Converting a two-way residential street to a one-way?
June 13, 2018 9:10 AM   Subscribe

Our town is proposing that several residential streets in my neighborhood be converted from two-way streets to one-way streets. My husband and I (and many of our neighbors) are against this, especially since our street is one of the streets they want to change to a one-way. There's a town meeting with the mayor tonight I'm looking for talking points against the conversion.

The change to one-way streets is to accommodate parking on both sides of the street on an almost full time basis. Currently we have alternate side of the street parking, which switches every three days (three days on one side, three days on the other, Sundays are a free for all). I did some research online and found that the cons outweigh the pros:

1. People drive faster down one-way streets because there's no "friction" from another car driving in the opposite direction.

2. One-way streets decrease property values.

3. One-way streets increase crime.

More info about my situation:

1. I'm a homeowner (7 years in this house).
2. We have a 3 year old daughter and a dog, neither of whom are unsupervised or allowed in the street by themselves, but I don't need people going even faster than they already do down our road.
3. We have a two car driveway and own two cars.

I really, really don't want this to happen. Am I missing anything that needs to be discussed tonight? Are there any traffic studies that can help my case?

Thanks in advance for your help! Let me know if I need to provide more info.
posted by Nutritionista to Travel & Transportation around Paramus, NJ (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
As you're doing your research, be careful to look explicitly at arguments about one way versus two way residential streets. A lot of the research is on non-residential streets and thus their findings would be less applicable.

Also as you do your research, look at both sides of the issue. Even though your initial belief is for two-way, you might change your mind. And if you're preparing for a debate or argument with those that want one-way, you want to be prepared for their points with counterarguments. The issue with finding research about non-residential streets will likely come up on both sides.
posted by k8t at 9:16 AM on June 13, 2018 [4 favorites]

Change is difficult.

Do you have studies or stats you can cite regarding crime or speeding? Bring those stats in print outs and make copies to hand in to your elected officials.

You can request a study for car speeds in a trial of one way traffic on your street. Strongly advocate for this.


Make the change dependent on the installation of speed bumps on your street. You can easily research the cost.
posted by jbenben at 9:18 AM on June 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

Hi! I live in your neighborhood and I will also be at that meeting tonight. I am personally for the change mainly due to the parking situation but I understand your concerns. While you personally have enough driveway parking, many of your neighbors are renters and do not have access to adequate driveway parking. I agree with jbenben, I think that speed bumps are going to be important to keep speed down, people speed down those streets even with two way traffic.
posted by crankylex at 9:25 AM on June 13, 2018 [6 favorites]

Thank you for the responses so far! We already have speed bumps on the street. You're right, crankylex, people fly over them.
posted by Nutritionista at 9:30 AM on June 13, 2018

There are some mixed results reported for one way to two way conversion here:

Where I live, the conversions are all one way to two way, or reducing one way lanes. In general, this is to decrease speeds, which should generally increase safety for bikes and pedestrians.

I don't understand why they don't just allow parking every day on the existing two way streets? Are they reducing your street to a single lane of one way traffic?

If two way streets are narrow with parking on both sides, it actually slows cars down. It's like this in my neighborhood. This is a good thing.
posted by cnc at 9:30 AM on June 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

I would think that all that parking would create more friction than a car going the opposite way would.

In terms of talking points, the best testimony is a really clear anecdote, or a personal story, so finding a case study as suggested above would be a great idea.
posted by salvia at 9:32 AM on June 13, 2018 [4 favorites]

Yeah I found an interesting CityLab piece about the move to convert one-way streets to two-ways but it was focused on really different issues. No generalization about the effects of one way streets is going to directly speak to your situation.

You say you are worried about real estate values but how much is the ability to easily park your vehicle when you get home going to be worth? You have a driveway and might not directly benefit but wont it bring up home prices of your neighbors and by extension your own with it?

the evidence I saw that people drive faster on one way streets was not related to the presence of oncoming traffic but rather the traffic-clogging effects of people waiting to make turns across oncoming traffic.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 9:32 AM on June 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Another point to consider, in Baltimore there is a history of using one way streets to enforce segregation, by making it harder to enter a neighborhood. Not necessarily the case in your town (sounds like lack of parking is the primary motivation). Still something you want to watch out for.
posted by postel's law at 9:37 AM on June 13, 2018

I'm right on the Montclair border, there's no speed bumps down at my end except from the Montclair side. cnc, I think the reason they are proposing this one way situation is because the streets aren't wide enough for two way traffic with emergency vehicles with parking on both sides.
posted by crankylex at 9:41 AM on June 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

I would ask for a traffic study to see what these changes will do to the level of traffic on your street. It's possible your road will become very busy, less busy or no change at all.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 9:42 AM on June 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

@crankylex - Thanks - that does make sense, and my question isn't necessarily germane to the OP's Ask in the first place. What you're saying makes sense, but OP also said two sided parking is allowed on Sundays, which seems inconsistent with emergency access being blocked.
posted by cnc at 9:46 AM on June 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

What's the city's motivation? Adding the parking lane? How wide is your street? Honestly, keeping it two way and adding the parking lane, if it's at all wide enough (I'm seeing 28' curb-to-curb in a set of standards from Oregon) could really help with speeds. With all "skinny street" proposals, fire truck access is the controversial piece, but bringing designs from another jurisdiction (that also has fire trucks) could help.

But because this is public testimony, you have to think about (a) what's going to be impactful in 180 seconds or less, generally stories (e.g., past examples where this didn't work) are best, (b) how many other people can you get to make similar points.
posted by salvia at 9:49 AM on June 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Sorry to leave this out - the street is not wide enough to accommodate two lanes AND parking on both sides of the street simultaneously, hence the one way proposal.
posted by Nutritionista at 10:16 AM on June 13, 2018

Has the city emergency services voiced an opinion? My neighborhood cannot do one-way streets or certain other changes as EMS studies said the new routing would adversely impact response times.
posted by beaning at 10:26 AM on June 13, 2018 [7 favorites]

So, why does your street need more parking? Is your neighborhood getting denser? Are people from outside the neighborhood parking on your street because there's inadequate parking in other neighborhoods (or because they can park and walk to transit)? Is parking free or cheap in your city or do residents have to pay for parking permits?

Basically, will the increase in parking help people in your neighborhood, or is it just pushing someone else's problem into your lap?
posted by mskyle at 10:31 AM on June 13, 2018 [8 favorites]

Living in a city that is desperately trying to figure out how to add bike lanes without impacting existing parking (hing: you pretty much can't), it seems a bit short sited to me to be making this change for the purpose of adding street parking in an area. It is essentially converting a broadly available public good - the street with many people circulating on it - into one which only one person at a time will be able to use. Also, the current regime causes cars to be regularly moved, which also makes car abandonment or long term parking far less viable to catch.

Personally I would be pro the change from two way to one way if it was to create a network of dedicated bicycle lanes instead. But that's just my politics showing.

Having grown up in the northeast, one way residential streets are pretty normal to me and I'm not sure I see the increased crime or decreased value argument.
posted by meinvt at 10:33 AM on June 13, 2018 [11 favorites]

Does your town have a climate change/greenhouse gas policy?
In my area, a proposal to add parking was recently nixed because of the increase in VMT associated with cost-free parking.

If your region has a transplan, either regulatory or symbolic, you might look into whether this change would meet requirements.
For example, if it calls for increased bike/ped access with any major road reconfiguration.

Along the same lines, there are ADA obligations that come into effect when streets are altered. These can be quite costly and can mean major construction. This change probably isn't as simple as just repainting some stripes.

Finally, if there is a school nearby, you might investigate the Safe Routes to School guidelines. Increased speeds and blocked sightlines due to parked cars make it difficult for children to cross.
posted by madajb at 10:56 AM on June 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Has the city emergency services voiced an opinion?

I live on a one-way street (and am a traffic engineer!), and our EMS just drives the wrong way up the street when they have to.
posted by hwyengr at 11:33 AM on June 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

Oftentimes trash/recycling companies have a limited amount of trucks that are omni-directional. Ask if they have been notified or consulted?
posted by furnace.heart at 12:21 PM on June 13, 2018

Driving speeds notwithstanding, one-way streets have some safety benefits for pedestrians (fewer places for cars to turn from). This page goes into some of the trade-offs and suggests additional changes (besides speed bumps) that can be made to counter the drawbacks of one-way streets. You might propose some of these changes if you're unsuccessful at dissuading the city from converting your street to one-way.
posted by aws17576 at 1:53 PM on June 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Unless there is some sort of large parking fee, in a year or two it will be just as difficult to find parking on both sides of the street as it currently is on one side of the street.

Donald Shoup has done some excellent research on The High Cost of Free Parking.

If parking is an issue, why not encourage an increase in price for parking? Why Drivers Should Pay to Park on Residential Streets. And even if there currently is a fee for a parking permit, it probably is a nominal fee. $50 a year is free.

In the movie Urbanized, there is a talk with Enrique Penalosa the former and once again mayor of Bogota Columbia. He had an interesting point of view on parking. He said something like, "Why is it the responsibility of the city to provide storage for people's possessions? Does the government store your clothes? Why do people expect the government to provide space for the free storage of automobiles? Parking is not a constitutional right."
posted by GregorWill at 3:21 PM on June 13, 2018 [5 favorites]

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