Complete Streets policy implementation

A Complete Streets policy is a commitment that all future transportation projects will take into account the needs of everyone using the road. Implementation of that policy is where the work truly begins. The day-to-day decisions a transportation agency and community leaders make in funding, planning, design, maintenance, and operations should be aligned to the goals of that adopted policy document. In general, it takes five things for this process to be successful:

1. A plan for implementation
A conscious implementation process identifies all the systems, routines, silos, and assumptions that, together, have created the current transportation system. Communities have found it easier to understand the world of possible activities by assessing and understanding the current procedures and processes; planning for clear next steps; and establishing a person or group of people who can help guide implementation efforts within and across departments and agencies.

2. Changes to procedure and process
Agencies must review the rules, procedures, and habits that have typically guided them. Facilities for bicycling, walking, and taking and operating public transportation are simply not in some plans, codes, manuals, and other guiding documents. They can, and must, be added. Some communities do this systematically by reviewing all documents that might affect transportation. Others work through pilot projects, finding the issues that must be corrected as they work through the project.

3. Training and educational opportunities for staff
A successful Complete Streets initiative is about far more than helping engineers learn how to incorporate bicycle and pedestrian facilities into road projects. Planners, engineers, consultants, and other agencies need a thorough understanding of new procedures. Elected officials need ongoing engagement to understand how the general policy goals will be translated into projects on the ground. And communication with the public about what they want out of their streets, and what is happening to their roads, is essential for implementation to be successful.

4. Review and revisions of design guidance
At many transportation agencies, the street design manual is the go-to reference for all projects. If that manual is not supportive of flexible, context-sensitive, and multi-modal approaches, this can be the largest barrier a community faces. A flexible manual can empower planners and engineers to develop design solutions that balance the needs of many users and support the surrounding neighborhood. Changes to the subdivision codes that apply to private development are also necessary to ensure that all new roadways and planned developments are aligned with the community’s Complete Streets goals.

5. New measures of performance
Creating and using new performance measures for transportation projects and the transportation system is essential. It helps agencies ensure if they are on the right track — and helps them celebrate their new way of doing business. Performance data for all modes is not a luxury. Hard figures documenting the performance of Complete Streets implementation can become a powerful selling point for future projects and funding.

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Complete Streets Implementation Resources