Thursday, March 26, 2015

Santa Cruz and Ecology Action create Complete Streets Master Plan for Santa Cruz

The City of Santa Cruz and Ecology Action have just finished creating a Complete Streets Master Plan for Santa Cruz. Complete Streets are streets for everyone; they are designed with citizens in mind and operated to enable safe access for pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Communities seem to reap incredible benefits from participating in Complete Streets.

In a recent study of 37 projects, Smart Growth for America found that Complete Streets project increased biking and walking and provided an inexpensive way to achieve transportation goals. For a more complete analysis of the cost and benefits, please read here.

According to the Executive Summary, Complete Streets addresses congestion, climate change and oil dependence. These streets are designed and managed to allow for safe areas for pedestrians, cyclists and transit riders. Complete Streets seeks to serve everyone equally, so that all individuals can feel safe when using the streets. The project was created through the partnership of The City of Santa Cruz Public Works Department and non-profit Ecology Action. The plan was funded in February 2013, by Caltrans.

An example of a program being implemented is the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Movement. It is a national movement to create a safe and even fun opportunity for children to get to school by means other than automobiles. SRTS encourages children to bike, skip, skate, scooter and walk to school! Of course, there are vast benefits when students walk, bike and take public transportation to school. Greenhouse gas emissions reduce drastically, for every vehicle mile that is replaced with non-emitting substitute, greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by 1 pound on average. Student health is promoted, congestion and traffic is reduced, and there is increased safety for student cyclists and pedestrians.

The most crucial part of this plan has been the community engagement and participation. The forums focused on engaging with parents, school staff, students and public to gather input with the goal of increasing safe student sustainable transport. Two forums were held, October 23rd and 24th in 2013. The first forum was held at Santa Cruz High School, and the second was held at Harbor High School. School site walking and biking audits took place, as well as parental surveys, Student Travel Mode Surveys, Online Outreach and Input, and PTA and school meetings. Some UC Santa Cruz students involved in the Impact Designs: Engineering and Sustainability (IDEASS) through Student Services program last year attended some of these bike/walk audits and forums as part of their Bicycle Transit Planning internship. Students at the local schools gave input during bike/walk audits along with their parents, City & Ecology Action staff, and other community members.

Some of the recommendations identified that the City and Ecology Action recommend include implementing speed feedback signs around schools; repainting worn-out crosswalks, stop bars, centerlines, and pavement markings as needed. The City will continue the practice of requiring homeowners to cut back intruding vegetation and repair damaged sidewalks, conducting bicycle safety education, and to create crossing guard training to better meet the challenging work the guards perform every day.

To read the final report provided by the City of Santa Cruz, please click here.

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