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Urban Scale

Multimodal Corridor Planning


Planning for bicycles requires not only a knowledge base of facilities but also an understanding of bicyclists and how they use the transportation network. Bicyclists can generally be divided into two or three categories based on skill, experience, and age:

  • Group A: Advanced - Experienced riders who are comfortable operating a bicycle under most traffic conditions. This group includes bicycle commuters, bike club riders, and other cyclists who follow the rules of the road and ride on roadways with no special accommodations for bicyclists. In most communities, Group A comprises a small segment of the population, but logs the majority of bicycle miles ridden.
  • Group B: Basic - Casual or new adult and teenage riders who are less confident of their ability to operate in traffic without special provisions for bicycles. Some riders in this group will develop greater skills and progress to the advanced level, but nationally there will always be millions of basic bicyclists who prefer to have a clear separation between bicycles and motor vehicles.
  • Group C: Children - Pre-teen cyclists who typically ride close to home under close parental supervision. Because basic riders and children may have similar needs, these groups are often combined as Group B/C.

Bicycle planning generally promotes a "design cyclist" concept that recognizes and accommodates the needs of both Group A and Group B/C bicyclists.

Group A cyclists are best served by making every street bicycle-friendly by removing hazards and maintaining smooth pavement surfaces. Group B/C riders are best served in when designated bicycle facilities, such as signed and striped bicycle lanes and off-road trails following waterways and other linear open space corridors, are provided in key travel corridors.

While sidewalks may be the best choice for the youngest riders, they are typically not included in bicycle planning as bicycle facilities. It is important to recognize that sidewalks are pedestrian spaces, and their presence is not meant to substitute for or preclude bicyclist use of the roadway.

Ideally, every place type should be accessible for all bicyclists, regardless of skill or comfort level. However, throughout the St. Louis region, existing development patterns have created places with varying levels of bicycle-friendliness - both in terms of the distance between destinations and the types of physical infrastructure provided.

Certain places, such as downtown areas and school sites, which serve as major community activity centers should be designed to accommodate and encourage bicycle access by the broader cross-section of the community represented in the B/C bicycling group.

Bicycle Planning for Office/Employment Areas

Because office employment areas are often located on auto-oriented, mobility-priority corridors with separated land uses that create long trips not conducive to bicycling and walking, retrofits can be challenging and may need to occur in multiple steps. Initially, only the more experienced Group A cyclists will bicycle in these areas, particularly if access is provided by a major roadway. General guidelines that apply to major office and employment corridors include:

Provide wide curb lanes on thoroughfares with heavy truck traffic. Wide curb lanes (14' travel lanes) may be a preferred treatment to accommodate Group A bicyclists along corridors with heavy truck traffic serving commercial areas. On-street bicycle lanes are not recommended in these areas, as they may encourage less experienced Group B/C bicyclists to ride in these environments when it is not safe for them to do so.

Include paved shoulders to address a number of needs. Paved shoulders are provided on a number of Missouri roadways and offer benefits beyond bicycle travel. Many highways and urban arterials have 10' shoulders to accommodate stopped vehicles and emergency uses. These shoulders can be used for bicycle travel when they are kept free from gravel and debris, have curved-vane bicycle-friendly drainage grates, use bicycle-safe rumble strips, and are not used as continuous right-turn lanes. Recommended widths for paved shoulder bicycle facilities vary from the 4' minimum to 6' or greater when a combination of the following is present: traffic volumes >2,000 ADT, inadequate sight distance, truck or bus traffic, and speeds over 40 mph.

  • Bicycle slip lane
    Credit: Charlier Associates, Inc.
    To allow bicyclists using shoulders to continue through intersections and avoid collisions with right-turning motorists, bicycle slip lanes, or short segments of bike lanes may be provided at intersection approaches, as shown in the image at right. These bike lane segments should be placed between the right-turn lane and the right-most through traffic lane to allow bicyclists to be in the proper roadway position for continuing through the intersection.
  • Paved shoulders should not be signed as designated bicycle routes. Instead, where speeds exceed 40 mph, Share-the-Road warning signs may be posted where there is need to warn motorists to watch for bicyclists traveling along the highway.

Provide connections to existing bicycle lane network through office/employment area. If bicycle lanes are present within the corridor, they shall be continued through theoffice/employment area. They should be a minimum of 4 feet wide measured from the gutter seam, or 5 feet wide measured from the curb face or adjacent on-street parking. Bicycle lanes shall be delineated on the pavement with a line 6 inches in width and appropriate pavement stencils identifying the space for bicycle use.

  • If the transportation infrastructure and land uses in a corridor are being addressed to create trips of shorter length, provisions for on-street bicycle lanes should be made to encourage increased bicycle use and accommodate Group B/C riders.
  • Various intersection treatments are available to accommodate vehicular turning movements while maintaining the integrity of the bicycle lane facility. It is generally appropriate to dash or drop the bike lane striping where merge movements will occur across the bicycle lane. See Chapter 9C of the MUTCD and the AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities for specific guidelines.
  • Road diets (the conversion of four-lane roadways to three travel lanes plus bike lanes) can be an appropriate method to create space for bicycle lanes when retrofitting corridors. Candidate streets will carry moderate traffic volumes, typically ranging from 12,000-18,000 ADT, and potentially as high as 20,000-25,000 ADT. For more information about road diets, see Streets.

Whenever possible, accommodate bicyclists on smaller scale thoroughfares. The shared thoroughfares often found in these place types are not an ideal design treatment, even for Group A cyclists. Major arterial thoroughfares with standard 12' lanes, heavy traffic volumes, and higher travel speeds create stressful riding conditions for even the most experienced bicyclists. Secondary streets that intersect with employment, commercial and industrial environments are good candidates for unimproved, shared bicycle routes, but only if they provide connectivity and the bicycle users are capable of safely crossing arterial streets at signalized intersections or grade-separated crossings. On-street bicycle lanes may be warranted in these corridors if traffic volumes are high.

Eliminate bicycle hazards. Hazard removal shall be implemented on all roadways open to bicycle travel. Hazard removal includes providing bicycle-safe drainage grates, smooth pavement, bicycle-safe railroad crossings, and traffic signals that respond to bicycles.

Design access appropriate to the type of development. Because office/employment areas are often located in suburban areas, multi-use paths with an open space corridor can be a desirable means of providing access to these place types. Sidepaths shall only be considered when adequate right-of-way (18' minimum) is available and intersections are limited (generally less than six commercial driveways or streets per mile) due to numerous operational problems and safety conflicts that can occur with this facility type. Use of sidepaths within strip development corridors can be problematic due to intersection conflicts with vehicles.

Inverted U bicycle parking
Credit: Charlier Associates

Provide bicycle parking. Bicycle parking should be provided in all employment, civic and commercial centers following guidance established by the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP). The preferred rack type is the inverted U, which may be dispersed throughout a site with multiple small buildings, or clustered in designated rack areas in front of large buildings. Parking racks should function so that the top tube of a bicycle can be placed flat against the face of the inverted U. For this reason, connected inverted U's (looking more like M's) are not recommended.

Bicycle parking shall be located no further than 120 feet from the building entrance it serves, or as close/closer than the nearest vehicular parking space. Racks shall not block the through pedestrian travelway (a minimum 5' clear zone free from obstructions).

Read more: Bicycles


Great streets not only move traffic, but also serve as public places supportive of a variety of activities. Quality environments are created when right-of-way is appropriately allocated to accommodate all modes of travel and create comfortable and enjoyable public spaces.

Creating a safe and inviting pedestrian environment entails more than just providing sidewalks - it is important to recognize that people walk for different reasons in various types of places, and that a number of specific components influence the pedestrian-friendliness of an area.

Reasons People Walk

The five basic types of walking include:

Utilitarian Walking - People walk to destinations such as work, school or shopping areas. Most auto and transit trips include utilitarian walking to reach the final destination.

Rambling - People ramble as a recreational activity, typically for exercise or enjoyment. Rambling may include walking the dog, pushing a baby carriage, jogging, or walking briskly for exercise.

Strolling/Lingering - In certain settings, people stroll and linger. They may stand on the sidewalk and talk with others they meet, sit on a bench, or people-watch during an outing.

Promenade - People walk to be seen and interact with other members of the community (e.g. high school students who promenade in groups in shopping malls).

Special Events - People walk at farmer's markets, public concerts, parades, arts festivals and other community events.

Types of Pedestrian Environments

Walking environments can be divided into four basic categories based on pedestrian-friendliness:

Pedestrian Intolerant Environments - Walking is unsafe and unattractive in these environments, as shown in the image below, at left. Examples include freeway corridors, certain industrial or extraction land uses, landfills, and major thoroughfares lacking continuous sidewalks. A major characteristic of pedestrian intolerant environments is that they lack pedestrians, either due to a lack of pedestrian accommodations and/or dominance by auto traffic and auto-oriented land uses.

Pedestrian Tolerant Environments - These environments provide pedestrian facilities, but at a minimal level of accommodation, as shown in the image below, at right. Walking is technically safe (there are continuous sidewalks and reasonably safe street crossings), but land use patterns generate very little walking activity. Arterial street corridors, remote or rural thoroughfares, and certain light industrial or warehousing areas will attract limited amounts of utilitarian walking, and will not appeal to recreational walkers or strollers. 

Pedestrian intolerant environment
Credit: CAI
Pedestrian tolerant environment
Credit: CAI

Pedestrian Supportive Environments - These are well-designed residential areas, commercial and employment centers, parks, and recreational areas, as shown in the image below, at left. Sidewalks are continuous and buffered from streets, and wide enough for passing or walking side by side. Land uses are dense enough to attract utilitarian walking trips or recreational walkers and joggers.  Streets are abutted by buildings, not parking lots, and adequate street crossings are provided.

Pedestrian Places - These districts have mixed land uses, moderate to high densities, good transit service, and extensive pedestrian amenities, as shown in the image below, at right. People will walk for utilitarian and recreational purposes. Pedestrian Places feature people of all ages moving between multiple activities. Typically, at least three unique, highly identifiable areas such as outdoor seating, a water feature, public art, or pedestrian-oriented shopping will be located in close proximity.

Pedestrian supportive environment
Credit: CAI
Pedestrian place
Credit: CAI

Components of the Pedestrian Environment

The majority of pedestrian environments are mostly contained by thoroughfare right-of-way. Although pathways through parks and open space and short mid-block connections in downtown neighborhoods function as pedestrian environments, the principal infrastructure for walking will always be the street system.

The roadway corridor, pedestrian realm, and adjacent land uses are crucial elements in the design of pedestrian environments in all place types.

1. The Roadway Corridor Creating good pedestrian environments requires careful attention to the design of thoroughfares, the allocation of space within street rights-of-way, the spacing, length and treatment of street crossings, and intersection signal timing. In general, higher adjacent traffic volumes moving at faster speeds on wider thoroughfares create less pedestrian-friendly conditions.

2. The Pedestrian Realm Also referred to as the roadside zone, this area includes both the sidewalk and the buffer zones on either side that separate the walkway from motor vehicle traffic and link the walkway to adjacent properties. Greater separation from the street is generally provided where higher vehicular travel speeds are present, and additional walkway width in areas with more pedestrian traffic.

3. Adjacent Land Use Sidewalks alone do not create a pedestrian destination. A combination of residential, lodging, retail, restaurant, civic, or employment uses must be present within a contiguous area to draw a significant pedestrian presence. Attractive pedestrian environments include buildings with numerous doors and windows framing the street, a fine-grained street grid, and parking located on-street or internal to the block.

Pedestrian realm cross section
Credit: Charlier Associates

Components of the Pedestrian Realm

The two most obvious characteristics of sidewalks are:  how wide they are and how that width is used.  However, there are many other important characteristics, including shade, separation from the street, urban scale and so forth. The graphic image at right shows the principal parts of urban sidewalks (the pedestrian realm).  Good sidewalks are as much about the orderly arrangement of these parts as they are about width.

a.  Planting Strip/Furnishings Zone.  This is the area between the edge of the sidewalk (usually a curb) and the walkway. In most of the place types – Downtown Main Street, Mixed Use District, Small Town Downtown, and Neighborhood Shops – this area is called the “furnishings strip” and should be paved.  This is the proper place for above-ground utilities – light poles, fire hydrants, signal control boxes, parking meters, etc. – and for various amenities – benches, newspaper boxes, street trees (in tree wells), bicycle parking, etc. 

In single-family detached and other types of low density Residential Neighborhoods, this zone should be designed as a “planting strip” or “parkway” and should be landscaped with ground cover vegetation and street trees.  In higher density Residential Neighborhoods with multi-family housing and in the Office Employment Area, Civic/Educational Corridor and Commercial Service Corridor place types, the choice of whether to provide an urban sidewalk with a paved furnishings zone or a suburban sidewalk with an unpaved planting strip should be based on the ground level land use and other considerations such as overall density.

This zone of the pedestrian realm performs a number of key functions.  Obviously, it provides space for furnishings, above-ground utilities and street trees.  However, it also provides space for snow storage in the winter (so that plows don’t cover sidewalks when they are clearing streets).  It separates the pedestrian walkway from moving traffic in the street, increasing pedestrian comfort and safety.  Finally, it allows the walkways to be lined up with appropriately placed curb ramps and crosswalks at intersections.

b.  Walkway. This is the primary area allocated to walking. Pedestrians can be in the furnishings zone and in the setback area, but most linear walking will occur in the walkway part of the sidewalk. This area should be paved in all of the place types. Recognizing that walking, especially strolling and lingering, is a social activity, the clear zone will vary in width depending on place type and intended levels of pedestrian use. This zone is typically included as part of the street right-of-way, but  is may be located on public right-of-way, adjacent private property, or a combination of both to provide the necessary width for an unobstructed walkway in urban areas.

c.  Frontage Zone. Also known as the setback zone/adjacent land use, most pedestrians do not feel comfortable walking immediately adjacent to a building, wall, or fence. Instead, they tend to keep some "shy distance" away from the adjacent vertical structure. This space is called the building frontage zone, and accommodates protruding architectural elements, stoops, opening doors, vegetative planters, sidewalk displays, window shopping activities, etc.

The frontage zone is typically located on private property, but may extend into the street right-of-way. Many cities regulate how far from this line buildings should be placed (set back). In traditional suburban style ordinances, large setbacks are required and often this area is required to be landscaped. That approach can be appropriate in the Residential Neighborhood, Office Employment Area, Civic/Educational Corridor and Commercial Service Corridor place types, although that will tend to “lock in” a degree of suburban character that can be difficult to “urbanize” later.

In the Downtown Main Street, Mixed Use District, Small Town Downtown, and Neighborhood Shops place types, most modern ordinances require a “build-to” line rather than a traditional setback zone. In these places types, this area should be paved and should serve functionally to extend the practical width of the sidewalk and also as an area suitable for sidewalk seating at restaurants. In some cases, placement of small amenities and furnishings in this area can also be appropriate.

Width and Space Allocation

The proper amount of street space to be allocated to the pedestrian realm varies depending on a number of factors, including the place type, the overall width of the street, the urban scale, and other local characteristics such as climate, drainage system type, and existing building placement.

a. Planting Strip/Furnishings Zone.  This area should generally be between five feet and eight feet in width.  Considerations in determining desirable width of the planting strip/furnishings zone include:

  • There should be enough space to provide for natural irrigation of street trees and accommodation of tree root balls.
  • This zone should not be inappropriately wide relative to the overall width of the pedestrian realm.  Generally, it should not be wider than the walkway zone.  In areas where existing conditions force a narrow pedestrian realm, the furnishings zone may have to be proportionately narrower, but should not be less than three feet in width.
  • In suburban and low density corridors (the Residential Neighborhood, Office Employment Area, Civic/Educational Corridor and Commercial Service Corridor place types) this zone should be landscaped.
  • Walkway width
    Credit: Charlier Associates

    Narrow sidewalks attached to the curb should be avoided in all place types.

b.  Walkway.  The width of this area should vary with the place type.  Walkways can be too narrow, obviously, but can also be too wide.  Recommended widths by place type are shown in the table below.  Note widths shown are the sum of two walkways – one on each side of the street

c. Frontage Zone. Also known as the Setback Zone and/or Adjacent Land Use, this area should generally be kept narrow on streets where adequate width has been achieved for the furnishings “zone/planting strip” and the “walkway.” 

Walkway width, use, type
Credit: Charlier Associates

However, where the public right of way width is too narrow to allow adequate sidewalks, the difference can and should be made up in the setback zone.  In such cases, the setback zone can be used to provide a wider walkway. Considerations in determining desirable width of the setback zone are shown in the table below.

Examples.  Many urban sidewalks suffer as much from inappropriate placement of objects and inappropriate allocation of space as they do from inadequate width. 

The photo below, at left (from the St. Louis region), shows an instance where an inadequate sidewalk is compounded by the inappropriate placement of utilities and careless handling of grade. In all of the more urban place types (Downtown Main Street, Mixed Use District, Small Town Downtown, and Neighborhood Shops) the ground floor of adjacent buildings should match grade with the sidewalk.

The photo below, at right (from Oahu), shows what happens when cities impose suburban standards in urban settings. The planting area between the sidewalk and the building was required by the City of Honolulu because the right of way line ends at the edge of the small green lawn and the buildings have been set back according to minimum setback requirements. 

Honolulu ordinances require this setback area to be landscaped, not paved. As a result, the businesses along this street in Kailua (Small Town Downtown), which include an ice cream shop, a restaurant and small retailers, are denied use of the setback area for sidewalk seating and the walkway width is inadequate for this place type.

Inappropriate object placement
Credit: CH2M HILL
Suburban standards in urban settings
Credit: Charlier Associates

The examples below show two streets with well-designed pedestrian realms. The photo on the left is East Pearl in Boulder (a Downtown Main Street). The sidewalk is not overly generous in width but is adequate and the space is well allocated between the three zones of the pedestrian realm. The right of way line where the setback zone begins is discernible by the pavement joint about 18” from the building fronts.

The photo on the right is from Main Street in Longmont (Downtown Main Street). Here the sidewalk width is just right for the street. Furnishings are well-placed. Again, the edge of the public right of way is discernible by the change in paving type.

Good sidewalk example
Credit: Charlier Associates
Good sidewalk example
Credit: Charlier Associates

Pedestrian Network for Office/Employment Areas

Office/employment areas are often located on busy arterial streets. The combination of single-use zoning, large parcel size, and abundant off-street parking in these place types can translate to little pedestrian activity.

Through changes in policy and future urban infill and retrofit projects, these types of areas can become more densely developed and thus more walkable. Existing places that are more suburban in nature should adopt Pedestrian Tolerant as a minimum design standard. The goal should be to develop these places into Pedestrian Supportive environments. These place types shall provide a basic level of accommodation (continuous sidewalks and reasonably safe street crossings) for the limited number of pedestrians present in these automobile-oriented corridors.   

Roadway Corridors in Pedestrian Tolerant environments carry moderate to high traffic volumes (15-25,000 ADT) at speeds over 35 mph. On-street parking typically is not present and bicycle lanes may or may not be provided.

  • Crosswalks should be marked.  Street crossing distances shall be limited by using curb radii of 30' or less, a maximum of five travel lanes to cross at once, and right-turn slip lanes that incorporate pork chop islands for pedestrian refuge.
  • Crossing frequency should be 330' - 528' with marked and signed mid-block crossings.

The Pedestrian Realm shall provide minimal levels of safe accommodation.

  • Sidewalks shall not be constructed at back of curb. A sidewalk planting strip shall be provided to buffer pedestrians from vehicular traffic (on-street bicycle lanes may also serve this purpose).  The grassy planting strip shall be at least 5 feet in width; greater separation is preferred as the speed of adjacent vehicular traffic increases.
  • Sidewalks may be built at a 5' minimum width due to the low volumes of pedestrians typically found within these place types.  In areas with greater pedestrian activity, 8' sidewalks are preferred.
  • The Frontage Zone in Pedestrian Tolerant environments typically does not consist of building facades, but may include landscape buffers and/or privacy fences between the street and parking lots.  A shy distance of 1' is recommended for separation between the sidewalk and a low wall, fence or hedge or 1.5' along tall walls and fences.  Buffer vegetation shall not encroach into the pedestrian walkway.

Adjacent Land Uses in office/employment complexes, neighborhood shops, and commercial/service corridors are rarely designed for pedestrians.  However, site design should ensure that the following minimum criteria for Pedestrian Tolerant environments are implemented:

  • Buildings will likely be one or two stories high. Ideally, setbacks and parking lot size should be controlled so that a height to width ratio (buildings to street corridor) of 1:10 to 1:4 can be maintained.
  • Off-street parking lots located in front or on the sides of buildings should not exceed 20,000 sq. ft. Parking lots shall include internal sidewalks or walkway areas every 250'.
  • Landscape screening shall provide intermittent breaks for pedestrian access from the street right-of-way into the site.  Privacy fences may screen views but should not limit pedestrian access to/from the street.
  • Crosswalks or raised speed tables should be used internally to help identify walk zones across parking lot driveways.


Our transportation network is a regional system. It consists of streets, sidewalks, light rail lines, bicycle lanes, and all other infrastructure that is in place to support the movement of people and goods. The focus of this project is our streets and how to think differently about their development. This cannot be done, though, without also considering the broader transportation network of which our streets are a part.

Functional class table
Source: East-West Gateway

From a purely vehicular perspective, there is a hierarchy of streets in our transportation system. Traditionally, the roadway functional classification system has been used to describe how travel flows through this hierarchy. East-West Gateway, the metropolitan planning organization (MPO) and council of governments (COG) for St. Louis, is responsible for maintaining and updating the region’s functional classification system. The table at right depicts the current regional classification system.

The table above is based primarily on vehicular travel. Great streets, though, are more than just conduits for vehicular traffic.

They are public places woven through the social and economic fabric of our communities. In this context, the street network is much bigger than the travel lanes that carry automobile traffic through our region. It is a complex system of dynamic components that dramatically affects the quality of our public spaces. If our street network is only a conduit for automobiles, then we are failiing to maximize the massive investment of public revenue into our transportation infrastructure. This principle is at the core of great street planning and design.

Great streets must be "complete". They must move vehicular traffic, yes; but that is only one of many important roles that they can and should have. They should provide access to all users, regardless of economic status or disability. They should stimulate economic growth. They should offer multiple, attractive modes of travel from which to choose. They should provide attractive places for the congregation of local residents and visitiors. For streets to be great, these factors and many others must be considered as we choose how to allocate space along our thoroughfares. 

Cross section of street
Credit: Charlier Associates

Space Allocation is a Choice. Historically, the automobile has dominated space along most of our thoroughfares. Growing populations with growing numbers of personal automobiles-per-household have caused us to choose thoroughfares that are good for little else than the movement of vehicular traffic. To make matters worse, when congestion rises along these thoroughfares we have typically chosen to add vehicular capacity by widening the travel way. The result of these choices is a network of thoroughfares that is predominantly unfriendly to pedestrians, transit, and bicyclists. It has also negatively affected land uses along our thoroughfares.

If we want to create great streets in place of these auto-dominated roadways, we must think differently about space allocation along the thoroughfare. Space allocation is a choice, and our choices have consequences. Choosing to prioritize vehicular traffic will often have negative consequences for other modes and abutting land uses. Choosing to prioritize other modes is a healthy part of great street development, but it may negatively impact vehicular mobility along the thoroughfare. This is where the street network is an extremely important consideration in great street planning and design. Choices that may constrain vehicular travel, such as road diets, lower speeds, raised medians, etc., can be offset if the surrounding street network is effectively utilized.

Road diets must consider network context. All of the streets within the regional system work together to provide mobility and access throughout the metropolitan area. Every street serves a specific function within the regional network. This is an important point to remember during the planning phases of great street development. If road diets are considered, the following questions should be addressed in evaluating its merits:

  • Does the existing road serve a major mobility function in the region?
  • If so, are their parallel streets nearby to help serve potential excess traffic demand?
  • If the parallel street system is severed/discontinuous, could improvements to the local road network mend those gaps to provide alternative route choices for excess traffic demand?
  • Is there a desire/opportunity to promote transit along the thoroughfare in order to serve excess traffic demand?
  • Is there a desire to provide good bicycle accommodations?

Grids are important for great streets. Regardless of whether a road diet is part of a great street development, the street network surrounding the respective thoroughfare is an important component to consider in the decision making process. At the dawn of the street system in America, urban areas typically developed in a "grid pattern". Over time, suburban sprawl led to non-grid development patterns in many areas, resulting in disconnected networks that rely upon select major arterial streets for the vast majority of vehicular mobility.

Transforming these thoroughfares into great streets is a complex challenge, and it is further complicated by the lack of grid network surrounding the respective corridor. If great streets are desired in such locations, be sure to examine the surrounding street network for opportunities to improve connectivity. Sometimes it may be as simple as opening a cul-de-sac to connect with a nearby street. In other cases, more substantial links may be required; but the increased network capacity can allow us to think differently about space allocation along the thoroughfare in question. It may suddenly be reasonable to reduce vehicular capacity along the thoroughfare if network capacity can be improved through enhanced connectivity. A reduction in vehicular capacity along the thoroughfare gives us more freedom in how we choose to allocate space and prioritize other modes.

Read more: Streets


Transit is a modal choice that can increase our transportation system's capacity and at the same time provide additional choices for travelers while furthering the region's progress towardscreating great streets. A highly-functioning transit system often solves many of the questions raised by the competing interests of vehicular roadways, pedestrian facilities and bicycle facilities.

Achieving the balance between mobility for pedestrians and vehicular traffic, access to adjacent land uses, and safety for all travelers requires thoughtful implementation of transit and a development plan that supports the use of MetroLink light-rail, MetroBus and the supporting modes of access to the transit system, such as bicycle and pedestrian facilities and Park-Ride lots.

Transit ridership is on the rise in the St. Louis region and across the country. The recent opening of the MetroLink Cross County extension and an increase in transit-oriented development points to a growing demand for transit services. Transit is an integral component of St. Louis' Great Streets.

St. Louis bus
Credit: Metro

MetroLink is the backbone of the St. Louis regional transit system. The Forest Park station acts as the hub of the MetroLink system, which extends east to downtown and Illinois, and west to Lambert International Airport.

The most recent extension line, known as the Cross County extension, runs from Forest Park west to Clayton, then south to Shrewsbury (see the MetroLink map for details).

The MetroBus service augments MetroLink with over # service miles per year throughout the region. It extends the reach of the light rail service into communities not located directly on the rail line.

Transit adds capacity to an arterial street system without widening the street itself. Bus service can reduce the number of single-occupancy passenger cars on the street, resulting in better vehicular operations overall. Current studies show that a full MetroLink train in St. Louis removes an average of 125 vehicles from the regional road network during rush hour; a full bus removes an average of 40 cars during rush hour. Increasing ridership on our light rail and bus system reduces congestion on our regional road network.

Transit benefits

Dedicated bus lanes and/or Bus Rapid Transit should be considered in arterial corridors for long range person movement capacity. Transit measures such as these are especially effective in areas with high-density land uses that can produce stable and consistent ridership.

Arterial corridors with heavy through-traffic having destinations beyond a downtown area, for example, are also great examples of corridors that should consider placing a higher priority on bus lanes.

Not only does transit reduce congestion, but it yields a variety of other benefits as well:

Cars in St. Louis release approximately 247,000 pounds of pollution each day into the region's air. Fewer cars on the road translate into cleaner air for our region.

  • Traveling by MetroLink or the bus saves the average commuter about 200 gallons of gas a year. When you also consider 'wear and tear' costs and parking costs, the average commuter could save approximately $1,500 per year by taking transit.
  • There are also health benefits that can come from transit use. Traveling via transit usually requires a larger degree of walking between destinations and mode transfers. Such activity offers health benefits to counteract the sedentary office environments typical for the general work force. Studies have shown that our nation's population is increasingly plagued by obesity, a major health risk and economic burden on the healthcare system. Incorporating more daily activity via transit into the lives of busy working adults can be a simple measure to help combat this growing health problem.
  • Transit commuting can provide an opportunity for commuters to do things other than driving during their daily commutes. One need only take a ride during rush hour to see the multitude of activities in which commuters engage: reading, listening to iPods, sleeping, working on a laptop, or socializing with other passengers.
Transit Oriented Development (TOD)
Credit: CH2M HILL

Transit-oriented development (TOD)is an ideal way to support both the public investment in transit infrastructure and the places surrounding transit stops.

TOD can occur in a variety of forms, from new construction in an undeveloped area to infill of existing land uses surrounding a new or existing transit stop.

This type of development is often high-density, mixed-use, and provides a variety of services for both those using the transit facilities and those living in the nearby neighborhoods.

In addition, the development takes special consideration of design elements that support transit, such as a high level of pedestrian and bicycle access and amenities. A variety of such development is happening along the St. Louis transit system.

The relationship between transit and adjacent land use is a powerful one and when planned appropriately, supports transit ridership and economic development simultaneously. Great Streets with transit-oriented development are the building blocks of great neighborhoods, and great cities. See the Choices & Guidelines section of this guidefor more information on the various design elements that contribute to Great Streets.

The presence of any form of transit increases the presence of pedestrians. Providing safe, efficient, and attractive accommodations for pedestrians waiting at transit stops, transferring between modes, and walking between adjacent land uses and transit services is a vital design element in promoting transit as a desirable modal choice.

Key points to remember when designing streets to promote transit use:

  • Provide good pedestrian and bicycle connectivity between transit stops, along the street and nearby neighborhoods. Continuous sidewalks, bike lanes, and ADA provisions are vital. Pedestrian crossings need to include appropriate signals, signage and lighting.
  • Secure, visible bicycle parking at transit stops can encourage users from greater distances to choose transit for commuting, errands, and other general purpose trips. Front end bicycle racks on buses, like those provided on most MetroBus, should be highlighted.
  • The movement of transit users as they transfer between bus and light rail should be anticipated and accommodated to facilitate safe and efficient movement. MetroLink transit stations are often located below or above street level. Safe pedestrian crossings within close proximity are important to discourage jay-walking. Jay-walking can be a particular problem for passengers transferring between modes. Increasing light-rail and bus frequency at key times and locations can also alleviate this pattern. When pedestrians know that the next bus is only a few minutes away, they are less likely to make the "mad dash" to catch a bus about to depart.
  • Clear, concise signing is very important in directing pedestrians to, from, and between transit modes. Signing facilitates the use of crosswalks, pedestrian signals, bus shelters, and other various passenger amenities by informing user how to access those amenities.
  • Bus drivers and train conductors can help to inform passengers of transfer options and how to access them. This greatly enhances the flow of passengers as well as the user experience.
  • Pedestrian-scale lighting is necessary for visibility and security. Pedestrians will be reluctant to rely on transit after dusk if sufficient lighting is not provided.

Read more: Transit


Traditional Philosophy

The St. Louis region contains a number of individual streets and street types, each serving a different purpose within the transportation network. A functional classification system is used to group and describe roads according to the type of service they provide and their role in the network.

The functional classification for a given roadway is determined based on its setting (urban or rural) and whether its main role is providing connectivity, mobility, or accessibility. The number of vehicle miles traveled (VMT), average annual daily traffic (ADT), and abutting land uses of a roadway are also considered. Traditionally, the roadway functional classification system has been used to describe how travel flows through the regional roadway network and to determine project eligibility for inclusion in the Long Range Plan and short-range Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).

East-West Gateway, the metropolitan planning organization (MPO) and council of governments (COG) for St. Louis, is responsible for maintaining and updating the region’s functional classification system. To maintain the functional classification system, East-West Gatewayaccepts applications for functional classification revision during the months of May and November each year. A system-wide review is conducted every 3-5 years.

Urban and rural roadway functional classes
Credit: EW Gateway COG

Table 1, at right,depicts the region’s traditional functional classification system. The classes that are most applicable to the St. Louis Great Streets Initiative have been shaded yellow.

A portion of a typical urban/suburban network is shown in the figure below. The arterial streets form the backbone of the network.

Local roads feed the collectors, which in turn feed the arterials.

This example is similar to many of the arterial networks throughout the St. Louis region.

Street network example
Source: FHWA

Traditional planning and design standards classify the functionality of highway and street networks based on two major factors:

  1. access to adjacent properties and land uses; and

  2. mobility for vehicles needing to travel through the area without stopping at adjacent developments.

In this traditional approach, the exhibitbelowis often used to illustrate the relationship between access, mobility, and the street network.

The prevalence of this well-known figure and the concepts it illustrates help explain, at least in part, why some of our arterial streets are unwelcoming to pedestrians and provide poor access.

Proportion of service: access vs. mobility
Source: FHWA

Arterials are often characterized as facilities designed to transport people and goods and provide mobility.

While freeways and expressways within the principal arterial system (such as I-64 or I-170) are intended to move people and goods quickly and efficiently, the other principal arterials and minor arterials in the transportation network are not intended for this purpose.

Minor arterials which are designed or function more like freeways present a major problem for the St. Louis region.

For example, facilities like Watson Road, Olive Road, Manchester Road, and Lindbergh Boulevard carry the majority of the metropolitan area’s traffic volume.

Arterial vs. collector vs. local
Source: FHWA

Balancing the need to provide access and mobility along many of these arterial streets is one the greatest challenges facing municipalities, local agencies, and communities in their efforts to create great streets.

New Philosophy

In Chapter 4 of the ITE publication Context Sensitive Solutions in Designing Major Urban Thoroughfares for Walkable Communities, streets and highways are classified according to traditional functional classification and what is referred to as “thoroughfare type.” This additional classification scheme is used with the recognition that functional classification alone does not adequately describe the character and adjacent land uses of an arterial street. The categorizations used in the functional classification system are too broad to reflect the true character of an arterial street or capture differences between roadway segments.

The ITE publication uses the term “major thoroughfare” to describe major urban or suburban multimodal streets (typically arterials or collectors) that are designed to support and complement adjacent land uses. As the regional bus and light rail systems continue to expand and gain ridership, major thoroughfare design considerations will be increasingly relevant in St. Louis.

Major urban thoroughfares are divided into two main types:

  1. Walkable, pedestrian-oriented urban streets serving small, mixed-use developments
  2. Auto-oriented, mobility-focused streets serving single-use developments
Functional classification and street type table
ITE Context Sensitive Solutions

The ITE publication predominantly focuses on the first of the two categories noted above; however Chapter 11 discusses some of the key considerations for mobility-priority streets.

The tableat rightillustrates the relationship between traditional functional classification categories and thoroughfare types. In light of these relationships,the Great Streets Initiative focuses on the following thoroughfare types:

  1. Boulevards: divided arterials in urban and suburban environments; can be high speed (40-45 mph) or low speed (35 mph or lower). Typically serve as primary routes for goods movement and emergency response.
    1. High speed boulevards are mobility-priority corridors emphasizing traffic movement over longer distances, with very few access points. Adjacent land uses are typically larger single-use parcels with sizeable, landscaped setbacks.
    2. Low speed boulevards are walkable, multimodal corridors providing relatively few access points (but still more than high-speed boulevards). These roadways are often transit corridors with high ridership.
  2. Avenues: low- to medium-speed arterials and collectors; shorter in length than boulevards with more access provided. These thoroughfares are typically walkable, with a heavy emphasis on pedestrian and bicycle travel.
  3. Streets: low-speed minor arterials and collectors that focus on access to adjacent land uses. These roadways are often the “main streets” of commercial or mixed-use areas, with parking provided along the curb.

Table 3 below outlines the primary thoroughfare types applicable to the place types discussed in this guide. These recommendations are intended as general guidelines; because every community is unique, there is no one-size-fits-all rule for thoroughfare type selection.

Given the need to use functional class and thoroughfare type to describe roadway characteristics, this guide will use the following categorizations to define the various elements of the arterial street.

Primary thoroughfare type for each place type
Credit: CH2M HILL

Functional class will be used to define:

  • The arterial’s role in the regional network
  • Type of freight service provided
  • Type of transit service provided

Thoroughfare type will be used to define:

The ITE guide indicates that a road’s functional classification should dictate its design speed. Because many of the arterial streets in the St. Louis region have a functional classification that would prescribe an inappropriately high design speed under such an approach, this guide recommends that design speed be determined based on place-specific characteristics and the community’s vision for the particular place. The use of these alternative criteria would likely result in speed reductions for certain segments of the arterial.

When determining design speed, the road’s functional classification may be an appropriate starting point, but it should not be applied without considering a number of other important factors.

Read more: Functional Classification