The City of Monterey receives many requests each month regarding the application of various traffic-control devices to address traffic safety issues throughout the City. These requests include new crosswalks, stop signs, and special signing. Many transportation issues take time to study and evaluate possible solutions. We hope the following will help answer some of your frequently asked questions:
Frequently Asked Questions
The City often receives inquiries about installing stop signs as a way to reduce speeding and accidents. However, research shows that other measures are often more effective in reducing accidents. For example, improving intersection visibility by prohibiting parking near the intersection often reduces the need to install more restrictive intersection controls.
Each year, the Traffic Engineering Division receives many inquiries about installing stop signs or traffic signals as a way to reduce speeding. However, research shows that other measures are more effective than adding more stop signs or traffic signals. The purpose of stop signs and traffic signals is to assign right-of-way at an intersection and not to reduce speed.
Overuse of stop signs reduces their effectiveness, and if installed where not justified, drivers largely ignore the signs. Impatient drivers may also view the additional delays caused by unwarranted stop signs as "lost time" to be made up by driving at higher speeds between stop signs. This in turn leads to an unsafe situation.
An article entitled "The Stop Sign Epidemic," published by a UC Berkeley Professor in the Western Institute of Transportation Engineers publication, pointed out a correlation between increases in air pollution/fuel consumption and stop sign installation. The article illustrated that a single vehicle stopped or standing at a stop sign may produce ten times more pollutants, such as carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and nitrogen oxide, compared with a car moving at a constant speed. At the same time, a vehicle standing at a stop sign consumes ten times as much fuel.
Stop signs are installed to regulate traffic flow and improve safety. Their main purpose is to provide right-of-way control at intersections and to reduce certain types of accidents. The Federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) dictates the size, shape and color of all traffic signs. This manual has requirements for installing signs and thus creates uniformity from state to state. The City of Monterey complies with State and Federal guidelines. These policies identify specific traffic and pedestrian volumes, accident history, and any unusual conditions which must be present at the intersection before this traffic control device may be installed. Overuse of stop signs reduces their effectiveness and if installed where not justified they are largely ignored by drivers who tend to speed up between stop sign controlled intersections rather than slow down.
Citizens frequently request less- than-25-mph speed limit signs in residential streets where children are playing. The unposted speed limit on a residential street is automatically 25 mph and can be enforced. The City cannot post less-than-25-mph speed limit signs because the posting of such signs by a local government agency is considered a speed trap, making enforcement of such limits illegal.
Each year, the Traffic Engineering Division receives complaints of speeding on residential streets and/or alleys. If a problem involving higher speeds is indicated, the Police Department is notified of the location, direction, and time of the highest recorded period of infractions. The Police Department can subsequently place an officer at the location to issue citations and act as a visual deterrent to those who exceed the prima facie speed limit. Following a period of time that the Police determine is necessary to curtail the behavior of the speeding motorist, the Police Department can install a "speed trailer" on the street where applicable. The speed trailer provides the motorist with a visual indication of his/her current speed and the posted speed limit. In most case, the added attention given to a street reminds motorists of their responsibility to adhere to the posted or prima facie speed limits.
Setting The Speed Limit
Citizens often request that the speed limit be lowered in an effort to slow traffic. Studies have shown no significant change in prevailing speeds when the speed limit is changed. Drivers continue to travel at speeds they feel are safe despite the posted limit. Speed limits between 25 and 65 MPH are required to be established on the basis of engineering and traffic surveys. Engineering and traffic surveys include an analysis of roadway conditions, collision records and a sampling of the prevailing speed of traffic. The speed limit is set within 5 mph of the prevailing speed as it is assumed the majority of drivers drive at a speed that is safe and prudent for the given roadway. The speed limit is normally set near the speed that 85 percent of the surveyed vehicles do not exceed. A 5 MPH speed limit reduction is allowed at locations with unusual conditions not readily apparent to the driver. Unrealistic speed limits can also present a safety hazard. Some drivers obey the lower speed limit, while others feel it's unreasonable and simply ignore it. This disrupts the uniform traffic flow and increases crash potential between the faster and slower traffic. State law establishes certain speed limits based on research and studies of roadway conditions, accident records, and a sampling of the prevailing speed of traffic. The speed limit is normally set near the speed that 85 percent of the surveyed vehicles do not exceed. Other speed limits include the 25-mph speed limit in business and residential districts, the 25-mph limit in school zones when children are present, and the 15-mph limit in alleys.
In most cases, the majority of speeders on residential streets are residents in the neighborhood. Ultimately, it is the residents who can do the most to reduce speeding in their area. Conversations and discussions about the problem in neighborhood meetings and circulating newsletters are the best methods of spreading awareness of speeding and other neighborhood issues.
According to the California Vehicle Code, when a red lens is illuminated with rapid intermittent red flashes, a driver shall stop before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection. The driver may proceed subject to the rules applicable to making a stop at a 4-way stop controlled intersection.
When a yellow lens is illuminated with rapid intermittent yellow flashes, a driver may proceed through the intersection or past the signal only with caution.
When a traffic signal has gone dark usually due to power failure, it is considered to function the same way as a 4-way stop controlled intersection and a driver must stop before entering the intersection.
You should report a signal that is out or flashing on our DYNAMIC PORTAL or call or Street Division at (831) 646-3927
Test results indicate that:
- Speed bumps do not significantly reduce vehicle speeds once the vehicle leaves the speed bump.
- Speed bumps present a potential hazard to all vehicles and an immediate danger to bicyclists, motorcyclists, and emergency vehicles.
- Traffic volumes increase on adjacent streets since drivers tend to avoid streets with speed bumps.
- Speed bumps tend to slow down emergency response times.
- Results of various studies have raised concerns about the potential dangers of speed bumps. Speed bumps are not recognized by the State of California as an official traffic control device. Injuries caused by speed bumps may result in significant additional liability for the City. For these reasons, the City of Monterey not use speed bumps on public streets and alleys.
Contrary to popular belief, a "Speed Hump" is related to, but not the same as, a "Speed Bump." A Speed Hump is characterized by a wider base and a more forgiving affect than that of a Speed Bump. Speed Humps have been installed by many California cities, but they are not accepted by the State of California as a speed-control device. Speed Humps may also cause disruption to the movement of emergency vehicles. Many jurisdictions have had to issue moratoriums on Speed Hump installations as a result of this negative impact. The City of Monterey will not consider Speed Humps as a possible solution to residential speeding.
A review includes:
- The amount of vehicular and pedestrian traffic flow.
- The need to provide interruption to the major flow for side street vehicles and pedestrians.
- Special conditions, such as hills and curves.
- The accident history at the intersection.
- The proximity of schools.
ADVANTAGES OF TRAFFIC SIGNALS
Traffic signals are valuable devices for the control of vehicle and pedestrian traffic. However, because they assign the right-of-way to various traffic movements, traffic signals exert a substantial influence on traffic flow. Warranted traffic signals that are properly located and operated usually have one or more of the following advantages:
- They can provide for orderly movement of traffic.
- Where proper physical layouts and control are used, they can increase the traffic-handling capacity of the intersection.
- They can reduce the frequency of certain types of accidents, especially right-angle collisions.
- Under favorable conditions, they can be coordinated to provide for continuous or nearly continuous movement of traffic at a specific speed along a given route.
- They can be used to interrupt heavy traffic to permit other traffic, vehicular or pedestrian, to cross.
DISADVANTAGES OF TRAFFIC SIGNALS
Many people believe that traffic signals provide the solution to all traffic problems at intersections. However, traffic signal installations, even though warranted by traffic and roadway conditions, can be ill designed, ineffectively placed, improperly operated, or poorly maintained.
The following factors can result from improper or unwarranted signal installations:
- Excessive traffic delay may result.
- Motorists may be more likely to disobey the signal indication.
- Motorists may use less adequate routes, such as residential streets, in an attempt to avoid such signals.
- Accident frequency, such as rear-end collisions, can be significantly increased at unwarranted signals or at locations where installation was not based on sound engineering analysis.
TRAFFIC SIGNAL EQUIPMENT
Traffic signals are more costly than is commonly realized, even though they represent a sound public investment when justified. A modern signal can cost over $300,000.
This money pays for:
- A Traffic Signal Controller
- Signal Heads
- Vehicle Detectors
- Signal Poles and Supports
Signal Faces are part of a signal head provided for controlling traffic in a single direction and consisting of one or more signal sections. These usually include solid red, yellow, and green lights and sometimes red, yellow and green turn arrow lights as well. The Signal Head can contain one or more signal faces.
Detectors are devices for indicating the passage or presence of vehicles. In Monterey these usually consist of wire loops placed in the pavement at intersections. They are activated by the change of electrical inductance caused by a vehicle passing over or standing over the wire loop. Some intersections might use a video camera system in the future for detection. This involves a fixed camera aimed at oncoming traffic. When a vehicle crosses or arrives at a pre-defined location in the field of view of the camera, the vehicle is detected. The video cameras used are incapable of showing either license plates or drivers faces due to the low resolution of the equipment.
SPECIAL SIGNAL FUNCTIONS Traffic Signal Preemption
The transfer of signal control to a special signal operation is called preemption. There are three common types of preemption, based on reason for preemption: Railroad, Emergency Vehicle, and Transit Vehicle Preemption.
Emergency Vehicle Preemption
Emergency vehicle preemption can be used for any authorized emergency vehicle, but normally only for fire engines and ambulances. The purpose is to obtain a green light for the emergency vehicle as soon as possible or to hold an existing green light. To obtain a green light, existing green lights, including pedestrian intervals, are abbreviated. After the yellow change interval, a green light for through and left turn traffic is given to the approach to be used by the emergency vehicle.
There are three means of signal preemption from emergency vehicles: mobile radio, siren sensor, and modulated strobe light.
Many drivers ask why they have to wait so long for a signal to change. Many of these drivers are waiting to enter a major arterial street from a side street. This is even more frustrating when no traffic can be seen on the arterial. To allow the coordination of the arterial, the side street must wait until the main traffic movement on the arterial has gone through the intersection. It is possible that the arterial traffic can't be seen immediately, but will soon be passing through the intersection. The goal of synchronization is to get the greatest number of vehicles through the system with the fewest stops in a comfortable manner. It would be ideal if every vehicle entering the system could proceed through the system without stopping. This is not possible even in a well-spaced, well-designed system. Therefore, in traffic synchronization, "the majority rules" and the busiest traffic movements are given priority. Depending on a route, the master cycle length of an arterial could vary from 60 to 120 seconds. This means that if you were exiting a side street, and you just missed the light, it is possible to wait between 60 and 120 seconds, or whatever is the cycle length, before receiving another green light. Generally, the busier and the bigger the intersection, the longer the required cycle length. Not all City streets warrant synchronization. Typically, a street is selected for synchronization if it carries a certain amount of traffic along the arterial during peak hours. Most of the City's major streets are selected, like Lighthouse Avenue, Del Monte Avenue, Fremont Street, Franklin Street to name a few.
Synchronization Projects: Future Goals
The City has invested in the installation of traffic signal interconnect in the past years, using grant monies. These infrastructures have a two-fold function. First, they enable a series of adjacent signals to time or function as a group and not independently from each other. Second, they serve as the communication link between traffic signals and City Hall. This link enables City staff to observe and control the operation of traffic signals from City Hall offices. This is a very effective tool in better handling freeway detours and other incidents. It enables City staff to adjust signal timing instantly in response to emergencies. The City is now in the process of installing a Traffic Signal Operations Center in City Hall where most of the City's signals will be monitored and controlled. The synchronization of traffic signals will be an ongoing effort by City staff. It will be updated on a periodic basis to better handle the changing traffic patterns.
"Children At Play" Signs
- These signs convey a confusing message to motorists and children. Motorists are generally familiar with the residential street characteristics, including the presence of children in residential areas. These signs tend to convey the message to the motorist that children are present only where signs are installed; however, children cross residential streets at many locations. Studies show that devices attempting to warn motorists of normal conditions that are not always present fail to achieve the desired safety benefits.
- "CHILDREN AT PLAY" signs send a wrong message to children by encouraging them to play within the streets' traveled way. This behavior should be discouraged by parents, as the children's interaction with automobiles could result in severe traffic safety consequences. These signs also tend to create a false belief for children by letting them assume they are safer where signs are installed. Such signs have been proven to be ineffective in providing added protection for children.
- Some people believe that "CHILDREN AT PLAY" signs and similar signs, such as "SLOW" or "SLOW - ENTERING RESIDENTIAL AREA," help reduce the speed. However, there is no evidence that these signs prevent accidents or reduce the speed of vehicles. Special speed enforcement has proven to be the most effective method of reducing vehicle speed.
City Policy On "Children At Play" Signs
"Children At Play" signs and similar signs are not recognized by the State or by the Federal Highway Administration as official traffic control devices, and therefore, are not installed by the City on public streets. The City provides neighborhood parks where children can play safely with proper supervision. Safe playgrounds are also provided at many elementary school sites.
Crosswalks are marked at intersections where there is substantial conflict between vehicle and pedestrian movements, where significant pedestrian concentration occurs, where pedestrians could not otherwise recognize the proper place to cross, and where traffic movements are controlled.
- Approved school crossings.
- Signalized and four-way intersections.
- All-way stop controlled intersections where there is significant pedestrian traffic and one or more crossing locations have been prohibited.
At mid-block crosswalks on multi-lane roadways, accidents frequently occur when a driver in the lane nearest to the curb stops for a pedestrian who is waiting or already in the crosswalk. The driver of a second vehicle in the next lane tries to pass and hits the pedestrian. Although it is illegal for drivers to pass a stopped vehicle at a crosswalk, pedestrians should be very cautious, especially when their visibility is limited. The City of Santa Clarita does not paint crosswalks at mid block locations where traffic is not controlled by stop signs or traffic signals. In general, crosswalks should be viewed as channelization devices rather than safety devices. They should not be marked at intersections unless they are deemed necessary to channelize and direct pedestrians along the safest route.
Crosswalks should be marked at all intersections that are near schools on the "suggested school routes" where there is substantial conflict between vehicles and students. Teaching school-age children how and where to safely cross the street is the most dependable safety measure.
Suggested Safety Tips:
- Hold small children by the hand when crossing.
- Look both ways before crossing any street.
- Make sure all traffic stops before entering the roadway.
- Establish eye contact with drivers when possible.
- Do not step out in front of approaching cars until you know they see you and come to a stop.
- Stay on the curb while waiting for a gap in traffic.
- Always cross at intersections.
However, we cannot put up Deer Crossing signs at all locations where deer are spotted. Deer are wild animals and the locations and times they may cross streets are completely random. Drivers in the City of Monterey need to be aware that deer may jump onto the roadway from out of sight whether or not there is a sign there.
- Green Zones are limited term parking, usually 24 minutes, or as marked on the curb or adjacent sign. In any limited parking zone, you can receive a citation if you exceed the maximum limit by one minute or more. To avoid a citation, you must vacate the parking space within the time limit specified in order to let other members of the public use these high demand spaces.
- Commercial Yellow Zones: only commercial vehicles may stop, stand or park in such zone for the time necessary therefore, but in no event longer than 20 minutes.
- Yellow Zones: Vehicles may stop, stand or park in a loading zone to load or unload materials. In Parking Lot 6 at Fisherman’s Wharf the time limit is 30 minutes. In the remainder of the City the time limit is 20 minutes.
- Red Zones mean no stopping, no standing, and no parking but you can load and unload passengers.
- White Zones are for loading and unloading passengers or depositing mail for up to three minutes.
- Blue Zones are for disabled persons who display the correct placard or plates
- No parking zones marked by a red curb, no parking signs or no stopping signs.
- In front of a private or public driveway.
- In front of or within fifteen feet of a fire hydrant.
- On the sidewalk or overhanging the sidewalk, including when parked in a driveway. The sidewalk must be kept clear at all times.
- Within marked or unmarked crosswalks. (A crosswalk is considered to be the extension of sidewalk boundary lines across a street or any location where crosswalks are marked with white or yellow lines.)
- Anywhere within an intersection including the corner curb areas.
- In handicapped parking spaces without displaying the proper placard or license plate.
- Where a vehicle will obstruct or block a handicapped parking space.
- Within three feet of a handicapped access ramp.
- In the striped loading zone next to handicapped parking spaces.
- Straddling the markings or lines designating a parking stall.
- Parked on any public street for more than 72 hours/