Spooner traffic calming history FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about the history of the Spooner Street traffic calming projects

How did traffic calming features appear along Spooner Street?

The traffic calming features along North and South Spooner Street were installed in accordance with Madison's Neighborhood Traffic Management Program (NTMP).

What is the NTMP?

The NTMP is a competitive program for considering streets across the city for traffic calming. For a street to be considered, the first step is for residents to submit a petition. The city then ranks all competing streets on several criteria, including accident rates, measured vehicle speeds and volumes, school zones, and bicycle routes. Each street receives a point score, which must reach at least 30 to qualify for further consideration. From these, the highest ranking streets qualify for funding. The rest are reconsidered the next year, for up to three years. Once qualified for funding, residents of the affected area meet with the Traffic Engineering (TE) department and attempt to forge a proposed set of features that satisfy all stakeholders, including residents, TE, the fire department, and other city services. Storm drainage and snow removal are also considered. Once a proposal has been defined, ballots are mailed to the residents of the affected area. If at least 60% of the returned ballots are favorable, the proposal moves forward for final approval by the city.

Where can I learn more about the NTMP?

The detailed steps from initial petition to final implementation are spelled out here.

Since North Spooner is less busy than South Spooner, how could both qualify?

South Spooner is classified as a "collector" street while North Spooner is classified as a "local" street. The distinction is based on traffic volumes: collectors have higher volumes than local streets. In the NTMP, collectors compete only against collectors and local streets compete only against local streets. In recent years the top five ranking streets in each category have qualified for funding. That is, five collector and five local streets will typically qualify each year.

When did Spooner Street first enter the NTMP competition?

Residents submitted their initial petition in December 2001. Twenty-seven households signed the petition, while one household was opposed. Hazards identified at that time included an elderly resident who was fearful of crossing the street to and from her parked car, schoolchildren having to run for safety at the Rowley intersection, and a crash at the Hoyt intersection. That year 63 streets applied to participate in the NTMP and only six were approved for funding, three collectors and three local streets. North and South Spooner entered too late to participate in the scoring but competed in the following years.

Was the initial petition sufficient to keep Spooner Street in contention until approval in 2006?

No. In September 2004 the city asked for a second petition covering 59 specifically affected addresses and required that more than half be affirmative for further consideration. The neighborhood complied with 54 affirmative signatures (91%) from those addresses.

When did Spooner Street qualify for funding by the NTMP?

North and South Spooner qualified in their respective categories in March of 2005. South Spooner was ranked fourth among collectors with 60.7 points and North Spooner was ranked second among local streets with 47.0 points. Speeding vehicles contributed significantly to those scores. On South Spooner 44% of vehicles exceeded the speed limit and on North Spooner 38% exceeded the limit.

What calming features were discussed when Traffic Engineering met with residents?

In addition to the features you now see on Spooner and its intersections with Summit, Van Hise, and Rowley, several other alternatives were discussed but rejected, including curb extensions and chicanes. The locations of all features, both those you now see and those that were rejected, were also discussed at length. Residents strongly advocated an island or other feature at the intersection with West Lawn but TE was not able to accommodate anything there. (It would have required reshaping the terrace, which is beyond the budgetary limitations of the NTMP.) Another topic, especially on North Spooner, was that the proposed features retain as much street parking as feasible, since there is often a parking shortage in the area. In short, reaching a solution acceptable to all stakeholders required considerable give and take.

What features were presented on the official ballot?

For North Spooner, the ballot proposed two circles and two speed humps. For South Spooner, the ballot proposed two islands. Because South Spooner is a collector and North Spooner is a local street, they were treated in two separate proposals, with separate ballots and separate balloting areas.

How did the balloting go?

Ballots were mailed to 124 individuals in June 2006. For South Spooner 87% of the returned ballots were in favor of the proposed features. For North Spooner 93% of the returned ballots were in favor. The features were then installed in the fall of 2006.

Do traffic calming features impede emergency vehicles?

The fire department tests the features before they are installed. For example on two occasions, large fire trucks, including a hook and ladder truck, tested the outlines of the circles on North Spooner. As a result of those tests the sizes of both features were significantly reduced.

Are there ways other than the NTMP to get traffic calming features implemented?

While the NTMP is the principal means, it is also possible for residents to request traffic calming in conjunction with road reconstruction work. The city uses a similar procedure in this situation--a consensus proposal followed by a mail-in ballot--to determine whether to implement calming. For example, at the time of the Commonwealth and Rowley reconstruction project in 2003 residents had an opportunity for traffic calming features near the Prospect and Roby intersections but they decided against it.

Does traffic calming work?

The effectiveness varies between types of features, but the city's before and after measurements consistently show marked reductions in average vehicle speeds for all types. Moreover, with respect to islands and circles pedestrians consistently remark that the features act as a "refuge" that increases their safety when crossing the street.

Aren't these features inconvenient for motorists?

Calming features are meant to slow traffic to make streets safer and more humane for everyone. As with anything, there will always be differences of opinion. The NTMP attempts to provide a reasonable process with checks and balances for neighborhoods to consider calming features, but no program can guarantee unanimous satisfaction.

Can the NTMP be improved?

The NTMP has evolved even during the years Spooner Street was under consideration and presumably will continue to do so. For example, there have been concerns that the NTMP does not adequately address the needs of higher volume streets, known as "arterials," of which Regent Street is an example.

How do I turn left at a traffic circle?

It is OK to turn in front of the circle--the short way--unless a directional sign tells you to bear right.