What makes a good “complete streets” policy?

What makes a good “complete streets” policy?

The National Complete Streets Coalition identifies 10 elements of an ideal complete streets policy model:

1. Vision and intent: The policy outlines a vision for how and why the community wants to complete its streets.

2. All users and modes: The policy specifies that “all users” includes pedestrians, bicyclists and transit passengers of all ages and abilities, as well as trucks, buses and automobiles.

3. All projects and phases: Both new and retrofit projects are subject to the policy, including design, planning, maintenance and operations, for the entire right-of-way.

4. Clear, accountable exceptions: Any exceptions are specified and must be approved by a high-level official.

5. Network: The policy encourages street connectivity and creates a comprehensive, integrated and connected network for all modes across the network.

6. Jurisdiction: All other agencies can clearly understand the policy and may be involved in the process.

7. Design: The policy recommends the latest and best design criteria and guidelines, while recognizing the need for flexibility in balancing user needs.

8. Context sensitivity: Community context is considered in planning and design solutions.

9. Performance measures: Performance standards with measurable outcomes are included.

10. Implementation next steps: Specific next steps for implementing the policy are described.

(as taken from the Best Complete Streets Policies of 2012)

In their recently released Best Complete Streets Policies of 2012, the Coalition illustrated that support for complete street policies, in jurisdictions both large and small, has increased since 2005.

Number of Complete Streets policies

The Coalition scored complete streets policies throughout the nation based on how many of the 10 elements listed above were included, and to what degree. While the state of Maryland, Montgomery County, and the city of Rockville were all noted as having adopted Complete Streets policies (with varying scores), no jurisdiction came close to the scores of the top 10 policies of 2012. Having these policies is certainly a step in the right direction, but we need to make sure that they as comprehensive as possible and implemented to the best of our ability.

(For the record, the top 10 complete streets policies of 2012 are in: Indianapolis, IN; Hermosa Beach, CA and Huntington Park, CA (tie for 2nd place); Ocean Shores, WA; Northfield, MN; Portland, ME; Oak Park, IL; Trenton, NJ; Clayton, MO;  and Rancho Cucamonga, CA).

Amy Donin

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