Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A Closer Look at Road Diets

There has been a lot of talk about "road diets" in our area recently. A road diet is a technique in
transportation planning where the number of travel lanes and/or width of the road is reduced in order to achieve systemic improvements. Oftentimes roads are narrowed to slow traffic, improve safety, or add bike lanes, sidewalks or parking to one or both sides of the road.

There are a couple road diets planned for our area in the next few years. In the City of Spokane, there is one planned for North Monroe from Indiana Avenue north to the top of North Hill. Spokane Valley has a diet planned for McDonald Road. And Post Falls has a few on the books as well.

Many people assume that less lanes equate to more traffic congestion and slower commutes but that's not necessarily the truth. There are many potential benefits of road diets and business owners on streets that have had road diets often say they love the new configuration, despite having initial concerns.

Some benefits include slower, safer driving speeds; shorter distances for people walking to cross the road; and more places for people to walk or bicycle, which brings more people into businesses on those streets. There are a lot more too. There are also some potential negative impacts, such as less parking for cars and less space to remove and store snow during the winter.

With the trend moving toward more road diets across the area, the SRTC Board recently had a workshop on road diets.The PowerPoint used at the workshop is very informative and can be found here. Click on "Meeting Resources" under the 2015 Board minutes scroll down to learn about road diets. There's a lot of good information there and it looks at both the good and bad sides of reducing street lanes.

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About SRTC

SRTC is the federally designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for Spokane County. Urbanized areas with populations exceeding 50,000 people are required to have an MPO. SRTC was formed to address the county's transportation planning needs. It provides coordination in planning between the public, cities, small towns, the county, the state, transit providers, and tribes.

SRTC offers services including transportation monitoring, transportation modeling, census information analysis, travel demand forecasting, historical traffic count analysis, geographic information systems, and trip generation rates.