An Initiative A Day 6.3: Promote “Complete Streets” through regional policy and the identification of local champions.

On February 25, the NEOSCC Board will be voting on the the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Action Products.  Everyday over the next 5 weeks, we will be sharing an “Initiative A Day” so you can gain a better understanding of the vision and framework!  If you would like to read all of the Initiatives, you can download them here: Recommendation and Initiatives.  You can access a pdf of the entire vision chapter here.  The vision chapter contains all 41 initiatives, development strategies, indicators, and matrices that identify how the recommendations, initiatives and indicators all relate.

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Initiative 6.3: Promote “Complete Streets” through regional policy and the identification of local champions.

WHAT THIS MEANS: “Complete Streets” refers to the practice of building streets that embrace a full range of mobilities – walking, cycling, and transit, in addition to driving. Historically, streets accommodated all of these functions. It was only the early decades of the 20th century that roadway design began to rigidly segregate users, and apportion more space to the rapidly evolving technology of the automobile. This move initially was framed as a protection of pedestrian health and safety: early campaigns for separated rights-of-way cited ghastly collisions as the reason for embracing a street design philosophy that ultimately settled in decisive favor of the car.

In recent years, the notion of streets as multimodal places has enjoyed resurgence nationwide. Early complete streets efforts, in metro areas like Portland, Oregon, were championed by municipal governments and supported by regional planning agencies. These focused on reclaiming sections of roadway, especially overbuilt ones, for bike and bus lanes, streetcar tracks, and an expanded, landscaped pedestrian realm. Taking heed of successes by early adopters, countless communities have adopted complete streets ordinances that compel city planners and engineers to design streets to accommodate multiple users. As of January 2013, over 500 local jurisdictions and 27 states have adopted complete streets policies. The City of Cleveland is the only community in Northeast Ohio to have a complete streets ordinance, which was passed in 2011 (citation: City of Cleveland Office of Sustainability,

Encouraging complete street design has many positive transportation, economic, and health benefits. Complete streets help to reduce congestion and encourage mode shift, thus contributing to a virtuous cycle whereby modal utilization balances to maximize existing roadway capacity. Investment in quality streetscapes also has proven economic value, with various studies documenting 10-15% value premiums for homes and businesses in places with high WalkScores and cycling access (citation: Litman, Todd, Evaluating Non-Motorized Transportation Benefits and Costs, Victoria: Victoria Transport Policy Institute, 2013). By encouraging walkable, bikeable communities and contributing to air pollution reduction, complete streets help to activate citizens and improve public health.

With an historical focus on highways and automobiles as the nearly unanimous means of transportation in the United States, many state and regional transportation agencies have not adequately identified where non-vehicular transportation can help to meet regional transportation needs. As a result, projects that would facilitate public use of alternative travel modes are not given the same level of attention and funding priority. Promoting complete streets policies corrects this imbalance, setting the stage for more holistic and integrated transportation policymaking.

GETTING IT DONE: Local jurisdictions and MPOs are the logical entities to lead implementation of this initiative. MPOs play a powerful role by setting regional policy and programming federal transportation funds for investment in the transportation system. MPOs in Northeast Ohio should consider adopting regional complete streets plans and modifying project selection criteria for regional Transportation Improvement Programs to privilege projects that integrate multimodal improvements and complete streets principles.

Amending MPO project selection criteria to emphasize non-motorized transportation and transit projects help to give these project types a place in regional decision-making and underscore their importance in a regional commitment to a concept of mobility that extends beyond vehicular travel. This is also a critical first step in allowing those projects that are more costly and complex—especially those needing bridges, grade crossings, and other extensive engineering—to have access to a greater pool of potential funding beyond what individual local governments may be able to provide. Local governments often carry the responsibility of building bicycle and pedestrian networks, but a more holistic set of project selection criteria can help to advance those projects with truly regional significance and implement a balanced transportation system.

While MPOs can spearhead initial efforts to adopt complete streets, promoting the practice will involve extensive engagement of stakeholders. MPOs should work closely with local governments to engage economic development agencies, school districts, law enforcement, Metroparks authorities, land conservancies, public health districts, social service organizations – any entity with a stake in the region’s streets.

POLICY: Adopt a Complete Street policy: Local governments should integrate a complete streets” approach into their transportation planning and funding decisions. These policies require agencies to balance the needs of all users in the planning, design and construction of all transportation projects. This allows users of all ages and abilities including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, transit riders, older people, children and those with disabilities – to move safely along and across a network of complete streets. Good multimodal facilities along major roads can reduce congestion by providing an alternative to short-distance car trips.

BEST PRACTICE: City of Cleveland Complete and Green Streets Ordinance: The City of Cleveland passed a Complete and Green Streets ordinance in September of 2011. The ordinance requires implementation of sustainable policies and guidelines in all construction projects within the public right-of-way. This ordinance will create a walking, biking and public transportation-friendly city while reducing environmental impact by incorporating green infrastructure. Additionally, the city completed a Complete and Green Streets Typologies Plan in 2013.

Lead Municipalities, Townships, Counties; Metropolitan Planning Organizations
Target Community Strategic investment areas, asset risk areas
Implementation Complexity Moderate

These recommendations, initiatives, and products, are not one-size-fits all and some aspects of the initiatives won’t be applicable everywhere in the 12-county region. The Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Products are intended inspire and guide decision-making at the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Council of Government, and local levels to ensure that land use, transportation, and environmental considerations are simultaneously addressed by their processes. Ultimately, the implementation of Vibrant NEO 2040 is up to Northeast Ohio’s communities and residents. But regardless of the applicability of each initiative to any particular part of the region, the goal for each community within the Vision is the same: stability, prosperity, and a high quality of life for all of its residents.