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Civic Impact

Complete Street Transformations shares infrastructure success stories

The Toronto Centre for Active Transportation has long been a cheerleader for Complete Streets policies; now, they’ve put their success stories down on paper. “The philosophy is that we should be building streets that are everyone to use, no matter how they get around,” says TCAT Director Nancy Smith Lea. Along with professors from the University of Toronto and Ryerson University, Lea is one of the lead authors of “Complete Street Transformations in the Greater Golden Horseshoe Region,” which profiles nine local streetscapes that prioritize pedestrians, cyclists, and people using public transportation.

“It’s a shift from how we’ve been doing things for the past many decades, when we’ve been mostly been facilitating motor vehicle traffic. It’s looking at things from a different perspective,” says Lea. The new book evolved out of a recent catalog, published by TCAT, which examined Complete Streets projects already under development in the Greater Golden Horseshoe region. The catalog’s goal was to measure the streets’ successes. “There just isn’t enough information out there about how the streets are being evaluated and how they work in different contexts,” explains Lea. “We wanted to compile as much information as we could about how effective those designs were, and put them side-by-side so people could look at them.”

Complete Streets Transformations examined nine different completed projects, in a variety of contexts, including rural, urban, and suburban. “We wanted as diverse number of projects as possible,” says Lea. The Complete Streets philosophy is becoming more widespread in the US, where over 700 local policies have been implemented. “In Canada, it’s a bit of a different situation,” says Lea. She points to St. George Street in downtown Toronto as a local example of how the philosophy’s influence. “Built in the late 90s, nobody called it a complete street then, but they call it one now.”

Lea hopes the book will be used by regional planners and municipal staff as an advocacy tool, as well as a tool to help evaluate the impact of the design of these streets. “It’s the minority of streets that we build in this way. Most streets are build in the old way,” she says. “These projects are a good thing, especially in terms of increasing safety for cyclists and pedestrians.”  
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