Post #528: What’s your sign?

Posted on February 18, 2020


Mine is “No right turn, M-F, 7-9 AM”.

That’ s my sign, pictured below, at the corner of Courthouse and Moorefield Roads, SW.  I used to visit it occasionally, but these days I respect its demands for anonymity (as evidenced by the blurring in the second, more recent photo).

Why is that my sign?  More than two decades ago, I complained to the Town about cut-through traffic on my (then) quiet residential street, Moorefield Road.  At that time, AM rush hour traffic used Moorefield to bypass the light at Courthouse to get to Nutley Street southbound.

The Town changed that intersection in a major way, repainting the lanes, modifying the stoplight, and putting up that sign.  They went to all of that effort just to keep rush hour cut-through traffic off one quiet little residential street.

That occurred as part of a 1997 Town-wide traffic calming effort.  As with so many parts of ancient (pre-internet) Vienna history, the only on-line record of those events is in the Town of Vienna newsletter archive.  That traffic calming effort was the lead story for several months.

I’m not quite sure how Vienna went from that era — going to great lengths to preserve a small, quiet neighborhood — to the current era — where the Town will take no action until you pass a standard threshold of misery (Post #436).  To an era where a sign like the one above is simply off the table, beyond the pale, not even subject to discussion.  Nuh-uh, no way, now how.

But aside from complaining about that change, I’ll note one more thing about the Town’s prior approach to traffic calming.  Each of those newsletter articles emphasizes that Vienna was trying to learn from other local governments.  Each announcement of a meeting says ” … and provide information from other jurisdictions on their traffic calming efforts.”

So that sets me up for a future post.  A colleague sent me the traffic calming guide from Falls Church.  Turns out, they do things somewhat differently there, some of which I like, some of which I don’t.  For one thing, they have an explicit formula for pedestrian accident risk, and they prioritize based on that.  Riskiest situations get priority.  For another, they have a multi-tiered approach, where residents always have the right to petition, but some changes can be dealt with administratively (without having to submit a petition). And some petitions require just 51% of residents to sign, others require two-thirds — but at no point do they require the 75% that the Town of Vienna requires.

Just looking at that one jurisdiction — Falls Church — I’m beginning to see that there maybe value in a systematic review of what all of our neighboring jurisdictions do for traffic calming.  I’ll work on that this week and see what I can come up with.