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June 01, 2016

Making Complete Streets a Reality

Making Complete Streets a Reality
Eight Ingredients to Making Complete Streets a Reality: A Planner’s Role
Complete Streets (CS) is a popular topic. The challenge before us is implementation. For the Main Street Renewal project in Ottawa, the Official Plan and the Transportation Master Plan (TMP) policy, in conjunction with a robust Environmental Assessment (EA) process, led to a CS approach being undertaken to what started as a more typical Integrated Watermain, Road, and Sewer rehabilitation project. The renewal of these nineteen city blocks, from the Rideau Canal to the Rideau River, involves vehicle lane reductions within the constrained right of way to accommodate wider sidewalks and fully segregated cycle tracks.
Strong Policy
A CS Implementation Recipe Card first includes a helping of strong policy. For the O’Connor Street Bikeway project in Ottawa, the designations as a Cross-Town Bikeway and Spine Route in the Cycling Plan and TMP demonstrated early in the process the importance of the project to the City’s overall plan. It also answered the route selection question and defined the facility type from the onset of the project.

A dollop of homework is achieved by preparing for the parking discussion, targeting the right market and converting the discussion to an economic dialogue. For both Main and O’Connor Streets, a dash of political buy-in proved vital with leadership from both local councillors. Building on achievements, involving everyone but not trying to be everything to everyone, was key. The sprinkling of funding is correlated to focusing on the downtown area and investing on the surface. A pinch of luck speaks for itself.

Pioneering a New Solution

Achieve the drop of standards versus the established guidelines by being prepared to pioneer a new solution when historical design standards may not apply to contemporary objectives in street design. Incorporate stakeholder involvement with innovation in the form of interactive workshops and great visual representations. City staff responsible for the O’Connor Street project operated with the mantra of not having anyone first “learn” about the project at the Council Committee meeting where it was being voted upon. Stakeholder involvement was key to meeting the city staff’s needs.
Planners play a key role in CS implementation. An understanding of trends, policy and the political landscape contribute to great project outcomes. Planners are big picture thinkers and we make good cooks!

What recipe contributions or variations would you propose? Please feel free to share your suggestions on how to achieve complete streets in the comments!

Read Kate Whitfield's bio

The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author(s), and may not reflect the position of the Ontario Professional Planners Institute.

Post by Kate Whitfield, RPP

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