Traffic woes in Lawrence

Lawrence MA Aerial View - Courtesy: WikiMedia
Lawrence MA Aerial View - Courtesy: WikiMedia

By Dalia Díaz

If you have noticed that driving in the City of Lawrence, from point A to point B has increased the amount of time you drive and has added to your stress, then you may want to read this article. We may have found the culprit(s).

The Lawrence City Council is responsible for enacting ordinances related to traffic and parking. Since December 2016, one-hundred and thirty different ordinances have been introduced to the Lawrence City Council for changes to parking, traffic and traffic related signs. Many more ordinances were introduced and approved from the years 2014 through 2016.

There are all sorts of reasons of why changes made have been requested: business dealings, councilor’s voters, councilor’s friends and neighbors, councilor themselves driving through areas and noticing issues, handicap request, and more. These reasons are all perfectly fine reasons for placing a document onto the Council agenda. The issue is that city councilors have no knowledge of the effects and disruptions they create when they do approve such ordinances.

Usually when a traffic change, signage, or parking is requested from the City Council, a special traffic engineer should be conducting studies to provide proper and intelligent conclusion. A traffic engineer spends days evaluating designs for proposed intersections, parking lots, and roadways including signage, parking and handicapped spaces. They develop and design a system that keeps traffic of all types flowing. They also design detour routes for proposed construction projects.

Traffic engineering applies engineering principles that help solve transportation problems by considering the psychology and habits of the transportation system users. Many people still wonder why a traffic problem is so difficult that an engineer should be called upon for a solution. Why not just install a traffic signal, or raise/lower the speed limit, or erect more signs?

One of the greatest obstacles a professional traffic engineer faces in applying sound principles of traffic engineering is competing theories from vocal non-traffic engineers who lack expertise. The unfortunate result is the creation of traffic hazards when false theories are put into effect. Whenever unnecessary or excessive traffic controls are installed, hazardous traffic conditions usually result.

The City of Lawrence has no traffic engineer and they do not out-source the work. The City Council always request that the Lawrence Police Department conduct a survey and present the council with a response. The problem with the LPD is that they are not traffic engineer. The only thing that the LPD can do is a vehicle count and report actual vehicle accidents.

We feel the amounts of changes that have occurred in the city for the past four years (maybe more) are not only a bad idea, but ill-conceived, bad for business, hazardous and possibly even life-threatening. These ill-advised changes have added to awful designing intersections that don’t move traffic well. Add to that, the ill-timed traffic signals, and you have a disaster. This is true especially in the morning, during the time schools release their students, and after employees leave their work place. However, it is especially worse on Fridays from 3:00-7:00 PM.

We pulled every council and ordinance committee agenda, from December 2016 through December 5, 2017 to see which councilor was the most active of including, or co-sponsoring, ordinance changes to the City’s streets and roads. What we found is that 30% of the requests were from residents introducing request for a traffic related ordinance; but it was mostly for handicapped designation parking. There were a few from business owners seeking to have off-street handicapped parking spaces near their businesses.

The other 70% of ordinances were introduced by City Councilors. During this period, the major culprits to traffic changes were Councilor Mayra Ortiz (16%), Councilor Jeovanny Rodriguez (13%) and Council President Kendrys Vasquez (13%), followed by Mayor Rivera (10%).

In the future, I’d like to study the amount of changes that were made from the period 2013-2014. But in the meantime, we’d like to ask the Council if they could just ensure that any traffic related ordinance changes or approvals be done effectively and for purpose. We wouldn’t want you to get someone a handicapped parking, change a street into a one-way street, or add a four way stop just to get votes.

Last but not least, could we get a very effective traffic enforcement team to actually issue fines to people who have infractions of blocking the block, parking at the corner, double parking, cross walk violations, cutting a driver, and not securing items on the back of pick-up beds instead of issuing non-moving violation?