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Jim Jones – A “plan-gineer” who is looking out for the Town of Tonawanda

Jim Jones

Today is a great day. Today I met Jim Jones, engineer for the Town of Tonawanda. Rarely do I come across someone who truly “gets it” when it comes to traffic calming, bicycle infrastructure, road diets, etc. Not to mention someone that is actually capable of affecting change, rather than simply pontificating. Jim was one of the lead advocates for the creation of the Rails to Trails bike bath that goes from Tonawanda, through North Buffalo, to the East Side.

Jim is currently attempting to transform a two-mile area of the Town of Tonawanda into a safe, ped-bike friendly neighborhood. He has set out to show residents the upside of installing a mini-roundabout where an outdated intersection exists (corner of Parker Boulevard and Decatur).

Earlier this week, Jim and his team set up a “pop up” mini-roundabout (a pilot project), to demonstrate the need  for proactive traffic calming measures on the street, which was originally designed to accommodate cars traveling at a speed of 50 miles per hour. The idea is to show that by removing the traffic signal, and installing a sloped mini-roundabout, light traffic would then flow at 15 miles per hour. The crosswalks would be placed further in from the intersection. “Right now, cars speed through this intersection, and nobody waits for the light to turn green before crossing,” Jim told me. “We’re proposing a road diet, where cars would enter the mini-roundabout at much slower speeds. For people crossing at the crosswalks, it would be akin to navigating a Wegman’s parking lot – very easy, and very safe.

“Just replacing the signal alone is a challenge because it’s not warranted and funding options are thereby restricted. The general condition of Parker’s pavement surface isn’t that bad but we want to coordinate any rehab with a Complete Street approach.”

Parker is pretty torn up, and is in need of a redo. It’s the perfect time to introduce such a progressive plan. Unfortunately, change can be frightening for some people, who don’t understand the benefits of these types of traffic calming projects. Jim explained that the grand plan for the street is to install a second fully traversable mini-roundabout (accessible by emergency vehicles) at a second intersection (Parker and Harrison). Aside from the mini-roundabouts, Jim is calling for bike lanes and curb bumpouts. But before he can even apply for funding, he needs support from the community – hence the pop-up demonstration based on new urbanism thinking.

While these types of traffic calming initiatives are new for this region, they have been effectively and successfully demonstrated in other cities. Now, Jim is attempting to educate people about the benefits of this initiative. He’s hoping that people take the time to step back, do some research, and formulate educated opinions, instead of simply going with predetermined gut reactions. Everything that Jim is proposing stems from a Complete Streets initiative, where the public called for “friendlier” streets. Now, those plans are “knocking at the door”, and Jim hopes that people will “welcome them in”.

Jim’s homemade model

Currently, Parker is a 40 foot wide street. The intersection at Decatur is a crossroad between a residential neighborhood and a public park. Traffic studies have determined that there is no need for a traffic signal, due to the light amount of traffic. The poor condition of the street means that it must be addressed. The timing couldn’t be better to implement a forward thinking plan, that would help to create a more people-friendly street. “The four-way stop is grossly ignored,” said Jim. “If we can get this done, it would set a precedent for 25 intersections in the town. People want bike-ability. They want the street to be people friendly. Well, here it is.”

Personally, I think that this is an awesome project, and I’m a big fan of Jim’s enthusiasm and his expertise when it comes to building a safer community. He’s been an engineer for 30 years. He cut his teeth as a traffic engineer. But what makes Jim so special is that he continues to learn about best practice planning by researching what other cities are doing. He attended the CNU conference when it came to Buffalo. He doesn’t follow the dated AASHTO Green Book guidelines, which were predicated on the Eisenhower administration’s post WWII suburban growth standards. Instead, he adheres to the more current NACTO standards. “I consider myself a “plan-gineer”, Jim told me. “I’ve also been called an ‘evangelical traffic engineer’. And I’m not alone. There are others around the region that also understand the importance of these types of projects. We get together once a month for a think tank. Unfortunately, there is no regional planning – The County remains silent. There is no proactive planning, which was the idea behind One Region Forward. Regardless, I push forward, demonstrating the need for these forward thinking projects.”

This project effort is just between Englewood and Sheridan,” said Jim. “Parker itself runs between Kenmore and Ellicott.” If it comes to pass, Parker will be a shining star in the realm of regional street plans. But without public support, the Town will simply reinstall a traffic signal, and everything will revert to “business as usual”. No matter the final outcome, I am very happy to know that there are street planners who understand what is truly best for people, not just cars. I was beginning to lose hope.

To learn more about this Complete Streets initiative click here. Be a part of the conversation. Do some research. See what other cities are doing. Learn about best practice policies.

Written by queenseyes

queenseyes

Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at The Hotel @ The Lafayette, and the Madd Tiki Winter Luau. Other projects: Navigetter.

Contact Newell Nussbaumer | Newell@BuffaloRising.com

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  • Gary Whitt

    Well, if that demonstration doesn’t sell the neighborhood on the concept, then Jim Jones, come to the village of East Aurora….

  • J G

    I live a couple blocks from here and am pumped about the roundabout, everything else. What isn’t surprising is that everyone around the neighborhood is scared of the “new” craziness that is a roundabout and wants to stick with the car raping, pollutant stop sign. I’ll keep my vote for the modern roundabout, which has been around for more than a century.

    • Matthew Moje

      I remember a wivb story about this concept and a lady freaking out on camera about how the people of tonawanda don’t know about roundabouts and they are forcing new technology on them. Made me chuckle.

      • greenca

        People doubly freaked when the double roundabout was going in at the Harlem/Kensington and Wherle intersections. About 10 years later, most will admit that it was a huge improvement.

        • Mike White

          Yeah. I like that one. When you experience it, it is so common sensical.

          Also, like the round-about outside the airport tunnel.. I forget the street names.

          • OldFirstWard

            The problem with the double roundabout are the multiple exits that confront a new user or someone not familiar with the system. It’s easy to downplay the movement through it when you pass through daily, but for the occasional user, it can be an intimidating experience especially during rush hours. There are always the know-it-alls that want to just force their way into the fray and tailgate some unsuspecting driver trying to find their way through.

          • Mike White

            Ya. Exhibit 1: DuPont Circle in Washington DC. That is one scary mix master.

        • Randy503

          We sure could use a roundabout at Main and Transit and Wehrle and Transit. Those intersections are immense! And you might as will have a picnic while you wait for your light to turn green.

          I wouldn’t even mind a mini-Arch de Triumph at the center.

          • I’d actually be interested in seeing how something like this could be pulled off. Although the reason Transit is so wide is because there’s no parallel freeway to keep less cars on it.

      • That’s why this area will be in an infantile state for a little while longer. If people can’t embrace what improvements the 21st century has to offer, we will never move forward as a region.

    • grovercleveland

      WTF is car raping?

  • bettybarcode

    Wish we could clone him for the NYSDOT.

    If he or anyone wants to make the case for traffic calming, all you need is snow, a camera, and a good vantage point over an intersection or street. These winter pictures vividly demonstrate how much of existing pavement is not needed for motor vehicles and can be repurposed for walking & cycling:

    http://nyc.streetsblog.org/2014/01/03/snow-caused-traffic-calming-sneckdown-blizzard/

    #sneckdowns

  • Ra Cha Cha

    Drink the roundabout Kool Aid!

    • Ivan Putski Jr

      that was layup

  • Marc Rebmann

    The Town of Tonawanda’s street grid predates the depression, and is much more classical than other suburbs in our area. It has the greatest ability to become more bicycle and pedestrian friendly, and I wish Mr. Jones and will cheer for his success.

  • grovercleveland

    It doesn’t need a traffic light. It should simply have stop signs on Decatur and they should take the money that would be spent on a round a bout and fix other things.

    • grovercleveland

      There simply isnt enough traffic that uses decatur to warrant a round a bout or a traffic light.

    • Buffaloexpat

      Parker to decateur to long meadow was my route from north buffalo to Amherst (UB) for years when I bike commuted mostly due to it being so lightly trafficked even during rush hour

  • HwA

    Keep up the good work Jim Jones! Don’t listen to the naysayers. You would have thought the sky was falling or the sun would be blocked by the moon. The people with the petitions opposing this fear change, plain and simple. Ask anyone in any town (Hamburg, East Aurora, Olean) who has had a roundabout installed recently and they will tell you what an improvement it is.

  • grovercleveland

    By the way, I get a big kick out of the very people who tell folks who don’t live in Buffalo that they don’t deserve to have an opinion on things like the 198 talking down to the residents of tonawanda. I am willing to bet most folks have ever been to this intersection.

  • Mike White

    Nice coverage of the the burbs for a change. There is valuable life outside the city limits.

    I’ll overlook your gravitas in “Rarely do I come across someone who truly ‘gets it’ when it comes to traffic calming.”

    The dude is clearly a credentialed “Traffic Engineer” … which trumps community blogger credentials, in this subject area.

  • commonsense

    Can anyone explain why we have STOP SIGNS at all the roundabouts downtown? Shouldn’t they be YIELD signs?

  • tanklv

    Much to my surprise, Honolulu did a small roundabout at the intersection of my street. It does seem to calm the traffic from cars speeding up the hill the street is on.

    While I like the idea greatly, the practical effect of busses traversing the thru street is that they constantly run thru/over the roundabout, because they are unable to traverse around the roundabout due to the length and size of the bus, and the small size of the roundabout. Apparently, they constructed the roundabout in the same intersection of the 2 lane (plus parking lane) of the thru street, and the 2 lane (plus parking lane) of the side street.

    “Fortunately” (I say that tongue in cheek), the city doesn’t maintain this roundabout anyway, as it is filled with weeds and garbage from passing motorists, so there is not much “damage” done to it, other than the black tire marks the bus leaves on the rapidly deteriorating curbs.

  • mediumriser

    Used it a couple of times it was great !! But there was a special person in front of me on one trip that was clueless on what to do (dumb)