Complete Streets are safe, effective, affordable, report says
Complete Streets tend to improve safety, boost biking and walking, and generate economic activity, according to the most comprehensive study to date of this trend. The report looks at 37 Complete Streets projects across the US and finds they are more affordable than conventional arterial road projects.
Thirty-three of these projects (89 percent) are located in historic street grids, and the other four are thoroughfares of a somewhat later vintage—approximately the 1950s.
Safer Streets, Stronger Economies analyzes that data and explores the outcomes communities get for their investments in Complete Streets. "In this tight budget climate, transportation staff and elected leaders want to get the most out of every dollar," Smart Growth America says. "This research shows Complete Streets projects can help them do just that."
These findings are based on data collected directly by local transportation and economic development agencies as reported to Smart Growth America’s National Complete Streets Coalition. The Coalition surveyed Complete Streets projects from across the country, and found 37 with transportation and/or economic data available from both before and after the project.
The data available suggests Complete Streets correlate with broader economic gains like increased employment and higher property values.
In 70 percent of the cases, collision rates declined after Complete Streets projects were built, and there were fewer injuries as well. "Our analysis found that the safer conditions created by Complete Streets projects (in this sample) avoided a total of $18.1 million in collision and injury costs in one year alone. These savings start as soon as a project is complete, and continue long after," Smart Growth America notes. "The financial impact of automobile collisions and injuries nationwide is in the billions of dollars annually. Targeting the country’s more dangerous roads and taken to any meaningful scale, a Complete Streets approach over time has the potential to avert hundreds of millions or billions of dollars in personal costs."
Trips by foot, bicycle, and transit almost always rose after the Complete Streets projects. In about half the projects, automobile volume increased or remained unchanged after the redesigns.
The projects surveyed include a wide range of costs, from projects with limited scopes that cost just a few thousand dollars to extensive corridor redesigns that cost several million. "For the most part, however, Complete Streets projects cost significantly less than conventional transportation projects," the report found.
Of the 37 projects included in our survey, changes in employment data was available in 11 places and changes in business impacts, property values, and/or total private investment in 14 places. "We found that employment levels rose after Complete Streets projects—in some cases, significantly," the authors note. Communities reported increased net new businesses after Complete Streets improvements, and, in 8 of the 10 communities with available data, property values. And 8 communities reported their Complete Streets projects at least partly responsible for increased investment from the private sector.
Among the most impressive are:
• Lancaster, California, where an $11.6 million makeover of Lancaster Boulevard resulted in "more than $273 million in total economic output, including 48 businesses and 1,902 new jobs (1,100 construction and 802 permanent jobs). In 2012, sales tax revenue was 96 percent greater than 2007 preconstruction revenue. By 2013, three years after project completion, total collisions fell by nearly one third,and injuries among all users decreased by 67 percent."
• Hamburg, New York, where collisions dropped 66 percent on state Route 62, which goes through the heart of the town. "The project also helped Route 62 act as a true gathering place for village residents, meeting one of the village’s goals for the roadway. An additional $3 million of private funds were invested into the buildings lining the streets. Residents participate in civic activities along the street, including a soapbox derby and street-music festival."
• Portland, Oregon, spent a mere $95,000 to restripe and add plastic bollards and new signage to NE Multnomah Boulevard. The project created 34 new automobile and 12 bicycle parking spaces. Cycling along the corridor increased 44 percent, and the number of vehicles exceeding the speed limit fell by half.
More than 700 towns, cities, counties, regions, and states have adopted Complete Streets policies, Smart Growth America reports.