On Tuesday, the National Complete Streets Coalition released Safer Streets, Stronger Economies, new research that analyzes data from 37 Complete Streets projects across the country, and explores the outcomes communities got for their investment. As part of the release the Coalition hosted a panel discussion to discuss the findings, and to highlight communities included in the report. A recording of the webinar is now available:
Joining the program were Alex Dodds, Communications Director at Smart Growth America; Governor Parris Glendening, President of Smart Growth America’s Leadership Institute; Tyler Norris, Vice President of Total Health Partnerships at Kaiser Permanente; Laura Searfoss, Policy Associate at the National Complete Streets Coalition; Barbara Gray, Deputy Director of the Seattle Department of Transportation; Dean Ledbetter, Senior Engineer of the North Carolina Department of Transportation; Mayor Chris Koos from the town of Normal, IL; and Jacob Stuart, President of the Central Florida Partnership.
In addition to the formal program, there was a very robust conversation about the new findings on Twitter. Here are some of the highlights:
At the end of the panel, we opened the floor for questions from the audience and we received so many great questions that we weren’t able to answer all of them during the webinar. We’ve collected some of the most common ones and answered them here.
Q. How did communities collect the before and after about their Complete Streets projects?
Every community collected data differently. For automobile volume counts, many communities used mechanical counters. For collision or injury data, many communities relied on police reports or state databases. To collect bicycle and pedestrian counts, many communities used the Bicycle and Pedestrian Documentation Project, which provides standard instructions to count bicyclists and pedestrians and tools to adjust the counts to calculate average annual activity. Worth noting is that nearly all the data used in this study was collected as part of routine work—which means this data might already be available in many communities, if you know where to look for it.
Q. How did your study account for the variability in the different ways communities collected this data?
Rather than calculate total change for each measure across the project sample, this study instead calculates the direction of change (e.g., increase, decrease, or no change). Appendix A on page 27 of the report provides a more detailed overview of our methods.
Q. Do any of the studies quantify the direct relationship between Complete Street investments and the economic recovery along or near the corridor?
The short answer is “no.” Data were limited on the economic measures included in our analysis, and we were not able to determine if there is a direct relationship between economic recovery and Complete Streets improvements. What we did learn is that building Complete Streets projects did not harm the local business climate or property values, as some local business owners or residents often worry. Based on the fact that many Complete Streets corridors outperformed their unimproved “control” sites and citywide trends suggests that Complete Streets projects were supportive of employment, new businesses, and property values.More data is needed to conclusively connect Complete Streets with economic success. We encourage communities to mine the data they already have, as well as collect supplemental data.
Q. Gentrification is common concern after Complete Streets projects are built. Did your study consider this concern, and if so, how is it addressed?
The report notes how higher property values can be a great thing for a city as a whole, but on page 21 we note that these improvements can create rent pressures for existing businesses and residents. We encourage communities to use public policy to support small businesses and entrepreneurs, encourage first-source hiring practices and living wages, keep housing affordable, and reinvest projects’ value in the area can help make sure everyone in a neighborhood reaps the benefits associated with Complete Streets improvements.
Several questions were directed to Dean Ledbetter, a Senior Engineer at the North Carolina Department of Transportation. Ledbetter admitted to being a skeptic of a Complete Streets approach at first, before learning more about them. We talked with Ledbetter more about his experiences. Read the full interview >>
Thank you to everyone who participated in Tuesday’s event. We were glad to see so many people interested in and excited about the outcomes of Complete Streets projects.