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  • Mark Joseph

Lessons Learned, part one: Local Traffic Safety

I'm wrapping up my walking campaign this week, and I have talked to a lot of people. I want to summarize those conversations, and what I offer to do in response, if re-elected.

First, I am always reminded about how many dogs there are in this town!! I apologize for all the barking I caused! On the other hand, it was a real joy to look at all the Halloween decorations, including some that are remarkably well thought out. I thought we only went this crazy during Christmas!

Beyond this, there seemed to be three themes that I heard this time around. Due to the length of my comments, I'm breaking it into three parts, with each part relating to one of the three issues. I suppose I'm "streaming" my responses!

Local Traffic Safety Concerns. This seems partly due to traffic congestion on the Highway, leading to more commuters on our local roads. But it's also our own residents, weary from their commute and anxious to get home; or parents dropping their children off at school and in a hurry to get to work. Either way, there are more people speeding on our local streets, not stopping at stop signs and showing real impatience when other drivers are following the rules (passing on a road not intended for passing, as an example).

This is such a difficult problem to address. Fundamentally, it's about people not following the rules. If we had enough police officers or money for capital improvements, we could probably change the way people drive. Since we don't, we have to develop strategies and programs that get us the "bang for our buck."

We have talked about speed bumps/humps/lumps/etc., and that may help. But there are problems with this approach. For example, our Fire trucks may work around them, but what about Ambulances, especially if they are treating a resident while rushing to a hospital? Some local residents are happy with a speed hump, but other neighbors may consider them an inconvenience.

There are costs involved with these installations, and that means we can't afford paying for every request. Do we ask the residents in the area to share in the costs, and if so, how much? Is it fair to ask a resident to pay for someone else's actions?

If we can't add more traffic officers, can we deploy them differently? Currently, our traffic cops focus on our schools to ensure the safety of our children. If we want to shift them to our local streets, how do we ensure our schools are safe? The Napa County Bike Coalition recently completed safety audits at each of our local schools. Although focused on bicycles, many of the safety recommendations relate to walking. As the City and School District work together to implement some or all of these recommendations, the payoff may be that we can redirect our officers to deal with problems on our local streets.

As an individual, you can take action to get some relief at the neighborhood level. For example, you can contact City staff to discuss your issues and see if there are reasonable, low-cost solutions, or explain what may or may not work. We can update our Traffic Calming program to make it work easier and more importantly, provide direction on how to objectively evaluate requests and rank them.

On October 18, 2022, I requested the City accelerate the review of our Traffic Calming process, and thankfully, the rest of the Council agreed. I look forward to this opportunity and will let as many people know about the date that it will come back for discussion. Meanwhile, let me know if you would like me to work with you on arranging a staff-level review of your neighborhood. Email me at

Looking a little further down the road, there may be more reason for optimism. This relates to my role as Vice-Chair of the Napa Valley Transportation Authority (NVTA). Recently, NVTA authorized a "Vision Zero" study, which will include findings and recommendations for each of the jurisdictions in Napa Valley. Vision Zero takes a holistic approach to reducing traffic accidents to zero. It involves enforcement, engineering and education. This study won't be ready for about a year, but it should give additional guidance on other ways we can make our local streets safer.

In talking to voters, particularly on the west side of town, local traffic issues are a major concern, sometimes even more than traffic congestion on the Highway. I pledge to work with our Police and Public Works departments to make it a higher priority for our City.



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