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Complete Streets Policy Analysis


The Complete Streets movement continues to gain momentum as communities realize the need for safer, better connected streets that accommodate the needs of all road users including motor vehicle drivers, bicyclists, transit users, and pedestrians. By the start of 2012, more than 350 policies were in place directing the transformation of community transportation networks into Complete Streets. Smart Growth America and the National Complete Streets Coalition produced this report to assess the growth of the Complete Streets movement and analyze the more than 350 existing Complete Streets policies established before January 1, 2012. A Complete Streets approach redefines what a street is intended to do and how the community will spend its transportation budget.

Key Points

A Complete Streets policy changes the traditional transportation model from “moving cars quickly” to “providing safe access for all modes.” The National Complete Streets Coalition established ten elements that are part of an ideal Complete Streets policy. In this report, the Coalition compares each adopted policy to its ten elements. Those policies that achieved top scores for particular elements are highlighted within the text.

Other report highlights include:

  1. Over half of the states in the U.S. (26) have some form of Complete Streets Policy. Cities and towns of all sizes are looking to Complete Streets as a way to manage growing demand for active transportation options and to support economic vitality.
  2. The Complete Streets movement has been powered by diverse alliances that have brought together advocates for older adults, public health agencies, transportation planners, bicycle advocates, and many others in the community.
  3. Ten states have more than 15 Complete Streets policies on the books. The states with the greatest number of policies on the books include Michigan, Minnesota, and New Jersey.

A formal commitment through a Complete Streets policy is only the beginning in establishing Complete Streets in our communities. The Coalition has identified four key steps that should be taken to successfully implement a Complete Streets policy:

  • Revise related plans and procedures to accommodate all users on every project
  • Develop new design principles and guides to reflect the current best practices in transportation design
  • Offer workshops and training opportunities to transportation staff, community leaders, and citizens so that everyone understands the importance and advantages of the Complete Streets vision
  • Institute better ways to measure performance and collect data on how well streets are serving all road users

How to Use

The analysis provided in this report is a useful tool for community planners and local government officials looking for guidance in establishing a Complete Streets policy. This Complete Streets Policy Analysis can be used in conjunction with the Complete Streets Local Policy Workbook to assist communities looking to develop their own Complete Streets approach based on current best practices. In communities where a Complete Streets policy is already in place, this report can be used to compare your policy language to the ideal, possibly inspiring improvements to the current policy.

View full report: Complete Streets Policy Analysis (PDF – 6.2 MB)

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