November’s GreenStep Cities workshop was all about transportation, with a focus on Complete Streets. The GreenStep Transportation best practices (BPs) and actions are designed to help cities build their streets and cities in a way that better matches their citizen’s needs.
The majority of cities in America still have a transportation system that is a legacy of Eisenhower’s post World War II infrastructure revamp, which optimized the system to move automobiles. That system is not the best fit anymore for the modern American city: more people live in cities now; forty percent of us don’t have a car to use on a given day; the number of cars per family has dropped; fewer young people are getting driver licenses; and the average driving distance per person is decreasing.
The GreenStep BPs aim is to accommodate the needs of the modern city and to foster healthy cities that allow good economic mobility by following the 3C’s for a community: complete, compact and connected. In his presentation, Philipp Muessig (GreenStep Cities Coordinator with the MPCA), highlighted the GreenStep BPs that cover the 3C’s:
Complete communities – BP number 8, Mixed Uses.
Compact communities – BP number 7, Efficient City Growth.
DJ Forbes and Nadine Chalmers from Hennepin County delved deeper into Complete Streets and Living Streets. Living Streets is the same as Complete Streets, only more comprehensive. A common misconception about Living Streets is that it forces “all modes for all roads”. However, it does NOT try to include all modes for all roads. It switches the focus of designing a street from automobiles first, to thinking how the space will be used by and affects all users; first focusing on the most vulnerable members, such as pedestrians and bikers. DJ and Nadine highlighted the policies behind Complete and Living Streets, explained and provided excellent resources (Policy Hand Out)(Resource Hand Out) and offered good partnership ideas for completing a Living Streets project(peer cities, Health Department, a local Watershed district).
To deliver an example of a successful Complete Streets project, Patrick Hollister, with PartnerSHIP 4 Health, presented a case study of Battle Lake’s Complete Street project. He highlighted how the project came about, why the city decided to do it and walked the group through their process showing the challenges and successes. Battle Lake’s project was inspired by Alexandria’s Complete Streets Project. Battle Lake invited Patrick to present about Complete Streets at a city council meeting. The council afterwards adopted a Complete Streets resolution and made a task force to develop a concept plan. The concept plan the task force developed they submitted to the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT). They had a great experience working with MNDOT who worked hard to overcome any kinks while making a construction plan and tried to keep as true to the city’s concept plan as possible. One aspect that really made the Complete Street changes fit in with the community was the public art that was incorporated into the project. The art was installed and made by a large group of community volunteers and local artists. The art project brought the community together around the street improvements. The community fell in love with the art first which then highlighted the benefits of the new street design.
Don’t worry if you missed the November GreenStep Cities Workshop. You can watch the webinar recording and workshop presentations on this page.