Best planning and implementation toolbox

Complete Streets

Purpose of Tool:
A “Complete Street” is a street that accommodates not only motorists, but users of other modes as well, including pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit passengers. A Complete Street is designed such that facilities are available for all types of users, and travel is safe and efficient for everyone.

Benefits of Using Tool:

A complete street in a residential area.
Source: National Complete Streets Coalition
There are several benefits to implementing Complete Streets in a community. A Complete Street provides additional transportation options and encourages their use, including walking, bicycling, and public transit. In addition to providing community health benefits by facilitating walking and biking, Complete Streets may reduce vehicular traffic, thereby improving traffic congestion and air quality. Many Complete Streets include design elements such as wide sidewalks, on-street parking, landscaping, and bulb-outs; in addition to accommodating other modes of transportation, these have a “traffic calming” effect, effectively reducing the speed of vehicles on the road. A Complete Street policy can be cost-effective; designing a street for multiple modes of transportation costs less than retrofitting streets with bicycle or pedestrian facilities after they have been constructed. Lastly, Complete Streets have an overall economic benefit for communities. By providing travel choices, a Complete Street provides safe and efficient connections between homes, schools, retail, and other destinations. By reducing transportation costs and travel times, communities become more attractive to new residents and business, enhancing economic growth.

Steps Involved to Use Tool:
In order to implement Complete Streets, a local government should formally adopt a Complete Streets policy. This may be accomplished internally or may incorporate a citizen review process. A Complete Streets policy should incorporate design guidelines for new and existing transportation facilities. These guidelines include:

  • Sufficient Right-of-Way for future bike lanes on road corridors and easements for multi-use trails and/or sidewalks.
  • Improvements for shared access and/or crossover access between lot lines for connections.
  • Easements for multimodal facilities and streetscape features for lighting, benches, or similar facilities.
  • Landscape area most uphold green space requirements and be aesthetically appropriate.

    Typically, jurisdictions will identify a list of projects and improvements for the Complete Streets program and will then prioritize the list based on need and the realized benefits.

    Special Requirements to Use Tool:

    A paved shoulder can create a complete street in a rural area. Source: National Complete Streets Coalition
    There are no special requirements in the implementation of a Complete Streets program, however, it should be included in the comprehensive plan and long range transportation plan.

    Specials Resources Needed to Use Tool:
    A Complete Streets policy generally requires a shift in the way transportation projects are planned and designed. Resources to train staff on the intent and implementation of the policy are an important component. In addition, data needs are expanded to include information on all transportation system users.

    Communities / Agencies that Have Used Tool:
    Louisville, Kentucky has adopted and applied the use of Complete Streets. Their manual includes policies and standards that accommodate all transportation users.

    Charles Cash, Planning and Design Director
    Planning and Design Services
    444 South Fifth Street, Suite 300
    Louisville, KY 40202
    Phone: (502) 574-6230
    Website: www.louisvilleky.gov/PlanningDesign/

    The City of Boulder began their Complete Streets program earlier than a number of the cities currently using the approach. Since implementing the Complete Street approach, the city has seen an increase in bicycle usage, particularly for commuting, having increase from 10.6% in 1990 to 20.5% in 2006.

    City of Boulder - Planning & Development Services
    P.O. Box 791
    Boulder, CO 80306-0791
    1739 Broadway, 3rd fl.,
    Boulder, CO 80302

    Phone: 303-441-1880
    Email: plandevelop@bouldercolorado.gov
    Website: www.boulderplandevelop.net

    The City of Seattle adopted a Complete Streets ordinance that requires the inclusion of Complete Streets practices in all of projects of the Seattle Department of Transportation.

    Department of Planning and Development - Comprehensive Planning
    700 Fifth Ave, 20th floor
    Seattle, WA
    Phone: (206) 615-1739
    Email: compplan@seattle.gov 
    Website: http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/

    Metrics to Use to Monitor Tool Effectiveness:
    As seen by the City of Boulder, the adoption of Complete Streets can lead to a dramatic increase in the use of alternative modes. Measures focusing on increased usage of alternative modes, including bicycle, pedestrian and transit usage and improved multimodal Levels of Service  are indicators of the effectiveness of a Complete Streets program.

    List of Resources to Obtain Additional Info:
    http://www.americantrails.org/resources/trans/completestreets08.html
    http://www.railvolution.com/rv2006_pdfs/rv2006_125a.pdf
    http://www.completestreets.org/
    http://www.louisvilleky.gov/BikeLouisville/Complete+Streets/
    http://www.livablestreets.com/streetswiki/complete-streets