Despite Expert’s Credentials, Neighbors Pan PD-15 Traffic Study

At last night’s meeting regarding PD-15 at Preston Road and Northwest Highway, it appeared that those opposed to redevelopment of the area are also opposed to facts.

When the author of a recent traffic study showed how the PD-15 traffic study was conducted and its conclusions, his reward was being peppered by non-believers in return. Color me shocked.

Last night, Steve Stoner, Director of Traffic Engineering with Pacheco Koch Consulting Engineers, presented his findings on traffic in and around PD-15 to 30-40 residents. Stoner holds a master’s degree in civil engineering and is an accredited Texas Professional Engineer (P.E.) and Professional Traffic Operations Engineer (P.T.O.E). He has been in the field for 25 years. Suffice it to say this ain’t his first traffic rodeo.

And yet, as predicted, the group of unqualified attendees (likely reading any traffic study for the first time) who disagree with redevelopment in PD-15, questioned his “veracity,” methods, and conclusions. We live in an age where facts are only facts if they support your worldview. Contradictory facts must be questioned to revalidate preconceptions – as happened last night.

There were also insinuations that his conclusions were beholden to those who paid his fee. Of course, those doing the insinuating have yet to fund their own traffic study. It’s easier and less risky to dump on someone else’s work.

Some were surprised that the traffic study wasn’t the all-encompassing, baton-twirling report with a cherry on top they’d thought it would be. That’s fair, if you’ve not seen a traffic study, you have no frame of reference on what they deliver.

The results reviewed by Stoner mirrored what I wrote previously (unsurprising since I was giving a book report on his findings). You can read them here.

But there was more to this meeting than a book report.

Let’s Talk About Tulane Boulevard

As an engineer, Stoner has his reasons for preferring to add a traffic signal at Edgemere Road and Northwest Highway. There’s the right spacing between the existing signals on Northwest Highway at Pickwick and Thackery. There’s excess capacity. It’s an intersection of public (not private) roadways. It doesn’t interfere with the existing turn lane into Park Cities Baptist Church.

However, from a practical perspective, opening Tulane makes the most sense – an idea I first floated last September. The above graphic shows what happens to traffic generated by new development if Tulane isn’t opened and a signal is placed at Edgemere Road. Not very pretty, is it?  Essentially traffic moves outwards to every alley and side street. If the goal of adding a new traffic signal is to flush new development traffic (none needed otherwise) Edgemere results in an internal CF for the neighborhood.

Compare that to my diagram. Shunting all new traffic generated by redevelopment of Diplomat, Royal Orleans, and Preston Place to Tulane Blvd. disengages it from the larger neighborhood (left red/blue lines). To further protect the neighborhood, removable (by emergency services) bollards are placed shutting off cut-throughs to the alley, Bandera and Diamond Head Circle, and by extension Baltimore (black dots).

So no, it might not look good from a Northwest Highway/traffic engineer’s perspective, but it’s a humdinger for the neighborhood. Even so, there are things that can be done to mitigate Northwest Highway impacts (reread that column of mine).

Stoner presented the facts of the matter, but Preston Place attorney Tommy Mann from Winstead noted that if there’s enough support for opening Tulane, exceptions can be made. But he said opening Tulane is like catching “lightning in a bottle” and that now, with the added city focus, is the time to make this happen. Fiddling around for a few years and the perfect storm will pass.

Sometimes it was hard to tell through the fog, but I think a lot of people in the room preferred Tulane over Edgemere for a new intersection. The single-family homes north of the Pink Wall should definitely be jumping on a Tulane solution. A more useful Edgemere Road and Northwest Highway intersection will bring more cut-through traffic northward into their neighborhood. Not from PD-15, but from folks trying to avoid Preston Road or Northwest Highway. Call a traffic signal at Edgemere an “attractive nuisance” for Preston Hollow.

A couple of Preston Hollow Homeowners wanted more detail on traffic cutting through their neighborhood from the Pink Wall. Referring to pages 39 and 40 in the traffic study, we see that in the morning rush, 17 cars turn north onto Edgemere from Bandera while 12 turn onto Bandera from Edgemere – during the evening rush it’s nine and 12 respectively. As a worst-case, doubling these numbers are of no consequence considering the myriad of directions those cars will travel from Edgemere.

Money, Money, Money

Of course, the subject of who’d pay for it came up. Mann said that if developers get the density being proposed, they’ll be happy to fork out for an intersection. Since Tulane is currently a private road the question came up of who’d pay for its ongoing maintenance – the fear being existing residents would be partly on the hook. But here’s the thing. Like the other private roads in PD-15, Tulane is owned by the parcels that border it – in this case the developers. Street improvements and maintenance would be their bill. And if they want to attract good tenants, they won’t let Tulane deteriorate the way existing condo buildings have their own private cracked and crater-filled roads.

There were also multiple lamentations about all the Amazon and Uber Eats deliveries plus caregivers and housekeepers creating traffic not counted on by the study. But think about it. Amazon shipments come via the post office, FedEX, or UPS – once a day. Housekeepers may come once a week (mine every two weeks and not during rush hour). Uber Eats deliveries will likely come post rush hour (you have to be home to collect your dinner). Finally, if someone needs a caregiver, they’re not tooting around town anyway, and the trips associated with them in the traffic study are simply used by the caregiver instead. And besides, caregivers work counter to rush hour. They arrive in the morning whereas commuter traffic leaves.

Yes, I believe parking for such services must be onsite and adequate, but the traffic generated by them is a red herring.

To summarize, those who prefer to question experienced data they don’t agree with remain unconvinced. For them, personal anecdotes are the only facts they need.

“… remember that morning last August when there were four cars on Pickwick? I told you traffic was impossible.”


Remember:  High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, the National Association of Real Estate Editors recognized my writing with three Bronze (2016, 2017, 2018) and two Silver (2016, 2017) awards.  Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make?  Shoot me an email sharewithjon@candysdirt.com. Be sure to look for me on Facebook and Twitter. You won’t find me, but you’re welcome to look.

2 Comment

  • I am curious Jon……was Laura Miller, concerned private citizen and property owner, there collecting thoughtful data and participating in the process in a constructive and productive way?

    OR

    Was she all hype and has taken her ball and gone home?

    • mm

      Miller rarely shows up to public meetings – I don’t remember her being at any of the committee meetings – so her no-show last night was not unusual.