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GreenStep City Best Practices Transportation

Living Streets
no. 11

Create a network of green complete streets that improves city quality of life and adds value to surrounding properties.
  • 93% of MN adults believe transportation projects should accommodate walkers and bikers, and 72% of MN adults believe in policies supporting sidewalks and bike paths (MN Physical Activity Survey, MN Dept. of Health: 2010). 61% of Minnesotans who have two or more community features to help them be physically active (sidewalks, parks, trails) report exercising 3 or more days/week, more than the 42% who have fewer community features. (Center for Prevention: 2015)
  • Business Performance in Walkable Shopping Areas (Active Living Research: 2013) examines the economic benefits to businesses in walkable communities, finding that enterprises in walkable shopping areas are able to pay higher rents for their space, and housing near walkable commercial areas commonly sells for higher prices than in more distant areas. See similar Economic Benefits of Walking and Bicycling studies from the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, and see the Battle Lake, MN business surge after installing a road diet.
  • The street network of traditional neighborhood development offers far greater vehicle capacity than conventional suburban development and its multiphase left-turn traffic signals with longer wait times. Modest street and lane reconfigurations, attending to context sensitive street design principles and adding traffic-calming measures, can reduce speeding by 40%, auto crashes by more than 50% and increase the number of walkers and bikers. In urban areas the least severe crashes are achieved when lane width is between 10.5 and 11 feet. Narrower vehicle lanes also carry more cars up to 40 m.p.h. See Safer Streets, Stronger Economies (Smart Growth American: 2015) for data analysis of benefits from 37 complete streets projects. See also The National Association of City Transportation Officials Street Design Guide. Note that a car hitting a pedestrian at 20 m.ph. kills the pedestrian 10% of the time, but at 40 m.ph. kills the pedestrian 90% of the time.
  • A 2010 Metropolitan Council analysis of the effects of land planning and urban design on travel demand documented that changes in vehicle miles traveled are most strongly related to (1) accessibility to destinations, especially jobs, and (2) street network design variables. Those variables - street connectivity and intersection density - correlate with improved public health outcomes. These variables are the key attributes of the old-fashioned grided networks that allow multiple ways to travel from A to B. Recent research shows that hierarchical street systems (the dendritic pattern of freeways, arterials, collectors and local streets) are less resilient to disruption and have less capacity than the grided network of streets. Arterials and collectors are also especially hostile to non-automotive modes of travel such as bikes and pedestrians.
  • Quantitative measures of walkability, the degree to which a neighborhood or city facilitates people to walk/shop in it, include Walk Score. Property values increase between $700 and $3,000 for each point increase in the Walk Score of a property. In cities walkability, facilitated by small blocks and a higher proportion of land area devoted to streets, is in tension with efficiency (large blocks with few streets and higher speed traffic).
  • The energy savings from no signals and no/little idling at roundabouts, compared to signalized intersections, has been estimated to be about 9% (averaging $84,000/yr.). As for safety benefits of roundabouts, a 2017 study by MnDOT documented a reduction of as much as 90% in fatal or incapacity injuries, a 75% decrease in injury-producing crashes, and a 39% decrease in all types of auto crashes. Roundabouts also slow traffic, reducing the need for police patrols, are cheaper (by roughly $150,00) to build than signalized intersections, and increase hourly traffic flow in excess of 65%. Safety for bikes and pedestrians in dense urban areas is an open question.
Step 3 recognition minimum for Category A cities
Category A cities are recognized upon completion of action 1 and two additional actions.

Category B cities that choose to implement this best practice are recognized upon completion of action 1 and one additional action.

Category C cities that choose to implement this best practice are recognized upon completion of at least action 1.
A unique attribute of cities - and a key distinction among cities, rural areas and many suburbs - is that city dwellers live and work in proximity to so many other people. Despite electronic networking, cities still thrive on proximity and daily physical interaction with a diverse group of people whose skills and abilities are complementary. Therefore think of a street as a context-sensitive, place-making platform or engine for wealth creation - it is an outdoor room that adds value to the surrounding properties, by providing safe and pleasant access. A well-designed, aesthetically appealing street network, that in its totality serves vehicles, walkers and bikers, facilitates social and economic interactions and a commitment to place, and delivers other benefits to a city and its people:
  • Improved safety for all users
  • Improved access for transit users, bicyclists and pedestrians
  • Increased walking, biking and thus community health
  • The potential for a household to cut transportation costs by selling a car
  • Reduced travel - and emergency response - times due to multiple nearly equivalent options for traversing the street network
  • A healthy tree canopy and reduced and cheaper stormwater management
  • More inviting public spaces that facilitate public art and increase the economic viability of businesses
greenstep advisor
David Larson, Landscape Architect, Office of Environmental Stewardship, MN Dept. of Transportation: 651/366-4637, david.larson@state.mn.us, http://www.dot.state.mn.us/planning/completestreets
connection to state Policy

  • The 2010 Legislature passed into law a complete streets policy governing state-owned roads and state-aided local road projects.
  • The Statewide Health Improvement Program ( SHIP ) distributes funding to Community Health Boards and tribal governments across Minnesota to increase active transportation by means of, among other actions, adopting a complete streets policy.