You may have noticed them recently — parked at intersections all over Red Deer, clip-boards in hand, studying traffic like scientists do mice in a maze — and wondered just what exactly they are up to?
These “counters” were part of the City of Red Deer’s Traffic Signal Warrant Study. The recently wrapped project, conducted by sub-contracted employees of HDR|iTRANS, a transit planning consultation firm based in Calgary, examined 21 intersections throughout Red Deer.
The goal of the project is to update traffic counts and help the City’s Engineering Services department come up with a traffic signal installation program for the next five years, said Rebecca Clark, traffic engineer with the City or Red Deer.
The city has been doing traffic signal studies every three years since 2001, Clark said, but “this is the first time our consultants are going to be recommending if a roundabout is a better option than a traffic signal at certain intersections.”
Roundabouts, which have been gaining popularity in the U.S. and are a fixture in some European countries, are essentially traffic circles with one key difference: they require motorists to yield on entry.
Another difference is in a larger traffic circle or “rotary”, motorists are allowed to weave through multiple lanes within the circle.
“(A roundabout) is the modern take on a traffic circle; it’s more intuitive and safer to use,” Clark said.
“They can be quite effective for moving traffic without stopping it; you have to slow down to navigate the curves, but you don’t have to stop.”
Counters who conducted the study recorded traffic flows as well as who was using the 21 intersections’ pedestrian crossings, Clark said. A disabled person or small child crossing counts for more “points” than a non-disabled adult, and intersections closer to schools or shopping centres are giving more points than regular intersections.
These intersections are given higher priorities if updates are determined to be needed Clark said; and the necessity to be able to make these subjective distinctions is why the city has to hire real people to conduct the study.
The traffic study had a proposed budget of a just over $52,000 and HDR|iTRANS engineers are currently analyzing the data to prepare a draft report, which should be ready for the city’s review by the end of June, Clark said.
If the recommendations include the implementation of a roundabout, the city may install one at a minor arterial intersection (like 40th Avenue) in the next couple years, Clark said. Major roadways are at least five years away from getting this update, if at all, she added.
“You don’t want to throw in something that the public doesn’t know how to use, you need them to gain an acceptance of it,” Clark said.
“And if it fails, that’s a lost opportunity to improve traffic at a more appropriate intersection that could of actually used a roundabout.”