Last week we hosted the third installment in our monthly webinar series, Implementation & Equity 201: The Path Forward to Complete Streets. The webinar focused on “Integrating Complete Streets, Vision Zero, and Transportation Equity” and featured speakers from Memphis, Tennessee. Watch the full video recording of the webinar above, or download the PDF of the presentation.
A discussion recap
Emiko Atherton, Director of the National Complete Streets Coalition, kicked off the webinar by highlighting the opportunity for Complete Streets and Vision Zero to work together in pursuit of transportation equity. She presented findings from Dangerous by Design 2016, including that 46,149 people were struck and killed by cars while walking between 2005 and 2014, and that people of color and people age 65 or older are overrepresented among those deaths. Byron Rushing, President of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals and Bicycle & Pedestrian Planner at the Atlanta Regional Commission, emphasized the importance of planning for both safety and equity simultaneously by combining Complete Streets strategies with a Vision Zero approach.
Next, John Paul Shaffer presented on how Memphis, TN is planning for transportation equity and Complete Streets. John Paul is the Program Director of Livable Memphis, a program of the Community Development Council of Greater Memphis. Both Livable Memphis and its parent organization have since rebranded as BLDG Memphis (Build. Live. Develop. Grow). Their work requires careful consideration of transportation equity, which in Memphis means accounting for residents who have limited or no access to an automobile, most of whom are African American and depend on walking or transit to get to work, as well as reaching out to Memphis-area residents who live below the poverty line or have limited proficiency in English. John Paul highlighted the challenge of maintaining and improving an extensive network of sidewalks with a severely limited budget, and explained the factors used in the Memphis Pedestrian and School Safety Action Plan to weight projects for prioritization including equity, safety, inadequate infrastructure, and transit access. The plan also establishes an order of considering modes of transportation that places pedestrians then bicycles and transit at the top of the hierarchy. John Paul closed by offering a comprehensive definition for transportation equity: it is affordable, inclusive, context and neighborhood-sensitive, community-driven, connects to opportunities and needs, and includes an intersectional examination of housing, poverty, and structural racism.
Larissa Redmond Thompson from the Memphis Medical District Collaborative (MMDC) then introduced Memphis’s Vision Zero initiative, which sets the ambitious goal of achieving 0 pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries by 2020. Through improved signage, education, and enforcement, MMDC is working to reduce speeding and raise motorists’ awareness of where they must yield to pedestrians crossing the road. The initiative also includes an engineering approach in the form of tactical streetscape improvement projects, where the community is invited to paint and design pop-up projects such as pedestrian plazas, more visible crosswalks, and bike lanes. John Paul added that MMDC’s temporary projects have been so successful that many have become permanent installations.
Want to learn more?
Check out the following resources to learn more about Vision Zero, Complete Streets, and Transportation Equity.
- The Memphis Pedestrian and School Safety Action Plan provides a comprehensive overview of the data and analyses Memphis uses to prioritize pedestrian infrastructure projects.
- Memphis’s Complete Streets Project Delivery Manual is another great resource on how to design, assemble, and enhance streetscape projects
- BLDG Memphis offers a selection of toolkits for residents to undertake community-led tactical improvements to parks, sidewalks, and streets in their neighborhoods. This also includes a Walkability Toolkit to help community leaders engage their neighbors and identify local priorities
- For more information about MMDC’s tactical streetscape improvements, check out the project designs and photos of the finished products
We had so many great questions during the webinar and we couldn’t get to all of them during our Q&A. Here are the answers to a few of the questions we missed:
What tools is Memphis using to measure pedestrian infrastructure and accessibility?
John Paul: In late 2015, the City of Memphis conducted a city-wide survey of properties called the Bluff City Snapshot, using a custom Memphis Parcel Survey mobile app from local developer Peter van Wylen. The app was originally designed to track problem properties. The developer created a new version to inventory pedestrian infrastructure issues, and we’ve been using and facilitating use of the app with partners for about two years now. We’ve found that having a custom app has been good in terms of making adjustments as needed and as the tool is ground-tested, so to speak. There is a web portal that uses the database of reports to track over time and generate reports – our Walkability Toolkit shows this and some other tools available to track pedestrian infrastructure.
How do you address differing ideologies and approaches when you have more than one group in an area trying to launch a Vision Zero campaign?
Larissa: One of the major ways we addressed this issue was by making it more of an asset than a potential problem. From the beginning of the Vision Zero campaign we wanted to get all the major players in the area on board. This eliminated any mindset of “competition” amongst the organizations, and it helped us to align our campaign and thoughts around what others were doing in the same space. This does not mean that all of the ideologies and approaches will be the same, but it helps to have open discussions around those differences in a way to better reach target audiences in your District/community/city.
How do you convince the community and public works to remove parking for bike lanes?
John Paul: The nature of Memphis’ roads (very wide) has actually limited the need to remove parking for road diets, including on tactical projects. The city does public outreach on redesigns generally, but it does some heightened outreach on top of that to property owners when considering removing parking. I would say that only 5-10% of our road diets have required removing parking, and some have even added on-street parking when removing a travel lane.
How were tactical urbanism projects funded?
Larissa: The MMDC streetscape projects were funded by a couple of different sources. The major sources are our Anchor Partners. These partners include: BioWorks, The University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Methodist LeBonehuer, Regional One, St. Jude/ALSAC, Southwest Tennessee Community College, Southern College of Optometry, and Baptist College. Another funding source came as a result of a partnership with the Downtown Memphis Commission. Part of the streetscape work overlaps with boundaries set forth by the Downtown Memphis Commission, and they’ve helped to support and advance that work.
How cooperative is the city administration when you want to do tactical urbanism projects?
John Paul: The city is a formal partner in helping with roadway redesign and temporary installations. They also provide support services like police, fire, and waste pickup for the project events. Our relationship has developed to the point where, while some temporary “fixes” are still painted by volunteers, some of the more straightforward changes (crosswalks, bike lanes, curb extensions) are actually installed by the city. Often, the city will help transform our test-driven streetscapes into permanent installations by exploring federal transportation funding through our Metropolitan Planning Organization.
Join us for the next webinar
Thanks so much to our presenters and to everyone who tuned in to “Integrating Complete Streets, Vision Zero, and Transportation Equity. Our Implementation & Equity 201 webinar series will continue on May 17 with Making the Most of Main Street: Complete Streets & Walkable Communities. Registration is now open. We hope you’ll be able to join us.