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Master's Professional Reports Abstract

Traffic Calming Programs & Emergency Response: A Competition of Two Public Goods
Leslie W. Bunte, Jr.
REPORT 2000 B8858 Public Affairs Library

A natural dilemma for public policy makers occurred when two public policies conflicted with each other causing immense political and emotional stress upon both the policy maker and the public. This research paper examined the disagreement that had occurred in communities throughout the United States where traffic-calming programs were found to be in direct conflict with providing prompt emergency services. Thus, a conflict of two public goods was created. This professional report examined the history and the positive and negative aspects of traffic calming programs. Negative impacts upon emergency services were substantiated by various emergency response time tests conducted by leading U.S. Fire Departments. Information was also obtained on injuries that have occurred to firefighters from traffic calming devices as well as documented mechanical damages to emergency vehicles. Traffic calming programs were found to contribute to air pollution as verified by several previous environmental studies conducted specifically for traffic calming devices. This report also revealed the enormous potential for civil liabilities for local governments, particularly with the violation of the American with Disabilities Act. In general, most U.S. local governments placed their traffic calming programs in moratorium due to all of the conflicts that were generated. A policy analysis was conducted specifically for the conflict that had arisen in Austin, Texas. Based on quantitative processes, this analysis showed that Austin would lose an additional 37 lives per year with patients of sudden cardiac arrest if the Fire and EMS Departments experienced a 30 second delay in response times due to traffic calming. The analyses also concluded that at best, only one pedestrian life could be saved each year from traffic calming as pedestrian fatalities rarely occurred within residential neighborhoods. A risk/benefit analyses also demonstrated that traffic-calming devices have more of a negative impact than a positive impact to the community. To reduce the conflict, and ensure at least a balance of these two public goods, a set of recommendations was formulated for the City of Austin policy makers and for those of other communities who had similar circumstances.


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