This is huge folks. As someone who has watched other cities successfully shift to a more human scale, safe, and multi-modal transportation model, I am ecstatic to see two major puzzle pieces come together in Hartford. The speed at which Hartford is moving toward an integrated transportation philosophy has been lightning fast. Infrastructure projects (like the I-84 redesign) have time scales of 10-20 years before the concept becomes real. When cities adopt Complete Streets, the implementation can be seen in less than 5 years with many projects involving simple painted lines. The low cost and flexibility of Complete Streets within the existing networks is the beauty of active transportation. Bike racks can go into just about any sidewalk, and bike lanes fit in most city streets when lanes are narrowed to the urban minimums. Almost immediately a city can incorporate safety education, youth programs, social events, and cultural events that moves the city to a greater percentage of trips by walking, biking, and taking transit. Hartford is now on that speedy path!
First, we have the full rewrite of our zoning code. The long overdue update was based on standards in other vibrant cities to reduce parking requirements (and in some zones remove them) lowers the cost of new developments, especially Downtown. The innovative zoning chapter on Complete Streets (Chapter 9) includes a bicycle route map (pg 248) and provides road cross sections and treatments that balance the mobility and safety of walking and bicycling residents with the speedy desires of suburban car commuters.
Second, the zoning regulations were reinforced by City Council’s adoption of a Complete Streets Ordinance in September (2016). An ordinance goes beyond the wimpy “policies” adopted in other cities, which will speed the implementation of the important changes to our streets, sidewalks, and crosswalks. Mayor Bronin’s administration recognizes the role of human-scale infrastructure in a successful city. The City Council agrees and the Planning and Zoning Commission had already started the ball rolling. The city’s long frustrated Complete Streets advocates are finding open lines of communication where previously it felt like shouting into a cave. Even the CT DOT is getting into the mix on their projects within city limits (CTfastrak, Farmington Avenue, Sigourney Street) and with regional impact (I-84 Redesign).
The Complete Streets ordinance contains metrics (data reporting) so that City Council will see the changes taking place year to year in Hartford. Metrics are very helpful for understanding the benefit of the city’s investments in active transportation. Implementing those metrics early will make Hartford a subject of articles for years to come. Long running data on the impacts of our urban projects will provide academic transportation experts fodder for papers and articles that will trumpet Hartford’s projects far beyond our borders.
Third, a multi-disciplinary team has been working on this for over a year – the Complete Streets Action Team. The team is made up of city staff, CT DOT, active transportation advocates, corporate representatives, BiCi Co. staff, Bike Walk Connecticut, East Coast Greenway staff, and residents. The team is very engaging and works well together. If you want to get involved in that committee or receive the monthly meeting minutes, shoot an email to Sandy Fry in Development Services. The monthly meetings facilitate discussions between Hartford’s Department of Public Works, CT DOT, residents, and planning experts. It is amazing what a team of hard working folks can get done when you remove communication barriers and work together on shared goals.
Fourth, we’re looking at you. In order for all this ground work to be the most effective we need folks to be almost as excited as we are – and please spread the word. Share this article. When you hear about a street redesign in your community, chime in and let the Complete Streets team know where you need bike lanes, crosswalks, or where under-utilized street parking can be deleted. If speeding is an issue in your neighborhood, that’s something Complete Streets design can help address by narrowing lanes, adding speed tables, or changing the speed limit. Stay tuned to the BiCi Blog for updates on the Complete Streets Action Team and opportunities to make public comment.