Articles

Quiet Zone Primer

Everyone can visualize a standard railroad crossing. The lights start flashing, the gates start to come down, and the train horn sounds out. Most people don’t think about the crossing and the train whistle unless they happen to live next to a crossing. Then, particularly at night, the train horn can disrupt sleep and create a general livability issue. Through the Federal Rail Administration (FRA), the creation of “quiet zones” are allowed where improvements have been made to allow the t ...

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HCM 6th Edition: Roundabout Calculation Changes

The 6th Edition of the Highway Capacity Manual (HCM) was released in November of 2016. We (and others) would characterize it as an update as opposed to a complete overhaul. One particularly important update is the roundabout capacity calculations. HCM2010 was ground-breaking in the U.S. for providing a new methodology to analyze roundabouts, giving all practitioners a common starting ground. The 6th Edition leaves those basic formulas the same. The major change is instea ...

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Free Webinars: Traffic Corner Tuesday

At Spack Consulting, we frequently huddle as an engineering team to discuss and review various challenges and concerns in our engineering projects. Typically, a senior engineer lays out the scenario and issue to be solved. We let the younger staff start with questions and comments. Senior staff will then interject with questions (often leading) and thoughts to keep the discussion going. Together, we then decide on a course of action. We’ve been using this process for a while as both a teach ...

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Spack Consulting Expands Its Engineering Team

Spack Consulting recently hired Vernon Swing, PE and Jacob Rojer, EIT. Swing joins the team as a Traffic Engineering Manager and Rojer is a Traffic Engineer. Both formally of Westwood Professional Services, are boosting the capabilities of the Spack Consulting team as the company continues to experience strong growth in its consulting services. Vernon Swing brings over 30 years of experience in consulting engineering and a depth of experience having worked in state transportation agencies as ...

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Local Trip Generation Data Proves Best Again

The Institute of Transportation Engineers’ (ITE) Trip Generation Manual suggests that “the user may wish to modify trip generation rates presented in this document to reflect…special characteristics of the site or the surrounding area.” We translate this suggestion as a directive to obtain local data when possible. Regular readers will recognize these statements as we’ve been touting the benefits of local trip generation data for some time. Basically, local data: -Accounts for our l ...

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Alternative Intersections

We have the good fortune (or misfortune depending upon your point of view) of handling a lot of projects that require innovative thinking. The low hanging fruit of solutions have already been picked and it’s up to us to review the information and come up with new ideas. Most of these projects involve a roadway junctions, which leads us to consider alternative intersections. We define alternative in comparison to conventional intersections. Side-street or all-way stop, traffic signal, and ro ...

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Analyzing School Traffic Circulation

School has been in full swing for some time now and, if you have kids, you likely have your morning and afternoon routines set. Depending upon their age and your specific circumstances, they may take the bus, drive themselves, get dropped-off/picked-up by you, or walk/bike. With all these modes of travel converging on the school in a short window of time (most parents will drop-off or pick-up within about 20 minutes of the start and end times), school operations can be frustrating. Our first ...

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Signal Timing Tune-Up Explained

Toward the beginning of the year, Spack Consulting started offering our Traffic Signal Tune-Up services. What is this service? Simply put, this service optimizes the signal timing for existing travel patterns and provides a basic review and minor upkeep of the signal system itself. The primary focus of this service is isolated intersections that may have gone several years without any checks. While we are capable of completing coordinated signal timing plans, these connected corridor systems are ...

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6 Steps to Present With Confidence at Public Agency Meetings

Traffic studies generally have the same characteristics and approach – obtain base data, examine the existing conditions, forecast and analyze future conditions, recommend improvements if needed. This is true whether your study examines the impact of a new development, the need for additional lanes and traffic control, or the transportation plan for a city or the entire state. But the recommendations are never the end of the process. At some point, the governing agency will have its council or ...

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Elements of Effective Travel Demand Management Plans

Travel Demand Management Plans (jargon alert – also shortened to TDMP) is a term that refers to studies performed and strategies implemented in areas to reduce congestion or mitigate other traffic problems. Specifically speaking, the primary goal of the TDMP is to reduce single-occupancy vehicles during rush hours. These plans are often implemented by employers, public agencies or public-private partnerships. Through their implementation, the traffic generation and parking demand can be reduce ...

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4 Lessons on Long-Term vs. Short-Term Traffic Planning

In many traffic projects, you need to analyze two or more future years. Generally, the year after opening of a proposed development, or potentially 5-years from today, is analyzed to determine short-term needs. Then a 10- or 20-year post-development analysis is often added to review long-term needs. How you position those recommendations can make a big difference. Most cities plan their areas to better control where and how development will occur. That’s a good thing. Residential with corne ...

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How We Manage Our Consulting Projects | Keeping it Simple

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes when you hire a firm to do a project? We’ve been asked many times by our clients how we manage all of the stages and details of a project. Our philosophy…keep it simple and don’t over complicate the process. A couple years ago, we wrote about how we manage projects and stay organized. After trying a few different software packages, we went with whiteboards. Simple ...

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Watch Your Step | Improving Crosswalk Safety

At its root, the safety concerns at the crosswalks are the result of conflicts between two types of transportation – walking and driving. These two transportation options operate at different speeds with different characteristics. Controlling the conflict points between these two can be accommodated in a variety of ways and we have developed the following checklist to review when examining crosswalks: 1. Eliminate or reduce the conflicts 2. Reduce the exposure distance 3. Increase awa ...

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Why Two Days of Traffic Study Data Is Better than One

As everyone should acknowledge, existing traffic data is the basis of our modern Traffic Impact Study. Almost all studies will start with collecting data and then building upon it. At the start of my career, we had to sit at an intersection using a count board or a simple pad of paper to record turning movements at an intersection. It was boring, expensive, and hard to get much more than peak period counts. Spack Consulting has always been at the forefront of improving data collection and tra ...

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Building the Right Amount of Parking Space

Determining the appropriate amount of parking to provide can be tricky for any development. Too little and customers/employees park in the street, get frustrated, and could ultimately end up going somewhere else. Too many and you get a sea of asphalt that is appealing only to pavement engineers (in addition to the expense of providing that pavement to begin with). Like Goldilocks in the home of the Three Bears, we’re always searching for ‘just right.’ To determine what is ‘just right ...

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Signal Timing Tune-Up Service Announcement

Consider this situation – a new development is constructed. Based on the traffic study (hopefully by us!), a new traffic signal is constructed to maintain traffic flow in the area. The city and others expertly determine the appropriate signal timing and fine-tune the settings in the field. A decade goes by. . . Of course, what is missing is the follow-up check on the signal system, not only the signal timing but the condition of the signal parts as well. Sound a little familiar? We’re ...

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Cars at Intersection

The Balance Between Mobility and Access

When we put aside our engineering perspective and react solely as drivers, we want to drive directly where we want without any delays. Ideally, that would be a one-way, direct door-to-door road without any other intersections. Multiply this thought by several million drivers with several million destinations and you essentially have the delicate balance of access management – how to maintain sufficient direct access to different developments, but limit intersections to reduce crash and congest ...

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Do Roundabouts Improve Local Economies?

When roundabouts started being rediscovered in the US more than a decade ago, a common criticism was that installation of a roundabout would kill the local businesses. Customers would hate them and stop going to the area. Trucks would not be able to make their deliveries. And the whole area would turn into a desolate wasteland. As with other predictions of the end of the world, those scenarios have yet to happen in the areas where I have worked on roundabouts. On the contrary, roundabouts app ...

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5 Traffic-Related Mistakes to Avoid When Developing Convenience Stores

Convenience stores are expected to be exactly that – convenient. Take a look at various convenience stores, gas stations, and similar developments and you are likely to see some common themes about their location: highly visible locations, directly adjacent to a very busy road or intersection (often both), and generally multiple ways to drive into the site. After all, making sure customers can quickly and easily get to the front door can be the difference between an average year and a great ye ...

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Convenience Store

The Effectiveness of Travel Demand Management Measures

A number of  years ago we conducted a study documenting the effectiveness of travel demand management (TDM) plans in reducing peak hour traffic generation and peak parking demand in six office complexes in Minnesota. We've since updated and expanded that study. The new study analyzed traffic and parking at nine sites in the Minneapolis - St. Paul metropolitan area of Minnesota. We were able to conduct 24 hour counts at the sites with our COUNTcam systems

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The Traffic Study Company

Welcome to Spack Consulting - The Traffic Study Company  1-888-232-5512 ...

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Traffic Counting Products and Services for Traffic Professionals & Data Collectors

Related to Spack Consulting are two other companies started by Mike Spack – Traffic Data Inc and CountingCars.com. Traffic Data Inc. is Minnesota’s Data Collection Firm. Whether you need vehicle counts, vehicle speeds, vehicle classifications, or even pedestrian/bicycle information, TDI uses the latest hardware and software to get you the data within the timeframe you need and at the reasonable price you want.  Read More


Educational Traffic Engineering Study Content

Mike Spack and Bryant Ficek literally wrote the book on how to do Traffic Impact Studies.  Their Traffic Study Manual details the methodology and process to complete a traffic impact study from start to finish.  Written in plain English, the manual also contains tips and short stories Mike and Bryant have gathered over their career of completing traffic studies.  The Traffic Study Manual was released in 2013, coinciding with the launch of Spack Academy.  T ...

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