The 2017 New Jersey Complete Streets Summit was held on Tuesday, October 24, at Rutgers University. It brought together over 300 planners, engineers, advocates, and policy-makers from throughout the state to celebrate the success of Complete Streets in New Jersey, and to provide information about benefits, implementation strategies, and the goals of Complete Streets. The biennial event, sponsored by the New Jersey Department of Transportation, is held to advance strategies for providing a safe, multi-modal transportation system that is accessible for all users.
Every year has seen a growing interest in both Complete Streets and the Summit. The number of Complete Streets policies in New Jersey has steadily increased, with 18 new policies adopted since the previous summit. As of October 2017, 137 municipalities and 8 counties have their own policies, which complement the statewide policy promoted by NJDOT. The Summit itself saw the largest attendance yet, with the main room at full capacity.
Sessions this year focused on providing information about practical skills such as design principles and financing mechanisms to help communities transition from adopting Complete Street policies to implementing projects. However, introductory sessions were also held for those looking to pass a policy in their municipality.
Visit this link to browse the presentations, award videos, and pictures from the event. Continue reading for a summary of the day.
Jon A. Carnegie, AICP/PP, Executive Director of the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center, welcomed attendees and introduced the Summit’s keynote speaker Tony Garcia, Principal of Street Plans Collaborative. Some of Mr. Garcia’s accomplishments include coauthoring the series Tactical Urbanism and formerly chairing Green Mobility Network, the largest bicycle pedestrian advocacy group in South Florida. Mr. Garcia spoke extensively about tactical urbanism, explaining projects that can vary from unsanctioned to sanctioned, and the stages of project delivery for a typical tactical urbanism project.
Mr. Garcia explained the merits of tactical urbanism, which include the rapid delivery of public goods, a low cost way of testing projects before large investments are made, and advancing participatory planning principles that engage the public in the process of shaping their communities. The case study of the Ludlam Trail project, which resulted in the establishment of a 50-acre park in Miami-Dade County, was presented showing the steps that were taken from start to completion.
He further explained the four primary elements of tactical urbanism planning: communication, planning, build, and evaluation. Communication involved speaking with community members, media and public outreach, finding partners, and creating a communication plan/schedule. Branding is also an important part of the communication element. When preparing plans, Mr. Garcia stressed the importance of starting with existing plans and communicating with the public at each step. Once plans are determined, it is important to create a build team, have a detailed budget and schedule so that volunteers time is spent productively. Evaluating your plan, collecting data from the site, and documenting every step of your project is also very important. The build stage of the tactical urbanism project provides great opportunity to have community members come together and work towards a goal. Political leaders who have joined the cause often become increasingly motivated after a build, and it provides a great photo shoot. After carefully measuring, the physical modifications to the street such as laying out stripes, barriers, and pavement markings can occur. It is important to remember that often times, these projects are not meant to be permanent, and adjustments, follow up, and maintenance are a must. Sometimes your projects do not work but that’s okay, do not let a failing project stay!
Mr. Garcia’s keynote was followed by the “Cutting Edge Complete Streets Panel,” which spoke about Complete Streets in the context of Vision Zero, green streets, mobility, equity, and health. The panel provided great insight as to the wide range of benefits that Complete Streets can bring, and provided eye-opening statistics.
After the initial panel of speakers Michael Russo, the Assistant Commissioner of Capital Investment Planning and Grant Administration with the New Jersey Department of Transportation took to the stage. He praised the efforts in New Jersey to promote Complete Streets, which has led to New Jersey being among the first states to have a statewide policy, ranked 1 nationally by the National Complete Streets Coalition from 2010 to 2012. Mr. Russo also spoke as to how the NJDOT has recently released a Complete Streets Design Guide, which was designed to allow for better integration of Complete Streets into existing and future projects. The Assistant Commissioner also highlighted all the grants that are available for those looking to work with Complete Streets, including: Safe Routes to School, Bikeway Grants, Safe Streets to Transit, and Transit Villages. He concluded his talk by congratulating and thanking those who are working to improve transportation, safety and health in New Jersey by promoting Complete Streets.
As the attendees broke for lunch, they had time to browse a display set up by NJDOT concerning the New Jersey Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan. The “Master Plan EXPO” provided information about the vision, goals, and objectives of the Plan. One of the key concepts that went into this Master Plan was the need for input and collaboration not just from those who work on bicycle and pedestrian issues on a daily basis, but also from allies in other disciplines, such as healthcare, environmental, and nonprofit organizations. Because the Summit brought together a wide range of professionals, a survey was set up to allow for that input. Those who did not have a chance to respond to the survey at the Summit can still do so on this website.
Once attendees had a chance to return to their tables, Charles Brown, Senior Researcher with the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center, distributed awards to counties and municipalities that worked towards progressing the goals of Complete Streets throughout New Jersey. Eighteen municipalities were given a plaque for adopting Complete Streets Policies. The Complete Streets Champion awards were awarded to Bill Curtis, Mayor of the Borough of Bay Head, Asbury Park Complete Streets Coalition, William Pikolycky, Mayor of Borough of Woodbine, and Principal James Flynn and the students of Burlington City High School. The Complete Streets Excellence Awards were awarded to Cape May County, City of Newark, Lawrence Hopewell Trail Corporation, Millburn Township, Morristown, and the Borough of Somerville. The Excellence Awards were accompanied by videos, which can be viewed on YouTube and Vimeo from this page.
After the awards ceremony, breakout sessions were convened. One track was held for those wanting to learn about policy, and another for those looking for information on implementation.
The policy sessions included information about liability, Sustainable Jersey, constructing a policy, and building support through grassroots efforts. The implementation sessions took a deeper dive into funding, routine maintenance, the Complete Streets Design Guide, and long-term planning.
Following the breakout sessions, Charles Brown concluded the Summit by having all the participants pledge to continue their work with pursuing Complete Street Policies and striving to improve streets in New Jersey for all users.