Tucson Approves Complete Streets Policy, Thanks to Advocates

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Incomplete streets cover Tucson.

Sadly, each year, 50 people are killed and 5,000 injured on streets in this 43% Latino town. Half of major streets don’t have sidewalks, and people face dangerous congested roads and limited access to public transit to get to work, medical appointments, and more.

But that could change soon.

In February 2019, the Tucson City Council voted 7-0 to pass a Complete Streets policy to fund, plan, design, and build streets with all users in mind.

How Advocates Pushed Complete Streets in Tucson

Nationwide, cities are adopting Complete Streets policies.

These streets meet the needs of people walking, people biking, people taking transit, and people driving, regardless of age or ability. These streets are especially needed in areas with large Latino populations, who are three times as likely as white people to rely on transit to get work but face dangerous streets, no sidewalks, and limited access to transit.

The Living Streets Alliance wanted to make Complete Streets happen in Tucson.

The organization was awarded a grant in 2016 from Voices for Healthy Kids to pursue an equitable Complete Streets Policy in Tucson.

Voices for Healthy Kids is a joint initiative of the American Heart Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to support policy changes to help children grow up healthy in their communities.

In September 2017, the Living Streets Alliance hosted a Complete Streets Policy Development Workshop.

Over 100 city employees, leaders and community partners attended. Watch the videos.

Living Streets Alliance formed the Complete Streets Task Force with members from various groups, including the Pima County Health Department, City of Tucson Department of Transportation, Tucson Police Department, Tucson Fire Department, Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, Southwest Fair Housing Council, and the John Valenzuela Youth Center.

In January 2018, the Tucson City Council voted to direct staff to develop a Complete Streets Policy working in collaboration with community stakeholders.

“Too many Tucsonans are killed every year on our roadways and we simply aren’t taking this seriously enough,” said Councilwoman Regina Romero, who requested the discussion of the complete-streets policy, according to tucson.com.

Living Streets Alliance designed a Complete Streets Community Engagement workshop for each of the Ward Offices to develop community awareness.

In April 2018, Gil Penalosa, a world-renowned urban planner, provided several Complete Streets conversations for the community, government leaders, and staff from multiple jurisdictions.

In August 2018, the Living Streets Alliance hosted their second Complete Streets Stakeholder Dialogue Workshop.

Task Force members and community members helped provide input for the guiding principles and development of the first draft of a Complete Streets Policy.

Tucson’s Complete Streets Plans

In a September 2018 Mayor and Council Memorandum from the assistant city manager, six priorities were identified to serve as the guiding principles for the development of the Policy: safety, accessibility, land use, equity, environment, and economic vitality.

Specific implementation steps include restructuring and revising existing plans/procedures/regulations; developing design guidelines that support Complete Streets; offering training opportunities for staff and the broader community; developing performance measures that focus on equitable implementation; creating a committee to oversee implementation; and creating an inclusive community engagement plan.

Additionally in the memo, alignment considerations with goals, focus areas, and policies from Plan Tucson, the city’s general and sustainability, were addressed. For example, as adopted by voters in 2013, one built environment policy is to create pedestrian and bicycle networks that are continuous and provide safe and convenient alternatives within neighborhoods and for getting to school, work, parks, shopping, services, and other destinations on a regular basis.

The Complete Streets Task Force worked on the draft policy and came up with 14 implementation tasks including:

  • Hiring a Complete Streets Project Manager;
  • Developing a Mobility Master Plan;
  • Creating a Complete Streets Design Manual;
  • Establishing performance measures;
  • Creating a community engagement plan;
  • Developing a project prioritization tool; and
  • Creating a Complete Streets Technical Review and a Complete Streets Coordinating Council.

Once the draft policy was finalized, the issue was placed on the City of Tucson Mayor and Council study session meeting agenda for Jan. 23, 2019 and regular meeting agenda for Feb. 5.

At the study session, the mayor and council discussed the draft policy—if any issues came up, city staff would revise the draft policy before it went to a vote on the Feb. 5, or postpone the vote.

On Feb 1, 2019, Living Streets Alliance posted an action alert on their website asking residents to sign a petition or send an email to their council member asking them support Complete Streets.

On Feb. 5, 2019, Tucson City Council voted 7-0 to pass Ordinance No. 11621 relating to Transportation; authorizing and approving adoption of the City of Tucson Complete Streets Policy.

Staff will return to Mayor and Council with a Complete Streets Implementation Plan.

“Everybody at some point in their life is a pedestrian,” said Steve Kozachik, Tucson City Council Member, according to kvoa.com. “Everybody at some point gets around in ways other than cars. The way we design our roads right now is completely car-centric.”

“Complete Streets is a different kind of mindset as far as roadway design is concerned. It’s saying we’re going to build roadways, but we’re also going to consider how people get around other than driving.”

Many cities continue to design roadways that are dangerous for people walking.

See how Florida is working to reinvent Complete Streets.

By The Numbers By The Numbers

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Pedestrians survive when hit by a car at 40 MPH

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