The City of Albany has begun its scientific experiment to see whether radar speed signs slow drivers down over the long run.
City officials hired a firm to measure traffic volume and speed on Second Avenue near Thurston Street for a week this past spring. Then, in late June, they installed a radar speed display on Second just west of the railroad tracks.
Ron Irish, the city’s transportation systems analyst, said the plan is to leave the speed display there for several months. Every so often — for the first time possibly as soon as next week, but it could also be the first week of August — the city will collect new speed data from traffic there to see whether anything has changed.
The posted speed on Second is 25 mph. Using pneumatic road sensor tubes, the city has clocked average speeds at about 30.7 mph, Irish said. About 15 percent of drivers travel the area about 34.3 mph.
The solar-powered sign is on a pole to keep it out of the right of way and allow it to be left unattended, in contrast to radar signs on portable trailers.
The sign does not collect driver or vehicle data other than speed and is not being used to issue traffic tickets. It’s just meant to test whether such signs alter long-term driving behavior, or whether drivers, after they get used to seeing the signs, continue traveling at higher speeds.
The Albany Police Department purchased the sign for $3,199 about a year ago and has been looking for a place to try it out to get the answer to that question. If the data indicate the sign works to change behavior, Irish said, the city may make the sign permanent and install others.
Irish said the data will be collected over several months to see if driver speeds continue to fluctuate. He said a report will go to the Albany City Council whenever speeds appear to have stabilized for a period of time.
People tend to slow down when they first notice a radar sign, Irish said, but may not after it has been there for a while.
“What I’d be looking for, post-installation is trends: Are (speeds) creeping back up?” he said.