Complete Streets Best Practices

Smart Growth America’s annual report ranked the top 15 municipalities who successfully implemented complete streets policies. Inside, we provide the reports key findings including the ten key elements to success...


What Happened?

Complete Streets policies are taking the nation the storm, as more municipalities adopt urban design solutions to make streets safer and more accessible to drivers, commuters, bikers and pedestrians alike. As a result, many cities are realizing increased economic activity, lower crime rates, reduced traffic congestion and higher quality of life for residents.

The Goal

According to Smart Growth America’s Best Complete Streets Policies of 2013 report 83 communities across the country adopted Complete Street policies last year. These policies typically include:

  • Laws
  • Resolutions
  • Planning strategies
  • Urban design documents
  • Public awareness campaigns
  • Funding sources

Complete Streets policies must not only make roadways more accessible to areas and members of the community, but also promote safety and support economic growth. Currently, 48 states house cities that have adopted Complete Street policies, and more continue to explore their options to reap the short and long-term benefits. Smart Growth America’s report ranked the top 15 Complete Street policies of last year, which were lead by:

  1. Littleton, MA
  2. Peru, IN
  3. Fort Lauderdale, FL
  4. Auburn, ME
  5. Lewiston, ME
  6. Baltimore County, MD

Report Breakdown

The Complete Streets policies report identified some leading trends among the nation’s leaders in street design improvement and innovation. For a Complete Street policy to be considered, it must demonstrate 10 ideal elements:

  1. Vision. There must be clear messaging on the purpose of the street design project as it benefits the community.
  2. All users and modes. Street designs must accommodate the needs of drivers, commuters, bikers and pedestrians equally.
  3. All projects and phases. The policies, regulations and laws created for the project must apply to each phase.
  4. Clear, accountable exceptions. If exceptions to the rules arise, they should be defined clearly and early.
  5. Network. Design projects must demonstrate an integrated network of sources and processes from start to finish.
  6. Jurisdiction. All agencies and governments impacted by the project must be made aware of new policies and regulations.
  7. Design. Designs should take advantage of the cutting-edge technology and best practices to accommodate community needs.
  8. Context sensitivity Planners must take into account how designs will impact peripheral infrastructure and organizations as well such as buildings and land use.
  9. Performance measures. There should be metrics in place to gauge performance of each phase.
  10. Implementation steps

A clear checklist of steps should be created to keep all participants on track.

For the 2013 results, the report revealed small towns as well as big cities are equally adopting Complete Streets policies. About 37 percent were suburban communities enacting new policies, 20 percent were small towns.

The types of policies being implemented also varied greatly. Some communities had a city council adopt a resolution for the designs, while others are altering municipal codes to accommodate the projects. In 2013, 31 percent of all policies were adopted by an elected board, while 42 percent were non-binding resolutions.

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