Brookhaven, GA, June 2, 2016 – Commentary, by Jim Eyre – I was puzzling this traffic thing the other day as I drove down Dresden Drive, something I have done almost every day for the 15 years I have lived in Ashford Park. The few extra minutes in rush hour traffic allows me time to appreciate the walkable community along Dresden with its diverse collection of high quality restaurants and shops. Dinner at Haven or a pint at Kaleidoscope offers a welcome respite from any delays I may experience on my trip down Dresden.
I began thinking about the misplaced focus on traffic generated locally and how little is said about the real traffic issues on Dresden.
Mayor Ernst summed up the problem in his opening statement at his recent traffic town hall “Traffic is not a Brookhaven problem. It’s a regional problem; We cannot fix traffic; We can mitigate it here and there and that requires cooperation, communication and cash.”
Brookhaven is a crossroads with more than 35,000 drivers using our roads every day as a convenient cut-through to travel from home in Decatur and Stone Mountain to a job in Dunwoody, from Gwinnett and north Fulton to work in Buckhead. As Mayor Ernst continued, “traffic is not caused by Brookhaven residents, only 4.7% of Brookhaven residents work in the City so we are all going somewhere else during travel times each day.” Just as outside commuters impose upon our roads, 95.3% of Brookhaven workers impose upon neighborhood roads in other communities during our daily commute.
Georgia DOT traffic data shows the 2014 traffic count on Dresden Drive was 10,300 trips per day. Drill down and you will see that traffic counts on Dresden averaged 10,014 cars per day from 2006-2014. Over time, traffic volumes along Dresden have been relatively consistent. The only significant change occurred from 2008-2011 when the average dropped to 8,757 trips per day. My guess is that this downward trend in Dresden traffic was more the result of the region wide impact from a decimated economy than any change in local traffic.
Sharing our roads with Metro drivers for 10-15 hours per week isn’t a negative sum game for Brookhaven residents. At Mayor Ernst’s traffic town hall there was a veritable alphabet soup of regional and state agencies on hand to describe their work on Brookhaven roads. From planning services to transportation alternatives to millions of dollars of physical improvements, these agencies offer Brookhaven residents real transportation benefits paid for by regional and statewide tax dollars.
Sharing our roads with fellow DeKalb County residents has returned $19,660,000 from the Homestead Option Sales Tax, a 1¢ sales tax collected county-wide, to Brookhaven since it was founded in 2012. The HOST funds Brookhaven receives from DeKalb are used exclusively on quality of life improvements in the City – paving roads, building sidewalks and capital improvements in City parks. Funds that Brookhaven cannot replace without drastic cuts in City services.
Recent discussions in neighborhood blogs and town hall meetings have centered on the mythical “Peak Travel Hour” – the one hour occurring twice daily that traffic engineers diligently work to define so they can track one car through one intersection during an ever-changing study period. While their hypothetical calculations to “improve peak travel hour” may sound good as cars move more ‘efficiently’ along high volume thoroughfares, but is this necessarily a positive change?
Personally, I would rather not focus on the extra 42 or 67 seconds it may take me travel down Dresden during the ten hours a week we share our roads with a regional transportation system. Instead, I would rather focus on the remaining 158 hours each week I can enjoy the walkable, vibrant Dresden Drive community that is fast becoming the heart of Brookhaven. Traffic may be slower but I find the extra time on Dresden preferable to cars whizzing by on an “efficient” roadway as I walk to dinner at Vero or Pour or one of the other 10 wonderful dining options on Dresden. This occasional congestion is actually a very effective traffic calming measure to slow the inevitable regional cut through traffic.
For a few short daily “peak traffic hours”, Brookhaven is a crossroads with our roads being an integral part of a regional transportation system. Each day, thousands of drivers from outside Brookhaven pass through our streets while a similar number of Brookhaven residents add to the daily congestion of neighborhoods outside the City. Traffic counts along Dresden Drive have been relatively consistent for a number of years and any efforts to decrease wait times will only have a negative impact by pushing up the overall average when more drivers find they can save a few seconds on an improved Dresden Drive. Our focus must be on the long-term benefit a growing, vibrant, walkable Dresden Drive development corridor will provide for the community, not the few extra seconds spent waiting for the inevitable regional cut-through traffic to clear the area.
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