Complete Streets Slow Traffic to Increase Activity

A comparison between a Conventional Auto-Centric Street and a Complete Street (Courtesy

A comparison between a Conventional Auto-Centric Street and a Complete Street (Courtesy

Last month, the City of Philadelphia passed a Complete Streets Bill, which mandates the use of the City’s Complete Streets handbook when developing property in order to design streets that will accommodate all transportation modes and increase safety. Complete Streets represent a shift from conventional street design in that accessibility is prioritized over mobility.  This means that the ability to reach destinations by multiple modes of transportation is given precedence over the ability to drive farther and faster.

A recent report by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute explores and identifies even more benefits of complete streets. In addition to greater safety and equity of transportation modes, Complete Streets can: improve the connectivity between streets, encourage active transportation mode shifts, reduce local air and noise pollution, promote smart growth land development, conserve individual energy use, improve neighborhood aesthetics, and increase activity of an area.  The report argues that complete streets and these benefits not only improve overall transportation, but also improve neighborhood livability.

Reducing traffic speeds increases roadway traffic capacity (Courtesy

Reducing traffic speeds increases roadway traffic capacity (Courtesy

A key component to achieving these goals is Complete Streets’ ability to lower the overall speed of traffic, which in turn increases roadway capacity.  This means that even though cars are moving slower, more vehicles can pass through an area.  Although this might seem counter intuitive, when vehicles are traveling at slower speeds, they also travel with less distance between each other, allowing for a greater total traffic.  In fact, the report shows that lowering vehicle speeds from 40mph to 25mph will increase total vehicles by approximately 400 vehicles per hour.  Additionally, a road analysis shows that a street which provides space for multiple modes of travel will increase the total number of people moving through an area simply because automobiles take up the most road space per person. Indeed, the analysis shows that automobiles take up approximately twice as much space as pedestrians and nearly five times as much space as buses on a per person basis.

Philadelphia has already taken the first step to creating more livable communities by passing the complete streets bill.  The Complete Streets Handbook uses a step-by-step process to help developers integrate Complete Streets into new projects.  First, the handbook is used to identify the street type that a particular project is located on, then the handbook describes the various street design interventions that will complete the street.  Finally, the Complete Streets checklist is incorporated into the review process, ensuring that development plans account for a project’s impact on the street and encourages safer and multi-modal transportation that meet the varying demands of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods.

Read the Full Report –

Evaluating Complete Streets: The Value of Designing Roads for Diverse Modes, Users and Activities

Check-Out Philadelphia’s Complete Streets Handbook


One Response to Complete Streets Slow Traffic to Increase Activity

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