Rush-hour traffic on one Perimeter Center street moves only a bit faster—but more safely—when police direct it, a city of Sandy Springs study has found.
It was “a little surprising” to find that a drive on Peachtree-Dunwoody Road north of Abernathy Road was only an average of 7 seconds faster without traffic cops, city Transportation/Traffic Unit Manager France Campbell reported to the City Council Oct. 18. And for drivers trying to get out of one corporate garage, the cops actually slightly delayed them.
While the study suggests that cops aren’t making much of a difference on travel times, a city consultant “witnessed a dramatic increase in risky driving behavior” without the police presence, Campbell’s presentation said.
The $2,000 mini-study was requested in July by City Councilmember Gabriel Sterling, who said rush-hour congestion seemed to be getting worse despite traffic cops hired by local companies and the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts. Sterling and Mayor Rusty Paul at the time speculated that police might be focused on quickly emptying corporate parking garages rather than monitoring overall traffic.
But the study found it was no better for commuters leaving the police-controlled exit of Newell Brands’ garage, who waited an average of 2.7 seconds longer with the cops than without—and at least 35 seconds in any case.
The study was very limited in scope and it’s unclear whether it has real scientific validity that could be applied to other Perimeter Center traffic-directing situations. It was conducted on four days in August—two with police on duty as usual, two with the officers deliberately removed—during the evening 4-6 p.m. rush hour.
The study focused on a mile-long stretch of Peachtree-Dunwoody between Abernathy and the North Springs MARTA Station. The traffic-cop spots in question are near each other at the Northpark Place intersection and the driveways for Newell and the Embassy Row office park. The method was simple a drive-through by a consultant with the firm AECOM, which also operates the city’s public works department and has an office at the Peachtree-Dunwoody/Abernathy intersection.
The study reported actual and average numbers for driving delay times, but Campbell’s presentation offered no data to support the claim of dramatically riskier driving. Campbell said one anecdote the consultant offered was seeing a driver use a center turn lane as a through lane, risking head-on collisions.
The consultant’s recommendation was to leave the traffic cops in place and to tweak the timing on the traffic light at Peachtree-Dunwoody and Abernathy.
“I guess the consensus of the council is, we put police back out,” said Mayor Paul.