‘Planning’ to Reduce Traffic Congestion - GVF

We have all seen it…and felt it. The snows of last winter and the rains of the spring and summer paused---for only a short time—the ‘march of construction equipment’! Cranes, dump trucks, concrete mixers and excavators seem almost as dense as our passenger vehicle traffic.

All over our region, the combination of the enlivened economy and interest rates have contributed to a surge in the construction and re-development of both single family and multi-family residential units from all corners of Montgomery and Chester counties. Hard to believe that while we may have gotten used to the cyclical nature of roadway repair and bridge reconstruction along our most congested arteries, once off the highways, we also face the construction vehicles on our hometown roads.

A simple question may have already crossed your mind. If we are paying to widen and improve our major roadways and approving the building of residential projects along our corridor… won’t traffic just continue to get worse?

It is a very valid point for discussion.

While Townships can limit development with moratoriums based on issues like the lack of available capacity for sewage conveyance and treatment and water, they cannot deny a property owner’s right to develop his or her property because of potential congestion issues related to a lack of planning along transportation corridors.

New development certainly has many positive elements to offer any township or municipality. Increased tax revenue and revitalization of areas are the most obvious. However, new development and redevelopment projects also allow Townships to ‘piggy-back’ and cooperate on improvements that developers make to their communities---creating greater benefits and more efficient use of township funds.

How should municipalities handle the challenges of this growth—especially in the arena of traffic congestion?

The answer lies in ‘planning’. Townships and municipalities who regularly look at the current and future needs of their communities and address them in their planning documents position themselves successfully for the inevitable periods of economic growth and recession. Updates to Comprehensive Plans and Zoning Codes allow townships to begin the process of planning for the increased amount of vehicle trips associated with growth and re-development.

More specifically, codes and planning guidance material can be reviewed with the intent of incorporating transportation demand management (TDM) ordinances. TDM is a method of addressing the very real impacts of traffic congestion in our communities by advocating for multi-modal mobility options that reduce the use of single-occupant vehicles. TDM measures include trail use, walking, biking, van pooling, carpooling and other incentives. TDM ordinances can include incentives for developers who can verify that elements of their proposed plan reduce the number of vehicle trips or penalize those developments that have not considered the broad impact of TDM in their communities.

Other types of ordinance implementation could include complete streets ordinances (advocating for the incorporation of pedestrian and bike-friendly paths along proposed circulation routes) and transit benefit ordinances (incentivizing employers moving into a community to offer monetary benefits to those employees who use alternate methods of commuting).

The benefits of reduced congestion and more efficient transportation networks are many. Increased productivity, reduction in physical and emotional stress and an improved quality of life are just a few of these benefits. Get involved with your local government by attending public meetings and asking questions about how changes to your community might be improved by considering TDM measures in planning decisions.

Anita Nardone, PE, Director of TDM Planning, GVF. To reach Anita by email: Anardone@gvftma.com, or by phone: (610)354-8899.