Some 85 percent of drivers who rolled through — rather than stopped at — stop signs in University Park Tuesday were local residents, Police Chief Michael Wynnyk said during Tuesday night’s crime forum at University Park Elementary School.
“It’s us, the people who live here,” said Wynnyk, initiating what turned out to be a lengthy discussion over cut-through and speeding traffic in town. And usually, added Wynnyk, the people who complain about speeding cars are “the first to get pulled over the next day (for speeding).”
“That’s the reality of it," he added.
Perception also backed into reality during the two-plus hour forum, with several residents wondering whether 25 mph may be too fast for many of the town’s streets.
“Speeding is a matter of perception,” said Councilman Len Carey, recounting an instance of someone he knows being shouted at while driving down Van Buren Street at 22 mph. '"Slow down!'" went the shouter, according to Carey.
For his part, Carey thought small roundabouts might be a solution to particularly troublesome speed spots. “I defy you to go very fast through those things,” he said.
“The reality is probably five percent (of drivers) are (driving at) excessive speeds,” said Chief Wynnyk, who did acknowledge that speed minimums can seem fast at times, especially along Van Buren and Woodberry Street. But he also said residents would be “pretty surprised” to find that, with the aid of a radar gun, looks can be deceiving.
Many of these cars are going 26 and 27 mph, said Wynnyk, and his officers aren’t going to ticket someone at those speeds.
Mayor John Tabori said visual signals, such as slalom parking designs that make drivers more cautious, might also be a solution to cases of excessive speed.
Resident Ellen Thorp, who lives along Tuckerman Street, asked whether the city could install its own signs that say: “We prefer 15 mph.” Probably not, said Chief Wynnyk, noting that state law precludes the city from lowering its minimum speed limits.
About half way through the evening, resident Tom Stickles tapped the breaks. “I don’t know what the problem is,” Stickles said. “Maybe there is a perception, but what is the reality?” he said, making the argument that no dialogue is good dialogue without first establishing whether traffic problems facing the city are town-wide or unique to particular locations. “We need to define the problem.”
Resident John Shoaff said traffic speed, volume, noise and lack of visibility along some streets all pose challenges to the city, both now and with the possibility of a Whole Foods coming to town. We may need to see a more “holistic view of the region,” said Shoaff, not one that only addresses Van Buren Street or Route 410.
State Delegate Anne Healey also turned up at the meeting for about 10 minutes in observance of National Night Out, saying that she values smart growth and walkable communities. She also tempered Shoaff’s concerns over any looming Whole Foods deal associated with the Cafrtiz Property. “There’s lots of proposals out there,” she said. “It’s not a real plan yet.”
According to Chief Wynnyk, some 75,000 cars use the town’s surrounding commuter roads on any given day at present. Mayor Tabori said that number might actually be as high as 90,000 based on recent data.