Thursday, April 17, 2008

survey says...

Survey supports current Cootes speed limit
Police believe increase is on the way
By Craig Campbell, Dundas Star News
Apr 11, 2008

A majority of people who responded to an on-line survey about the pedestrian-controlled traffic lights on Cootes Drive support keeping the current 40 km-h speed limit, and adding a pedestrian countdown display to the walk signal.

But Hamilton Police expect the city will soon raise the limit from 40 to 50 km-h. Police apparently have no records of speed enforcement on Cootes Drive just south of Main Street West.

Recent city studies found last summer's speed limit drop had no effect on speeding drivers. A total of 239 people answered at least part of the five question survey.

The current speed limit was preferred by 102 people, or 44 per cent of those who answered the first question, asking which of three speeds the limit at the crossing should be. An anticipated increase to 50 km-h was supported by 29 per cent, while 26 per cent backed a return to the previous limit of 60 km-h.

Just over 80 per cent of those surveyed said they support a digital countdown display for pedestrians.

Although 71 per cent of pedestrians said the wait time for the walk signal is fine as it is, nearly half (44.9 per cent) admitted crossing when there is a break in traffic, rather than waiting for the right-of-way.

That left just over 57 per cent of respondents saying they normally wait for the walk signal before crossing Cootes Drive.

Sgt. Jo Ann Savoie, current crime manager for the West Town zone, said she had been briefed by another officer who attended a meeting about the Cootes speed limit last month. A year ago, previous crime manager Sgt. Tim O'Keefe acknowledged a speeding problem on Cootes Drive and suggested an unofficial enforcment blitz at the time may become common on Cootes Drive.

"Don't be surprised if you hear more news about this spot, because when police officers find a successful spot, they habitually return there," Sgt. O'Keefe said last June.

But since the speed limit dropped to 50 km-h, there's been no evidence of a police presence.

"It's something we don't track," Sgt. Savoie said, when asked if there was any information about speed enforcement on Cootes just south of Main Street West since June.

A 2004 study of Cootes Drive safety by Synectics Transportation Consultants found 85 per cent of drivers travelled up to 100 km-h in the posted 80 km-h zone.

Subsequent studies show lowering the posted limit to 60 and 40 km-h had no effect on that rate of speed.

Synectics found the excessive speeding and high volume of pedestrians and cyclists "create a potentially hazardous situation."

The study recommended a pedestrian-controlled crossing of Cootes Drive, at Sanders Boulevard, lane narrowing, other changes to the roadside to decrease speeding and increased police enforcement.

Originally, the city only adopted the recommended pedestrian-controlled crossing and none of the other suggestions were acted on.

Just a few months after the pedestrian crossing started operating, a McMaster student was struck and killed by a truck in the crosswalk.

The city lowered the speed limit around the crosswalk to 40 km-h and dropped the approaching limit from 80 to 60 km-h, without following any of the other recommendations from the Synectics study.

Dundas resident Randy Kay, of Transportation for Liveable Communities, has called on the city to make the other recommended changes in addition to the crossing and speed lowering.

The group also supports a pedestrian countdown signal, letting walkers and cyclists know how much time they have to get to the other side of Cootes.

"I have no idea where the speed discussion is at," Mr. Kay said this week.

"The compromise politically was looking like 50 km-h but, really, without changes to the roadside environment, cars will still be speeding at whatever feels comfortable."

Hart Solomon, the city's manager of traffic engineering and operations, said this week no final decision on a possible speed increase has been made.

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