Neighborhood Traffic Calming
The Town Council adopted a policy to mitigate traffic and vehicle speeding issues in residential neighborhoods. Download the full description of the Town's Traffic Calming Program (PDF) for more details.
Past Neighborhood Traffic Calming Project Consideration
- Shannon Road from Los Gatos Blvd. to Short Road (April 22, 2021 Meeting)
Neighborhood Traffic Frequently Asked Questions
What does “Traffic Calming” mean?
Traffic Calming is a term commonly associated with physical features such as: speed humps, curb extensions (bulb-outs), and chicanes (added curves). They are installed on the road to reduce the speeds at which vehicles travel, to discourage through traffic, to improve traffic safety, and to improve comfort levels for all road users.
Why is it important?
Urban sprawl and automobile dependency have resulted in significant traffic growth throughout North America. These trends in automobile travel can place considerable strain on the roadway network’s ability to safely accommodate all users within the public right-of-way. In many cases, a lack of arterial road capacity will cause motorists to choose collectors and local roads to bypass a congested turning movement, intersection or corridor. This inappropriate use of neighborhood streets can have the following negative effects:
- Arterial road congestion can cause motorists to look for parallel or alternative routes to reach their destinations. These parallel/alternative roads then begin to take on greater traffic volumes and function in ways that were not intended at the time of planning. For example, a local road or collector becomes a mid-block arterial bypass;
- Motorists operate vehicles at speeds which are not appropriate for the residential roadway and/or the roadside environment;
- The safety of all road users is decreased due to volume, speed and other compliance issues; and/or
- Resources are called upon to provide frequent enforcement of numerous problem areas.
In general, the above impacts typically occur in older established neighborhoods next to busy traffic areas. However, traffic issues can also occur in newer subdivisions depending on the road network and adjacent activities.
What are the goals of traffic calming?
Traffic calming may help to reduce vehicle speeds, the amount of non-local traffic that passes through a neighborhood, collision severity and frequency, and the negative effects of motorized vehicles on the environment.
Can we simply reduce the speed limit to slow speeding traffic?
No, Los Gatos has set the posted speed limit with good reasons in mind including, road characteristics, traffic mix, collision history, and road function.
Why can’t stop signs be installed?
Stop signs are considered traffic control devices and not traffic calming measures. They are intended to control the flow of traffic at an intersection and assign right-of-way. Traffic noise and speeds may increase with the introduction of a stop sign. Standard engineering thresholds are applied to determine if a stop sign is “warranted.” Unwarranted stop signs are more likely to be ignored by motorists and have been found to lead to increased collisions.
Neighborhood Traffic Calming Policy
The following describes the Town's Neighborhood Traffic Calming Policy adopted by Town Council on March 2002.
The purpose of this policy is to establish guidelines for the neighborhoods and the town staff to work together in addressing various types of traffic conditions, such as speeding, cut-through traffic, truck intrusion and commercial parking spill-over.
The applicable streets are local streets, neighborhood or hillside collectors as classified in the General Plan.
The General Plan identifies the goals of traffic calming:
– Improve neighborhood safety for vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists.
– Reduce the number and severity of vehicle related accidents.
– Maintain the speed of motor vehicles to the posted speed limits.
– Decrease the volume of extraneous/cut-through traffic.
– Limit the impact on adjacent local streets.
– Preserve emergency vehicles’ response times.
– Maximize the community participation and support in the program.
The policy serves to improve the quality of life in affected areas at the Town. To develop solutions, staff hold several meetings with neighborhoods and work within budgetary constraints. All projects must reach at least a 67% super-majority support from the neighborhood for each proposal. To date, each project has met or exceeded that support requirement.
Each project takes about two (2) years to complete, due to meetings, neighborhood voting process, trial testing periods and Council reporting time frames. Although it seems long, this length of time is necessary to ensure staff have capacity to properly manage and process each request.
1. Traffic Issue Request:
Neighborhoods request traffic calming by contacting the Parks and Public Works Department at (408) 399-5770 or traffic@losgatoscagov. The request will be assigned to the engineering staff to evaluate the concerns and determine 1) if the concern can be mitigated through normal staff work or separate engineering programs or 2) if a neighborhood petition is required to begin a traffic calming process. Some traffic concerns may be addressed through separate programs, e.g. the safe routes to school plans and the sidewalk programs for improving pedestrian and bicycle accessibility. Many traffic concerns may be solved with measures that will not have impacts on other streets, such as signing and markings. Staff needs to determine the effect the solution will have on adjacent streets. Staff will make every effort to mitigate the concerns without having to embark on an actual traffic calming.
A Neighborhood Petition is required to begin a traffic calming process. The petition signature gathering is the responsibility of the neighborhood and is required to identify neighborhood support (over 50% of the households must sign the petition) and reflect the neighborhood’s understanding of the time frame of the traffic calming process. The petition will need to state what problem exists and acknowledge the process will take numerous months to solve while staff gathers data, convene neighborhood meetings and report information to the Town Council.
3. Data Collection:
Upon receipt of the petition, staff will collect appropriate data to determine if the minimum criteria have been met (see Criteria section below). If the data concludes the minimum criteria are not met and if police enforcement, education or other means are appropriate, staff will implement internal work actions.
4. Informational Neighborhood Meeting:
If the data indicates the minimum criteria are met or exceeded, staff will define the neighborhood and impacted streets to consider any other potential traffic unintended impacts that these solutions may create, identify possible traffic calming solutions and convene a neighborhood meeting. The first neighborhood meeting will be an information and feedback session: staff will present traffic data and proven strategies for specific traffic issues and their cost constraint, and the neighborhood will provide input to the solution process. The neighbors will learn the process and a reasonable expectation of the project.
5. Additional Solution Meetings & Development of Trial Project:
If the consensus at the neighborhood meeting is to proceed with the development of a traffic calming plan, staff will collaborate with public safety agencies to prepare alternative traffic calming plans. Once the alternatives have been developed, staff will convene additional neighborhood meetings to present the pros and cons for each alternative, determine neighborhood preference and public support. The outcomes of the meetings will refine the development of a trial traffic calming project. This trial project will need the support of 67% of the affected neighborhood, to be confirmed by a post card vote, conducted by staff. If the neighborhood does not meet the 67% support necessary, staff will identify concerns, report results to the neighborhood and determine the next steps.
6. Support and Implementation of Trial Traffic Calming Project:
As indicated by 67% support, staff will recommend the trial project to the Town Council (or its designee) for approval. The duties of the designee could include the review of a proposal with respect to the General Plan and any other relevant considerations. If the project is approved, staff will prepare final plans and specifications for implementation. The trial project must stay in place for a minimum of three months to determine its effectiveness, unless substantial unacceptable impacts are identified. At the end of the trial period, a follow-up neighborhood meeting will be convened to determine support for permanency.
7. Permanent Traffic Calming Implementation:
To permanently install/maintain the traffic calming project, a final postcard vote will be conducted by staff. Again, a 67% majority vote by post card will be needed to recommend the project to Town Council for final approval to install the permanent devices. The project will be completed with its permanent installation understanding that staff will need to clarify budgeting consideration which could impact the implementation of approved traffic calming solutions.
For any local or collector street to qualify for a traffic calming project review, the request must meet or pass at least one of the following criteria:
- 85th percentile speeds exceeding the posted speed limit by 5 mph.
- Volumes exceeding 1,500 vehicles per day (vpd) for local streets and 3,000 vpd for collector streets.
- Volume of trucks, over 30 feet in length, exceeding one-half of one percent of the total traffic volume.
- Curb parking occupancy exceeding 70% from 8AM to 7PM.
Requests that meet the minimum criteria are placed on a project list. Staff will work on the projects in the order of first-come-first-serve. If the minimum criteria are not met, or a subsequent petition against the first petition is received, the request for traffic calming is nullified.
If you have any questions with the neighborhood traffic calming program you may contact the Parks and Public Works Department at (408) 399-5770 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: It is recommended to discuss your concerns with 50% or more of your neighbors in advance, to make sure everyone agrees there seems to be a traffic problem in your neighborhood.