Discussion Forum: Complete Streets vs. Main Streets

The Strong Towns Discussion Forum is a place to ask questions, get answers and engage in dialogue with fellow Strong Citizens. If you haven't visited it yet, you can access it here.

We wanted to bring your attention to an excellent discussion going on in the forum right now. A few months ago, Brian Hunt posted the following:

In Reno, NV we are about to engage in a once-in-a-generation reconstruction of our main street known as S. Virginia Street. There is a neighborhood along this street which is known as Midtown, which is a poster child for private re-investment in the urban center…new bars, restaurants, and shops were added during the brutal recession. You can read about the neighborhood here.

Midtown has super wide traffic lanes and 18 inch wide sidewalks with telephone poles in the middle. After building a bridge to nowhere our local transit agency has finally decided that they need to make the street at least ADA compliant by widening the sidewalks to 6 feet. But their current plans essentially leave the street design the same (the drive lanes are so wide that they can borrow a few feet from each one to make the sidewalks fit). We are still at the stage in the process that we can ask for a more robust design.

Brian goes on to offer examples of what the city is proposing (which would either remove parking or reject bike lanes), and then his own solution of what he calls, "Simply Main Street." He concludes by asking two questions:

1) The buzz word of the day with our transit agency is “Complete Streets”. Is my design a “Complete Street”? If not, how do I convince people that this is actually a better, higher value street design than the highly segregated bike lanes, bus lanes, car lanes “Complete Street?”

2) I imagine my design will not provide the same level of service to car volumes through the corridor (although I am hopeful that “flow” will increase). Is this a death sentence for this type of street design in our current system, or is there a magic way to get transit agencies to make these happen?

Several people have jumped in with advice from their own towns and ideas for how to handle this tension. Do you have an idea that might help? Share your voice here.

The Discussion Forum is always open for new questions about anything from implementing gas taxes to being a good neighbor.