Votes – 19 July 2016

“Votes” is a log of the high-profile agenda items discussed and voted upon by the Kyle City Council. I will summarize the items and provide the reason for why I voted the way I did.

NOTE: Feel free to ask any questions or make any comments below. I will respond in a timely manner. You are welcome to respectfully disagree. Comments that are overly negative, overly personal, or disparaging will not be allowed.

Complete Agenda: Here
Council Video: Here

Item 12. “Stop Sign” Ordinance to regulate the method for citizens to request unwarranted traffic control devices (TCDs).

Vote: Tabled

In recent months the City Council and our police department have been petitioned for the erection of stop signs at no less than 10 intersections in Kyle. Thus far, each request has been deemed “unwarranted,” meaning it did not meet the minimum standards that would trigger the city to erect a TCD.

The proposed ordinance attempts to create a system whereby anyone can request a TCD, so long as they pay for the city to conduct the study. If the study finds the TCD is warranted, the money is refunded. Otherwise, the only way forward is to bring the device before council for a vote.

I am in favor of raising the threshold for a citizen or group of citizens to tie up dozens of hours of staff time. Paying for the study is one very valid way. But it seems to me that such an ordinance disproportionally prejudices against areas without an HOA (read: without collective monies). My opinion is that we should add a second path to study whether a TCD is warranted. This could be accomplished by requiring a minimum number of signatures within the neighborhood.

The ordinance was tabled and will probably be brought back in a different form.

Item 13 (First Reading). Alarm System Registrations, Fees, and Fines

Council: 6-0
My vote: In Favor

This is a much needed ordinance that directly addresses a problem in our PD. The proposal will require the registration and annual renewal of nearly every alarm system in Kyle.  Furthermore, it will establish an annual fee for the registration of alarm systems and clarify fines for false-alarms. Of the 1,500 alarm-triggered police responses last year, only 5 were credible burglaries and 1,495 were false alarms. That’s an incredible statistic. Our police department is already understaffed. Regulating alarms is a solid step towards reducing the burden of our PD.

I am in favor of this ordinance, but expressed one reservation.

The proposed ordinance does not provide much leeway in terms of a grace period for those who are required to register their pre-existing alarms. If a citizen has a pre-existing alarm and fails to register it, they will be fined should a false-alarm trigger a police response. Due to the nature of this ordinance, I can foresee hundreds of incidents where a false-alarm triggers police and the customer was not aware that a new law was passed. In this case, I believe a warning-only should be given on the first offense, or at the least our officers should have full discretion on the citation of the citizen. I plan to seek clarification from our PD about this before the ordinance comes back for the final reading.

Item 16. Roundabout discussions w/ TxDOT at 1626 and Dorman

Council: 5-1 to proceed with discussion
My vote: In favor

Now to the main event. The last item proposed to council was a roundabout at 1626 and Dorman. Our City Manager, Scott Sellers, informed us that he has been in discussions with TxDOT about that intersection. According to Mr. Sellers, TxDOT alerted the city in a routine meeting that the intersection at Dorman and 1626 warrants a traffic control device.

TxDOT did not confirm or guarantee that funds would be available for a roundabout, but rather implied — should the City of Kyle support the concept — TxDOT would pay for 100% of the design and construction.

Something needs to be made clear before I move on to my reasons for supporting the measure. The proposed roundabout is not being championed by TxDOT, but by the City of Kyle. They are agreeable to it, perhaps even supportive of it over a traditional stop light, but the desire to see a full-capacity roundabout in Kyle is at the full discretion of the staff and council. That means we are responsible for whatever happens.

That said, let me go into some of the factors that influenced my decision.

First and foremost, roundabouts are safer. By a lot. According to multiple studies, traffic fatalities at formerly signalized intersections (1626 and Dorman warrant signalization) are dramatically reduced. The study presented by staff showed an 89% reduction. This major study by the NCHRP found a 77% reduction using data exclusively from US roundabouts. The reason roundabouts are so safe is because they are configured to eliminate severe crashes such as left turn, head on, and right angle crashes. If there were no other reasons to consider a roundabout, this one alone might sway me. Nearly every argument against roundabouts, when juxtaposed with a fatality reduction of this magnitude, falls down flat. But there are more.

Second, roundabouts, though more expensive than signal intersections to install, are far cheaper to maintain. With this project Kyle is given a double-blessing. We voted to continue discussions with TxDOT based on the assumption that they will foot the entire bill. If that variable changes, so too might my vote. But the vote last night was given under the assumption that TxDOT will build it. I’m not clear at this point who would maintain it. But if it’s us, maintaining the roundabout would be cheaper than maintaining a signal. So this decision makes clear fiscal sense for Kyle.

Third, traffic flow is more efficient when moving through a roundabout compared to a signal. Depending on the intersection (and the study), the proposed Kyle roundabout would be 13-52% more efficient at getting vehicles through the intersection. I have searched hard to find credible evidence refuting this data, but thus far have come up empty-handed. If you don’t believe me, watch this episode of MythBusters.

I could go on with reasons for roundabouts. They are impervious to power outages, they are aesthetically more appealing than signals, they are more easily adopted by young drivers (of which Kyle is predominant), and community support (statistically) doubles one year after the installation of the first major roundabout.

In the end, if you disagree (and I know many do), keep in mind the prevailing argument that motivates me. No cost to build. Low maintenance. Efficient traffic flow. Fewer deaths. That is what compelled my vote. I understand that many will criticize the decision, as they have a right to do. But in this case, I am willing to shoulder the burden of that criticism. Are roundabouts perfect? No. And there are important concepts to this proposal that need to be addressed. But considering the alternatives, I am at peace with this decision.

4 thoughts on “Votes – 19 July 2016”

  1. How do we know if our alarm systems are currently registered?

    Thank you for your dedication to our city!

    1. Laurie,

      Currently no alarm systems are registered. This will be a new system. Once the item passes final reading at the end of the month, the PD has promised an “aggressive” public awareness campaign to help educate people on the process. At this point I don’t have any dates for you.

      Travis

  2. Thank you Travis so much for this information! I have never known prior to voting what the different bonds or propositions were in detail. This is excellent and I appreciate you taking time to explain them. I’ll be voting!

  3. TxDOT engineers also thought splitting I-35 into an upper and lower deck would be safer. Would everyone agree with that now? As in every profession, ideas change over time about what are the best practices. But bottom line – we must remember – whether the city or TxDOT “pays” for it – uh, that would be US, the taxpayers. We pay state taxes – and would pay for anything TxDOT installs on a state highway. It’s not “free” money – there is no TxDOT Money Tree. And if the people don’t want a roundabout, then the government should listen to them. Our elected officials are our representatives. No one asked us. No one consulted us (even though it was quite the controversy before). And it wasn’t even hinted at on the agenda. It’s been my experience that people just don’t like a government that is paternalistic and believes they know what is “best” for the people. We are not children. Good luck with this one. You did a great job this week. But, it’s not going to get any easier. I wish you the best. Keep listening to the People.

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