Guest post by Jonah Finkelstein, EIT Spack Consulting
As discussed in last month’s Complete Streets article, The National Complete Streets Coalition, a program of Smart Growth America, is a leading organization at the forefront of the complete street discussion. While navigating their Complete Streets: A to Z page, I fell upon a report they published in 2015 titled Safer Streets, Stronger Economies. This report analyzed 37 complete street projects and their effect on safety, cost effectiveness, and impacts to mode splits.
The following is a quick summary of what I found to be the most interesting and stand out points from the report.
1. Complete Streets = Safe Streets. Of the 37 locations studied, 70% saw a decrease in collisions, while 56% experienced a decrease in injuries. In some locations the amount of crashes and injuries actually increased, however this was most often due to a higher increase in pedestrian or biker numbers. For example, in Porter Square, MA bicycle collisions rose 150% after complete street implementation, but the number of bicyclists using the street increased 929%, resulting in a decreased crash rate from 2.5 to 0.6 collision per 100 bicyclists.
Smart Growth America & The National Complete Streets Coalition. (2015). Safer Streets, Stronger Economies [Report], Retrieved from http://www.smartgrowthamerica.org/documents/safer-streets-stronger-economies.pdf
2. Complete Street Projects Can Help Save Money. Because complete streets help improve safety and a majority of the projects resulted in decreased collisions, a monetary value of the annual savings due to lower collision numbers can be determined. Using the U.S. Department of Transportation’s methodology to calculate the cost, The National Complete Streets Coalition estimated that the total cost of savings based on 34 of the study projects averted $18.1 million in collision costs over one year. Comparing the complete averted crash cost savings to the total cost of the complete streets implementation shows that the projects will have “paid for themselves” in under eight years.
3. Measureable Multi-modal Changes Were Recorded. In almost all complete street locations with pedestrian and bicycle counts, an increase in pedestrian and bicycle traffic was noted. 12 of 13 projects with pedestrian counts, and 22 of 23 projects with bicycle counts experienced an overall increase in pedestrian and bicycle activity respectively. This information helps show that these projects do achieve their goal of increasing pedestrian and bicycle activity and that there still is demand for complete streets within transportation networks.
The report continues and goes into more depth of complete streets impacts on mode sharing including transit and change in automobile trips attributed to complete street projects. It also discusses the cost per mile to build complete streets compared to the average arterial road cost and the potential economic benefits stemming from the complete street projects.
The results are beginning to speak for themselves. The early trends are showing that complete streets help increase safety by decreasing collisions, resulting in overall cost savings that helps these projects pay for themselves. Also, the numbers show these projects are achieving their goal of promoting pedestrian and bicycle activity with increased volumes at almost all study locations. With increasing participation and implementation in complete street designs, more data will be available each year and the benefits of complete street design will become even more apparent.
If you are interested in reading the full report click the link to download the full report; Safer Streets, Stronger Economies.