route 9. There are many things that slow traffic. Every morning Centre St. traffic is backed up from the Pike. to the fire station This has absolutely nothing to do with bump outs or medians. If we removed the on ramp to the Pike traffic would speed up greatly on Centre St. in the morning. Another way to increase traffic flow is reduce the number of cars on the road. Slowing down traffic increases pedestrian safety in village centers. If cars are not illegally parked, the bump-outs do not slow down emergency vehicles. As for bumpouts increasing danger to bikes…are you speaking from personal biking experience? Bump-outs on streets without on-street parking are dangerous. Bumpouts on streets like Centre St. make no difference and may even increase bike safety by slowing traffic. Doug Haslam on October 4, 2013 at 10:23 am I ride on Centre St frequently, and do not feel the bumpouts create an additional hazard to me. On that stretch,m I am more conscious of avoiding doors of parked cars, and am more likely to be in the main lane of traffic, where it is actually safer. Where the Cypress St intersection was narrowed going into the new Stop sign (temporarily), I found that to be a bit more problematic, as it suddenly squeezed cars and bikes together right after a turn. But the bumpouts? No problem for bikes- and again, helps cyclists see the pedestrians more clearly as well, so we can stop for them (and we are stopping for them, right cyclists?) Adam on October 4, 2013 at 12:38 pm There’s really no downside to this new design at Pelham Street. Pedestrians must not always use signalized intersections. Vehicles must stop for them at crosswalks. Bicyclists should be following the rules of the road and typically should not be stopping traffic at pedestrian signals. It is extremely unsafe behavior for bicycles to dodge in and out between parked cars anyway, if that’s what “Joseph” is recommending. That’s not even possible here, as parking spaces along that stretch of Centre Street are typically full. There’s usually little choice but to ride in the lane of traffic, thus the bumpouts do not change the path of bicycles one bit. Slowing speed and increasing visibility in busy village centers is essential to safety. I’ve observed fire trucks from the nearby station turn down Langley just fine. Presumably, if there is a problem with the new design, the fire department would have spoken up by now. Narrowing the roadway entrance so that two or three speeding cars can no longer enter the road at the same time is also a big win, for motorists and pedestrians alike. This intersection is hardly the bottleneck along Centre Street, so aside for increased compliance with the crosswalk, it’s difficult to see how more controlled turns could create backups. And finally, if restricting a single lane to eleven or twelve feet presents a problem for drivers, regardless of age, they should not be driving. It’s that simple. Lisa on October 17, 2013 at 9:53 am it’s been three days since the lights at route 9 and parker were set back to full activation. no surprise that the traffic has been backed up almost to dedham street. the utility work on dedham is complete, so the only reason for the daily, horrible backups is that light. is there anything we can do? i live on parker and this is literally affecting my quality of life! should we run down to city hall with pitchforks? Joanne on October 17, 2013 at 10:21 am Actually Lisa – Pitchforks probably wont work and will get you and your friends on Parker St in trouble. Probably best to exercise your right to Vote on November 5th and send the Mayor a Message that he cannot hide in City Hall! The Citizens of Newton need to hear him address their concerns – whether it is the Parker Street Issue, Engine 6 issue, the Newton Police Chief Issue or whatever Issue you as a Tax paying Citizen of this City need help with! The Mayor needs to stop hiding in his office or he just might not be in the office come January. Enough is Enough! Native Newtonian on October 17, 2013 at 3:01 pm Agreed, Joanne. Adam on October 17, 2013 at 5:28 pm Take your pitchforks to New England Development or to 10 Park Plaza. If you think this is bad, just wait until they open up the Kendrick Street exit. Lisa, are the backups primarily during school drop-off and pick-up hours, or do they persist other times of the day? Lisa on October 17, 2013 at 5:37 pm Adam, it’s not AS bad in mid-afternoon hours or on weekends. it takes me between 12-15 minutes to go seven tenths of a mile on parker during the hours in question. Joanne on October 17, 2013 at 6:35 pm Lisa – Have you called the Mayors office? And if so what type of response have you gotten? Who have they had you speak with? Adam on October 17, 2013 at 7:40 pm Joanne, aside from having the traffic engineers continue to monitor and adjust the signals, what would you like to see the Mayor to do at this point? It’s a terrible situation, but signals were needed to reduce collisions, and the parties named above insisted that it would work. Now, Newton is stuck with it. The problem is simply that there are too many cars. Sandra on October 17, 2013 at 7:46 pm I would love to know who to contact. My commute went from bad to horrific. The morning during school drop off seems to be the worst time. Can’t they at least change the timing so the traffic on Parker gets a longer green. lisa lee on October 17, 2013 at 7:56 pm Joanne, i haven’t called the mayor’s office but i’ve e-mailed DPW commissioner David Troucy. about a month ago he attributed the traffic to the utility work on dedham street. i got in touch recently and said well the work is done and the traffic is still backed all the way up. have not heard back. lisa lee on October 17, 2013 at 9:32 pm Sandra it’s David Troucy. You’ll find him on the city of newton website. He was the genius behind the debacle at centre and cypress street this spring. You know, the thing they had to undo because it caused massive backups. Joanne on October 17, 2013 at 9:47 pm Adam – The Mayor is the Head of the City – if something it is not working well and his departments are not solving the problem – then he needs to know. For all you know David Troucy is telling him everything is fine and no one is complaining. I can tell you that David Cohen would have been down there checking it out on a daily basis. Warren for some reason is too afraid to come out of his office. The more people that call the Mayors office the better. Today is October 17th – if he doesn’t fix it by November 4th – then show him what you think about the job he is doing in Newton when you go to vote on November 5th. Adam on October 17, 2013 at 11:15 pm It certainly doesn’t hurt to register a complaint, but it’s pretty hard to keep traffic backups of this magnitude a secret. I would hope and expect that the DPW continues to work on this. Expecting the Mayor to snap his fingers and fix this is a bit unrealistic, though. nathan phillips on October 18, 2013 at 7:27 am Afternoon traffic on early release days can be compared to traffic on other days to isolate the school effect on parker traffic. If the school impact is large, a campaign to reduce car traffic to/from schools would help. Elements include carpooling (using innovative tools like nuride.com); free or reduced bus fees; congestion pricing; and incentives for biking and walking. Lisa on October 18, 2013 at 8:13 am Nathan, those options simply aren’t feasable for those who work. nathan phillips on October 18, 2013 at 8:44 am Lisa, that’s an over generalization. For example, I work, live north of rt 9, and we have a child in Brown Middle School. The bus works for us, and if free or reduced could work for more. Also, I heard the bike racks are overflowing at South, which indicated that mode is increasing. But I can accept that you don’t see another option for yourself, and to the extent this is shared amongst many others, it indicates a systemic problem with Newton’s car dependency. That you cannot even envision any other way to get around, that there could be no other solution involving new transit options, is really concerning. If you could implement a change to improve matters, other than tinkering with traffic signals, what would you do? Alicia Bowman on October 18, 2013 at 12:43 pm The question is why so many kids are being driven to school. I have been part of the Safe routes to School effort in Newton from the beginning. I think some parents feel like they don’t have reasonable options (and in truth some don’t) and parents are so busy they think driving this is the easiest. Then they complain because there is too much traffic on the road!! Go figure. What many fail to realize is finding a plan that has your kids getting to school by themselves is better for everyone. Kids develop important independence skills that will benefit them immensely in college and beyond, not to mention the exercise and friend time they usually get by walking, biking and taking the bus that they don’t get sitting in their parent’s car. Everyone’s day just got easier especially for working parents because their start time at work is not dictated by when school starts or ends. It takes some investment of time to figure out what will work. Time well spent in my book. What Newton could do to help this is review the options provided to parents and see what can be done to increase them. I for one would like to see a comprehensive study of the school bus transportation provided in the city and better understand why we don’t have more kids using the bus. What would the city streets look like of 100% of the kids in the school bus zones were on the bus? What would it take to get this many riding? More convenient stops and shorter routes. As long as parents can drive their kids to school in a fraction of the time it takes them to go by bus, they will drive. Greg Reibman on October 18, 2013 at 1:21 pm Hey folks. I’m going to close this thread here and ask that everyone continue the conversation on a new thread that I’ve posted to the top of the page.