Last week, more than 40 Chicago and Illinois transportation planners and engineers gathered at MPC’s Conference Center for a two-day workshop to discuss ways to design streets that accommodate all forms of traffic, including pedestrians, bicycles, automobiles, and transit. The workshop, Designing for Complete Streets, was hosted by the Chicago Dept. of Transportation (CDOT) and MPC, and catered to planners and engineers from CDOT, the Ill. Dept. of Transportation (IDOT), and Chicago Transit Authority (CTA).
MPC was happy to co-host the workshop with CDOT as part of MPC’s Placemaking Chicago initiative to advocate for policies that promote quality public spaces. Using lessons learned through Placemaking technical assistance projects, Placemaking Chicago is working with city agencies to integrate and enhance planning that creates well-used public spaces. Safe Complete Streets are some of our most valuable public spaces, and are essential to the health and vitality of neighborhoods, cities, and regions. They create desirable destinations and safe travel options for people of all ages and abilities; stimulate economic development by activating the streets with shoppers; improve public health and the environment by encouraging people to walk and bike; and create public spaces for neighbors to interact.
The workshop was part of Chicago’s Complete Streets Policy, which passed in 2006, and covered topics like the relationship between streets and adjoining land use, how to make the most of transit stops, and intersection design. Moderated by John LaPlante of TyLin International and Fred Ranck from the Federal Highway Administration, Designing for Complete Streets also featured Michael Setzer from Veolia Transportation, who talked about Bus Rapid Transit, and MPC’s Peter Skosey, who discussed Placemaking and the importance of streets as public spaces.
The workshop culminated in a field trip to Ogden Avenue in the Lawndale neighborhood, where participants were asked to come up with new design proposals for the street based on the concepts discussed at the workshop.
Complete Streets policies vary depending on the location, as does the design for each street, but they typically include sidewalks and crosswalks, medians and curb extensions, well-connected transit stops, and streetscape improvements such as benches and trees. Every year, more cities, counties and states add a Complete Streets component to their transportation plans; as of 2009, more than 18 states had implemented a Complete Streets policy. If passed, the federal Complete Streets Act of 2009, introduced last year, would require all states to adopt Complete Streets policies within two years.
Here are ways you can support Complete Streets:
Contact your member of Congress to show your support for the Complete Streets Act of 2009. The National Complete Streets Coalition makes this easy with their sample form letter.
Help MPC support safe streets by encouraging your state senator to pass the Pedestrian Safety Bill, which would clarify the responsibility of pedestrians and drivers by requiring cars to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks.
Learn about MPC’s ongoing work in Lawndale, including a street redesign process for Ogden Ave. that includes many complete streets components.
Stay tuned for information about a second Complete Streets workshop CDOT and MPC will host in April.