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Thread: Town Center Traffic: No Easy Answers

  1. #1
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    Default Town Center Traffic: No Easy Answers

    Wayland’s officials face a difficult decision in dealing with the increased traffic that will be generated by the new Town Center. They can accept the Town Center Developer’s recent proposal to add more lanes to the intersection between routes 20 and 27, further degrading Wayland’s semi-rural ambience. Alternatively, they can preserve the look and feel of our historic district and let the resulting congestion drive more traffic onto residential streets like Bow Road, Glezen Lane, Training Field Road, River Road, Claypit Hill Road, and Plain Road. These streets lack the width, sight distances, and sidewalks required to handle this traffic without risk to motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, and children.

    With today’s conditions as a baseline, the Developer’s data and estimates show that the Town Center will increase east-west traffic through the 20-27 intersection by 35% during weekday evenings and by 50% during the Saturday afternoon peak. Traffic turning left from route 27 north-bound onto route 20 west-bound will increase by more than 60% during these periods! As you likely know from firsthand experience, this intersection is already generating long waits during the evening rush hour; further increases in traffic without additional capacity will produce enormous delays, frustrating locals and commuters alike.

    In an effort to understand and solve this problem, the Planning Board and Road Commissioners have already held two joint public hearings on Town Center traffic, and have scheduled another for September 5th. Major parts of the Developer’s original proposal to protect residential streets from increased traffic have been discarded: converting Bow Road to a dead end is opposed by the Town’s Public Safety officers, and making segments of Glezen Lane one-way would only shunt traffic from one neighborhood street to another. The remaining measures – speed bumps and a circuitous route through the triangular intersection between Glezen Lane and Training Field Road – will be little protection against the coming onslaught if the 20-27 intersection is not significantly expanded. The “route 20 bypass” using Plain Road, Claypit Hill Road, Training Field Road, Glezen Lane, Old Sudbury Road, and River Road avoids both the 20-27 intersection and the new traffic signal at the Town Center’s route 20 entrance, and thus would be very attractive during evenings and weekends; who wouldn’t drive an extra mile to avoid that mess?

    If no other practical alternative can be found, then the decision is clear: safety must be our priority. This means properly engineering the 20-27 intersection to handle the coming traffic levels, and keeping that traffic on arterial rather than residential roads.

  2. #2
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    Default info on traffic statistics

    Dave,

    I haven't been able to attend any of the recent PB hearings on traffic, but am (as I assume most in Wayland are) very interested in this issue. The last hearing I did attend on traffic yielded an interesting finding -- that the traffic consultants had not made any effort to net out double-counting in the traffic impacts (that is, if somebody was going to travel to Whole Foods or Sudbury Farms, and instead went to the new Town Center grocery store, they would still be counted as a new trip, even though would have been on the road anyway).

    This seems to be very important because I would guess the grocery store would generate the most trips of anything in the Town Center, and most of those trips would fall into the double-counted category.

    Do you (or does anybody else) know if the latest study was able to remove that double-counting? (I'm guessing not, because the figures you cite sound pretty similar to ones I've seen before)

    Thanks for any info!
    Kim

  3. #3
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    Default

    Your "two groceries, lower traffic" scenario could not survive for any appreciable time period, Kim. If the combined trips generated by Whole Foods and the future Town Center grocery were significantly lower than what Whole Foods currently generates plus what the Town Center grocery is forecast to generate, then one or both businesses would be financially unsustainable -- and would be replaced. We must assume that existing and new Town Center retail space will continue to be populated by going concerns that generate the expected traffic.

    The Developer's estimate of site-generated traffic assumes that 25% of the Town Center visits will be by motorists "on the road anyway"; these are referred to as "pass-by trips", and are not counted as new traffic (Master Special Permit Traffic Impact and Access Study, pages 33 and 34).

    Dave

  4. #4
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    Default Not suggesting lower traffic

    Hi Dave,

    I'm certainly not suggesting that there might be less traffic with the Town Center than without it. I'm merely pointing out that people are unlikely to have significantly more grocery store trips than they currently have. So if a grocery store opens up in the Town Center, it is going to draw from traffic to Whole Foods, Sudbury Farms, and Shaws (all of which would already have that car on Route 20). It might also draw from Omni in Weston and Donelan's (and maybe even Trader Joe's or Stop & Shop in Framingham), but I suspect those draws would be significantly smaller (perhaps not true in the unlikely event that it's a Trader Joe's that goes into the Town Center)

    Looking at the study you mentioned (and the pages you pointed me to), I was not able to find the reference to the pass-by trips. It's too bad you can't text search the PDF, but if you could point me the section number or something, that would be most useful.

    Thanks and regards,
    Kim

  5. #5
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    Default Found it!

    Hi Dave,

    I just realized that the page numbering at the bottom of each page differs significantly from the page count of the PDF file (pages 33 and 34 are on PDF pages 53 and 58).

    The pass-by trips are described as people already traveling on the road who stop in because there's a store there, and then continue on to their destination. This is distinctly different from people who would have gone to Sudbury Farms and instead go to the Town Center.

    I couldn't find where they might have netted these out (I really do wish there was a way to search the PDF!), but perhaps you know?

    Thanks again,
    Kim

  6. #6
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    Default

    You may well be right that a new grocery in the Town Center simply draws traffic that would have otherwise gone to Whole Foods. My point is that this situation cannot last for long, because one of the groceries will close and be replaced by a business that does generate the expected traffic.

    Whole Foods has a decision to make. If they believe that the demand for groceries in northern Wayland is so high that the appearance of a competitor in the Town Center won't meaningfully reduce their revenue, then they'll stay where they are; if they're correct, then both groceries will prosper, and the Town Center grocery's contribution to new traffic will be as estimated. If Whole Foods decides that northern Wayland cannot sustain two groceries in such close proximity, then they will either relocate to the Town Center grocery space themselves or pull up stakes entirely; either way, their current space would be freed for lease by another retail concern that generates traffic, and the net new Town Center traffic will be as estimated.

    Were the Developer to do as you suggest and reduce its estimate for net new traffic on the grounds that the traffic generated by some existing northern Wayland businesses will fall signficantly and not be replaced, then it would also have to significantly reduce its estimate for the net tax benefit to Wayland. Revenue is proportional to traffic, and tax generation is proportional to revenue.

    If the Developer has misjudged the demand for retail space in northern Wayland and does not succeed in populating its new stores with successful businesses without depopulating the pre-existing retail space, then we'll indeed have less traffic than expected -- and less tax benefit by roughly the same proportion.

    Dave

  7. #7
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    Default

    Dave,

    Your points are good ones - though I hope we can draw some of the traffic from Sudbury's stores and thereby increase Wayland's tax base without a proportional hit on traffic (they've seen all the tax benefits for years while we have suffered their traffic impacts - it's our turn for a share!). If Whole Foods folds or moves, perhaps the future occupant could be something other than a grocery store (which typically has lower margins, and therefore a relatively low tax:car ratio).

    But ultimately, to the extent traffic is impacted - whatever the full impact actually is -- I totally agree that safety must be the first priority. The back roads that could be impacted (one of which I live off of, so I have the same "NIMBY" concerns that you do) are narrow and windy and lack sidewalks and are already treacherous for pedestrians and bicyclists. I hope that the resulting solutions will aim to keep traffic on the main roads.

    Regards,
    Kim

  8. #8
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    To the extent that Sudbury commuters stop at the Town Center and purchase goods, then Wayland benefits without suffering additional traffic. Such visits fall into the "pass-by" category that the Developer has excluded from the traffic growth estimates.

    I've found it interesting that the proposed new retail development of the Lee's Farm Stand property has provoked self-righteous "we must retain Wayland's semi-rural atmosphere" proclamations from residents of a nearby neighborhood that might be impacted. These are the same people who at public hearings have been derisively dismissive of efforts by residents of Bow Road and Glezen Lane to mitigate the impact of Town Center traffic. NIMBY indeed.

    Dave

  9. #9
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    Default Pass-by traffic

    Dave,

    It's not at all clear to me that Sudbury Farm shoppers who switch to the Town Center are considered as "pass by" traffic -- that's why I'm hopeful that the traffic impacts being bantered about may be somewhat overstated.

    Here's what the report says about "pass-by trips" (emphasis added by me): Not all of the vehicle trips expected to be generated by the project will consist of new trips on the adjacent roadway. Statistics published by ITE indicate that on average, up to 34 percent of the trips associated with retail uses (shopping center) consist of pass-by trips. Pass-by trips consist of motorists already traveling on the adjacent roadway network for other purposes that will patronize the proposed project and then continue on to their original destination. Pass-by trips are not new trips on the roadway system as a result of the proposed project."

    What is described above is different from actually changing your destination - which is what a Sudbury shopper who used to go to Whole Foods or to Sudbury Farms does when they go to the future Town Center grocery story instead. Anyway, I don't mean to argue with you --I was just looking to know whether they had considered the other grocery traffic when the traffic consultants did their estimates -- since I know from asking them that their initial study had not.

    As far as advocates of the Town Center who oppose development at Lee's, you have a fair point. On one hand, it is reasonable to say that we need to be careful not to overdevelop (if you think the Town Center alone is overdevelopment, then you would probably think that development of Lee's becomes way too much), but on the other it does not seem right to actively advocate for one while fighting against the other.

  10. #10
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    My comment applied to Sudbury commuters in general stopping off at the Town Center to purchase goods in general on their way home from work. Such visits exactly fit the definition of pass-by trips.

    Dave

  11. #11
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    OK, so there's some of each. Someone who goes shopping in the middle of the day or on the weekend and switches from Sudbury Farms to the Town Center may fall into the double-counted camp. But someone who switches from one grocery store to the other but does their shopping during their commute is a pass-by trip and is not being added in.

    That might would bode well for the weekend traffic impacts, but not so much for the rush hour estimates.

  12. #12
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    A north Waylander who currently patronizes Sudbury Farms is choosing that grocery over the closer Whole Foods. You cannot conclude that any significant fraction of these Sudbury Farms patrons would switch to the new Town Center grocery, since proximity is clearly not their primary criterion. And if Whole Foods relocates to the new Town Center grocery space, we'd expect no change in patronage whatsoever.

    Again, there's no evidence here for significant double-counting in the Town Center new traffic estimate. Had there been anything approaching a credible case, the Developer would have applied the reduction to lower the estimate.

    Dave

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