Traffic calming is the installation of physical measures intended to slow vehicles and alter 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 non-drivers and is an important part of building healthy walkable communities.
Physical measures consist primarily of vertical and horizontal deflections in the roadway. Examples include:
- speed humps (PDF)
- speed tables (PDF)
- raised crosswalks (PDF)
- curb extensions (PDF)
- lane narrowing (PDF)
- raised median islands (PDF)
- traffic circles or mini-roundabouts (PDF)
- speed cushions (PDF)
- raised intersections
- on-street parking
Traffic calming measures are installed following guidance from the Transportation Association of Canada.
Occasionally temporary traffic calming measures are identified as a near-term need when Capital Works Projects (i.e. paving) are planned for the near term (2-4 years). In these cases, temporary measures may be installed to ‘get ahead of the pavers’, with the intent to test the effectiveness of the measures prior to installing permanent features. Tactical measures are typically used for horizontal deflections, such as bump-outs or corridor narrowing. Temporary (or rubber) speed humps and speed tables are not currently used under this program as they can be easily lifted and damaged by snowplows.
HRM has a team dedicated to using temporary (or tactical) traffic calming measures for street improvement pilot projects.
Traffic Calming Projects and Assessments
2022 Proposed for Implementation (PDF) - as of May 4th, 2022
Current list of Ranked Streets (potential future implementation) (PDF) - as of October 18, 2022
Complete list of Assessments and Status (PDF) - as of October 18, 2022 - *NOTE - find your street and note which stage it is in, then check the status descriptions below to see what that means. Press Ctrl + F to access the Find Function in the pdf file.
Status Descriptions (PDF)
- 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.
- 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 request list 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 prepare 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.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- 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 maneuver 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.