Post #229: The Town’s 2015 Traffic Light Timing Study

Posted on April 8, 2019

Sometimes you just have to remind people of the obvious.  Just so we can focus on the doughnut, and not on the hole.

The graph above summarizes May 2014 traffic counts, from a Town of Vienna study, at peak intervals during the weekday and on Saturday, at four key intersections on Maple:  Nutley, Lawyer’s, Park, and Beulah.  The detailed data can be found in this Excel workbook.Traffic counts, 2015 TOV study, selected intersections

Currently, along Maple, motor vehicles outnumber pedestrians by a factor of 100:1, and motor vehicles outnumber bicycles by a factor of  1000:1. 

From time to time, I have walked the length of Maple and published my count of pedestrians that I passed.  It has always been low.  At this point, I thought that I would appeal to something more systematic.  These are counts from the study that the Town used to re-time the stoplights along Maple.

Let me be clear:  The data graphed above were collected on behalf of the Town of Vienna in order to reset the timing of stop lights all over town.  So, the people who did this study were, indeed, focused on the doughnut — motor vehicles.

By contrast, the Town’s current study — the Maple Avenue Corridor Multimodal Transportation and Land Use Study — is focused on the hole:  Bicycles, pedestrians, and (not countable here) those taking the bus.  Unlike the traffic light timing study, it is not focused on ways to directly affect the flow of vehicular traffic.  It is not focused on the 99%.  Instead, it focuses on ways to increase the use that currently accounts for 1% of traffic on Maple.

So, unlike the traffic light timing study — which really did materially improve things on Maple, in my opinion — don’t expect this next study to produce any direct improvements in your life as a Vienna citizen.

I don’t really have much more to say.   Just look at the numbers.  The Town can play around with the non-vehicular portion of traffic in any way it sees fit.  And that’s not going to make the least difference to congestion on Maple.  Certainly not in the short run.  And probably not in the long run.

Why is the Town doing this, then?  That’s a good question, and I think more people ought to ask the Town that question.

Don’t get me wrong.  My point is not to defend the auto as a mode of transportation.  I moved to Vienna in 1993 in order to avoid commuting by car.  I consider a car to be a necessary evil, to be left parked at home whenever possible.

But that graph above — that reflects the Town of Vienna that we live in.  Nothing bars people from bicycling and walking now.  Nothing, that is, other than the realities of work location, school location, weather, tight schedules, the need to transport children, and need to transport substantial volumes and masses of material goods.

But for that handful of little details, we’d be living in a bicycling/walking paradise now.

I recognize that new construction in the suburbs is trying to move way from the car-centric model that generates the graph at the top of the page.  But I’m not crazy enough to fixate on that, and ignore the fact that we already have a town here.  And for better or worse, the graph on the top of the page characterizes the existing Town of Vienna.  That’s what we need to deal with.  And that’s what we need to focus on.