Complete Streets pay off

From New York City’s new report, Measuring the Street.

With its new report Measuring the Street: New Metrics for 21st Century Streets, New York City illustrates how its Complete Streets approach meets new goals – and builds local economies.

Communities implementing Complete Streets policies must adopt new performance measures for transportation projects and the networks of streets as a whole. Such measures should provide clarity on how those projects are meeting community needs and goals for the transportation network. Success can be measured in a number of ways, including improved safety for all users; physical changes to the built environment; number of people walking, riding bikes, taking transit, or riding in cars; and improving travel conditions and access for all.

New York City has focused on three overarching goals: designing for safety, designing for all users of the street, and designing for great public spaces. To meet these goals, the City’s Department of Transporation uses five key strategies: designing safer streets, building great public spaces, improving bus service, reducing delay and speeding, and efficiency in parking and loading. New approaches to street design reflect a “blending [of] new technologies with time-tested tools to create 21st Century Streets for all users,” and have resulted in safer streets, more efficient travel, and big boosts for local businesses.

“These projects aren’t just about the quality of life and aesthetics,” said New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. “They really set the table for economic development.”

Among the report’s success stories is the redesign of 8th and 9th Avenues in Manhattan. After the City implemented protected bike lanes, pedestrian safety islands, and mixing zones for bicycles and motor vehicles, 8th Avenue saw a 35 percent decrease in injuries to all street users while 9th Avenue between 23rd and 31st Streets saw a 49 percent increase in retail sales (as compared to 3 percent in the rest of Manhattan).

The strategy of improving bus service on Fordham Road in the Bronx resulted in 20 percent increase in bus speeds and 10 percent increase in bus ridership. Designing for better transit also resulted in an incredible 71 percent increase in retail sales at locally based businesses, compared to 23 percent borough-wide.

On 1st and 2nd Avenues in Manhattan, the City created dedicated lanes for both buses and bicycles. The result? An 18 percent increase in bus speeds and 12 percent increase in bus ridership. Changes in street design also led to 177 percent increase in people riding bikes along the street and 47 percent fewer commercial vacancies, illustrating the diverse benefits of designing Complete Streets.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy and resulting crush on public transit and incredible traffic snarls, the need for many safe travel choices is clear. Complete Streets strategies are already helping New Yorkers get to their jobs, stores, and schools and ease the demand — and need — for peak-hour travel in cars. By regularly measuring performance of its streets, New York City is able to build a more efficient system that responds better to travel demand, in both good and bad times.

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