Complete Streets Won’t Happen Without You

Posted: September 29, 2010 in Complete Streets, Urban Design

Yesterday I posted a link to a petition targeted to the city of Hoover requesting that they adopt a Complete Street Policy as per the regional Planning Commission Transportation plan.  Today, I dug into the plan to find out just how “complete streets” is a included in the final plan.  I found this as one of the listed regional plan policies:

Complete streets and routine accommodation: Project sponsors shall give due consideration to the accommodation of bicycles, pedestrians, citizens with disabilities, and transit supportive infrastructure in project planning and design.

The policy statement goes on to quote Federal law:

Title 23 U.S.C. §217 states that “Bicyclists and pedestrians shall be given due consideration in the comprehensive transportation plans developed by each metropolitan planning organization and State.” Due consideration includes but is not limited to facilities such as sidewalks, shared use paths, pedestrian crossings (including at, above and below grade crossings), signals, signage, markings, street furniture, transit stops, bike lanes, paved shoulders, and all connecting pathways. Such facilities should be designed, constructed, operated and maintained so that all modes can travel safely and independently. The inclusion of the appropriate multimodal transportation facilities should be the norm as opposed to the exception. The [Metropolitan Planning Organization] reserves the right to remove projects from the [Regional Transportation Plan] and/or withdraw funding for projects in the  [Transportation Implementation Plan] that do not comply with the expressed intent of this policy.

As it turns out, specific guidelines for how to implement this policy have not been included in the plan, and will be distributed to member governments later. Furthermore waivers can be granted for some projects where one of more of the following conditions occur :

1. Cyclists and pedestrians are prohibited by law from using the roadway (e.g. grade separated interstates, expressways, and highways). In this instance, a greater effort may be necessary to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians elsewhere within the right of way or within the same transportation corridor.
2. The cost of establishing bikeways or walkways would be excessively disproportioned to the need or probable use. Excessively disproportionate is defined as exceeding twenty percent of the cost of the larger transportation project. In this case, the project sponsor shall propose an alternate design or spend 20 percent of the project cost of the larger project for new and/or improved existing bicycle and pedestrian facilities adjacent to the project (e.g. a parallel multi-use trail or sidewalk improvements along adjacent local streets).
3. The project is within a sparsely populated rural (non-urban) area where there is no present or future demand expected throughout the larger project’s useful life. Projects located anywhere defined as “urban” by the U.S. Census Bureau. [sic] This includes both the urbanized area (UA) and smaller urban clusters (UCs) are not eligible for this waiver. [sic] Based on the US Census 2000, the boundaries of the UA and UCs encompass densely settled territory consisting of:
• core census block groups or blocks that have a population density of at least 1,000 people per square mile and
• surrounding census blocks that have an overall density of at least 500 people per square mile
• In addition, under certain conditions, less densely settled territory may be part of the UA or UCs
The Census Bureau’s classification of “rural” consists of all territory, population, and housing units located outside of UAs and UCs. The rural component contains both place and nonplace territory. Geographic entities, such as census tracts, counties, metropolitan areas, and the territory outside metropolitan areas, often are “split” between urban and rural territory, and the population and housing units they contain often are partly classified as urban and partly classified as rural. Visit the Census Bureau’s website for more information the Census 2000 urban and rural classification system: http://www.census.gov/geo/www/ua/ua_2k.html
4. Where other existing or future land use factors indicate an absence of demand (e.g. special use districts for heavy industrial uses such as mining, manufacturing and/or freight transport).
5. There are severe and unavoidable physical constraints associated with the built or natural environment (e.g. topography, geology, hydrology, historic and cultural resources).

I went to the Census web site and found that of all the cities in the metro area, only Birmingham is listed as “Urban”. This seems to mean that Hoover, as well as every other suburb can apply for waivers from this policy but Birmingham can not.

A model complete streets ordinance has been prepared for the various cities. We reviewed it at the Bike/Pedestrian advisory committee. As I recall, it included all of the same waiver conditions, except the Urban classification.

This is why we need to petition our local governments to adopt Complete Street policies on their own. Not being “urban” they will seek and can easily find ways to get the waivers they need to continue their policy of not accommodating cyclists and pedestrians. When I have asked Hoover officials in the past why the do not provide these accommodations, they say there is no demand for it.  We can demonstrate the demand and  can change their minds by signing the petition.

In case you missed it, you can sign the Hoover petition here. If you don’t live in Hoover, you can start your own on-line petition here.  (Just be sure to check the box “Do not promote on care2”. Other wise you will get signatures from people outside your city, which will not count.

Please spread the word to everyone you know in Hoover! It will not happen with out grassroots support!

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