Complete Streets

What is "Complete Streets"?

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation defines a Complete Street as a street "that provides safe and accessible options for all travel modes – walking, biking, transit and vehicles – for people of all ages and abilities."

Complete Streets Policy (Adopted in 2016)

(PDF Version)

1. Complete Streets Objectives

The Town of Brookline shall plan, construct, and maintain its public ways to enhance safety, access, inclusion, convenience, and comfort for all users, thereby creating “complete streets.” The Town will create a comprehensive transportation network that sufficiently accommodates people of all ages and abilities, whether traveling by foot, bicycle, wheelchair,1 mass transit, or motor vehicle.2 Achieving these objectives will require context-sensitive treatments and operational strategies to balance the needs of all users.

To meet the objectives above, and to further the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) transportation goal of shifting users to more healthful and sustainable transportation modes and to comply with M.G.L. Chapter 90I, §1 eligibility requirements to receive funding under MassDOT’s Complete Streets Program, the Town’s transportation projects shall be designed and implemented to provide safe and comfortable access for healthful transportation choices such as walking, bicycling, and mass transit. The needs and safety of the town’s most vulnerable users shall be given special consideration during project planning. Users may be considered vulnerable by virtue of their mode of transportation, such as bicycling or walking, or because of their age or ability, such as small children, senior citizens, and people with disabilities.

Brookline’s transportation network will maintain or enhance the town’s core strengths and values:

  • Convenient, inclusive and safe access by people of all ages and abilities, to all community destinations and activities, via all forms of transportation;
  • Walkable neighborhoods, commercial districts, and neighborhood school districts;
  • A network of open spaces, beautiful public spaces, and streets that incorporate trees, vegetation, and art, encourage social engagement, are pleasant to move about and be in, and contribute to a healthy environment;
  • Economic vitality of local businesses;
  • Environmental sustainability and transportation choices that reduce carbon emissions and other adverse environmental and public health impacts;
  • Active, healthy lifestyles; and
  • Social equity.3

1 Even where not explicit, all references in this Policy to “walking” and “pedestrians” shall apply also to wheelchair use and wheelchair users. The Americans with Disabilities Act’s rules define “wheelchair” as “a manually-operated or power-driven device designed primarily for use by an individual with a mobility disability for the main purpose of indoor or of both indoor and outdoor locomotion.”

2 “Motor vehicle” is used broadly here, and includes delivery and service vehicles.

3 In the context of this policy, social equity is maintained and enhanced by incorporating positive measures and interventions to encourage fair outcomes for all groups potentially affected, with particular attention to income, age, gender, minority status, modes used, and location.

2. Projects and Phases

To provide appropriate accommodation and promote safe travel for users of all ages and abilities, including those who walk, use a wheelchair, bicycle, and use public transit, the Town shall incorporate Complete Streets elements into planning, transportation projects, and other projects affecting the public rights of way and, where feasible, when modifying existing streets, including repaving, painting new pavement markings, refinishing, resetting curbs, and reconstructing sidewalks. Complete Streets elements are design features that facilitate achievement of the Complete Streets objectives. Safe accommodation for all users should be provided within comprehensive, connected, direct, and low-stress networks in a manner supportive of the surrounding community and in accordance with Brookline’s public space constraints, and core strengths and values listed above.

Complete Streets elements should be incorporated at the beginning of the project development process to avoid additional costs and potential delays that could arise if they are not added until later, or would require retrofit after project completion.

The Town should approach every relevant program, as well as every transportation, public utilities, infrastructure, and public and private development project, as an opportunity to improve the public way and the transportation network for all users. Complete Streets work shall be performed by the Department of Public Works (DPW) and its Transportation Division, and by the Planning and Community Development Department in cooperation with other departments, agencies and jurisdictions as needed. For a project inside the town’s boundaries but outside its jurisdiction, the Town shall advocate that the project comply with the Complete Streets Policy.

All transportation infrastructure and street design projects in Brookline receiving federal, state, municipal, or private funding or requiring approval by the Town should adhere to the Complete Streets Policy. For development projects that require review specified by the Zoning By-law, or development projects affecting the public way, compliance with the Complete Streets Policy will be encouraged, to the extent not prohibited by the Zoning By-law or other relevant laws and regulations. The Department of Planning and Community Development will encourage Town land use boards to consider compliance with the Policy in their deliberations. Private land to be incorporated into the public way by the Town should comply with the Complete Streets Policy.

If a representative of the Town participates in meetings involving the design and planning of programs, transportation projects, or private development projects not under the Town’s jurisdiction, the representative shall advocate that the project be carried out in accordance with the principles of the Complete Streets Policy.

3. Design Guidance, Flexibility, and Context Sensitivity

The Town shall be guided by the most currently accepted planning and design standards and guidance that are consistent with the Complete Streets Policy, and shall periodically update a public list of relevant guidance documents to be used for this purpose. Examples of the guidance documents to be used are listed in Attachment A. Unique characteristics and policies of the Town shall be considered when applying said standards and guidance.

At a minimum, works and programs identified under “Projects and Phases” above, as well as the networks of principal bicycle and pedestrian routes being developed by the Town, shall be guided by the following:

  1. Complete Streets elements shall be consistent with a setting’s context, accounting for features such as adjacent land use, architectural form, the nature and qualities of the public realm, and expected uses of the route. For example, a quiet residential street with sidewalks, minimal motor traffic, and typical vehicle speeds of 20 miles per hour or less might be considered “complete” as-is.
  2. The safety, comfort, and convenience of vulnerable users must be fully considered.
  3. Continuous sidewalks shall be provided on both sides of a roadway where possible.
  4. New and reconstructed sidewalks shall be accessible to and usable by people with disabilities in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Massachusetts Architectural Access Board Rules and Regulations (521 CMR), and other applicable accessibility standards. For new and reconstructed sidewalks, obstacles that limit or preclude compliance with said standards, including utility poles, mailboxes, and landscaping, shall be modified, relocated, removed, or worked around to achieve compliance wherever feasible.
  5. Sidewalks and crosswalks should be adequately lit.
  6. The safety, comfort, and convenience of people crossing streets must be addressed through design considerations such as appropriate location and spacing of crossings, visibility, crossing distances, wait times, conflict reduction, and features that increase the awareness of people traveling through a pedestrian crossing.
  7. The safety, comfort, and convenience of people bicycling or walking must be considered and, where appropriate and possible, provided for through separation of disparate types of users. Separated bicycle facilities include, for example, physically-separated bicycle lanes (“cycle tracks”), buffered and conventional bicycle lanes, contraflow travel, bicycle boxes, and dedicated signals. Pedestrian facilities can be separated from bicycles and motor vehicles using tree lawns, street furniture, planters, crosswalk stanchions, bollards, crossing islands, and changes in elevation. The volume and speed of traffic must be considered in determining the needed degree of separation, if any.
  8. There may be areas where traffic calming and access management should be prioritized to implement a lower-speed/lower-volume street. In certain areas, a “shared space” or pedestrian-priority approach may be desirable.
  9. Transit facilities such as shelters and seating at stops, stops located on the far side of intersections, exclusive bus lanes, and signal priority must be fully considered and implemented in the design of streets and intersections along transit routes wherever applicable and practical.
  10. On sidewalks along streets that are extensively used as walking routes and are designated by the Town, the Town shall seek to provide benches at intervals of no greater than one-quarter mile.
  11. Recognizing that trucks and vans provide essential goods and services, the routes, access, and parking necessary to allow such vehicles to maneuver safely and efficiently should be considered. Mechanisms to lessen the adverse impacts of such vehicles should also be considered.
  12. When normal access in the public way is impeded during construction, adequate accommodation must be made for people to walk and bicycle safely.
  13. For transportation and other projects affecting the public way, the Town shall strive to incorporate green infrastructure such as trees, bioswales, rain gardens, other landscaping and permeable surfaces, wherever applicable and practical, to naturally manage stormwater, improve watershed health, reduce heat island effects, and beautify Brookline’s streets and public spaces.

In planning and implementing street projects, all departments and agencies of the Town of Brookline will maintain sensitivity to local conditions in both residential and business districts. They will seek to work with residents, shopkeepers, institutions, and other stakeholders to solicit input on project design, ensure that a strong sense of place is maintained, cultivate a sense of inclusion, and maximize benefit to the community. It will be important to the success of the Complete Streets Policy to ensure that the project development process includes early consideration of land use and transportation context and connectivity, identifies gaps or deficiencies in the network for various user groups , and assesses the trade-offs required to balance the needs of all users.

4. Exceptions

Safe, comfortable, and convenient access to healthful transportation choices by vulnerable users should be incorporated in all work identified under “Projects and Phases” above, with only the following exceptions:

  • For emergency repairs and routine maintenance;
  • In locations where people are prohibited by law from using the facility on foot or by bicycle;
  • In situations in which the cost of establishing bikeways or walkways as part of the project would be disproportionate to anticipated future use and value; and
  • In locations where, as determined by the Transportation Board, existing right of way constraints preclude the addition of transit, bicycle, or pedestrian facilities, or where such addition would create unsafe conditions. In these cases, the Town shall consider measures such as lane reduction, lane narrowing, on-street parking relocation or reduction, signage, traffic calming, and changes to flow direction to implement a lower-speed or shared street so that a typical driver would not feel comfortable driving above a safe speed.

If, in the process of approving a particular project, the Transportation Board determines that it is necessary to make an exception to the Complete Streets Policy, the Board will document the factors considered in a design exception statement published on the Town’s website.

5. Implementation

A Complete Streets Implementation Plan will be developed by an entity designated by the Board of Selectmen. Additionally, the Board of Selectmen will designate an entity responsible for overseeing and reporting on Complete Streets implementation. The implementation activities described below, at a minimum, are needed to initiate, achieve, and maintain compliance with the Complete Streets Policy. Town departments will coordinate their activities related to implementation of this Complete Streets Policy.

The Town will strive to meet all criteria required to achieve and maintain certification by MassDOT as a Complete Streets community under M.G.L. Chapter 90I §1c, in order for the Town to be eligible to receive funding pursuant to MassDOT’s Complete Streets Program.

The Town will assess what additional staff resources, if any, are needed to effectively implement this Policy and report its findings to the Board of Selectmen.

The Town will prepare a Complete Streets prioritization plan and shall seek funding for its preparation. The plan will include an assessment of Brookline’s streets and sidewalks from a Complete Streets perspective. The assessment will examine the strengths and limitations of the streets and sidewalks in supporting motor vehicles, public transportation, bicycles, and pedestrians, as well as the connectivity of local walking, biking, and transit networks with respect to popular origins and destinations. The plan will provide a basis for proposing future transportation projects, and the Town will draw upon the plan in prioritizing transportation elements in the Capital Improvement Plan and DPW operating budgets to support Complete Streets implementation. The prioritization plan will be updated as needed to keep it current. Within three years of the Board of Selectmen adopting this policy, the Town will incorporate comprehensive inventories and maps of existing and anticipated walking, bicycling, and transit networks into the prioritization plan, including connections to significant features and to each other.

The Town will develop procedures to incorporate Complete Streets elements into municipal road repairs, upgrades, or expansion projects in the public right-of-way.

Until such time as these procedures are approved by the Board of Selectmen, the principles and steps set forth in the process for development and design of a project as described in the Town’s Traffic Calming Policy, adopted on July 19, 2012, shall be followed, provided however that the second neighborhood meeting required under section G (4) or section H (5) of such Policy shall be held in a publicly accessible meeting space located near the site of the project under consideration.

Furthermore, approval of all complete streets projects, as with those of traffic calming projects, shall be subject to the statutory appeal period of 21 days from the day of the vote for all Transportation Board decisions.

When planning a street project that involves creation of landscaping or new sidewalks/pathways (e.g., as part of traffic calming or intersection redesign) within the public way, the Transportation Division will consult with the Parks and Open Space Division on the design prior to bringing the design before the Transportation Board. The Town will develop a process to assign and track maintenance responsibility for such areas (e.g., by Highways, Parks and Open Space, or abutters) so that landscaped or hardscaped areas created within the public way are adequately maintained.

When developing or updating related plans, regulations, or by-laws, the Town shall acknowledge and incorporate the principles of this Complete Streets Policy.

Town planning activities shall identify opportunities to enhance the connectivity of walking, bicycling, and “safe routes to schools” networks. Plans shall strive to strengthen walking and bicycling connections among transportation facilities and common destinations.

6. Performance Measures

The Town will report on its success in achieving the objectives of this Policy as part of its annual progress report to MassDOT. That report will comply with M.G.L. Chapter 90I §1 so the Town may be eligible to receive funding pursuant to MassDOT’s Complete Streets Program. The Town’s evaluation will take into account the difficulties of isolating and measuring the impacts of this Policy.

The Town will establish benchmark metrics and measure them at regular intervals. At a minimum, the metrics will include annual pedestrian and bicycle counts.

The Board of Selectmen, in consultation with relevant Town departments, shall determine the entities responsible for establishing the metrics and compiling the data. Metrics employed should meet MassDOT's criteria of validity, significance, ease of interpretation, availability, and ability to track trends over time.

The Town shall review, and revise as necessary, its data collection procedures to more accurately track crashes, mobility-related injuries in the public way, and traffic violations in a manner that enables the Town to better understand and mitigate the principal causes of these incidents.

The Town will make performance measure data publicly accessible online in a way that protects privacy.