A group of Takoma Park residents last week rallied to Mayor Sammie Abbott's call to "take back the streets."
Citing speeders, drunken drivers and roads overburdened by out-of-town motorists commuting to jobs in the District. Abbott -- a long time highway foe -- said he called the hearing to encourage development of a solution to the city's "horrendous traffic problems."
"I don't think this problem will ever completely disappear until we have national programs that provide alternative means of moving people," Abbott told the group of about 40 persons who gathered at the municipal building.
But, he added, "this is a significant start on the part of citizens and the administration toward alleviating some of those problems."
Last year, the city council commissioned two traffic studies of the Old Taskoma Park area -- one as citizen's report and the other prepared by a traffic engineer. Both reports concluded that bumper-to-bumper traffic and speeding plagued the area. No action resulted from the reports, however, because many residents felt the recommendations -- to detour traffic around Old Takoma Park -- merely would have shifted traffic from one area to another.
Old Takoma Park is bounded roughly by the District line, Piney Branch Road. Philadelphia Avenue and Carroll Avenue.
In an effort to avoid the problems of the previous reports. Abbott told the group a citizens' committee already has begun work on a new traffic study of the whole city. Douglas Schneider, head of the D.C. Department of Transportation, told the audience he would assist the committee.
Schneider, who recently returned from studying traffic congestion in Germany, described some solutins Takoma Park might consider trying. Staggered right-angle parking, speed bumps, traffic diverters and cul-desacs have been used with success in other cities. Schneider said.
Schneider, whose crusade against private automobile transportation is well known, said physical barriers are not enough to alleviate traffic problems.
"There is no limit to what people who drive cars will do to drive that car, without thinking about what they are inflicting on other people. You've got to get those people to understand what they're doing to you when they race through the neighborhood," Schneider warned.
Although everyone at the meeting agreed traffic congestion is a city-wide problem, most of the complaints still involved the Old Takoma Park area. In particular, residents complained about heavy traffic on Maple, Willow and Cedar avenues.
In the city's master plan, these streets are designated "secondary residential" -- meaning nonlocal traffic should not exceed 200 cars per hour. According to last year's traffic reports, however, the vehicle count runs close to 400 per hour during rush hours.
The streets run south to Eastern Avenue and are used to avoid the heavier traffic and stop lights on Piney Branch Road to the west and Carroll Avenue to the east.
In a crackdown last month, police issued 89 citations to motorists using Piney Branch Road and 65 citations on Carroll Avenue, according to Takoma Park Police Chief Stephen Carter.
One Maple Avenue resident asked Carter about making citizens' arrests for traffic violations. A disappointed expression crossed the man's face when he was told only the police could legally cite drivers.