Neighborhood Traffic & Parking Study
University Hill Neighborhood Association
This is the report of the Neighborhood Traffic and Parking Study conducted for the University Hill Neighborhood. The preliminary report was posted in September, 2000, on the Association’s website http://www.columbiasc.net/city/una.htm. The recommendations contained in Section III of this report were approved unanimously by the membership at the Association’s general meeting, November 14, 2000. This report is submitted to the Columbia City Council for their consideration. The Association is committed to working with Council to secure appropriate implementation of these recommendations.
In 1999 the City of Columbia began the Neighborhood Traffic Study project. This program involves neighborhood associations working with City and S.C. Department of Transportation officials in an effort to address the traffic concerns of individual neighborhoods throughout our city. The University Hill Neighborhood Association (UNA) joined this program in January, 2000. In light of the impact that USC students, faculty and staff have on traffic and parking in this neighborhood, UNA requested that representatives of the University also participate on the project team.
The University Hill Neighborhood is located directly east of the University of South Carolina’s historic Horseshoe. The neighborhood consists of a mixture of single-family and multi-family residential units along with the University’s east campus facilities. West of the University Hill Neighborhood is the City Center area including the State House complex, two block to the west, and the Main Street commercial and professional district. To the north of the neighborhood is a mixed area of residential and commercial properties including the commercial outlets along Gervais Street. To the east of the neighborhood is the Five Points Village shopping district. To the south is Maxey Gregg Park and the Wheeler Hill residential neighborhood.
Given the University Hill Neighborhood’s location in the inner city area of Columbia, it was clear that this study effort would be different from what has been done in other neighborhood traffic studies. Our project focused on both traffic and parking issues since these two aspects of vehicle use are so interrelated in our neighborhood.
The project team for this study consisted of Jim Stiver and John Stucker from UNA; Bill Baker, Dave Brewer, and Lynn Long from the City of Columbia; Tony Sheppard from the S.C. Department of Transportation; and Charlie Jeffcoat and Derek Huggins from USC.
The following is a listing of the issues and concerns addressed in this project:
· Speeding motorists: You could name most any street in the neighborhood; however, the ones most frequently mentioned are Laurens, Greene, Pendleton, and Barnwell Streets.
· Commuting Traffic: There is a high volume of commuting traffic into and through the neighborhood. Most appears destined for the University; however, some involves State employees and persons going to other businesses in the neighborhood and surrounding area.
· Parking: A “neighborhood traffic study” in an urban, University Hill Neighborhood must include an assessment of parking patterns and practices in that neighborhood. The destination commuter traffic is drawn into the neighborhood in search of parking, and the problem of speeding motorists cited above is exacerbated by the curb-side parking, particularly on the more narrow streets.
· Heavy Vehicle Traffic: Buses and large trucks pass into and through the neighborhood.
The following are the principal findings reported by the project team.
· Traffic Volume: We have very high traffic volume for a residential neighborhood.
· The traffic volume for the average two-way residential street in the City of Columbia is 800-850 vehicles per day in each direction.
· Laurens, Barnwell, Pendleton, and Greene Streets in our neighborhood average between 1,000 and 3,000 vehicles per day each way which is 20% to 250% above the average. Pickens Street averages up to 4,500 vehicles per day each way.
· Traffic volume decreases by 50% when USC in not in session indicating the impact of USC commuting traffic on our streets.
· Speeding: Speeding is not as much of a problem as traffic volume itself.
· The speed limit on unmarked residential streets in the City is 30 MPH. This is the current speed limit on most of the streets in our neighborhood.
· On most of our streets, 85% of drivers travel at less than or equal to the 30 MPH speed limit. We obviously tend to notice the 15% who drive in excess of the speed limit.
· The highest incidence of speeding involves eastbound traffic in the 1900 block of Pendleton Street and both north and southbound traffic on Pickens street going under the bridge between Pendleton and Greene Streets.
· Trucks: The volume of truck traffic in our neighborhood is extremely high.
· The average number of trucks traveling on a residential street in the City is less than one per day.
· In our neighborhood, we have between 20-30 trucks a day traveling on Pickens, Henderson, Barnwell, Pendleton, and Laurens Streets.
· Most of the “destination” trucks entering our neighborhood are making deliveries to Capstone and the National Advocacy Center (NAC). Anecdotal evidence, however, suggests that most truck traffic in our neighborhood is “cut-through” trucks going between deliveries in the Five Points/Devine Street corridor area and the City Center/Vista area.
· Noise: We have a problem with noise -- loud car radios/cd players, motorcycles, trucks, and buses.
· USC Impact: Parking problems in our neighborhood are a direct result of USC commuting traffic, primarily commuting students.
· As noted above, traffic volumes in the neighborhood decrease by 50% when USC is not in session..
· USC parking policies and procedures have traditionally tolerated, if not encouraged, a high level of demand for close-in, on-campus parking.
· City Permit Parking System:
· The City instituted the residential permit parking system in 1981 in response to the neighborhood’s concerns about the volume of commuter parking on our streets which often made it impossible for residents or their guests to find a place to park.
· While the permit parking system has relieved some of the pressure, there are still problems, particularly on streets directly adjacent to campus facilities, with commuters who either ignore the permit requirement or secure a tenant or visitor permit from a friend who lives in the neighborhood but does not need a permit for on street parking.
· Permit parking is in effect from 8:00am to 6:00pm, Monday through Friday. In the past the parking enforcement staff shift assignments ended by 4:00pm allowing evening commuting students to take up all available parking places at the end of the day without fear of enforcement. Evening classes begin at 5:30pm.
The following are the recommendations (shown in italics) for addressing the Neighborhood’s concerns:
· Stop Signs: In other neighborhood traffic studies, the City has adopted a standard of placing stop signs at least once very two blocks to reduce traffic volume and slow the speed of traffic. [City and state traffic officials noted that they would not support the installation of more stop lights as the evidence indicates that stop lights increase the accident rate while stop signs do not.]
· Additional stop signs should be placed at the following locations
· Laurens Street at the intersection with Pendleton Street
· Laurens Street at the intersection with College Street
· Greene Street at the intersection with Barnwell Street
· A speed limit of 25 MPH should be posted throughout the neighborhood.
· If residents continue to observe speeding, the Association will request targeted enforcement by the Columbia Police Department.
“No Thru Trucks” Signs:
· These signs should be posted on all the streets that enter the neighborhood from Gervais, Pickens, and Blossom Streets and on Greene Street at Laurens Street.
· The Association will work with the Police Department to ensure proper enforcement.
· Further, the Association needs to work with Capstone and NAC officials to route their delivery vehicles from Gervais Street along Gregg St. to Capstone and along Henderson St. to the NAC (or from Pickens down Pendleton to the NAC).
Greene Street Parking Slots:
Henderson, Barnwell, and Gregg Streets intersect with Greene Street at steeply sloped angles, and parking slots are marked on Greene Street very close to the corners at each of these intersections. This makes it very difficult for motorists traveling on these side streets to see oncoming traffic on Greene Street when they are entering the intersection.
· The Association will work with the City’s Traffic Engineering Department to identify the slots that should be removed in order to increase visibility and safety for both motorists and pedestrians along this stretch of Greene Street.
Other Traffic Management Devices:
· The Association requests the closure or partial closure of Gibbes Court at the intersection with Barnwell in order to reduce the volume of USC traffic looking for parking on Gibbes Court.
· In addition, the Association will monitor the results of USC Streetways Project being implemented in the areas to the south and the west of the main campus, to identify other traffic dampening measures that could be employed within the neighborhood and the east campus area.
· These efforts will be linked to the Association’s College Parkway project to extend the benefits of that initiative throughout the neighborhood.
· The City’s noise ordinance needs to be reviewed and amendments proposed that will specify a measurable limit (e.g. decibel level) that constitutes violation of the ordinance, while maintaining the subjective standard in the current ordinance.
· Further, the Association will work with the Police Department to ensure timely enforcement of the noise ordinance in accordance with Chief Austin’s stated policy.
· The Association requests that appropriate steps be taken to improve pedestrian safety at the intersection of Laurens and Greene Streets and the Norfolk and Southern railroad tracks; including:
· locating pedestrian crosswalks across Greene Street both east of the railroad tracks and west of Laurens Street and the installation of pedestrian controlled “Walk/Don’t Walk” lights similar to those at the intersection of Harden and Blossom Streets; and
· completing the sidewalk on the east side of Laurens Street all the way down to Greene Street.
· USC Parking Strategy: The University is developing new policies and procedures designed to substantially reduced the volume of traffic and the demand for parking on the central campus area. This new approach includes the following package of incentives and disincentives:
· reducing the number of parking spaces in the central campus area
· increasing the number of spaces in perimeter areas (including the Bell South lot on Barnwell, the parking areas around the new arena and convention center, and parking areas around the Thurmond Fitness Center and Greek village complex).
· upgrading and expanding the shuttle bus system to provide safe, comfortable, reliable, and timely service between the central campus and the perimeter parking areas as well as around the central campus
· increasing fees for faculty and staff parking spaces in the central campus area and limiting the number of permits issued to the number of spaces available.
· providing more vigorous enforcement and stiffer fines for parking violations
· coordinating with the City to provide more efficient and effective public transit between the Vista/downtown, the central campus, and the Five Points/Devine Street corridor areas; and with the RTA to upgrade public transit capacity for commuters coming from outlying areas of the metropolitan area.
· The Association supports the University’s new parking initiative and will monitor their progress in implementing this new approach.
City’s Parking Strategy:
As the University seeks to clamp down on traffic and parking in the central campus area, the Association must continue to work with City officials to ensure that the demand for parking does not spill over onto our neighborhood streets. The following are steps that have been taken to address this aspect of the parking problem.
· Lynn Long of the Police Department has initiated stricter enforcement of the penalties for fraudulent or abusive use of parking permits, including revocation of all permits issued to a specific residence for repeat violations.
· Bill Baker, the former Director of the City’s Parking Division, introduced a staggered shift schedule to ensure that enforcement personnel are on the street during the entire period from 8:00am-6:00pm when the permit parking system is to be enforced. In addition, he instituted more aggressive and targeted enforcement on the streets where the problem has been most severe, including towing of vehicles owned by repeat offenders. Signs should be posted in the neighborhood with a warning about towing, and towing should be enforced.
The following are additional steps that should be taken to address this aspect of the parking problem.
· The Association will work with Lynn Long and the City Attorney to draft an amendment to the permit parking ordinance requiring landlords to secure parking permits for their tenants. This could greatly assist Lynn and her staff in enforcing the limitation on the number of tenant and visitor permits issued to each rental unit. Currently, each rental unit is supposed to receive one tenant permit for each occupant operating a motor vehicle and a maximum of 2 visitor permits.
· The Association will work with the City’s Parking Division and the City Attorney to draft an amendment to the permit parking ordinance extending the permit parking system from 7:00am to 10:00pm, Monday-Thursday, and from 7:00am to 6:00pm on Friday. The Association will work with City Council and the City’s Parking Division to insure meaningful enforcement of the permit parking system during these hours.
· In support of the actions already taken by City officials, the Association will work with these officials to develop a monitoring procedure that includes a printed notice that Association members could place on the windshield of a vehicle that appears to be using a tenant or visitor parking permit illegally. This notice would not constitute an official City summons for a violation; however, it would put the vehicle operator on notice that they are being watched, and copies of the notice would be sent to the appropriate City officials to assist them in their enforcement efforts.
· The City has been working with USC to identify opportunities for coordinating the city’s trolley system with the new University shuttle bus system. In addition, the City and the University are working with the new Regional Transit Authority to identify opportunities for coordinating the shuttle and trolley systems with the new regional bus system when the bus system is transferred from SCE&G to the RTA. The Association will work with the City and the University in support of these efforts with the objective of replacing the current bus routes through our neighborhood with the use of shuttles or trolleys on these routes.