Traffic calming is the installation of physical measures intended to slow vehicles and alter negative driver behaviour. This means slowing down cars, trucks, and motorcycles by installing measures such as speed humps, speed tables, curb extensions, etc. Traffic calming helps make neighbourhoods safer for all road users and is an important part of building healthy walkable communities.
Traffic Calming is mainly installed in HRM through the Traffic Calming Administrative Order.
To request a new assessment, contact the HRM Contact Centre.
Traffic Calming Measures
Physical measures primarily consist of vertical and horizontal deflections in the roadway. Examples include:
A speed table is a raised area of a roadway, which causes the vertical upward movement of travelling vehicles. Speed tables encourage slower speeds of travel by causing discomfort for drivers travelling at higher speeds. Speed tables are like speed humps, with a longer flat‐topped section that can be installed on Transit routes and is easier for emergency vehicles to traverse. There is no negative effect on cyclists riding at moderate speeds, and there is no effect on resident access or on‐street parking.
Speed tables are constructed with gradual tapers and are installed across the roadway, leaving space for drainage where necessary. For comparison speed tables are 7 m long, while speed humps are 4 m long. Site conditions must be carefully reviewed when selecting locations for speed humps. They cannot be safely placed on hills, should avoid intersections and driveways, cannot cover hardware in the street and need to be visible around curves. Spacing of measures should be consistent along the corridor where possible.
Initially introduced to HRM in 2020, speed tables are now the primary method for traffic calming on corridors.
A speed hump is a raised area of a roadway, which causes the vertical upward movement of travelling vehicles. Speed humps encourage slower speeds of travel by causing discomfort for drivers travelling at higher speeds. There is no negative effect on cyclists riding at moderate speeds, and there is no effect on resident access or on‐street parking.
Speed humps are constructed with gradual tapers and are installed across the roadway, leaving space for drainage where necessary. Speed tables are similar; however they have a longer flat‐topped section. For comparison speed humps are 4 m long, while speed tables are 7 m long. Site conditions must be carefully reviewed when selecting locations for speed humps. They cannot be safely placed on hills, should avoid intersections and driveways, cannot cover hardware in the street and need to be visible around curves. Spacing of measures should be consistent along the corridor where possible.
Speed humps were used as the primary traffic calming measure in the early stages of the HRM traffic calming program. More recently they are implemented in school zones and in areas where longer speed tables are not feasible.
Curb extensions narrow the lane width and are intended to reduce vehicle speeds by making the road feel more constrained. Curb extensions can reduce the crossing distance for pedestrians when located at intersections and marked crosswalks and increases mutual visibility between pedestrians and motorists.
When designing curb extensions, turning movements are also modelled to ensure that snow clearing equipment and emergency service vehicles can safely manoeuver around the deflections. Catch basins are installed or relocated if necessary, to maintain proper drainage.
Reducing lane widths using pavement markings or other features leads drivers to perceive the roadway to be less comfortable at higher speeds due to the narrowing of the lanes and ultimately reduce operating speeds. In some cases the reclaimed space can be reallocated to other road users.
When considering lane narrowing, the street use and classification are reviewed to ensure that trucks, snow clearing equipment and emergency service vehicles can safely manoeuver through the corridor.
Raised Median Islands
A raised median island is an elevated concrete curb constructed in the center of a two‐way roadway to reduce the overall width of the travel lanes. The purpose of a raised median island is to reduce vehicle speeds by lane narrowing and to reduce pedestrian–vehicle conflicts when utilized at intersections or marked crosswalks.
When considering raised median islands the street use and classification are reviewed to ensure that trucks, snow clearing equipment and emergency service vehicles can safely maneuver through the corridor.
A traffic circle/traffic button/mini‐roundabout is an island located at the centre of an intersection, which requires vehicles to travel through the intersection in a counter‐clockwise direction around the island.
Some traffic circles can be designed to be mountable by large vehicles, while others are constructed with high back curb. Traffic circles can have landscaping or hardscape, depending on the size and site conditions. When considering raised median islands the street use and classification are reviewed to ensure that trucks, snow clearing equipment and emergency service vehicles can safely maneuver through the corridor. In some cases, operating routes may need to adjust to avoid the new conditions.
Speed cushions encourage slower speeds of travel by causing discomfort for drivers travelling at higher speeds. Similar to a speed table or speed hump, speed cushions are a raised area of a roadway which causes the vertical upward movement of travelling vehicles.
Speed cushions differ from speed tables and speed humps because they include channels which are designed for large vehicles, such as transit buses and fire trucks, to pass through with minimal impact. The wheel track of a passenger vehicle is too narrow to fit in the channels, and thus passenger vehicles must traverse over the deflections. Cyclists can choose to traverse over the speed cushions or avoid them entirely by travelling through the channels between the raised elements. There is no effect on resident access or on-street parking.
A raised intersection is an intersection that is constructed at a higher elevation than the adjacent approach roadway. The purpose of a raised intersection is to reduce vehicle speeds, better define crosswalk areas, and reduce pedestrian-vehicle conflicts.
On-street parking can be an effective traffic calming measure as it reduces the available roadway width, resulting in reduced vehicle speeds. A minimum lane width must be maintained to ensure that transit and/or emergency service requirements are met.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- What streets are appropriate for traffic calming?
Streets that are in residential areas and are classified as Local or Minor Collector are most appropriate for abrupt physical traffic calming measures. These streets place equal importance on vehicle movement and property access. Local and Minor Collector streets have better opportunity for neighbourhood traffic improvements without adversely impacting the operation or function of the street.
The Traffic Calming Administrative Order (AO) does not apply to Major Collector or arterial roadways as they are designed to facilitate vehicle and goods movement. The movement of traffic is considered a priority and traffic calming measures such as speed humps or speed tables are not appropriate on these higher order streets. While similar traffic related issues may exist on major collector or arterial roadways, they are addressed through other avenues such as the Speed Display Sign program, Police enforcement, and changes during street redesign and recapitalization.
This program considers operational issues within existing residential areas. Reduced vehicle speeds in new developments are considered as part of their design.
Additionally, the AO is not intended to address temporary conditions during construction.
- How are requests for Traffic Calming evaluated?
The Traffic Calming Administrative Order provides clear and concise criteria and method for assessing Municipal streets to determine the need and suitability of implementing traffic calming measures. The process is applied in a fair and consistent manner through evidence-based assessments.
- How are traffic calming measures chosen?
Appropriate traffic calming measures are determined by local conditions and guidance from the Transportation Association of Canada. Considerations include street grade, street width, sightlines, driveway spacing, utilities in the roadway, transit and emergency vehicle requirements, designated cycling routes, etc. There is not a one-size fits all approach.
- Will my street receive traffic calming?
If your street is owned and maintained by the Municipality, it may be considered for traffic calming if it:
- is within a residential area
- is classified as a “local street” or “minor collector street”
- is not a multi-lane road
- has a posted speed limit not greater than 50 km/h
- is greater than 150m in length
- does not provide direct access to an emergency services building
If a street meets the above criteria speed and volume data will be collected. Streets with 85th percentile speeds above 45km /h will continue through the assessment under the Traffic Calming AO. Streets with an 85th percentile speed at or below 45 km/h are deemed not applicable for traffic calming.
Check the Traffic Calming Assessments and Infrastructure Map to see if your street has been assessed for traffic calming.
- How do I request traffic calming for my street?
If we have not received a request to assess your street you may initiate a review of traffic calming by contacting 3-1-1. When calling 3-1-1, you should be prepared with the details of your request, including the street name and street limits to be assessed.
If you are concerned with speeding on your street you can also call the Halifax Regional Police (HRP) – RCMP non-emergency line at 902.490.5020. HRP covers a small geographic area in HRM, and this line is joint with RCMP.
- Why was my street selected for traffic calming?
Streets are selected for traffic calming based on the scoring criteria outlined in the Traffic Calming Administrative Order. The scoring is used to rank and prioritize projects. Additionally, speed and volume data is collected for all scheduled street recapitalization projects with design components under the Capital Works Program. If the operating speed is greater than 40 km/h, then traffic calming measures are installed during that project.
- Why wasn’t my street selected for traffic calming?
Streets are prioritized based on the criteria outlined in the Traffic Calming Administrative Order. Highest ranking streets receive measures first, and lower ranked streets may need to wait for an integration opportunity to receive traffic calming measures.
If the 85th percentile speed measured on your street is not above 45km/h your street will be removed from the list for traffic calming.
- What does the traffic calming "Status" mean?
Requested: The street meets the screening process. Speed and volume data is not available on file so it will be collected.
Ranked: All points have been assigned and the street has been ranked in accordance with Section 15.
Neighbourhood Connector: The street has been reviewed and will be installed in combination with a higher ranked key corridor street.
Design: Staff are in the process of selecting appropriate traffic calming measures and preparing a design for installation.
Installation: Project is approved and installation is pending or ongoing.
Evaluation: Traffic calming measures have been installed and we are awaiting follow up speed/volume data on the street.
Complete: Speed reductions have been achieved, no further action required.
Incompatible: The street meets the screening process however site characteristics prevent the ability to install traffic calming measures.
Ineligible: The street does not meet the screening process.
Below speed threshold: speed data has been collected and did not meet the criteria outlined in Sections 11, 12 and 13.
- What does the "Project Type" mean?
Street Assessment: The area of concern is limited to one street and there is minimal potential for unintended negative impact on nearby or parallel streets.
Key Corridor: When a neighbourhood assessment is identified, a key corridor within the area will be selected for assessment and ranking. When the key corridor qualifies for a project the associated neighbourhood connectors will also receive measures. Note: if staff are unsure which street within a neighbourhood should be a key corridor multiple streets may be assessed as “street assessments” and the highest ranked street will become the key corridor.
Neighbourhood Connector: The street has been reviewed and will be installed in combination with a higher ranked key corridor street.
AT Project: HRM’s Active Transportation Team is planning a project on this street.
Project Area: Key corridor that neighbourhood connectors are associated with.
- The posted speed is 50km/h, why is the speed threshold for traffic calming 45km/h?
HRM strives to build healthy, walkable communities that are safe and accessible for all road users. Lower vehicle speeds enhance the environment for other road users. 45km/h is considered an appropriate vehicle speed in residential areas. At this time HRM does not have the ability to post a speed limit below 50km/h without special permission from the Province.
- Is the community engaged during the process?
Under the Traffic Calming Administrative Order there is no community engagement process. Requests for assessments come from residents, area Councillors, Resident Associations, and School Principals to initiate a review under the policy. Once a request is received staff conduct an assessment and prioritize projects based on the results. If a street is selected to receive traffic calming measures residents will receive a notification letter prior to construction.
- Are these measures effective?
After traffic calming measures are installed and an adjustment period passes, staff return to the street to collect speed and volume data to evaluate the effectiveness of the measures installed. If vehicle speed reductions are observed the project is complete. If speeding persists additional measures may be considered.
- What about snow clearing?
HRM’s Road Operations team is consulted during the design of each project and traffic calming measures are designed to allow for snow clearing operations to continue as usual.
For vertical deflections (speed humps, speed tables) this means that the measures are anchored or key-cut into existing pavement to prevent lifting from snowplow blades.
For horizontal deflections (curb extensions, center island medians, etc.) this means that transition tapers are gradual and catch basins are installed or relocated if necessary, to maintain proper drainage. It also means that turning movements are modelled during design to ensure that snow clearing equipment can safely manoeuver around the curb deflections.
- What about Emergency Services?
Emergency service providers are consulted during the design of each project. We work carefully to balance decreasing passenger vehicle speeds while minimizing impact to emergency vehicles. Some of the methods used to reach this balance are:
- Using horizontal deflections (curb extensions, center island medians, etc.) first before vertical deflections on high volume minor collectors with existing curb.
- Shifting to the use of speed tables on corridors, rather than speed humps, as emergency vehicles can better traverse them.
- Disqualifying streets that provide direct access to emergency services vehicles.
- Can we get all way stops instead?
Stop signs are not generally used as a traffic calming devices as, although they slow traffic down in the immediate area, vehicles tend to accelerate immediately after going through the intersection. In some cases speed on the remaining sections is found to have increased after the installation of an all-way stop as drivers go faster to try to make up for the increased delay of the stop sign. In addition, stop compliance at unwarranted stop signs is poor because motorists see no reason to stop when there is little conflicting traffic. This behaviour can be hazardous to other vehicles and pedestrians who have the belief that vehicles will stop because of the stop signs.
- Can we get a Speed Display Sign instead?
HRM operates a speed display sign program which relocates signs every 6 to 12 months to target speeding concerns on different streets. These signs are being implemented in strategic locations throughout the Halifax region where they are thought to be most effective. They are generally intended for use on major collector and arterial streets upon community entry/transition to a residential area; beyond the transition zone for a speed reduction; and where there is evidence that drivers are not heeding the speed limit, directly resulting in high rates of collisions. Consideration will also be given to residential roadways where steep grades contribute to non-compliance of speed limits and physical measures are not appropriate.
- Why not reduce the speed limit?
The Province of Nova Scotia legislates speed limits on public roadways via the Nova Scotia Motor Vehicle Act (MVA). Currently the MVA prescribes a default speed limit of 50 km/h. However, the province will consider speed limit reduction submissions from the Local Traffic Authority on a neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood basis where streets meet certain criteria. Among the criteria a speed study must be completed confirming the 85th percentile speed is close to 40 km/h or plans for physical changes that will limit speeds close to 40 km/h. Installing physical measures to reduce the operating speed on a street can help support an application to have the posted speed limit reduced.
- Why can't we get sidewalks instead?
Installing new sidewalks comes at a very high cost and is prioritized separately based on the larger pedestrian network needs. Other traffic calming measures will be primarily considered which can improve the environment for pedestrians by slowing vehicles.
Requests for new sidewalks can be submitted via 311. Each request is processed using the ‘new sidewalk assessment tool’ in order to estimate its pedestrian potential. There are specific criteria that feed into this assessment score including proximity to schools, daycares, seniors centres, parks, recreation centres, transit, commercial areas, employment opportunities, and high density residential areas. The tool also looks at the classification of road, if the request fills a gap in the sidewalk network, and other safety related factors (e.g. sight lines, road width). This assessment score helps HRM to prioritize which sidewalk projects to build each year to have the maximum impact on residents.
Based on the current available budget, approximately 5 to 10 new sidewalk projects can be constructed each year. There are over 650 requests on the prioritization list, meaning only the highest rated segments are considered annually.
Find out more about Halifax's walking and rolling infrastructure.
- Do other projects use traffic calming measures?
Yes! Traffic calming measures can be incorporated in other street recapitalization projects to improve road safety and the pedestrian environment. They are also used for Active Transportation projects, such as Local Street Bikeways and may be incorporated in the design of new subdivisions.
HRM also has a team dedicated to using temporary (or tactical) traffic calming measures for street improvement pilot projects.