What is a Complete Street?
"Complete Streets are streets for everyone." SmartGrowthAmerica.org
A Complete Street is one that provides safe and accessible options for all travel modes – walking, biking, transit, and motorized vehicles – for people of all ages and abilities. Designing streets with these principles contributes toward the safety, health, economic viability and quality of life in a community by improving the pedestrian and vehicular environments and providing safer, more accessible and comfortable means of travel between home, school, work, recreation and retail destinations.
What are the benefits of Complete Streets?
- Safety: Research shows that sidewalks reduce pedestrian crashes by 88 percent (FHWA); shoulders, 71 percent (FDOT); medians, 40 percent; road diets, 18 to 49 percent (ITE); and countdown signals, 25 percent (FHWA). Roadway design and engineering approaches commonly found in Complete Streets also provide long-lasting reductions in travel speeds. Although slower speeds benefit all users, they have a dramatic impact on pedestrian safety. 80 percent of pedestrians struck by a car going 40 mph will die. At 30 mph, the likelihood of death drops to 40 percent. At 20 mph, the fatality rate drops to just 5 percent.
Health and Equity: People in communities with sidewalks are 47% more likely to get regular physical activity. There is also a strong relationship between obesity and neighborhood walkability. Providing multiple transportation modes help people meet recommendations for physical activity. For others, walking, bicycling, or public transit are the only transportation options. Providing multiple transportation options provides individuals more control over their transportation expenses.
People with Disabilities and Aging Populations: Over 18% of Americans have some form of disability (2010 Census). In Massachusetts, the population of age 65 and older is increasing and is expected to exceed 20% in 2030. Watertown is also home to the Perkins School for the Blind. Providing accessible crosswalks, walkways, and other facilities increases safety, and reduces isolation and dependence of the impaired and vulnerable populations. For example, it takes 50% more energy to push a wheelchair at a 3% slope than at 2%.
- Indirect Outcomes for Walkable Places: Walkable places can reduce per-capita vehicle travel by 10 to 30%. Studies have calculated that five to ten percent of urban automobile trips can reasonably be shifted to non-motorized transportation, which can reduce congestion and cut CO2 emissions. Local businesses see many benefits when people can easily travel by foot or bicycle.
Watertown Complete Streets Policy
The Town Council adopted a Complete Streets Policy in May, 2017. The Policy provides a set of guidelines for implementing Complete Streets principles as part of future street projects.
Complete Streets Planning
The Town has engaged Alta Planning to assist with development of a Complete Streets Prioritization Plan, which will identify opportunities to implement additional Complete Streets practices in Town.
A public informational meeting will be held on December 14. The goal of the meeting is to provide a primer on Complete Streets and obtain input from stakeholders about potential Complete Streets projects. The consultant will then review and vet the potential projects and create a prioritization plan. An additional meeting will be held to review the prioritization.