NITC researchers have created a design manual to aid traffic engineers, transportation planners, elected officials, businesses and community stakeholders in re-envisioning their streets.
Traditionally, road design in the U.S. has been based on the simple principle of moving as many cars as possible.
The philosophy behind Complete Streets is that a street, in addition to being a means of reaching destinations, is also a "place" in its own right and should feel comfortable and welcoming for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Complete Streets policies are being adopted all across the United States, but local officials have few documented guidebooks to help them think about how to retrofit streets based on best practices. This project’s aim was to fill this gap, making it easier for communities to use the evidence from other communities when making decisions about retrofitting their streets.
Along with photographs documenting the context and before-and-after appearance of the redesigned streets, the manual provides data about collisions, economic factors, annual average daily traffic (AADT) and mode choices.
The Complete Streets movement emphasizes placemaking and a sense of shared public space. There is no single strategy; rather, designers can implement multiple strategies based on a street’s context and a project’s goals.
Many Complete Street transformations include a “road diet,” in which a four-lane road with no median or bike lanes is turned into a two-lane road (one lane in each direction), a center turn median, and two bike lanes.
Removing two automobile travel lanes may seem like it would reduce automobile throughput, but the increased flow achieved with left-turning vehicles using the center median can actually maintain or improve upon previous throughput numbers.
Other strategies often include the addition of bicycle lanes and the enrichment of pedestrian infrastructure. Additional streetscape elements like street furniture, trees and parked cars effectively slow down traffic and make the street a more pleasant place.
Some highlights from the guide:
Cycling increased 325 percent on South Carrollton Avenue in New Orleans after the city rebuilt the road (damaged and flooded by Hurricane Katrina) and added a bicycle lane.
Pedestrian collisions at crossings were reduced 80 percent thanks to improved crosswalks at Stone Way N. in Seattle, Washington. On Nebraska Avenue in Tampa, Florida, crashed dropped by 68 percent and bicyclists reported feeling safer on the street.
East Boulevard in Charlotte, North Carolina now supports a cafe culture: residents and business owners wanted more outdoor dining options, and a greater separation between sidewalks and cars reduced traffic noises and facilitated al fresco dining.
Shoreline, Washington saw commerce improve along its redesigned Aurora Avenue: the city kept track of sales receipts along the corridor during the two years of construction and found a 2.9 percent dip in sales the first year followed by a 9.1 percent increase the second year.
In addition, the research team engaged engineers and designers from local and state government and the private sector who had been involved with similar street retrofit projects.
The NITC researchers chose to focus on fairly typical streets. There have been notable projects around the country where very substantial street changes have taken place (for example, turning Times Square into a pedestrian mall
), but the focus of this project was to find examples that many communities of different sizes, locations, and political tendencies could learn from.