Submit Comments Online To Show Your Support for The Road Diet
by Jenifer Keenan, President of VHCA
“My daughter would not have died if there had been a road diet on Monroe.” Those were the sobering words from the father of Alexa Hyneman, the Grady student who was killed in February 2016 when she was struck by a car on Monroe while riding her bike home from Grady, at the February 28th Renew Atlanta Meeting on the Monroe Complete Streets Project. Alexa’s father explained to the more than 300 people in attendance at the meeting that Alexa was struck by a car that was changing lanes to avoid the left turn queue – a maneuver that would not have occurred if there had been a dedicated left turn lane as called for by the road diet.
Incredibly, the latest fatality on Monroe – one that happened this past January, less than a year after Alexa’s death, occurred under very similar circumstances. The victim, who was riding on a motor cycle, was reportedly stuck by a car that was changing lanes to avoid the left turn queue at Monroe and Park. As with Alexa’s death, this death would not have occurred if the road diet, with its dedicated turn lane, were in place.
It is irrefutable that road diets make roads safer by reducing speeding, eliminating lane jockeying to avoid the left turn queue, and eliminating the left turn blind spot that is caused when left turning cars must cross two lanes of traffic instead of one. Renew Atlanta confirmed this and showed that a road diet on Monroe would reduce crashes by 29% and, in conjunction with the proposed traffic circle at Park and Monroe, would lead to a 60% reduction in injury crashes at that intersection.
In addition to the dramatic safety improvements, however, the Renew Atlanta team indicated that under current conditions, a road diet on Monroe could lead to moderate increases in am peak north bound travel time and significant increases (up to 140%) in pm peak travel time. (The number provided at the meeting was an increase of up to 140% in 2026, a number that is presumably based on 2026 traffic levels, which are nearly impossible to predict in 2017). But even after presenting this increase in travel time, the 300+ attendees at the meeting still overwhelming supported the road diet, with almost 70% voting “yes” for the road diet during the instant online polling conducted during the meeting.
No one wants to have increased travel times on Monroe, but it is important to put this into perspective. Peak am and pm travel times will impact 12% of the time while the benefits of the dramatic safety improvements from the road diet will cover 100% of the time.
Although the majority of people at the Renew Atlanta meeting support the Road Diet, and a road diet is called for in the Virginia-Highland Master Plan and Beltline Subarea 6 plan, there are still those who oppose the road diet. Rather than opposing the road diet, however, people who are skeptical or even opposed should focus on how to make it a success. One of the most dramatic ways to reduce vehicular traffic on Monroe is to convert Piedmont from one way between 14th and Ponce (or even just 14th to 10th) to two way. Having a second north/south route from Piedmont to Ponce (or 10th) will give commuters who now use Monroe another – and better – option for their north/south Commute. There are other tools as well. For example, with the realignment of the bike lane proposed for 10th and Monroe, there can be a dedicated right turn arrow from southbound Monroe to westbound 10th when there is the dedicated left turn arrow from westbound 10th to northbound Monroe. And for those who are concerned about cut-through traffic and speeding on side streets, there are tools to help with those issues as well. The Virginia-Highland Civic Association is committed to lobbying for all of these necessary changes and working to find other improvements as well.
There are also significant changes happening between now and 2026 that will also reduce traffic on Monroe. By 2026, there will be transit on the BeltLine, and MARTA will have implemented its enhanced bus service, including its proposed service for smaller buses that will serve shorter, residential routes. These significant improvements to transit will undoubtedly reduce the number of cars on Monroe and make an estimate for 2026 based on current conditions and a road diet rather meaningless.
We must insist that the City make the changes needed to reduce increases to travel time that may come with the road diet. It would be very shortsighted to abandon the desperately needed 24/hour a day safety improvements to Monroe over concerns about increased travel times during a few hours a day. But even if the projected 2026 increase in peak pm travel time comes to fruition, we have to put a line in the sand and make safety our top priority. Alexa’s dad said it best: “A 140% increase in travel time is a small price to pay to prevent another fatality on Monroe.”
Now is the time for action. We must show the Renew Atlanta team that we support the road diet. You can voice your support for the road diet and submit additional comments on the Complete Streets project via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org The attached comment card, which was distributed at the 2/28 meeting, can also be sent in via email. Comments must be submitted by March 15, 2017.
A final caveat – Although the road diet is certainly the most critical piece of the Complete Streets project, the project proposes other street improvements as well, including intersection improvements to 10th and Monroe, a realignment of Virginia and Monroe, a proposed traffic circle or alternative intersection improvement at Park and Monroe, and other modest intersection improvements. All of the proposed street improvements are online on the Renew Atlanta website (click here). Additional changes, such as improved lighting and landscaping and light synchronization, will also be part of the Complete Streets project.