A starting point for Dallas’ nascent “Vision Zero” effort to reduce road deaths in a city with some of the most dangerous traffic in the country involved identifying our deadliest streets. About 8 percent of city streets (not counting freeways) account for more than 60 percent of car crashes resulting in deaths or severe injuries.
From mid-August through mid-December of last year, the city conducted a little experiment on one of the more serious offenders by reducing Jefferson Boulevard, where it runs east of Montclair in Oak Cliff, from six to four lanes. The results are in, compiled by a Jefferson Boulevard Task Force that’s been studying traffic patterns here for the last year.
Reducing lanes made the street safer, reducing the number of crashes by about 82 percent. Just as notable, the volume of traffic on Jefferson either held steady or slightly increased. No traffic jams, in other words.
Anecdotally, the lane reduction also made the road seem calmer. City Council member Chad West, who convened this task force and pushed for the road diet, told Channel 4 that even the initial naysayers came around, and at least one homeowners association in the neighborhood has asked that the changes be made permanent.
With the trial run complete, the city could in the short term use a little bit of paint to keep the lanes reduced. Long-term—and this would require a vote by the City Council—it could consider more extensive engineering, possibly introducing bigger sidewalks or bike lanes or landscaping and benches. What Jefferson Boulevard shows is that we can re-engineer streets to be safer. Whether the city’s overall plan to reduce traffic deaths actually works depends on our elected officials’ appetite for the costly rebuilding of city streets, as opposed to something like a feel-good-but-do-little effort to pass around flyers asking people to drive slower.