On September 23rd, 2022, MRT and a number of partners came together to showcase varied complete streets concepts being utilized along the Commercial Street Historic District in Springfield, MO. Here's what we learned.
Over the course of a beautiful autumn Friday, partners across Southwest Missouri and beyond converged to work towards solutions for streets in our communities that benefit all road users, including those that walk, bike, use wheelchairs, and take the bus. We were joined by:
Together, we defined what complete streets are, and we participated in listening sessions and interactive components to understand complete streets benefits and how they can be implemented in communities across Southwestern Missouri.
Complete Streets have been implemented in Missouri for several decades, and approximately half of Missouri's population in both urban and rural communities are supported by complete streets policies. We look to guidance on Complete Streets through Smart Growth America's National Complete Streets Coalition, which defines complete streets this way:
Complete Streets are streets for everyone. Complete Streets is an approach to planning, designing, building, operating, and maintaining streets that enables safe access for all people who need to use them, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities.Via Smart Growth America
For our training, we did not have to travel far to find real implementations of complete streets concepts. Stepping out of our venue onto Commercial Street in Springfield, many practical examples can be found:
The training sessions highlighted the health, economic, social, and safety benefits that complete streets offer, and we identified specific examples where complete streets prove to be integral components for a transportation system when Missouri communities implement them.
Complete Streets Primer:
Complete streets policies exist in many Missouri communities, and Tami Sufi provided an overview of what they are, and how they look like in practice. She provided many real-world examples through images as well as definitions of specific complete streets elements, and offered ample opportunity for attendees to ask questions at the start of the training.
Commercial Street Revitalization Panel Discussion
Two city leaders joined the training to share their knowledge about the successes of Commercial Street, and how the area has improved immensely over the last 10-15 years. Richard Ollis and Olivia Hough have both been instrumental in the success of C-Street, and they described how C-Street obtains funding to support streetscape improvements, how they work with business owners, and how incorporating complete streets elements has been crucial to the increased development and long-lasting vitality of C-Street.
Active Transportation Planning
Elizabeth Bowen finished up the presentation portion of the training by demonstrating the successes in active transportation within Northwest Arkansas, where active transportation initiatives have supported increased investment and physical activity throughout the region. Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission tackles implementation of complete streets concepts by melding together initiatives called for within Arkansas' State Active Transportation Plan, NWA's regional active transportation plan, and the active transportation plans of local NWA municipalities. These plans collectively foster opportunities for step-by-step active transportation implementation, identifying specific timelines and projects that meet local, regional, and statewide active transportation needs.
As we learned through Elizabeth's presentation about Arkansas, there are similarly many opportunities to foster increased complete streets initiatives throughout Missouri with active transportation planning, and a statewide active transportation plan for Missouri would similarly set clear goals for future investment.
Beyond the presentations offered, training attendees experienced multiple interactive components that showcased complete streets concepts.
Home Street Home Exhibit
Supported by BikeWalkKC, the Home Street Home Exhibit was brought from Kansas City to Springfield for participants to visualize Complete Streets concepts. According the BikeWalkKC, the Home Street Home exhibit "is an interactive educational exhibit that explores our streets and public spaces as places where we travel, shop, play, and engage with our communities"... and "is designed to be accessible and interesting to a wide audience including child-friendly activities. It includes five 'stations' each with a separate theme and activity."
You can learn more about the home Street Home Exhibit via BikeWalkKC's website.
Commercial Street Community Walkabout
After learning about complete streets through presentations, and visually with the Home Street Home exhibit, we took a step outside onto Commercial Street to see complete streets in action. Individuals who had difficulty walking long distances participated in a discussion about complete streets with a virtual walking tour through Google Maps Street View.
During the walking portion of the training, we identified complete streets components throughout historic C-Street, and engaged in discussion about their use. Highlights included a pedestrian plaza, the many bump-outs that shorted crossing distances for pedestrians, and wide, smooth sidewalks. We also noted the impressive public art and heard from a sculptor who constructed many of the public art pieces along C-Street. Attendees noted complete streets concepts that even the organizers overlooked, as well as some recent additions such as marked e-scooter storage areas.
Crossing north underneath the railway on Lyon Street, we stepped outside of the Historic Commercial Street Community Improvement District, where many of the investments that make C-Street great have not taken place. There, we saw missing crosswalks, aging sidewalks, and a lack of sidewalks on some sections of the streets, which demonstrates further how complete streets concepts beautify the area, give the community a purpose, and provide safe passage for pedestrians.
Following the community walkabout, we dispersed to support several different C-Street restaurants for lunch.
Pop-Up Parklet Demonstration
We used resources from Southwest Missouri Council of Governments (SMCOG)'s traffic calming lending library to build a temporary pop-up park. Aishwarya Shrestha, Associate Planner with SMCOG, presented about demonstration materials that can be used to build temporary projects. She highlighted how demonstration projects can prove the effectiveness of a project before fully investing resources to build the full project, so community members can engage with the concepts of the project and therefore understand the value prior to full implementation.
Missouri's traffic calming lending libraries are available to be borrowed for demonstration projects across the state, which are housed in Missouri's four largest cities. Information about accessing the traffic calming lending libraries can be found via the American Planning Association - Missouri Chapter website.
Through this training, we asked attendees to bring their questions about safe and community-oriented roadway design, connect with each other, and open their mind to consider where complete streets concepts could be implemented in their own communities.
By participating in presentations from experts and interactive activities to visually showcase the benefits of complete streets, participants gained a broad understanding of how complete streets can improve physical activity, social connections, and economic resiliency within communities.
Missourians for Responsible Transportation would like to thank our speakers and participants, as well as the many groups and individuals who supported the planning for this training, in particular Southwest Missouri Council of Governments, Kaysinger Basin Regional Planning Commission, and Harry S Truman Coordinating Council. Funding for this project was funded in whole by Missouri Foundation for Health, and we appreciate Historic Firehouse No. 2 for their beautiful venue.