A Complete Streets policy cannot be implemented without an understanding of how to improve the physical environment. Jurisdictions should prioritize appropriate design guidance into their policy and implementation plans. The way roads are designed can influence traffic speed, safety, comfort, and many other factors that affect all people who use the street. We’ve updated this policy element to require jurisdictions to adopt or design guidelines in addition to adopting a policy.
This post is part of Complete Streets month at Smart Growth America; we will be sharing a series of blog posts that cover and explain each of the 10 revised policy elements in some detail.
Complete Streets implementation relies on using the best and latest state-of-the-practice design standards and guidelines to maximize design flexibility. Creating meaningful change on the ground both at the project level and in the creation of complete, multimodal transportation networks requires jurisdictions to create or update their existing design guidelines and standards to advance the objectives of the Complete Streets policy. Road design is key to truly make streets safer and accessible for all people regardless of age, race, ethnicity, ability, income, or how they choose to travel.
In the previous policy framework, we rewarded jurisdictions for mentioning best practice design standards or guidance. Now, to receive points jurisdictions need to state which specific design guidance they will adopt; and what internal documents they will revise or develop to align with their Complete Streets policy. Additionally, policies that specify a timeframe for implementing design guidance will receive additional points.
Examples of available design guidance:
- National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO)
- Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)
- American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)
- State Department of Transportations (DOT) (ex: New Jersey DOT Complete Streets Design Guidance)
- Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE)
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Transporation Facilities
- Public Right-of-Way Accessibility Guidelines (PROWAG)
- American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA)
The exciting thing about design guidance and is that it is constantly evolving and improving. For instance, in a few weeks, NACTO will be releasing “Designing for All Ages & Abilities: Contextual Guidance for High-Comfort Bicycle Facilities.” This document will provide guidance on what type of road needs which type of bike lane if any, and how to make it comfortable for all users. Also, ITE, one of our Steering Committee members, will be releasing their “Implementing Context Sensitive Design Guide” this month, watch this short video previewing the guide.
“Complete Streets policies are made “real” through concrete changes in the way roads and streets are designed and operated. With this in mind, the policy element related to Design has been revised to reward adoption of new or revised design guidance, within a specific timeframe, in order to advance the objectives of the adopted Complete Streets policy.”
– Jeff Lindley, Associate Executive Director / Chief Technical Officer at ITE
We also heard from VHB engineering firm on what some of the barriers are to designing Complete Streets:
Through the Smart Growth America Multimodal Development and Delivery Program, we learned that a common barrier to implementation of complete streets policies are outdated design doctrine at both state and local government levels. Even where design engineers want to advance complete streets design solutions, their hands are often tied by design standards, guidelines, forms and manuals that haven’t been updated to reflect the policy. This new element to the complete streets policy scorecard, will reward governments that are able to align their design doctrine with their complete streets policies.
– Mike Jelen, PE – Vice President, VHB
“Design” is just one of 10 policy elements that will be featured this month. We’ve officially revised our policy grading rubric, known as the 10 Elements of a Complete Streets Policy. The Complete Streets movement has evolved since it began in 2004 to focus far more on implementation and equity, but the framework for grading the quality of policies hasn’t kept pace. For months, a group of national stakeholders, consisting of engineers, planners, researchers, and advocates, worked to revise the policy elements and truly raise the bar for what Complete Streets look like in practice. The entire revised framework will be available on our website on November 30, 2017.
Stay tuned for more Complete Streets updates during the month of November
- Have questions about the changes? Join us as we discuss how the new grading rubric will affect future policies during our webinar on December 1, 2017 at 1:00pm ET. The entire new grading rubric resource will be released on our website shortly before the webinar. Register for the webinar today >>
- We are now accepting nominations for the Best Complete Streets initiatives. Do you know of a project, initiative, event, person, task force, etc. that exemplifies Complete Streets? Fill out this brief nomination form >>
If you have any questions about the changes to the Complete Streets policy framework, please contact us! We’re happy to discuss further.
Special thanks to our featured Steering Committee members:
The Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) is an international membership association of transportation professionals who work to improve mobility and safety for all transportation system users and help build smart and livable communities.
VHB: “Our passionate professionals include engineers, scientists, planners, and designers who partner with clients in the transportation, real estate, institutional, and energy industries, as well as federal, state, and local governments. Together, we improve mobility, enhance communities, and balance development and infrastructure needs with environmental stewardship.”