Complete Streets in Missouri: Why communities pass policies, how they help

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has been involved in promoting Complete Streets and Livable Streets policies across Missouri for several years now.  Information and resources from the Department's programs over the years are available at the MIssouri Livable Streets web site

An example of a complete street in a city or town.
An example of a complete street in a city or town.

Recently the Department funded a research study that interviewed key stakeholders in Missouri communities that have adopted Complete Streets/Livable Streets policies (PDF).  The research shows some interesting results--why communities work to pass these policies, what the policies do for communities, and how we can work to make Complete Streets policies in Missouri more effective:

  • The most common reasons for passing a LS/CS policy were to make it a community-wide priority and to improve the community’s economic vitality.
     
  • Communities recognized that having stakeholder support and especially having a “champion” advocate were crucial for policy development and implementation.  Other important factors cited were having flexibility within the policy and ongoing communication with key stakeholders.
     
  • Funding was considered both a barrier and a catalyst in passing LS/CS policies.  Responses about funding often uncovered other related challenges such as community infrastructure concerns and differing transportation priorities among stakeholders.
     
  • Although organized opposition of LS/CS policies was uncommon, several respondents expressed the need to balance LS/CS ideas and standards with what is practical and works best for the community. 
     
  • Communities sometimes excluded implementation guidelines, evaluation measures or street design guidelines from the proposed policy because they believed these factors would make it hard to get community buy-in.  Respondents also stated that their lack of knowledge about what and how to measure was a challenge. 
     
  • As a result of LS/CS policies, communities reported:

1.      a positive change in their relationship with the Missouri Department of Transportation (MODOT) and MODOT’s willingness to incorporate LS/CS elements

2.      physical improvements within the community

3.      increases in biking, walking and the use of trail systems

4.      greater economic development

5.      a cultural shift among community and policy stakeholders from a car-oriented approach to a focus on making transportation accessible for all

 

Opportunities and Recommendations

The interviews offered several key recommendations for improving LS/CS policy development and implementation and identified Missouri’s opportunities and needed resources.   Recommendations include:

  • Continue partnership building.  Many local, regional and state partners played an integral role in LS/CS policy adoption and on-going implementation efforts.  Respondents recommended developing a framework to coordinates these various organizations and their agendas.  This would help optimize limited resources and offer current and potential LS/CS communities a broader level of expertise.
     
  • Provide educational resources and/or technical assistance on evaluationDespite their uncertainty about evaluation, respondents recognized the importance of evaluation with some expressing a desire to do more evaluation. Identifying or developing an adaptable evaluation tool with prioritized benchmarks and milestones and accompanying tracking forms would be a helpful resource for communities. 
     
  • Address implementation barriers.  Defining “best practices” or a clear actionable model for how to overcome common implementation barriers—such as funding or limited infrastructure—could help communities develop mechanisms for avoiding them or limiting their impact.  Establishing “must have” policy elements could help guide policy development as well as head off some implementation barriers before they arise.
     
  • Assist with acquiring funding.  Marketing funding opportunities and providing support during the application process could help communities, particularly smaller ones, secure much-needed funds.  Education and guidance on how to efficiently leverage current resources and ongoing transportation projects to move livable streets efforts forward might also help communities address funding gaps.
     
  • Expand communication efforts.  Continued communication and awareness efforts are needed to familiarize the public and key stakeholders with the LS/CS concept.  Educational and marketing materials for promoting a Livable Streets policy well after it has been passed could help communities continue momentum into the implementation stage.

Download the full research report here.

Visit MoBikeFed's Missouri Complete Streets page to find out more about Complete Streets in Missouri, including links to all existing Missouri Complete Streets policies.

 

Working for Complete Streets across Missouri is one of the primary goals of MoBikeFed's Vision for Bicycling and Walking in Missouri. Your membership and support helps make our Vision become reality.