City of Yakima, Washington Department of Public Works
Streets and Traffic Division

Background of Program

In 2018, the Yakima City Council updated the policy for reviewing and prioritizing neighborhood requests for traffic calming, including the development of traffic control plans. Funding and implementation of specific projects by the City is dependent upon traffic conditions meeting minimum threshold requirements.

Initiation of the traffic study process requires submittal of a petition by the neighborhood representing thirty percent (30%) of the addressed parcels along the section of road where traffic calming is requested. Petition forms can be found at these links or the neighborhood may create their own but the same basic information is required.

Petition Form (English) Petición (Spanish)

Goals of Traffic Calming Program

  • Implement a program of possible modifications to neighborhood streets to allow motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians and residents to coexist with minimal conflict
  • Emphasize the importance of safety, comfort and welfare of residents by reducing the negative impacts of vehicular traffic on their neighborhood streets.
  • Provide commuting motorists reasonably convenient collector, minor and principal-arterial routes as alternatives to neighborhood streets they are currently using.
  • Promote the use of physical traffic control measures in support of legal statutory regulations in order to reduce vehicle speeds to acceptable levels on residential streets.
  • Encourage and facilitate citizen participation in all phases of the neighborhood traffic program. Make efficient use of city resources.

Policies for Neighborhood Traffic Calming

1) Consideration of a neighborhood traffic management program should be limited to local-access or collector streets, consistent with the Transportation Element of the Comprehensive Plan. The program should promote the routing of neighborhood through traffic to the adjacent arterial classified streets.

2) Traffic patterns may change as a result of a neighborhood traffic project. The impact to adjoining streets and neighborhoods should be considered.

3) Emergency vehicle access should be preserved on local-access and collector streets and no physical traffic control devices should be installed which impair emergency access.

4) Reasonable vehicular access should be maintained. However, neighborhood traffic projects should encourage and enhance pedestrian, bicycle and transit circulation.

5) Generally, physical traffic calming devices should not be installed on street segments with grades greater than ten percent (10%) along horizontal curves with sight distances less than 150 feet or adjacent to residential driveways. Traffic calming will not be approved on cul-de-sacs or dead end streets.

6) The neighborhood traffic plan should include an inventory, analysis and solutions to problems with the current street parking systems, including narrow streets, access needs, sight obstructions and parking violations at intersections, driveways and fire hydrants.

Possible Neighborhood Traffic Calming Improvements

The Traffic Engineering Division shall evaluate traffic control techniques and utilize traffic calming devices to fulfill the neighborhood traffic objectives and respond effectively to traffic–related neighborhood concerns. To learn more about current Engineering practices related to Traffic Calming measures you may want to review the Institute of Traffic Engineer (ITE) website devoted to this nationwide issue at http://www.ite.org

Engineering standards include the use of various combinations of the following devices:

Speed Humps: When spaced properly in a series of three or more, and combined with other intersection treatments, these are relatively low cost devices that effectively calm the traffic by reducing speeds along the treated segments of local access and local collector streets.

Roundabouts and Traffic Circles: These devices are raised circular islands placed in an intersection to assign a radial pattern of right-of-way assignment, calm the traffic near an intersection and reduce conflict points and collisions. They are most effective when installed in a lineal series along a street.

Chokers/Chicanes and Curb Extensions: These devices narrow the street by widening the sidewalk or parking strip to extend and clarify pedestrian crossings and create physical roadway width variations to calm approaching traffic.

Diagonal and Semi-Diverters: These devices limit access to a street from one direction, completely block access across an intersection or on one side of a street segment, allow only pedestrian and bicycle traffic or limit specific turn movements at an intersection. They function best when used throughout a neighborhood to prevent the movement of traffic problems to adjacent parallel streets in a network.

Cul-de-sacs: These are complete street closures at an intersection or mid block location. Due to their severe access limiting affects on neighborhood circulation and detriment to emergency vehicle access, they should normally be limited to use with unusual property shapes or in areas with topographic constraints.

Intersection Control Plans – Limited Stop Sign Installation: Stop signs are not intended as speed control measures. Stop signs are regulatory signs used to assign right of way and to prevent collisions. However, the City of Yakima has found that limited applications of stop sign installation within a neighborhood can create natural breaks in the travel patterns and may influence the travel speed. This pattern creates a rational, systematic approach to intersection right of way assignment on neighborhood streets to promote a more consistent level of driver expectancy and comfort. This may include a stop control at every other intersection in a project neighborhood, with classified collector streets excluded. Analysis of the neighborhood characteristics is necessary. This pattern may help reduce cut through travel patterns by commuter traffic on local access neighborhood streets and it may spread local traffic more evenly throughout the street network as well as promote greater use of arterials. To find out more about Stop Signs, please contact the Traffic Engineering Division.

Procedures to Implement Neighborhood Traffic Calming Program

1) Citizen Request and Initial Review. Citizens or neighborhood organizations may make traffic-related requests.

Traffic staff gathers preliminary traffic data including volumes, speeds, collision information and existing conditions including signs, paving, sidewalks, geometry and sight obstructions.

The first phase of review usually determines if additions or changes to existing signage and controls are warranted within the neighborhood area. Installation of stop signs is not always appropriate in many locations and can have negative impacts to the neighborhoods. To learn more about stop sign requirements, contact the Traffic Engineering Division.

There is  no cost to the neighborhood for changes to regulatory and warning signs. If additional measures are desired by the citizen or neighborhood group, a Citizen Petition to Study Traffic Calming Measures will be necessary.

2) Citizen Petition to Study Traffic Calming Measures.

To initiate a study of possible traffic calming measures, beyond modification to existing signs and striping, city policy requires that a citizen petition be submitted. The petition documents the level of agreement among residents in the project area that a problem exists and confirm the specifics of the request.

Traffic Engineering staff will meet with the requester and explain the petition procedures to the citizen who is responsible for circulating the petition. The petition should be signed by property owners or residents within the neighborhood and impacted street area. Signatures from at least thirty percent (30%) of the project area residents/businesses are required to move the project forward. Each parcel is entitled to one signature. Non-resident property owner signatures are not required on the petition ; however, they are given project status updates and are welcomed to submit input on the project.

3) Preliminary Measures

If the traffic investigation indicates there is a traffic safety problem in the neighborhood, the City may implement take actions to rectify the conditions with actions that do not require construction of physical traffic calming features. These may include modification of the speed limit, stop controls, parking restrictions, lane configuration, or removal of sight obstructions. Other efforts may include directed enforcement by Yakima Police Department and temporary installation of radar speed indication signs.

No additional traffic calming may be required if these actions prove to be effective.

4) Plan Development.

Traffic Engineering staff will gather data about the neighborhood area, including traffic volumes, speeds, collisions, land uses such as schools and parks, and street geometrics. Alternative proposals may be developed by staff for the neighborhood to consider. A technical meeting may be held with representatives of the Fire, Police, City Engineering Office and utility providers to discuss potential impacts of physical changes to the street. A public meeting will be held with the neighborhood and petitioners.

The affected neighborhood, various city departments and other interested agencies such as Emergency Services, Transit and school districts will evaluate alternative solutions and their possible impacts. The perceived and actual problems analyzed will normally involve, but are not limited to: speeding traffic, increased volumes, heavy cut-through traffic, improper or inadequate intersection traffic control, concerns for child safety, street parking and sight obstructions. Traffic staff will work with the residents to develop an effective plan and solution to these problems. Consideration should be given to any land-use changes and/or generators or roadway improvements occurring adjacent to and outside the neighborhood traffic project area, but which may have a short term or future impact on traffic conditions in the area.

All devices will be planned and designed  in keeping with established and sound engineering and planning practices. The Traffic Engineer shall direct the installation of traffic calming and control devices including signs and markings needed to complete the project in compliance with municipal codes and the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices.

5) Confirmation of Support

To forward the neighborhood traffic plan to the City Council, a second petition is required that represents two-thirds (66.7%) of the parcels adjacent to the road segment(s) proposed to receive traffic calming. The petition should include signatures of at least 30% of the property owners.

6) City Council action.

After project evaluation and a submission of the supporting petition, traffic staff prepares a report with recommendations for City Council action which outlines the process followed, describes the project results and findings and clearly states the reasons for the recommendations. If a project does not obtain the required neighborhood approval, it is not forwarded to the City Council.

City Council may choose to approve the project and direct city funds to sponsor the project, or accept the project subject to formation of a Local Improvement District to implement the improvements. Other funding mechanisms may also be possible which would be decided at the time of approval. The Council may establish an evaluation period in which to determine whether the traffic calming measures have been effective and do not impair neighborhood safety.

7) Design and construction.

Final design, installation and construction of proposed and adopted traffic control devices and techniques is administered by the city with a completion period of twelve months or less depending on funding and resources.

8) Monitoring/Maintenance.

The traffic staff monitors the traffic control devices and is responsible for maintaining their appearance, physical integrity and adherence to established standards and specifications for size, materials and placement.

9) Follow up evaluation.

Within one to five years after construction of traffic management devices in an project neighborhood or due to citizen complaints, the Traffic Engineering division will conduct follow-up evaluations to determine if the traffic control devices meet established criteria and objectives or if removals and/or adjustments are warranted. Evaluations may include conducting traffic speed studies, collection of vehicle traffic volumes, collision analysis, and public opinion surveys.

Traffic Analysis Glossary

Classified Streets

Specific streets in the City of Yakima are classified by the city and Washington State Department of Transportation as arterial streets. The hierarchy of classifications for arterial streets within the City include Principal Arterial, Minor Arterial and Collector Arterial streets, which correspond to traffic volumes, lengths of roadway and other geometric features. These urban streets connect neighborhoods, link residential areas with commercial centers and provide through access to county, state and federal roadways. Neighborhood traffic projects are normally not implemented on collector, minor and principal arterials. However, some classified collector streets may be eligible for neighborhood traffic analysis if their current and/or projected traffic volumes are at local levels and they have a high percentage of residential frontage. Also, other traffic factors and conditions should be analyzed to determine which classified streets might be considered for neighborhood traffic management.

Neighborhood Streets

Neighborhood or local access streets are the minor, lower volume neighborhood streets linking the residential land uses to the arterial system. They make up the majority of Yakima’s street networks and they serve local circulation needs for automobiles, bicycles and pedestrians. They are normally designed for residential traffic volumes and lower speeds (25 mph). It is on these local streets that the neighborhood traffic projects are implemented.

Travel Speed

This is usually the most often discussed traffic problem on neighborhood streets. Unless otherwise posted, local neighborhood streets have a speed limit of 25 mph. When requested, the traffic division will conduct a speed study to determine the appropriate speed limit on a specific street. Factors considered include adjacent land use and access, accident history, roadway geometry, traffic volumes and current speeds. When a speed limit change is recommended, staff submits the proposal to the City Council for approval or includes this as one of possibly several traffic issues considered in a neighborhood traffic program.

Volume

This refers to the actual number of vehicles that cross a section of roadway during a specific time period on a typical traffic day. Data is usually gathered for twenty-four hours on a weekday. This is also a significant analysis factor in neighborhood traffic projects.

Accident History

Traffic accidents are analyzed on a roadway segment and/or at specific intersections in a neighborhood. Many accidents at low volume residential intersections are of a random nature, and one or two collisions annually are often normal. However, staff does look for a continual pattern of two or more similar accidents during a three-year period as this is indicative of problems at or near a specific intersection that may be reduced or eliminated by traffic control devices and a neighborhood’s project plans.