Review -- Complete Streets

Dan DeGeest Photo

Dan DeGeest's Council Review


Hello Friends,

Earlier this year the Ames City Council approved an agreement to work with Toole Design to create a Complete Streets plan for Ames.   Complete Streets has been discussed a lot over the last two years after becoming a main talking point in the 2015 City Council election.  It was one of my primary platform components and something that I have been championing for well over ten years.  It is also something that is commonly misunderstood and it was clear from the start that a big part of Toole's presentation was to clear up those misconceptions before discussing the scope of work and the process they would be using to create a Complete Streets guide for Ames.  These points would be reiterated many times during the course of the workshop.

Complete Streets is not a bike lane on every street, not a bus route to every destination, and is absolutely not a reduction in one mode of service in favor of another. A Complete Streets plan is a gradual, targeted, set of purposefully planned improvements to existing and new infrastructure to create "streets for everyone, no matter who they are or how they travel".  Research and experience confirm that people desire options for how they travel to and from school, work, and so on, but "73% currently feel they have no choice but to drive as much as they do".  While Ames has some nice segments of trails and recent improvements in on street facilities, it still has gaps in that network that result in people choosing to drive rather than walk, bike, or take CyRide.  The Complete Streets program will aim to close these gaps and over time create an "equity" for all modes.

The good news is that Ames is well ahead of many cities where Toole Design group has done similar work.  Our residential streets are wide and most have sidewalks on both sides. It is fairly safe and easy to choose modes other then driving in many of our residential areas.  A lot of the problems arise around our arterial roads, like Lincoln Way, Duff, or Grand and thier lack of multi-modal support create gaps that are significant enough to prevent people from walking or biking at all despite the patches of safe routes.

Another big misconception is cost and it is assumed that Complete Streets will immediately increase the price tag of our transportation projects.  Again, Complete Streets is about targeted changes.  Not every project has to address every mode and Toole has documented over thier extensive work in this area that on average, Complete Street design does not increase cost and it is important to look at the cost/benefit City wide and not on each and every project. Project costs will vary but you will find that over time all modes can be accommodated without additional cost or reduction in service for any single mode.

I found the workshop very helpful and encouraging.  Toole Design is an expert in this area and the City made an excellent choice in hiring them.  I look forward to continuing to work with the City to improve our multi-modal transportation system and I encourage you to get involved with upcoming public input sessions and the finalization of this plan.

Thanks for reading,

The Ames City Council workshop for September 19, 2017. The agenda included:

  • 1. Discussion with Consultant Regarding Complete Streets Plan. (Video)
    A Complete Streets Plan has been in the works for several years and at a recent Council meeting we awarded a contract to Toole Design to help us craft it. At this workshop, we'll be brought up to speed on what a Complete Streets Policy is and isn't. For example, a CS policy doesn't mean prescribing a bike lane on every street, rather, it is a process that should help in the creation of complete networks for all types of users while minimizing the impact on the predominate mode of transportation (cars). There will be a public input session to solicit input on the Complete Streets Policy in October and another in the Spring to get feedback on the plan, which we hope to have completed by August of 2018.
  • 2. Planning Division Work Plan. (Video)
    This second agenda item may look routine, but don't be fooled...the priorities of the Planning Department can have a long-lasting impact on the development of Ames. Council will look at prior established priorities (Lincoln Way Corridor Study, 321 State affordable housing, East Industrial infrastructure, etc.) as well as up and coming topics to be addressed by Planning (rental occupancy, for example). Staff believe they can add a project or two to this year's work-plan, but Council will have to carefully determine which take priority, as we can't do everything we'd like to all at once.

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