Planning for Street Connectivity: Getting From Here to There

PAS Report 515

By Susan Handy, Robert Paterson, Kent Butler

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Planning for Street Connectivity discusses a concept that has met with varied receptions in communities. Some quietly accept it; others fight it vigorously. Proponents point out numerous benefits. These include: a decrease of traffic on arterial streets; more continuous and direct routes that encourage travel by walking and bicycling; greater access and quicker response times for emergency vehicles; more evacuation alternatives in the event of a disaster; and improvements in the quality of utility connections, facilitating maintenance and enabling more efficient trash and recycling collection and other transport-based community services.

Opponents, usually residents facing change in their familiar surroundings (or in an adjacent neighborhood) and developers, argue that street connectivity can: raise levels of through traffic on residential streets; increase infrastructure costs and impervious cover; require more land to develop the same number of housing units; decrease the affordability of housing; and threaten the profitability of developments.

This report takes a close look at that debate and the evidence, offering research results and studies of the experience of 14 communities' efforts to incorporate greater connectivity, with Raleigh, North Carolina, and Austin, Texas, receiving in-depth studies. Excerpts from the codes of nine communities are included in an appendix.

This report will make it possible for planners and others to present a wealth of information to residents and local officials about street connectivity to answer their questions and concerns (e.g., traffic calming to address cut-through traffic, increases in density through design so that return on investment and affordability are likely, and reductions in road widths to limit the amounts of impervious surface). In fact, as the report concludes, the concept has received a much warmer reception where planning staff have educated the public affected by changes in their travel network.

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Page Count
Date Published
June 1, 2003
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Table of Contents


Chapter 1. History of street patterns and standards • The rectilinear grid • Curvilinear streets • The street hierarachy • Standards • Implications

Chapter 2. The debate • Decrease traffic on arterial streets • Facilitate nonmotorized travel • Providing greater emergency access and improving service efficiency • The role of street widths • Conclusions

Chapter 3. Street connectivity in practice • Metro, regional government for the Portland, Oregon area • Portland, Oregon • Beaverton, Oregon • Eugene, Oregon • Fort Collins, Colorado • Boulder, Colorado • Cary, North Carolina • Huntersville, North Carolina • Cornelius, North Carolina • Conover, North Carolina • Middletown, Delaware • Orlando, Florida • Summary

Chapter 4. Context-sensitive street connectivity: a tale of two cities • Raleigh, North Carolina • Austin, Texas • Comparing the cases

Afterword: More to think about

Appendix A: List of references

Appendix B: Street connectivity codes • Metro regional government for Portland, Oregon area • Portland, Oregon • Beaverton, Oregon • Fort Collins, Colorado • Cary, North Carolina • Huntersville, North Carolina • Cornelius, North Carolina • Raleigh, North Carolina • Orland, Florida