Complete Streets


What is the complete streets concept?


A complete street assures that the entire roadway including adjacent right of way areas is designed for all users, including motorists, bicyclists, public transportation riders, and pedestrians. Complete streets typically provide for the greening of the road space, enhancement of the streetscape and managing storm water runoff from roadways. Complete streets achieves economic vitality while protecting the environment and providing a higher quality of life for residents. The complete streets concept started with America Bikes, suggesting it as a replacement for the term “routine accommodation”, the term once used to express the idea of including bicycles in everyday transportation planning. After collaboration with smart growth advocates, it became clear that the oncept was bigger than bicycles. More recent planning and sustainability thinking of urban revitalization, less dependence on automobiles, green infrastructure, and intermodal accommodations advanced this concept to new heights and a tool for use in many of today’s transportation related improvement projects.


How would complete streets benefit my community?


• Provide safe travel for all roadway users,

• Create a pedestrian-friendly environment,

• Enhance flow of motorized traffic,

• Provide better parking options and facilities,

• Maintain greater mobility through access


• Create vibrant corridors and a sense of


• Manage or reduce storm water runoff,

• Protect natural resources, and

• Facilitate comprehensive transit access

for everyone.


How will complete streets legislation help?


The Michigan Complete Streets legislation of August 2010 helps advance cooperation among transportation and local government agencies. It encourages communities to develop a comprehensive streets vision identifying the road corridors that would benefit from complete streets principles. “Complete streets” means roadways planned, designed, constructed to provide appropriate access to all legal users in a manner that promotes safe and efficient movement of people and goods whether by car, truck, transit, assistive device, foot, or bicycle. “Complete streets policy” means a document that provides guidance for the planning, design, and construction of roadways or an interconnected network of transportation facilities being constructed or reconstructed and designated for a transportation purpose that promotes complete streets. The comprehensive streets vision allows communities to design transportation projects for all users in locations where that approach is appropriate. The legislation does not require designing for all modes and all streets. It encourages communities to consider their entire roadway network and identify that roadways where planning for all modes is appropriate.


Multimodal Level of Service Analysis for Urban Streets


In many urban areas there is a desire to evaluate transportation services of roadways from a multi-modal perspective. Improvements to non-automobile odes are often emphasized to achieve community goals such as “Smart Growth” and curbing urban sprawl.  Federal highway legislation calls for mainstreaming of transit, pedestrian, and bicycle projects into the planning, design, and operation of the U.S. transportation system. In addition to measuring the levels of service for automobile users, measuring the levels of service for transit, pedestrian, and bicycle users along U.S. roadways is also desired. A recent study determined the key factors influencing travelers’ perceptions of urban street level of service from the perspective of auto drivers, bus riders, bicycle riders, and pedestrians. Four separate level of service models (one for each mode) were fitted to video laboratory and field survey data. All four level of service models are sensitive to the street design (e.g. number of lanes, widths, and landscaping), traffic control devices (signal timing, speed limits), and traffic volumes. The models incorporate directly and indirectly the interactions of various users of the street. For example, improved signal timing increases auto speeds and bus speeds which increases auto and bus level of service. However, the higher auto and bus speeds adversely affect the level of service perceived by bicyclists and pedestrians. The level of service models are ideal for evaluating the benefits of “complete streets” and “context sensitive”  design options because they quantify the interactions of the modes sharing the right-of-way.

Tradeoffs Among Modes

Complete streets may require tradeoffs of various allocations of the urban street cross section among autos, buses, bicycles, and pedestrians depending on the vision of the corridor, intended uses, and goals of the community. The tradeoffs among the modes for urban street capacity must also consider the impact of the design on public safety. Conflicts between autos, buses, bicycles and pedestrians and access for emergency vehicles (police, fire, ambulance) are also parts of the urban street design equation. The tradeoffs will occur in the consultations involving the state transportation department, the local road agency, and the municipality as they develop a design that is sensitive to the context. Not all modes are required on every street. Limited access high speed freeways need not accommodate pedestrians and bicycles, for example. The consultations among the stakeholders will determine which roadways will be appropriate to design  or all modes. For those roadways where designing for all users is appropriate, access for emergency vehicles will have to be part of the design solution.