Your questions answered about "The Best Complete Streets Policies of 2015"

On Tuesday we released our annual analysis of Complete Streets policies from across the country in 2015. As part of the kickoff, we hosted an online webinar all about the new report. The speakers talked about the state of the Complete Streets movement, provided an overview of last year’s policies, detailed Complete Streets components of the FAST Act, and discussed how the top-policy communities of Reading, Little Rock, and Park Forest are taking their Complete Streets work to the next level.

At the end of the event we took questions and answers from listeners. Unfortunately, we were only able to answer a fraction of the questions that were asked. We’ve taken a few minutes here to answer the rest.

Where can I download the new report? Are scores available for all policies adopted in 2015? And are scores available for previous years’ policies?
You can see the full list of all 2015 scores and as well as scores of previous policies in the full report.

Will the webinar slides be available after the presentation?
Yes! You can download the slides, watch a recorded version of the webinar, and see reactions to the event from social media in our recap blog post.

Is there an easy way to see where in the country policies have been passed?
Yes! Check out our policy atlas for a birds-eye view of where policies have been adopted. And you can download our full policy inventory for the most up-to-date list of policies nationwide.

I want my town pass a Complete Streets policy. Where do we start?
Our Complete Streets Local Policy Workbook is the definitive resource for writing and adopting a Complete Streets policy in your community. Appendix A of our new report also has great examples of great, real-world policy language.

Our community is really interested in Complete Streets, but our state department of transportation has been less supportive. How can we better work with them?
Last year we sat down with Dean Ledbetter, a Senior Engineer at the North Carolina Department of Transportation, who talked with us about how he went from a Complete Streets skeptic to an enthusiastic advocate. His best advice:

“Engineers like to solve problems, so take advantage of that! Bring me a problem—”Traffic is too fast in our downtown”—rather than a solution—like “We need speed bumps.” When you challenge a traffic engineer with a problem and they come up with a solution, they have the buy-in and they are on your side. If you get an answer you don’t like, respond by asking for an explanation (“Help me understand…” or “If that doesn’t work, what else could we try?”). Again, traffic engineers like explaining things and this can create a dialogue. The all-way stops that work well in West Jefferson might not work in your town, but when we discuss it, some other idea might come up that does work.”

Many people in my community think a Complete Streets approach will cause traffic congestion. How can I persuade them that it won’t?
Our Complete Streets fact sheets detail the many benefits of Complete Streets, including for how this approach helps older people, people with disabilities, lower-income people, and children; how it encourages healthier activities; how it can support economic development; and lower transportation costs for families. We also have a fact sheet specifically about how Complete Streets can ease congestion. Download it as a PDF if you want to share it with your neighbors.

Do you see any countywide Complete Streets policies?
Yes — plenty of counties have adopted Complete Streets policies. See Appendix B of this year’s report for a full list — the county policies start on page 31.

We are a city of 30,000 people, and we want to make our existing Complete Streets policy better. Our main question is: how can we require Complete Streets for projects of varying scales?
One of the ten policy elements we score on — context sensitivity — addresses this exact issue. This year we highlighted Ashland, MA’s Complete Streets policy for its notable language on context sensitivity. Here’s how they addressed it:

“Complete Streets principles include the development and implementation of projects in a context-sensitive manner in which project implementation is sensitive to the community’s physical, economic, and social setting. This context-sensitive approach to process and design includes a range of goals that give significant consideration to stakeholder and community values. It includes goals related to the livability with greater participation of those affected in order to gain project consensus. The overall goal of this approach is to preserve and enhance scenic, aesthetic, historical, and environmental resources while improving or maintaining safety, mobility, and infrastructure conditions.”

Do Complete Streets policies ever account for horses?
Yes! Our scoring model rewards policies that consider all users and modes—including “cars, freight traffic, emergency response vehicles, or equestrians.” For more specific examples of what this can look like, check out Los Angeles’ Complete Streets Manual.

I have a lot of extremely specific questions about roadway design. Can you answer them?
No. You need a design guide, and that’s not something we offer. The Urban Street Design Guide and Urban Bikeway Design Guide, published by the National Association of City Transportation Officials; Walkable Urban Thoroughfares: A Context-Sensitive Approach, developed by the Institute of Transportation Engineers and the Congress for the New Urbanism; the Federal Highway Administration’s Separated Bike Lane Planning and Design Guide are all good options.

We’ve passed a policy — now we have to implement it. Do you have any resources to help with that?
We sure do! We offer lots of resources about how to implement Complete Streets policies, including changing internal procedures and processes, reviewing and updating design guidance, and offering new trainings for agency or municipal staff. We’ll be talking about all of this and more during a free webinar on April 28. Bring your more specific questions about implementation to that event.

This all sounds so great, but my community needs help making it happen. Can the National Complete Streets Coalition come help us?
Absolutely. The Coalition offers a series of interactive workshops which are designed to show state and local agencies how to balance the needs of all users and develop and implement effective policies and procedures to routinely create networks of Complete Streets. Our workshops take participants far beyond the typical session focused on design specifics to an understanding of how to transform the decision-making process itself. We also offer more tailored technical assistance on laying the foundation for Complete Streets and policy development.

Complete Streets