Complete Streets News – March 2014

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Policy Adoption

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization adopted a Complete Streets policy in early March. The policy is a key part of the region’s 2035 Long Range Transportation Plan, which emphasizes the expansion of the transit, pedestrian and bicycle networks. The policy requires that projects adhere to Complete Streets principles to be funded under the region’s transportation improvement plan and includes strong reporting requirements across a number of performance measures. Read more >>

Ogdensburg, NY, a city of 11,000 on the St. Lawrence River, passed a Complete Streets ordinance last month. City leaders also appointed members to the task force the policy puts in charge of tracking and reporting progress on Complete Streets implementation.

Policy Action

The Indianapolis Cultural Trail, an on-street network of pedestrian and bicycle paths linking residential, commercial, and cultural districts throughout central Indianapolis, has been getting lots of attention since its completion last year, including a recent article in the New York Times and in the U.S. Secretary of Transportation’s Fast Lane Blog. Less than a year after ribbon-cutting, the Times reports that the trail is attracting visitors of all ages and spurring economic growth along its eight-mile length. Indianapolis’ strong Complete Streets ordinance — the best policy adopted in 2012, according to the Coalition’s analysis — will help the city create an even better network going forward.

Massachusetts is putting some muscle behind its efforts to support local communities as they pursue Complete Streets, allocating $50 million for policy adoption and implementation. A capital bond bill creating an “Active Streets Certification Program” has passed both houses of the state legislature and is headed for the governor’s desk. Under the program, communities are encouraged to not only adopt Complete Streets policies, but measure their success in implementing them and increasing non-automobile mode share. The program also prioritizes collaboration between localities and the state to fill gaps in non-motorized transportation networks.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced an action plan to achieve the city’s aspirational “Vision Zero” program, which aims to completely eliminate traffic deaths on the city’s streets. Safety-oriented street design figures largely in the plan, which also aims to lower the citywide speed limit to 25 mph and steps up enforcement in a number of areas. Safety plans will be developed in each borough, with community input helping pinpoint and guide the redesign of more than 50 locations annually.

With a new two-way protected bikeway under construction, Memphis, TN continues to implement its 2013 Complete Streets policy by announcing plans to convert a mile-long stretch of riverfront boulevard. Riverside Drive is already closed to cars three months out of the year without detriment to the local transportation system, so city officials decided to make the conversion permanent.

A new plan for Seattle, WA, aims for more than six miles of new neighborhood greenways by the end of the year. Greenways are routes, mostly on residential streets, designed to make them better for foot and bicycle traffic, while discouraging their use as short-cuts for motorists. The planned routes will add to nearly ten miles of existing neighborhood greenways.

Federal Policy Update

Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx addressed the National Bike Summit earlier this month, touting his work to expand Complete Streets when he was mayor of Charlotte, NC. Talking about the fact that bicycle and pedestrian deaths have grown in number even as total road deaths fall, he told Summit attendees that “our roads should be safe; they should be easy places to travel, no matter how we’re traveling on them.” The Secretary also described how the Obama Administration’s proposed $302 billion in transportation spending would strengthen pedestrian, bicycle, and transit connections and help ensure equity in the nation’s transportation systems.

The Safe Streets Act, H.R. 2468, continues to gather support from both sides of the aisle, including: Rep. Brooks (R-IN-5), Rep. Carson (D-IN-7), Rep. Cartwright (D-PA-17), Rep. Eshoo (D-CA-18), Rep. Gibson (R-NY-19), Rep. Honda (D-CA-17), Rep. Israel (D-NY-3), Rep. Kuster (D-NH-2), Rep. Lewis (D-GA-5), Rep. McGovern (D-MA-2), Rep. Miller (R-CA-31), Rep. Price (D-NC-4), Rep. Shea-Porter (D-NH-1), Rep. Tierney (D-MA-6), and Rep. Valadao (R-CA-21). Thank you!

Senator Schatz (D-HI), who sponsored the Senate version of the Safe Streets Act (S. 2004) along with Senator Begich (D-AK), discussed the appeal of Complete Streets to communities large and small. “I think there is a desire in the Congress to find areas of common ground,” he told Grist. “Everybody intuitively understands the importance of sidewalks and wants to keep people safe.” Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) joined Senators Begich and Schatz as a cosponsor of the bill in early March.

Please join us in thanking the Senators and Representatives who have joined their colleagues in working for safer streets for everyone – or ask your Members of Congress to join them – with our online action.

Coalition News

If you’re planning to be in Buffalo for CNU 22 this June, please join us for a half-day workshop on Complete Streets Design Implementation for Professionals. Led by Paul Zykofsky, AICP, this workshop will provide planners, engineers and other members of the professional design community with the foundational technical tools to routinely create networks of context-appropriate streets that serve all users.

The most recent issue of the Urban Land Institute’s Urban Land magazine examined the Complete Streets movement from a real estate investor’s point of view. The article finds that the safe, walkable environments fostered by Complete Streets policies can be especially beneficial to developers of urban infill and adaptive reuse projects. Barbara McCann’s Completing Our Streets is quoted on the growth of the movement, the role of developers in local Complete Streets coalitions, and how compact, human-scaled development and Complete Streets go hand in hand. Steering Committee member NACTO’s Urban Street Design Guidelines are featured too.

Complete Streets News

Earlier this month, the Coalition’s blog took a look at how Complete Streets principles are taking hold in Alaska. The state’s U.S. Senator Mark Begich sponsoring the Safe Streets Act, and we found that several Alaska communities are already putting their own spin on Complete Streets, improving their streets for all users throughout the year — regardless of whether they’re traveling by foot, bicycle, pickup or dogsled.

The most recent travel volume trends released by the Federal Highway Administration show that per capita vehicle miles traveled (VMT) dropped again in 2013, marking the ninth straight year of declining VMT. Evidence continues to mount that the decline reflects a permanent shift in travel patterns and not a temporary consequence of expensive gas or a sluggish economy. Analysis by the State Smart Transportation Initiative finds that a few state departments of transportation are starting to revise travel projections away from the assumption of continued VMT growth that had been the norm for decades.

Meanwhile, public transit use continues to rise. The annual ridership report from Coalition Steering Committee member American Public Transit Association (APTA) says that these increases are outpacing population and VMT growth, and public transit ridership in 2013 was at its highest point in nearly 60 years. According to a Washington Post analysis of APTA’s data, record-setting ridership is taking place in all regions of the country, on every public transit mode, and across income levels and age cohorts.

Little Rock, AR, is expanding its non-motorized transportation infrastructure. Its first on-street bike route, painted during a resurfacing project on South Main Street last year, seeing increasing use from commuters and recreational riders. Plans are on the books to further expand both on-street and trail systems for both walking and bicycling.

The California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) released a preliminary report on alternative measures of environmental impacts related to transportation in December. SB 743, signed into law late September last year, provided for the use of measures other than automobile delay (known as “Level of Service” or LOS) in assessing environmental impacts. The preliminary report notes the problems associated with LOS in environmental review and discusses strengths and weaknesses of potential alternatives, including multimodal connectivity, reduction of vehicle miles and hours traveled, automobile trip generation (offset by non-auto modes) and assessment of land use diversity.

The Los Angeles Times ran a thoughtful editorial supporting the city’s “My Figueroa” proposal, which would transform four miles Figueroa Street between downtown and the University of Southern California. The proposed redesign includes pedestrian and transit improvements, cycle tracks and buffered bike lanes, and a travel lane reduction. Though some local businesses oppose the lane reduction, the editorial notes that all transportation projects involve trade-offs, and that the city “should not let fears of traffic congestion turn this transformative project into another incomplete street.”

The parish of East Baton Rouge, LA, is taking over three major state roads from the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development. Local officials say that owning the roads will let the parish guide reconstruction of key corridors in a way that better accommodates all users, including a road diet that is already under consideration.

A new report sponsored by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services collected the experiences of Missouri communities that have adopted Complete Streets policies. It reports on their reasons for pursuing a policy, recipes for (and barriers to) successful policy development and implementation, and local outcomes from the policies. The report is useful to communities thinking about adopting a Complete Streets policy or looking for ways to make their implementation more effective.

Charleston, SC is converting one traffic lane on the Legare Bridge over the Ashley River to a walking and bicycling lane. The bridge, one of only a few connections between the peninsular central city and neighborhoods to its west, had long been noted for its lack of safe and comfortable accommodations for walking and bicycling. The new lane will form an important part of the region’s expanding network of non-motorized routes. The Charleston Post and Courier editorial board wrote in favor of the transformation, calling it “the right thing to do.”

Chattanooga, TN, having seen the benefits of a Complete Streets reworking of the city’s Riverfront Parkway is now considering a Complete Streets approach citywide. City staff members presented a Complete Streets ordinance, currently under City Council consideration, and are revising design standards to make a Complete Streets approach the default for future transportation projects.

Resources

Book: Rethinking Streets — Researchers at the University of Oregon recently published Rethinking Streets: An Evidence-Based Guide to 25 Complete Street Transformations, a collection of case studies of more than two dozen successful Complete Streets implementations across the country. Each case study includes the classification, average daily traffic, length, speed limit, process of construction, and — importantly — the results. While every book in the first run has been claimed, you can request a future copy at http://www.rethinkingstreets.com/

Research: Complete Streets from Policy to Project — A major new report from the University of Minnesota on Complete Streets planning and implementation was released this month. It includes case studies of 11 communities ranging in population from less than 20,000 to nearly 2 million. Through document reviews, interviews, and site visits, the authors identify best practices across six key areas: (1) framing and positioning, (2) institutionalizing complete streets, (3) analysis and evaluation, (4) project delivery and construction, (5) promotion and education, and (6) funding.

Article: Bicycle Lane Use in Low-Income Urban Areas — An article in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health looks at bicycle lane use by residents of a low-income urban neighborhood. It found that nearly 70% of bike lane users lived locally, and that residents who used the bike lane reported better health and health behaviors than neighborhood residents overall. The article concludes that bike lanes and other Complete Streets infrastructure can be useful in reducing health inequities experienced by low-income communities.

Toolkit: Community Wayfinding — Several tools relating to community wayfinding have been released by a consortium of groups under the CDC Health Aging Research Network. The tools include a report on the individual and community impact of good wayfinding practices and a pocket guide for assessing wayfinding in your own neighborhood. A free webinar discussing the report and the assessment tool will take place on March 27 at 3:00 pm Eastern.

Toolkit: Healthy Community Design — In cooperation with the American Planning Association, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention produced a new resource for planners and public health officials looking to incorporate health into community planning discussions. Tools include a checklist, a PowerPoint presentation for use during community discussions about land use, and a guide to data for creating a neighborhood health profile.

Article: Safe Routes to School Programs Decrease Injuries — A study published in Pediatrics finds that Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs in New York City markedly decreased injuries among school-aged children walking. Researchers Charles DiMaggio, PhD, MPH, and Guohua Li, MD, DrPH, of Columbia University, found that the annual rate of school-aged pedestrian injury during school-travel hours decreased 44 percent in census tracts with SRTS interventions. This rate remained virtually unchanged in census tracts without SRTS interventions.

Articles: TRB Bicycles 2013 and Pedestrians 2013 — The Transportation Research Board has released its annual compendiums of empirically based research on bicycle and pedestrian planning, design, operations, and infrastructure. The 17 articles in Bicycles 2013 cover a variety of technical issues. A comparison of three leading bicycle quality of service metrics finds that the Bicycle Level of Service (BLOS) measure specified in TRB’s own Highway Capacity Manual is “unsuited for assessing bicycle design options that include cycle tracks and other emerging bicycle facility types,” and recommends the development of a tool to better assess the variety of cycleways now in use.

The Pedestrians 2013 articles include explorations of pedestrian-vehicle conflicts in a number of environments and a study from Charlotte, NC, that found that typical Complete Streets treatments add only a tiny amount to project costs — much less than what can be expected for normal fluctuations in project construction and materials costs.

Brief: Where Pedestrians Cross the Roadway — A technical brief from the Federal Highway Administration described a model of how environmental factors affect pedestrians’ choices about where to cross the roadway. Not surprisingly, people tend to favor the most direct route between neighborhood destinations, even if it means crossing mid-block without a crosswalk.

Report: Bicycle Policy and Transit Accessibility — The Mineta Transportation Institute examines how transit agencies’ bicycle accommodation policies affect transit usage, in part through reducing “first/last mile” travel times on either end of transit trips. The report profiles almost 150 “cycle-transit users” and finds that bike accommodations significantly increase transit’s catchment area — and also extends the area accessible by bike.

Book: Incomplete Streets: Processes, Practices, and Possibilities — A new book due in August presents an interdisciplinary examination of social justice and equity issues related to Complete Streets initiatives. Subjects of the 16 essays include gentrification processes, sidewalk food vending, and the socioeconomics of bike lanes. Pre-order today.

Conference: CNU 22 — The 22nd Congress for the New Urbanism will be in Buffalo, NY, this June 4–7, 2014. Among the many panels and educational opportunities on transportation, land use, and placemaking will be a half-day Complete Streets workshop.

Tool: Chronic Disease Cost CalculatorA new tool from the Center for Disease Control helps communities understand and communicate the cost of chronic health conditions in terms of both direct medical expenditures and lost productivity from absenteeism and missed work. Covering ten conditions, including diseases like heart failure, hypertension, and diabetes that can be strongly influenced by the built environment, the tool calculates state-level costs for both public and private payers, and projects costs through 2020.

Quotes

“Traffic fatalities are not like some of our most vexing public health issues with no obvious solution or cure, like autism or cancer. There is a clear and proven way to fix the problem. Why not go for the easy win that’s also the right thing to do? The path forward is obvious — and narrower, safer and better landscaped.”
Leigh Gallagher, in a New York Times opinion

“It’s good for current residents and businesses, as well as for people and other businesses who are thinking of moving here. It has a lot of benefits.”
Mayor Jim Walker of Peru, IN on his city’s Complete Streets policy

“I think this movement, or trend, toward getting more value and more function out of our streets is in the end going to save us money—make our city more inherently valuable.”

Blythe Bailey, transportation administrator in Chattanooga TN

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