National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO)

NACTO Designing Cities Conference Includes Release of First National Urban Street Design Guide

National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) President and NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan today kicked off the three-day Designing Cities Conference with the release of the Urban Street Design Guide, documenting the design principles and strategies that the nation’s largest cities are adopting to confront new and growing demands on their streets.

From bus rapid transit to bikeways and public seating, the guide showcases a new model for streets that work better for people, bikes, transit and cities. The guide and conference come as new data by NYC DOT show the economic benefits of innovative and sustainable street design on small businesses, with redesigned corridors significantly outperforming other areas in retail revenue. New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will address the conference, which is being attended by many of the nation’s leading transportation officials and thinkers. The conference will continue today through Friday.

For a complete schedule and to see the Guide, visit

“Our nation’s strength lies in our cities, which are proving grounds for innovation and bold ideas from the curbline to the skyline,” said Sadik-Khan. “As we unveil this first-ever nationwide playbook for innovative, sustainable streets, we’re also seeing time and again that these investments deliver incredible economic benefits as they build safer, more attractive streets.”

The Urban Street Design Guide is based on innovative, implemented projects from across the nation and reflects growing national and international best practices and research in urban design, planning and engineering. Spearheaded by transportation professionals and designers with the input of public and private sector practitioners working in America's large cities, the Guide will serve as a blueprint for 21st century American street design. The guide offers specific strategies for making streets safer and more attractive for all users while stimulating economic growth by accommodating transit, adding medians and sidewalk seating. Many large American cities are already changing the way they build streets and city transportation departments are making ever-greater accommodations for transit in the street, whether through light-rail corridors or bus rapid transit.

Newly compiled data in New York City is adding to a growing amount of evidence that investments in more sustainable, safer streets that accommodate all users stimulates the local economy:

• Retail sales went up by 71 percent on Fordham Road in the Bronx following the introduction of more reliable Select Bus Service in 2008, three times the borough-wide growth rate.

• Retail sales increased by as much as 49 percent on portions of Ninth Avenue in Manhattan after the installation of parking-protected bike lanes, or 16 times the borough-wide retail sales growth.

• In Brooklyn on the streets adjacent to Pearl Street Plaza, retail sales went up by 172 percent, nine times the borough-wide rate.

This growth comes on top of other demonstrated economic growth, including Times Square, where retail rents doubled following the 2009 Green Light for Midtown project and new flagship stores have opened and which now generates a staggering $110 billion in economic activity. Times Square last year was listed for the first time as one of the top 10 retail locations on the planet. Meanwhile, there were 49 percent fewer commercial vacancies in the Union Square North area, where new plazas, simplified intersections and a protected bike lane were installed, while there were 47 percent fewer commercial vacancies on First and Second Avenues after SBS and bike lanes were installed.

The guide’s strategies and design principles will be further explored this week at NACTO’s conference, “Designing Cities: Leading the Way to World Class Streets,” being held at New York University’s Kimmel Center from Oct. 24 - 26. The conference features keynote addresses by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, among transportation leaders and thinkers from across the nation.

Other featured speakers include Bruce Katz, vice president, Brookings Institution; Andrew Altman, former chief executive, London Legacy Corp., 2012 Olympics; Jay L. Kriegel, former executive director, NYC2012.

A panel discussion on Friday will be moderated by Chris Hayes, host, MSNBC’s “UP w/Chris Hayes.” A panel on Thursday will be moderated by Tom Vanderbilt, journalist and author of the
best-selling book, "Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us)."