600451-00119

SWUTC Research Project Description

Evaluation of Complete Streets Policy Implementation by Metropolitan Planning Organizations

University: University of New Orleans

Principal Investigator:
Tara Tolford
Gulf Coast Research Center for Evacuation and Transportation Resiliency
(504) 280-6516

Project Monitor:
Dan Jatres
New Orleans Regional Planning Commission
(504) 483-8505

Funding Source: USDOT

Total Project Cost: $33,287

Project Number: 600451-00119

Date Started: 9/1/13

Estimated Completion Date: 12/31/14

Project Summary

Project Abstract:
Over the last ten years, complete streets policy diffusion has been rapid, but uneven, and the extent to which policy adoption is making a difference in the implementation of projects at the local and regional level is unclear, as this innovative approach still competing with the decades old auto-oriented design practices. Tracking the transition and understanding the opportunities and barriers to policy diffusion can help communities craft more appropriate strategies to meet the changing demands and expectations of the public.  Through a national survey of the 385 metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) around the country, this research seeks to evaluate the extent to which complete streets policies are being adopted and implemented at MPO level, what opportunities and barriers to complete streets adoption and implementation at MPO level, the impact of MAP-21 on complete streets adoption and implementation, and implications for future policy diffusion and innovation efforts.

Project Objectives:
This research seeks to address four overarching questions:

Q1: To what extent are complete streets policies being adopted and implemented at MPO level?

Q2: What are the key opportunities and barriers to complete streets adoption and implementation at MPO level?

Q3: What is the impact of MAP-21 on complete streets adoption and implementation? Specifically, how is the suballocation of Transportation Alternatives funding impacting complete streets policies at the MPO level?

Q4: What lessons does the complete streets implementation analysis provide for broader questions of policy diffusion and innovation?

To answer these questions, the study team will craft a targeted survey directed at the 385 MPOs across the nation. This survey will build on previous work by Lenhing (2011) and Handy and McCann (2011). Lenhing (2011) surveyed the internal determinants and policy diffusion factors associated with innovative transportation practices to improve aging in place in cities across the country. Handy and McCann (2011) analyze MPO effectiveness in implementing bikeped projects. They analyze four factors associated with MPO bikeped implementation: state level, regional level, MPO level, and unique factors (Figure 1). The proposed research seeks to build understanding of the potential differences and similarities in the internal determinants and policy diffusion factors that are at play in MPO implementation of complete streets policies.

Task Descriptions:

Task 1: Literature Review.
The team will gather and analyze relevant literature pertaining to Complete Streets policy implementation and active transportation infrastructure funding at the MPO level.

Task 2: Develop and Distribute Survey Instrument.
The survey instrument will combine closed and open-ended questions, and will be distributed to all 385 MPOs online via email, with follow up with calls and paper or email attachment surveys for non-respondents.

Task 3: Analyze Survey Results
Survey findings will be compiles and analyzed. Case study targets will be identified based on survey results.

Task 4: Conduct Case Studies
Three case studies MPOs will be identified based on survey findings. Case studies will include document review, as well as in person and/or telephone interviews to better understand opportunities, barriers, and best practices for regional Complete Streets implementation.

Task 5: Host New Orleans Regional Complete Streets Conference
UNOTI and Bike Easy will host and produce a regional event bringing together stakeholders from all New Orleans Metro Area jurisdictions to learn about and discuss means of implementing and funding Complete Streets policies at the local and regional level based on survey and case study results.

Task 6: Produce Final Report and draft journal article
Key findings from all previous tasks will be synthesized in a final comprehensive report. In addition, a draft academic journal article will be prepared for submission.


Implementation of Research Outcomes:
Over the last ten years, communities around the country have begun to implement comprehensive reforms designed to ensure that roadway users of all ages and abilities can safely utilize the transportation system. This complete streets policy framework has emerged as an important tool for communities to improve opportunities for active living with over 500 policies adopted nationwide.

Complete streets policy diffusion has been rapid, but uneven, and the extent to which policy adoption is making a difference in the implementation of projects at the local and regional level is unclear. This research project seeks to address this need through a national survey of the 385 metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) around the country, evaluating the extent to which complete streets policies are being adopted and implemented at the MPO level, what opportunities and barriers to complete streets exist, and implications for future policy diffusion and innovation efforts.

Products developed by this research:

Presentation:  Complete Streets and MPOs:  Findings from a National Survey, Tara Tolford, presented to the UNO Transportation Institute Lunch and Learn Seminar, New Orleans, LA, March 31, 2015.

Presentation:  Evaluation of Complete Streets Policy Implementation by Metropolitan Planning Organizations:  From Policy Adoption to Implementation, Tara Tolford, presented to the Active Living Research Annual Conference, San Diego, CA, February 2015.

Presentation:  Opportunities and Barriers to Complete Streets Policy Implementation, Tara Tolford, presented to the Louisiana Bike-Walk Summit, Baton Rouge, LA, November 10, 2014.

Policy Brief:  Opportunities and Barriers to Complete Streets Policy Implementation, Tara Tolford, distributed to the 2014 Louisiana Bike-Walk Summit, Baton Rouge, LA, November 10, 2014.

Impacts/Benefits of Implementation:
This project’s immediate impact was to convene, facilitate, and inform Louisiana’s first statewide active transportation policy summit. The project scope included planning an event focused on Complete Streets policy, which brought together experts, community and government leaders, and advocates from around the state. The study’s preliminary findings were presented at this event and used to catalyze discussion about best practices in regional policy implementation, as well as implications for local and state-level policy. As a direct result of this event, a new statewide active transportation advocacy group was formed, which has made the summit into an annual event (2nd annual planned for November, 2015) and which continues to engage with the Merritt C. Becker Jr. University of New Orleans Transportation Institute to develop data-driven policy briefs and needs statements.

More broadly, this project contributed to our national understanding of the mechanisms of policy diffusion generally, and about the opportunities for and barriers to complete streets policy specifically, including key stakeholders, primary motivations, and most significant obstacles to policy adoption and/or implementation.

Web Links:
Final Technical Report