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One way to lower speed limits

Purple City makes an interesting observation.

One of the quieter actions of the late Parker administration has been to slowly alter speed limits from 35 or 40mph to 30mph. These reductions aren’t based on an engineering study or field measurements, but on a creative interpretation of state law. Texas sets the default urban speed limit at 30mph in lieu of a study justifying higher speeds. The City is interpreting that to post 30 on roadways which were formerly determined to be safe at 35 or 40.

I first began to notice this about a year ago, and had it confirmed by sources within PWE last summer. Thus far, it seems to be restricted to thoroughfares inside the Loop. The existing signage is allowed to disappear (through collisions, failure, theft, etc). When most of the old 35/40 is gone, the road is re-signed at 30. This provides a more gradual transition period than simply changing the signs out overnight.

Recently, I noticed that all of the 35mph signage is missing between Allen Parkway and IH-10.

He’s got a Google Maps image with the various sections of Studemont/Montrose highlighted to show what the speed limit is on each. It’s signed for 35 between Allen Parkway and Westheimer, but either signed for 30 or not signed elsewhere. Unless the next Mayor changes direction, my guess is that at some point in the not too distant future, this road will have a 30 MPH speed limit all the way.

And you know what? That’s just fine. Twenty-five years ago, when there was little retail or residential development north of Westheimer, a 35 MPH speed limit was reasonable. Nowadays, with pedestrians and bikes and cars slowing down to turn into driveways and side streets, a slower speed makes a lot more sense. Slower speeds save lives, and the streets in Houston’s dense urban areas aren’t just for cars any more. We should be updating the speed limits on these streets to reflect that.

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4 Comments

  1. N.M. Horwitz says:

    “Slower streets save lives”

    Of course, but for that matter, why aren’t the roads 20 mph? That seems to do the trick for school zones, so why not expand it citywide?

  2. Steven Houston says:

    “why aren’t the roads 20 mph?”
    Because nobody would follow such a limit even if state law defaulted to that speed rather than 30. For that matter, ask PK how many people follow a 30 MPH limit on a multi-lane road with a large median. It’s a fantasy to think posting a lower speed limit is going to make streets safer for bicyclists which this measure is clearly designed to do, the disparity between car speeds when you lower a speed limit artificially increasing the likelihood of accidents over the general rule of “slower speeds save lives”.

    Then, as the handful of traffic cops start writing tickets to enrich PK’s coffers in mass quantity wherever a zone has been lowered, cries of “you’re doing it for the revenue” will be plentiful across the city because few believe a 20 or 30 MPH speed limit without a survey or school zone is about safety.

  3. Bill Daniels says:

    @Steven Houston

    Lowering the speed limits IS going to bring out those ticket writing traffic Nazis to the newly reduced speed areas.

    Remember Mayor Bob? One reason he was so popular was he raided Metro to fix the streets for everyone. Remember the early days of Bill White when he was going to “get the traffic moving?” He had lights timed so people didn’t have to stop every block. Doing things to help people get where they are going faster is popular with the people. Arbitrarily lowering speed limits is going to do just the opposite of that.

    What Mayor Parker is doing here is slowing people down while at the same time creating new criminals where there were none before. Why not just declare Big Gulp sodas illegal? One day, it’s legal, the next day, there’s a new sign, over 16 oz in a serving is illegal. That’s the same principle at work here.

    Lowering the speed limits in nothing more than an escalation of the War on Motorists.

  4. Steven Houston says:

    “Lowering the speed limits in nothing more than an escalation of the War on Motorists.”

    I fully agree that this is a blatant attempt to promote biking safety over actual transportation needs, perhaps some genius thinking the bulk of the population wants to ride bikes to work in our humid, ever changing climate. Then, as these areas prove to be ultra productive, other police agencies will start working them to enrich their own general fund coffers, from the Constables, to Metro, to HCSO, and others. It could also result in the city police assigning more officers to their fairly small traffic enforcement division, those same geniuses never factoring in the costs of enforcement as part of the equation (it is exceedingly rare for any form of traffic enforcement to pay for the full costs of enforcement no matter what some of you may have heard from Ferguson MI or other places).

    That said, Lanier’s $50 million/year raids on Metro money was a costly mistake, Brown’s budgets suffering tremendously when he weaned the city away from the funds. White’s claims about timing the lights were all talk too, my journey to downtown Houston each morning showing me that no matter what speed I traveled at, I would be sitting behind scores of lights unless I varied my speed about 25 MPH (either way too fast for the posted limits or way too slow). It sure sounded good though…llol.