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Emergency Response Study Recommendations DRAFT

Office of Transportation/Fire Bureau
 

Table of Contents

DRAFT February 10, 1998
City of Portland, Oregon
Prepared by
City of Portland
Office of Transportation
 
Office of Transportation Bureau of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services
Charlie Hales, Commissioner-in-Charge
Victor F. Rhodes, Director, Office of Transportation
Steve Dotterrer, Chief Transportation Planner
Gretchen Kafoury, Commissioner-in Charge
Robert Wall, Chief, Bureau of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services
 
Citizen Advisory Committee

Matthew Aho, Hollywood Neighborhood (formerly of Bridlemile)
Mary Devlin, Laurelhurst Neighborhood
Ron Hernandez, Friends of Cathedral Park
Rebecca Robbins, Sunnyside Neighborhood
Gregg Swanson, Foster-Powell Neighborhood
Chris Wrench, Northwest District Association
Jennifer Young, Parkrose Neighborhood

Technical Advisory Committee
 
Office of Transportation Bureau of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services
Monique Wahba, Project Manager
John Gillam, Project Supervisor
Cece Noel, Public Involvement
Traffic Calming Program
Crysttal Atkins, Project Manager
Ellis McCoy, Program Manager
Ed Wilson, Division Chief
Patty Rueter, Planning Specialist
District 3 Battalion Chief Traffic Liaisons
Grant Coffey
Joe Wallace
Dave Disciascio
 
Technical Staff
Mary Edin
Samy Fouts
Bob Robison
 

Emergency Response
Study Report And Recommendations

Introduction

The City of Portland is committed to providing a transportation system that both protects the safety and livability of residential neighborhoods and responds to emergency service needs. The Transportation Element of the Comprehensive Plan includes transportation policies and street classifications designed to carry out these and other transportation objectives.
 
The policies of the Transportation Element are intended to help carry out the City's vision of a transportation system that provides choice; one where walking, bicycling and taking transit are viable options to driving. The street classifications of the Transportation Element are known as the Arterial Streets Classifications and Policies (ASCP). They work to achieve policy goals by describing the levels of automobile, transit, bicycle, pedestrian, and truck traffic appropriate for each street. The ASCP establishes a clear hierarchy of traffic corridors designating facilities for trips of different speed, volume, and length. Such a system would ideally discourage higher speed through traffic from using local neighborhood streets, and local traffic from using major arterials. This would add not only to the overall efficiency of the system, but to the livability of city neighborhoods.
 
Unfortunately, not all local neighborhood streets are used as classified. Many experience excessive traffic speeds and volumes. In response to resident complaints, the City initiated the Traffic Calming Program to address these issues on Local Service Streets. The program was later expanded to include Neighborhood Collectors that were at least 75 percent residential. The program uses education, enforcement, and engineering to address these problems.
 
The engineering component of the Traffic Calming Program's approach has become problematic to emergency service providers, particularly on Neighborhood Collectors since these streets often serve as emergency response routes. Of specific concern are two types of slowing devices used by the Traffic Calming Program: speed bumps and traffic circles. While these devices have the desired effect of slowing traffic on residential streets, they also have the unintended effect of delaying emergency response vehicles.
 
In response to the high demand for traffic calming projects and the potential for delay in emergency response delivery, City Council took action to resolve this conflict. In April 1996 Council directed the Office of Transportation and the Fire Bureau to resolve this problem through a policy approach. Staff was directed to develop a new emergency response policy and street classification system. While traffic slowing devices are not the only factors affecting emergency response time (other factors include fire station locations, congestion levels, and unlawful driving behavior), fifteen traffic calming projects were put on hold awaiting completion of this study.
 
Currently, there is no classification for emergency response routes in the Transportation Element of the Comprehensive Plan. The Transportation Element addresses the need for emergency vehicle access in describing how designated traffic streets should function. To date, emergency service providers have commented on the potential impacts of traffic calming projects on a case-by-case basis following the guidelines of the Implementation Section of the Transportation Element.
 
Having policy language on emergency response, accompanied by an emergency response classification system is beneficial for several reasons.
 
First, it balances prompt emergency response with slowing traffic on residential streets.
Second, it provides the City and its residents with clarity and certainty regarding streets' eligibility for traffic slowing devices. An immediate benefit is in allowing traffic slowing projects currently on hold to go forward, be modified, or be dropped.
 
Third, it ensures a basic network of emergency response streets. This network can be used to help route response vehicles in an emergency and to help the City site future fire stations.
 
Fourth, it will be incorporated into the Transportation Element. This allows emergency response needs to be considered with other modal needs when changes to a street are considered.
 
This resolution will direct the Office of Transportation and the Fire Bureau to use these new policies to determine a street's eligibility for traffic slowing devices, to help plan capital improvements and site future fire stations, and to guide the routing of emergency response vehicles. These policies will eventually be incorporated into the Transportation System Plan and adopted by ordinance.
 
 
To assist in this study, Commissioners Hales and Kafoury appointed a Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) consisting of seven members, representing the seven transportation districts of the city. Members were selected based on their interest in the study, their experience and active participation on City committees, and their ability to see all sides of the issues.
 
The role of the CAC was to advise the study's technical advisory committee (TAC) in developing an emergency response policy and street classification system for incorporation into the Transportation Element. The technical advisory committee consisted of staff from the Traffic Calming Program, the Fire Bureau, and Transportation Planning. The TAC sought advice in the following areas:
  • policy language to address the need for prompt emergency response,
  • criteria for selecting emergency response streets,
  • emergency response street classification descriptions, and
  • enforcement recommendations.
The Committee met with the TAC biweekly beginning in August 1997 for approximately seven months. (The CAC's work plan can be found in Appendix A.) A neutral facilitator was hired to moderate citizen advisory committee meetings. The first CAC meetings focused on reviewing study goals, clarifying the roles of CAC members and staff, and establishing ground rules.
 
The Committee identified key study issues and developed "criteria for a good solution" (see Appendix B). These criteria were used to evaluate the quality of the final recommendation to City Council. The Committee advised staff on proposed policy language, emergency response classification descriptions, criteria for selecting Major Emergency Response Streets, and the draft emergency response street map. Aside from the recommendations in this report, the CAC developed additional recommendations for City Council which can be found in Appendix C.
 
The Committee played a leading role in developing the public review process for this study. CAC members worked with technical advisory committee members in staffing all public open houses and responding to public feedback.
 
 
Staff recommends the following changes be incorporated into the Transportation Element. Until adoption by ordinance as part of the Transportation System Plan process, these policies, classifications, and definitions will be used by the affected bureaus as operating guidelines in implementing traffic calming projects. Findings will be developed as part of the Transportation System Plan.
  • a new emergency response policy,
  • a revised traffic calming policy,
  • a new emergency response classification description,
  • a new emergency response street map,
  • a revised implementation section on emergency response
  • a new definition of "emergency response vehicles"
  • a new definition of "opticom"
  • a new definition of "traffic calming"
  • a new definition of "traffic slowing devices"
Emergency Response Policy
Policy 6.?? Emergency Response
 
Provide a network of emergency response streets that facilitates prompt emergency response. The emergency response classification system shall be used to determine whether traffic slowing devices can be employed, to guide the routing of emergency response vehicles, and to help site future fire stations.
 
Explanation: This policy recognizes the transportation system's role in facilitating prompt emergency response. It also defines how the emergency response classification system will be used. This policy will be assigned a Transportation Element number as part of the adoption of the Transportation System Plan.
 
Traffic Calming Policy
 
Additions are shown in underline and deletions are shown with a strike through.
Policy 6.5 Neighborhood Collector and Local Service Street Traffic Management Traffic Calming
 
Manage traffic on Neighborhood Collectors and Local Service Streets according to the hierarchy established in Chapter 3 of the Transportation Element, Arterial Streets Classifications and Policies, and the land uses they serve. Measures taken by the Bureau of Traffic Management, within the criteria of both the Collector Recovery and Neighborhood Traffic Management Programs to manage traffic on Neighborhood Collectors and Local Service Streets, should encourage nonlocal traffic to use streets with higher traffic classifications and. Measures taken on Local Service Streets should not significantly divert traffic to other nearby streets of the same or lower classification. Measures should not be taken on Neighborhood Collectors that result in diversion of traffic to streets of lower classification.
 
Explanation: This revised policy language reflects the recent consolidation of the Collector Recovery and Local Service Street Traffic Management Programs into the Traffic Calming Program. It also clarifies that measures taken on Local Service Streets should not divert traffic to other nearby streets of the same classification and measures should not be taken on Neighborhood Collectors that result in diversion to Local Service Streets.
 
Emergency Response Street Classification Descriptions
 
EMERGENCY RESPONSE STREETS
 
Major Emergency Response Streets
 
Functional Purpose
Major Emergency Response Streets are intended to serve primarily the longer, most direct legs of emergency response trips.
 
Design Treatment and Operating Characteristics
Design treatments on Major Emergency Response Streets should enhance mobility for emergency response vehicles by employing preferential treatments such as opticom.
Major Emergency Response Routes are not eligible for traffic slowing devices.
 
Minor Emergency Response Streets
 
Functional Purpose
Minor Emergency Response Streets are intended to serve primarily the shorter legs of emergency response trips.
 
All streets not classified as Major Emergency Response Streets are classified as Minor Emergency Response Streets.
 
Design Treatment and Operating Characteristics
Minor Emergency Response Streets are designed and operated to provide access to individual properties.
 
Minor Emergency Response Streets are eligible for traffic slowing devices.
 
Explanation: This classification system describes how emergency response streets should function, specifies appropriate design treatments to facilitate prompt emergency response, and indicates which streets are eligible for traffic slowing devices and which are not.
 
Emergency Response Street Classification Map
 
Exhibit B is a map which identifies Major and Minor Emergency Response Streets. Major Emergency Response Streets were selected based the following considerations:
  • Eligibility of streets for traffic slowing devices.
  • Spacing/connectivity.
  • Traffic classifications.
  • Location of fire stations.
  • Topography.
Explanation: Under current policy, District Collectors and higher arterials are ineligible for traffic slowing devices and were therefore automatically designated as Major Emergency Response Streets. Neighborhood Collectors which are not at least 75 percent residential are also ineligible for traffic slowing devices. These collectors were designated as Major Emergency Response Streets where staff agreed that the higher arterial network did not provide adequate coverage. In cases where additional Major Emergency Response Streets were needed, Neighborhood Collectors were selected over Local Service Streets, whenever possible. The intent behind this selection process was to establish a Major Emergency Response Street network where emergency vehicles could make the longer legs of their trips on relatively higher speed streets reserving the shorter legs of their trips for more local streets where speeds would be lower. This resulted in an approximate half-mile spacing between Major Emergency Response Streets.
 
Other considerations in developing the network were connecting all existing fire stations to Major Emergency Response Streets and avoiding streets whose topographic conditions would result in emergency vehicle response delays. All streets that were not selected as Major Emergency Response Streets were designated as Minor Emergency Response Streets.
 
New Glossary Definitions
 
The following are proposed as new glossary definitions.
Emergency Response Vehicles
Vehicles employed in responding to emergencies. Examples of emergency response vehicles include fire apparatus, ambulances, and police cars.
Opticom
A signal preemption system for emergency response vehicles.
Explanation: These terms are used in the new emergency response classification descriptions and are therefore defined for general understanding.

Traffic Calming
Roadway design strategies to reduce vehicle speeds and volumes. Traffic calming measures include, but are not limited to, traffic slowing devices. Examples of other traffic calming measures are traffic diverters, curb extensions, and medians.
Traffic Slowing Devices
Devices employed by the Traffic Calming Program that slow emergency response vehicles as well as general traffic. The only currently used devices considered traffic slowing devices are speed bumps and traffic circles.
Explanation: These definitions differentiate between traffic calming and traffic slowing devices. The former relates to the comprehensive list of traffic calming devices. The latter refers specifically to those devices that delay emergency response vehicles.

Emergency Response Implementation

Below is staff's recommendation to replace the portion of the existing implementation section B(2) of the Transportation Element that deals with emergency response. Additions are shown in underline and deletions with a strike through.
Local Service Street traffic problems should be reviewed by City staff and referred to the Neighborhood Traffic Management Program, where appropriate. Significant modifications to Local Service Street operations such as those resulting from NTMP projects should be reviewed by emergency service providers. Reasonable emergency vehicle access and circulation should be maintained on Local Service Streets. Care should be taken when modifying the operations of Local Service Streets that serve as primary response routes for emergency vehicles. If such modifications result in a significant increase in response time over a significant geographic area, mitigation should be provided. Such mitigation could take the form of improvements or operational modifications that reduce response time on alternative routes or create new emergency response routes.
 
Streets rendered ineligible for traffic slowing devices by their designation as Major Emergency Response Streets should be given higher priority for nonengineered solutions to problems of excessive speed, i.e., education and targeted traffic enforcement, than streets eligible for traffic slowing devices.
 
Three street segments have been identified as Major Emergency Response Streets that currently have traffic slowing devices. These street segments are: NE 15th, between Broadway and Prescott; SW Sunset, between Capitol and Dosch; and SW Shattuck, between Hamilton and Thomas. The Fire Bureau and the Office of Transportation agree to retain the slowing devices on these streets. However, these streets will not be eligible for additional traffic slowing devices in the future.
The Traffic Calming Program, the Fire Bureau, and the Police Bureau will continue to cooperatively address problems of excessive speeds and volumes on residential streets. This will include, but not be limited to, the evaluation of all new traffic slowing devices to determine their impact on emergency response providers and the development of cooperative educational programs.

Explanation: These revisions provide direction regarding the treatment of streets rendered ineligible for traffic slowing devices, the treatment of streets designated as Major Emergency Response Streets with existing traffic slowing devices, and the role of various bureaus in traffic calming project development and education.
 
In addition to the transportation recommendations above which will be implemented through the Transportation Element, below are additional recommendations for police enforcement of speeding on neighborhood streets.
  • Assign streets no longer eligible for traffic slowing devices higher priority for increased enforcement and education measures.
  • Have the Police Bureau and the Bureau of Traffic Management work cooperatively on the problem of speeding on neighborhood streets.
Explanation: Designation of Major and Minor Emergency Response Streets was a joint effort between the Transportation and Fire Bureaus considering first, policy direction and second, operational and programmatic needs. The classification designations offer clarity and certainty to both bureaus as well as the public about streets' eligibility for traffic slowing devices.
However, because of the designation of Major Emergency Response Streets, several streets will lose their current eligibility for traffic slowing devices. Staff recommends the City address this issue by assigning affected streets higher priority for increased enforcement and education measures. Staff also recommends that the Police Bureau and the Bureau of Traffic Management work cooperatively on the problem of speeding on neighborhood streets.

To See Map of Emergency Response Routes Click Here. ( 30 min? load time)
Draft List of Primary Response Streets


Appendices

Appendix A: Emergency Response Classification Study Work Plan

Meeting Date & Location Meeting Goals
#1: 8/13, Portland Bldg, 746 Introduce CAC to staff and to one another. Review goals of the study, role of CAC members and staff, final product, work plan, and timeline.
#2: 8/27, Portland Bldg, 746 Review conflict resolution guidance to establish ground rules. Panel presentation by staff on transportation policy, traffic calming, and emergency operations to inform CAC decisions.
Field Trip: 9/3, Fire Station 41 Give CAC first hand exposure to emergency response and traffic calming issues.
#3: 9/10, Portland Bldg, 746 Debrief field trip to identify study issues.
#4: 9/24, Mt Scott Community Center Identify criteria for a good solution. Focus on the limited area of disagreement between the fire bureau and the traffic calming program: present CAC with a preliminary emergency response classification scheme; present a map showing city streets currently ineligible for traffic slowing. Establish visitor guidelines. Finalize article for neighborhood newsletters.
#5: 10/8, Fire Training Center Explain how policy translates into implementation. Suggest preliminary policy language. Develop criteria for a good solution statements.
#6: 10/22, W Baptist Seminary Agree on number of policies to deal with the issue. Explain traffic calming exercise. Discuss principles for emergency response streets.
#7: 11/5, Multnomah Center Debrief traffic calming exercise. Provide information about why the city does traffic calming. Finalize criteria statements.
#8: 11/19, Applegate School, 7650 N Commercial Agree on principles for emergency response classifications. Show map of proposed emergency response classifications, highlighting problem streets. Establish criteria for allowing slowing devices on neighborhood emergency response routes. Discuss public review process. Distribute proposed policy language.
#9: 12/10, Portland Bldg, 746 Refine emergency response map and decide upon two emergency response classifications or three. Discuss proposed policy language.
#10: 1/7, Portland Bldg, 746 Review public outreach plan. Review draft report outline. Discuss bin items for report appendix.
#11: 1/21, Portland Bldg, 746 Discuss enforcement measures with Police. Discuss draft report to Council.
#12: 2/4, Portland Bldg, 746 Finalize draft report prior to open houses. Review draft displays and materials for open houses. Open house preparatory training.
2/10 Planning Commission briefing.
2/18, 2/21, 2/25 Public open houses.
#13: 3/4, Portland Bldg, 746 Debrief open houses. Consider public comments for incorporation in report.
4/1 City Council Hearing
 
Appendix B: Criteria for a Good Solution

We'll know we have a good Emergency Response Classification System if...
  • The classification system allows for prompt emergency response while protecting residential streets from excessive speeds and volumes.
  • The classification system is flexible enough to respond to changes over time, e.g. changes in density, technology, etc.
  • The classification system is easily explained, defensible and usable.
  • The classification system provides a hierarchy of emergency response routes.
  • The classification system can be used for future system planning, e.g. for routing fire vehicles in an emergency, for siting future fire stations, for selecting Traffic Calming projects, for using signal preemption along selected emergency response corridors.
  • The classification system meets the liability concerns of both the Fire Bureau and the Traffic Calming Program by providing an objective decision making process.
  • The classification system is supportive of Region 2040 land use growth concepts.
Appendix C: Citizen Advisory Committee Recommendations
 
Aside from the recommendations made in the body of this report, the study's Citizen Advisory Committee would like to make the following additional recommendations.
  • Continue to explore and test new technologies and devices to calm traffic on neighborhood streets that will not delay emergency vehicle response time.
  • Recognize that other factors affect response time besides traffic slowing devices. Include these factors, listed below, in a holistic approach to solving speeding problems in the city:
    • Enforcement: Support traffic enforcement efforts to reduce speeding on neighborhood streets, particularly on those streets no longer eligible for traffic slowing devices.
    • Education: Promote education for all age groups which fosters responsible driving behaviors. Education measures should be encouraged particularly in areas where streets have become ineligible for traffic slowing devices.
      • Work with community groups to bring traffic safety issues to the neighborhood level.
      • Help create a non-profit organization to carry out and coordinate education efforts on traffic safety.
      • Explore ISTEA funding for education projects related to traffic safety.
    • Fire Station Siting: Be strategic in locating future fire stations, i.e. fire stations should be located at the intersection of two Major Emergency Response Streets, whenever possible.
    • Transportation Efficiency: Support projects which improve the overall movement of traffic citywide provided it does not conflict with other overriding policies.
Appendix D: Notice of Open Houses

Appendix E: Public Comments (To be inserted after the public open houses)
 
 

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