Complete Streets policy designed for implementation
The City of Evansville, Indiana, recently adopted an exceptional Complete Streets policy with the help of a CNU code audit and the support of AARP and other organizations.
Complete Streets policies have been adopted by more than 1,600 jurisdictions nationwide since 2000. Such laws have tended to be vague, with no specific measurable outcomes—and have too often been ignored despite the “jaw-dropping total.”
The ordinance for Evansville—a city of 117,000 on the Ohio River—is different due to its details, tight deadlines, and metrics, which are outlined in this article.
“The desired outcome of the Complete Streets policy is to create an equitable, balanced, and effective transportation network where every roadway user can travel safely and comfortably and where sustainable transportation options are available to everyone,” notes the City. Such a network is integral to achieving the 15-minute city and making walkable communities legal again, two of CNU’s primary objectives.
In July 2021, AARP and CNU worked with AARP Indiana to take a look at the City’s land use codes to see where small changes would improve livability, according to Ivy Vann of Ivy Vann Town Planning. CNU’s team included Vann as project manager, Bill Spikowski of Spikowski Planning Associates, and Mary Madden of Madden Associates.
“The team quickly learned that Evansville was very interested in Complete Streets and had already started writing a Complete Streets ordinance, making this an ideal time for CNU to offer suggestions for improvements,” Vann says. The team recommended “the city adopt very specific metrics to ensure that necessary changes to the code were made within one year of adoption.”
The ordinance provides marching orders:
- Within one year, existing standards will be amended in the City of Evansville’s Municipal Code, “Title 18, Zoning,” in accordance with this policy.
- Within six months of ordinance adoption, the city shall create individual numeric benchmarks for each of the performance measures included, as a means of tracking and measuring the annual performance of the ordinance. An annual report shall be posted online.
- This ordinance shall be in full force on the day of its final passage and adoption.
Here are the metrics listed in the law:
- Total miles of bike lanes, shared and dedicated, added;
- Linear feet of new pedestrian accommodation added or reconstructed;
- Number of high visibility crosswalk, intersection, sidewalk, crossing treatment;
- New ADA curb ramps installed along city streets pursuant to the Evansville ADA Transition Plan;
- Rate of crashes, injuries, and fatalities by mode of transportation;
- Percentage of transit stops accessible via sidewalks and curb ramps;
- Percentage of Complete Streets projects located in traditionally underserved neighborhoods with the greatest need for alternative forms of transportation as defined as Census Tracts with 25 percent or more of individuals below poverty, 20 percent or more of individuals with a disability, or 15 percent or more of households without a vehicle, and
- Number of approved and denied exceptions from the Evansville Complete Streets Policy.
The law specifies more important details, including a description of 20 complete streets elements. Complete Street design principles apply to “All roadway projects, including new construction, maintenance, and reconstruction.”
While the law applies to the entire city, it directs special emphasis on “traditionally underserved neighborhoods” to provide safe connections to major job centers, educational institutions, civic and community facilities, and transit.
Feel-good Complete Street statements are likely to be ignored, Spikowski explains. “Instructions that are more specific may still be ignored in practice. However, those ignoring them will have little excuse for claiming a different understanding of the instructions, and they are likely to understand the accountability that comes when a government official ignores or fails to carry out an official city policy or ordinance. In addition, citizens will be able to formally inquire about implementation progress as specified in this Ordinance/Policy, either as part of the required annual report to the city council or at any other time.”