Frequently Asked Questions
About Our Tool
Below you will find frequently asked questions about our tool.
How was this tool developed and what is it for?
The Benefits of Complete Streets Tool was developed through a yearlong process of identifying metrics for Complete Streets benefits, designed intentionally to go beyond the conventional technique of cost-benefit analysis (CBA) to assess the value of a project—it considers interventions through a series of quantitative indicators that address valuable outcomes that aren’t always quantifiable or monetized. A few economic indicators are available to be computed in each locality’s analysis, but the ultimate purpose of this tool is to approach the benefits of project-level interventions in a holistic way, recognizing the intersectional nature of health, safety, environmental conditions, and social equity, and their impact on our communities at both individual and collective levels.
What is the tool?
The Benefits of Complete Streets Tool is a series of projection methods that seek to quantify the impact of Complete Streets based on various Complete Streets projects outcomes. The measurements vary depending on the project type analyzed, and your project may include one, many, or all of these features. The ultimate goal is to serve as a resource for communities to better understand how the projects they are choosing may impact their health, safety, environment, and economy while considering an equity approach. This is not a comprehensive tool; the methodology behind some indicators had to be simplified to preserve applicability across different types and sizes of communities, but its development was based on best practices in research to include the most robust and recent data.
Who developed this tool?
The Benefits of Complete Streets Tool was developed by Smart Growth America and the National Complete Streets Coalition, with funding provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity (Cooperative Agreement CDC-RFA-OT18-1802) in support of the Active People, Healthy Nation℠ Initiative. The views presented in this product do not necessarily reflect the views and/or positions of CDC.
How do I use this tool?
Download the Measuring the Benefits of Complete Streets Tool and User Guide and follow the step-by-step instructions to gather and enter the required data. The tool will calculate your results. Share those results with partners and stakeholders to demonstrate the many benefits of a single Complete Streets project, building local support for Complete Streets and activity-friendly routes to everyday destinations.
What are Complete Streets?
Complete Streets are designed and operated to prioritize safety, comfort, and access to destinations for all people who use the street, especially people who have experienced systemic underinvestment or whose needs have not been met through a traditional transportation approach, including older adults, people living with disabilities, people who cannot afford or do not have access to a car, and Black, Native, and Hispanic or Latino/a/x communities. Complete Streets make it easy to cross the street, walk to shops, jobs, and schools, bicycle to work, and move actively with assistive devices. They allow buses to run on time and make it safe for people to walk or move actively to and from train stations.
Why should we build Complete Streets?
Complete Streets are a basic building block of building better places where everyone has a chance to live in a healthy, prosperous, safe place—especially for the most vulnerable people who use our streets, including children, people living with disabilities, older adults, and people who cannot afford or do not have access to a car. Complete Streets improve equity, safety, and public health, while reducing transportation costs and traffic woes. They are an essential component of building successful places.
What are activity-friendly routes to everyday destinations?
Activity-friendly routes are a principal strategy of CDC’s Active People, Healthy Nation℠ Initiative, which aims to help 27 million people Americans become more physically active by 2027. Increased physical activity can improve health and quality of life, and reduce healthcare costs. Complete Streets are a vital component of the strategy, which goes beyond transportation to include decisions on land use and the built form.
Who should use this tool?
Local transportation planners, health department officials, advocacy organizations, elected officials, and other stakeholders can use this tool to learn how design can maximize the benefits of Complete Streets, focus them in an equitable way, and to help communicate them in and to their communities.
What if I only want to measure one impact category?
The tool is designed to show a multitude of benefits from one Complete Streets project; however you can use part or all of the tool as needed. Just make sure you always complete the first section on demographics, so the results you generate are based on an approach rooted in equity.
What do we mean by “an equity approach?”
PolicyLink defines equity as “just and fair inclusion into a society in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential. Unlocking the promise of the nation by unleashing the promise in us all.” By defining equity and inclusion as foundational to achieve our goal to create built environments that support healthy and vibrant communities, we must work to identify and set metrics for equity in the work we do. According to the American Planning Association, an equity in all policies approach involves working to use an equity lens in all planning practices, including work on Complete Streets, local economic development, land use decisions, distribution of resources and investment in infrastructure, public health, housing, mobility and transportation, and public spaces.
Can you use the tool to measure a past project?
You can use the tool to measure a past project; however the tool is designed to provide estimated projections, so users should take that into consideration. The tool’s ideal use would be to advocate for a project, or in the early phases of project planning and design.
Can you use the tool to compare two scenarios for a complete streets project?
Yes! You could absolutely compare one road project against another. You can use the information gathered from the Complete Streets Benefits Tool to supplement the other analysis being completed for these projects. It would potentially provide a more comprehensive picture of the multitude of potential benefits of a Complete Streets project. The tool isn’t the final answer or the most complex answer; project sponsors should consider all other types of analysis (benefit-cost, economic impact, policy/political, etc.), but we believe it will round out the picture in a simple, accessible way.