One of the questions we are routinely asked is, “what exactly goes into an effective and strong Complete Streets policy?” So, we’re walking through the 10 elements within every strong Complete Streets policy, leading up to the long-awaited release of a brand new edition of The Best Complete Streets Policies report which scores all policies across the country.
complete streets policy framework
How and why does a community want to complete its streets? Clear answers to that question—an unmistakable and binding statement of intent—are the vital first element for creating a complete, connected network of streets that considers the needs of all users.
Building a complete and connected transportation network requires investing in places and people that have not received investment. The strongest Complete Streets policies will specifically prioritize underinvested and underserved communities based on the jurisdiction’s composition and objectives.
To which projects or streets should a Complete Streets policy apply? If the policy is a strong one, then it dictates a holistic approach to every transportation project, in every place, in every phase of work. This means the application of a policy will also look different based on context.
As noted in policy element #3, Complete Streets policies are comprehensive and apply to all streets and in all phases of all projects, but there are certain circumstances where exceptions can—and should—be made. But those exceptions must be narrowly and clearly defined, as well as require public notice prior to approval by a high-level official.
Any number of agencies—city, county, metro region, or state—may be responsible for the streets and sidewalks, often with overlapping authority. This is why the strongest Complete Streets policies clearly define who is responsible, what level of coordination is required, and even when or how outside parties must comply.
What facilitates the transition from a policy into tangible street designs? To bring a Complete Streets policy to life, engineers need to know how to design these streets in very clear, concrete terms. The best Complete Streets policies will adopt excellent street design guidance that directs and supports practitioners to create an accessible and complete network of streets.
Streets don’t exist in a vacuum. They are inextricably connected to the buildings, sidewalks, spaces, homes, businesses, and everything else around them that they serve. The strongest Complete Streets policies require the integration of land-use planning to best sync up with a community’s desires for using and living on their land today and in the future.
How do you know if your Complete Streets policy is working? You measure it. And then you share the results publicly. A strong Complete Streets policy requires tracking performance measures across a range of categories—including implementation and equity—and making someone responsible for doing it.
Every local community, region, and state has a process by which they choose which transportation projects to fund and build. A strong Complete Streets policy changes that process by adding new or updated criteria that give extra weight to projects that advance Complete Streets and improve the network.