How “Complete Streets” Benefit Your Travel Plans

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How “Complete Streets” Benefit Your Travel Plans

This article is the fourth in a series of guest posts leading up to #CarLessWeek from July 13-17, 2015.  It is full of ideas for anyone frustrated with a slow, stop-and-go commute every day… or just wanting to lessen their impact while increasing their happiness.  Specific resources are listed for residents of Greater Des Moines, but similar resources are available in most cities for those willing to ask.  Thanks to Mike Armstrong, Associate Transportation Planner of the Des Moines Area MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization) for contributing this article and for making multi-modal transportation available for residents of Greater Des Moines!


Looking to the year 2050, Greater Des Moines will experience significant demographic changes. Nearly 140,000 Baby Boomers call the region home. The “graying” of the region will have implications for the transportation system, land use, and the placement of homes, businesses, and stores.

Perhaps an even larger impact, though, could come from Generations X, Y, and Z — generally those under the age of 45 and who comprise nearly two-thirds of the region’s population. These generations have demonstrated different lifestyle choices and preferences than older generations. For instance, the share of new vehicles purchased by those aged 18 to 34 dropped 30 percent in the last five years.



With these anticipated demographic shifts, creating a region where walking, biking, and using public transportation are as viable as driving will be imperative.

In January, 2015, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx issued a “Mayors’ Challenge for Safer People and Safer Streets.” Secretary Foxx is calling on local elected officials to take significant action over the next year to improve safety for bicycle riders and pedestrians of all ages and abilities. First and foremost on his list of actions is the local adoption of complete streets policies, which has been the focus of the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) this summer.


Complete streets have been implemented around the globe and result in multi-modal access to the places we live, work, learn, and play.

Complete streets are streets planned, engineered and operated in a way that enables and encourages safe access and use for all users, whether walking, bicycling, driving or riding transit. People of all ages and abilities can safely and comfortably move along and across community streets.

Not only are walking, biking, and using public transportation key to increasing the mobility of Greater Des Moines residents, they are central to furthering residents’ health and well-being. Every walk or bike ride is a chance for exercise and social interaction, which create a healthy and welcoming community. Every trip starts and ends as a pedestrian trip. As a result, improvements to the pedestrian experience benefit everyone.


Additionally, no forms of travel are healthier than walking and bicycling. Providing all residents with the option of walking and biking is at the heart of supporting the region’s health and well-being.

Good examples of moving towards a complete streets model are the following:

The MPO is actively working with local governments towards the adoption of complete streets policies to better provide safe, healthy transportation options in all communities. Resources and more information can be found at


Safe travels,


Mike Armstrong
Associate Transportation Planner, MPO



Adam Hammes is the executive director of the Iowa Sustainable Business Forum, a consultant, author, and motivational speaker. He specializes in helping businesses and sustainability professionals with environmental and social performance.

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