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Although they are sometimes lumped together, traffic management and traffic calming are different tools and address different problems. Traffic management includes the use of traditional traffic control devices to manage volumes and routes of traffic. Traffic calming deals with what happens to traffic once it is on a street. For example, limiting access to a street (e.g., diverting traffic from entering a street on one end) may reduce the amount of traffic on that street, but will do nothing to affect the speed of the traffic that travels on that street or others. Traffic management and traffic calming are often complementary, and a plan to retrofit an area often includes a variety of tools.

Communities should think about the broader context of traffic. If there is too much traffic on any one street, it may be that there is too much traffic altogether. A more significant plan to reduce overall traffic volumes would be appropriate: encouraging and providing for alternate modes of travel, implementing Transportation Demand Management, enhancing transit systems, improving land use planning, etc. Comprehensive traffic reduction or mitigation strategies are important but beyond the scope of this guide. Resources that provide guidance on these issues are included in the reference section.

Traffic calming and traffic management should also be evaluated from an area wide perspective. The problem should not just be shifted from one street to another. Although implementation usually occurs in stages, an overall plan can be developed up front, involving a larger neighborhood or area of the city.

Traffic calming has also helped reduce motor vehicle traffic volumes and increase walking and bicycling. For example, on one traffic-calmed street, in Berkeley, California the number of cyclists and pedestrians more than doubled after the street was reconstructed with traffic calming tools, and motor vehicle volumes decreased by about 20 percent. Traffic volume reduction raises the question: where does the traffic go? In the Berkeley case traffic volumes on parallel streets did not account for all the traffic that “disappeared” on the traffic calmed street. Ideally, the reduction in traffic means that some people choose a different mode of travel, such as transit, walking or bicycling. This is only feasible if a system is in place to support those modes. What is often the case in selective street redesign is that traffic is routed onto other streets. Sometimes it is desirable to keep traffic on an arterial and off residential streets. However, in many communities, arterials are already over capacity, and alternate routes may also involve other residential streets.

Traffic management and traffic calming should involve the community. Neighborhood participation and the community involvement process are discussed in Chapter 5.

This partial street closure is found in Berkeley, California.

The material provided on this page is from the FHWA publication "Pedestrian Facilities User Guide." This guide is currently under review by practicioners and others in the field. Subsequently, the material provided on this page is subject to change in the future.


full street closure

partial street closure

pedestrian streets / malls

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