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Downtown Traffic Study Leaves Many With More Questions Than Answers

Michael Keating

A presentation with results from Cincinnati's long-awaited downtown traffic study seemed to fall flat Tuesday with city council members.  
The 27-page initial report listed a series of issues, but it lacked specific recommendations for fixing them and how much it would cost to make the fixes.  

"This took two-and-a-half years and it feels a little sloppy to me, at least how it's laid out," said Council Member Chris Seelbach. "There's just a little frustration with that because it did take so long and it's a little bit confusing to understand problems associated with solutions associated with status of solutions."

Council Member Greg Landsman wants the presentation redone with specific issues and recommendations.

"It's not just, here's the recommendation, but some sense as to what is required of us to make it happen, the cost or costs," Landsman said.

Assistant City Manager John Juech said a lot of work went into this initial report.

"This is really just kind of the interim report of what they found, and now we have to craft what are the policy recommendations, and I know the administration provided some of the same feedback in our meeting with them," Juech said.

The consultants working on the study are being asked to redo the presentation and bring it back with more specifics, likely sometime after January 1.  

The study was launched to improve downtown traffic flow for all users including cars, buses, streetcars and pedestrians.

In the report, stakeholders were asked to provide a letter grade for downtown traffic.  Forty-eight percent gave a "C," with 28 percent giving a "B;" 17 percent a "D;" 4 percent an "A;" and 3 percent "F."

The consultants said the existing practice of using fixed traffic signal timing should be maintained for several reasons. Those include: low maintenance costs, pedestrians expect it, and it creates routine gaps in traffic for parking and curbside operations.

The report suggested improving pedestrian visibility at crosswalks by installing curb extensions or removing vehicle obstructions. It also recommends removing dual turn lanes where possible, which can make it hard to see pedestrians in crosswalks.

The study also found the city may need to change the practice of letting off duty police officers, who are paid by private companies, to stop traffic to let vehicles out of downtown parking garages. The report said that disrupts traffic flow.  

The consultants also suggest relocating a transit stop at Fifth and Vine, and changing valet parking operations so it doesn't cause congestion.

The report recommends more study of "transit signal priority," which could leave a traffic signal "green" a little longer to benefit streetcars or express buses. The consultants also pointed out that "not all red-light stops would be eliminated" for these vehicles.

The highest lank locations for this include: Race at Liberty; Walnut at Ninth; Elm at Liberty; and Walnut at Second.

The report said deployment of transit signal priority "along the entire route has impacts to other users and diminishing transit returns."