Complete Streets Success Stories Focus of New Report

Representative Matsui speaks in support of Complete Streets last week.
Representative Matsui speaks in support of Complete Streets last week.
Representative Doris Matsui (CA-5), one of the Congressional sponsors of a federal Complete Streets policy, gathered with local leaders in Sacramento last week to celebrate the findings of the National Complete Streets Coalition’s new report, It’s a Safe Decision: Complete Streets in California (.pdf), and to call for a national Complete Streets policy to make streets safer for everyone.

“Since 2009, more than 880 pedestrians and bicyclists have been injured, 30 fatally, here in Sacramento,” said Congresswoman Matsui. “These needless and preventable incidents highlight the need for Complete Streets policies, which are critical to making our communities more livable, sustainable, and most importantly, safe.”

The report details the success of the Complete Streets approach across the Golden State. In addition to the policy guiding the California Department of Transportation has its own policy (adopted in 2001 and updated in 2008), fifteen communities in California have adopted Complete Streets policies. A state law passed in 2008 is spurring the creation and adoption of even more policies as cities and counties update their general plans.

Communities across the state have discovered the potential to ensure that limited transportation dollars contribute to improved safety, community revitalization, and better health even as they provide mobility and access to residents and visitors. Among the report’s findings:

It's a Safe Decision: Complete Streets in California
It's a Safe Decision: Complete Streets in California
In Santa Monica, a reconfiguration of Ocean Boulevard in 2008 to include parallel parking, a center left turn lane, and bicycle lanes resulted in dramatically improved safety. According to the City of Santa Monica, the total number of crashes dropped 65 percent, from 35 to 12, in the first nine months after the changes occurred. Crashes that resulted in injury plummeted by 60 percent during that same nine-month timeframe.

The town of Lancaster in Los Angeles County also experienced a big drop in crashes after it transformed Lancaster Boulevard. It had been an unpleasant and dangerous high-speed roadway that had detracted from the appeal of downtown. The new design, installed in 2010, removed six traffic signals and created a central “rambla” patterned after the design of a street in Barcelona, Spain, which provides parking spaces, pedestrian facilities, and a place for community events. The $10 million investment in new lighting, landscaping, and trees spurred $125 million in investment in the downtown area, with 40 new businesses opening and 800 new jobs. Sales tax revenue grew by 26 percent. The project is so popular with residents that the road is now affectionately referred to as “the BLVD.”

Economic growth has also accompanied San Diego’s Complete Streets initiatives. After the city installed new roundabouts and other features to improve safety along La Jolla Boulevard in the business district of Bird Rock, a survey of tax receipts among 95 businesses along the corridor showed a 20 percent boost in sales. Numerous new businesses opened during construction, including a CVS with a 40-year lease, indicating optimism for Bird Rock’s long-term economic viability.

The report (.pdf) includes seven case studies, and was produced by the National Complete Streets Coalition in cooperation with the Local Government Commission and with funding from the California Endowment.

Complete Streets