Thursday April 25, 2013

One reason why traffic studies don’t always translate accurately from the page to the roadway is that they don’t account for human nature. Drivers ignore the signs, arrows and lights that planners meticulously put forward to guide them.

During the course of Tuesday night’s lengthy public hearing on a drive-thru for Dunkin’ Donuts proposed restaurant at First and Fenn streets, Pittsfield city councilors debated whether a left turn from an exit onto First Street should be banned immediately or considered after a six-month review. That is of little relevance as drivers routinely ignore the ban on left turns from Dunkin’ Donuts’ current location on First Street and will do so at the new location unless there is a police officer on permanent standby. It has also been established that drivers will block traffic and ignore honking horns on Fenn Street while waiting for a parking spot to open at the Post Office rather than park in the generally wide open lot across the street. Human nature -- at least in Pittsfield.

A new Dunkin’ Donuts on First and Fenn won’t replace the problem at the current site as another doughnut shop or similar operation requiring a drive-thru will almost certainly seek to move in. Increased traffic at First and Fenn would provide a powerful incentive for customers at this future eatery to make an illegal left turn and flee toward Park Square.

Pittsfield is in danger of creating several moderate to severe traffic problems along and around First and Fenn streets that combined will lead to increased congestion and gridlock. That threat will still be in place when the council resumes the drive-thru public hearing on May 28. Human nature will not have changed either.