Recommended Reading


  Summer 2011
Volume 7, Number 1

For past reviews, see our online annotated bibliography.

Complete Streets: Best Policy and Implementation Practices
PAS Report Number 559 (2010)

Edited by Barbara McCann and Suzanne Rynne

The APA, in conjunction with the National Complete Streets Coalition, recently released a Planning Advisory Service report on complete streets titled Complete Streets: Best Policy and Implementation Practices. Chapter five “Making the Transition: Planning for Change and Addressing Problems,” which is available online, explores strategies communities are using to implement complete streets policies and the challenges they have encountered as they do so. The chapter discusses policy implementation, training planners, exception procedures, and jurisdictions’ shifts in transportation priorities.

The authors present case studies to illustrate strategies designed to transition from a car-oriented landscape to one that accommodates all road users. The case studies showcase small and large cities as well as state transportation authorities, highlighting tools used to implement complete streets policies. For example, performance measures help ensure communities meet their goals. A clear and equitable exceptions process makes a complete streets policy more politically palatable and provides a guide for planners. Public education has helped make complete streets policies successful for places like New Haven, CT.

The chapter also discusses problems communities have encountered while developing complete streets policies. Perhaps the biggest issue faced is that complete streets laws or resolutions are often not implemented. For example, many Oregon municipalities ignored the state’s 1971 bicycle bill until a 1992 court decision ruled that it must be applied to road projects. To ensure bills are enforced, some jurisdictions and agencies, such as Seattle, Chicago and the California Department of Transportation, have created implementation plans although these plans are exceptions rather than the rule.

America Needs Complete Streets
Institute of Transportation Engineers Journal (April 2011)

By Dan Burden & Todd Litman

The Complete Streets movement strives to make all streets safe and accessible for all users by considering the concerns of drivers, transit riders, cyclists, and pedestrians of all abilities at the same level of importance. This article was written by alternative transportation advocates Dan Burden, co-founder and executive director of The Walkable and Livable Communities Institute and recipient of a lifetime achievement award from the New Partners for Smart Growth and the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals, and Todd Litman, executive director of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute. The authors provide a comprehensive overview of the movement, of what a complete streets policy should address, and the effects that implementation of such policy can have. Their review is extensive and highlights some potential impacts:

  • increasing pedestrian safety by ensuring adequate sidewalks and slowing down traffic
  • encouraging more physical activity through pedestrian and cycling promotion
  • reducing congestion by providing non-automobile alternatives for short trips
  • reducing auto emissions and resulting asthma with car-use reduction
  • providing accessibility for people without cars, such as the elderly, disabled, economically disadvantaged, and children
  • promoting community cohesion through increased interactions on sidewalks and trails

Complete streets implementation can take many forms. The authors highlight two case studies — Raleigh NC, where pedestrian safety, civic engagement, and economic vitality all increased, and Washington DC, where complete streets techniques were employed in conjunction with the Metro system expansion and led to “a walkable urban development boom.” Burden and Litman also examine some barriers to implementing complete streets policy, including the political and societal inclination to view mobility in terms of automobile accessibility rather than that achieved through multiple modes. They suggest that complete streets policy must come from the local community, with the community guiding the vision of all street improvement projects. The authors see the complete streets movement as a way to build community involvement that can carry over into other local decision-making processes.

“Who is TOD in Metro Denver?”

By the Denver Regional Council of Governments

Understanding who lives in, works at, and visits TODs is important for planning for their success.  In 2009-2010, Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) surveyed residents, employees, and businesses located near 35 rail-transit stations in the metro region – gaining a snapshot of individual, household and business characteristics and benchmarking behaviors and preferences of those living, working, and visiting TODs. The results of the study spell out how TODs affect travel behavior and attitudes, and, conversely, what factors contribute to a TOD’s success.

Researchers found two distinct groups who live and/or work near the stations. People who are the most concerned with access to nearby amenities – called “access focused” in the report – are the most likely to be attracted to TOD neighborhoods, while “home/car focused” people were more difficult to attract. They found that residents living in downtown Denver are more likely to be single, to rent housing, and to require less parking than those living elsewhere in the region. These downtown residents are also more likely to travel on foot, bike, or transit than those living in urban or suburban locations. Downtown businesses were more likely to take nearby amenities into their decisions on where to locate than those in suburban locales. For employees, an easy commute via mass transit or walking/biking is more important among those who work in downtown locations than for workers in other parts of the region.

These results are important. Studying the preferences of residents, employees, and businesses in the area provides valuable information that will enable TODs to be tailored to meet user needs. As studies such as this one in Denver are replicated, planners will get a better picture of who TOD is serving.

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