The concept of “Complete Streets,” or streets that are designed for multiple modes of transportation and provide safe access for all users, was initiated so that planners and designers would begin to include accommodations for bicycles and pedestrians in their projects. Many cities have adopted Complete Streets policies, including the City of Houston, and increasingly, communities are going even further to ensure that every street project takes all road users into account.
As Complete Streets policies are applied to roadway projects, the challenge has become fitting appropriate facilities for various users into the existing right-of-way (ROW) width. A roadway with an existing 80-foot ROW may need to house four 12-foot travel lanes, two 6-foot bike lanes, two 6-foot sidewalks, and two 4-foot landscape buffers. Doing the math, this equals exactly 80 feet, which means there is no room for turn bays or wider transit lanes without additional right-of-way acquisition. Additional ROW is often unacceptable to neighboring communities and/or is too expensive. Acquiring more ROW for certain key projects lessens the overall budget available for public improvements city-wide. More ROW acquisition means less money available for Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) projects.
To address this challenge, the concept of “Complete Corridors” should be adopted such that parallel corridors can provide the needed facilities for all users, while not compromising overall mobility. This means that a major thoroughfare could provide lanes for vehicles, transit, and pedestrians, while a parallel collector street could provide fewer lanes for vehicles while incorporating bike lanes and generous pedestrian paths.
While the shift to Complete Streets planning is important to produce viable routes for alternative transportation options, maintenance of vehicle travel lanes is also necessary to keep up with growth in major cities. Complete Corridors that complement each other can provide continuous paths for each mode, balancing modal options across the city network.