As residents near Southside Village ask the city to slow down traffic, staff is devising a new system for judging the merits of the request.
Rick Popino can’t understand why the city doesn’t think there’s a problem with speeding on his street.
For more than a year, Popino and other residents in the 1800 and 1900 blocks of Hyde Park Street have registered complaints about traffic in the area. The residential street sits just south of Hillview Street and the Southside Village commercial district. Popino said cars and trucks use Hyde Park as a cut-through from U.S. 41 to Osprey Avenue, avoiding the more heavily trafficked Hillview.
This comes with a spate of issues, he said. Drivers speed down the street and routinely run through a stop sign at Laurent Place. Even after the city posted flags atop the stop sign, the Sarasota Police Department issued 11 warnings and citations for traffic violations along the street during a day of enforcement in July.
“People know they can run stop signs, they can speed down the block and nobody’s going to do anything,” Popino said.
This summer, the city undertook a traffic study to determine whether the street needed additional traffic-calming features. The results showed the area didn’t meet the city’s threshold, which came as a shock to residents.
Popino questioned the validity of the city’s study. He said it didn’t account for the presence of a day care facility on the street, even though the study is supposed to factor in the presence of a school. And if speeding alone doesn’t warrant city intervention, Popino said the level of cut-through traffic — including large trucks headed to Southside Village businesses — amplifies the problem.
“We’re just dumbfounded that the city doesn’t see this as an issue,” Popino said.
Addressing Popino’s concerns, Deputy City Manager Marlon Brown reframed the severity of the issues on Hyde Park Street. He said city data showed two crashes on the street in the past decade, neither of which had to do with speeding or a driver running the stop sign.
Even if drivers don’t come to a complete stop at the stop sign, he argued that the sign — in conjunction with two speed bumps and on-street parking — does work to slow down traffic in the area.
“I understand what Dr. Popino is going through,” Brown said. “I want to help him. But I can’t just do something that doesn’t comply with the data — because every single neighborhood in the city of Sarasota will be asking for the same treatment.”
Brown said the issues on Hyde Park mirror concerns in neighborhoods throughout the city. Almost every neighborhood wants traffic calming, he said. Hoping to establish objective criteria for deciding whether to fulfill those requests, the city instituted its traffic study system in the mid-2000s.
Today, Brown said, that system is admittedly arcane. City staff is in the process of reviewing and revamping its regulations, hoping to do a better job of accounting for the severity of traffic issues in a given neighborhood. Staff members are examining the procedures in place in similar municipalities, and hope to report their findings to the City Commission within the next month for further action.
This may not provide much assurance for Popino and other Hyde Park Street residents, who have been advocating for changes since last summer. But Brown said waiting for traffic calming is the norm in the city. Even within the South Poinsettia Park neighborhood, which contains this segment of Hyde Park Street, other neighbors have been advocating for traffic calming elsewhere.
Popino argued the problem is particularly pressing on Hyde Park Street because of its proximity to major roads, a business district and Sarasota Memorial Hospital. Residents aren’t demanding anything in particular — just something significant enough to slow down cars further.
“There’s a continuum of solutions here, and all we got were the ... flags,” Popino said.
The deputy city manager isn’t making any promises, but he did say the city intends to re-evaluate the need for traffic calming on Hyde Park as soon as new procedures are in place.
“We want to revamp our process, see how Hyde Park falls into that criteria, and we’ll go from there,” Brown said.