Characteristics and Guidelines of Great Streets

A street comprises the entire three-dimensional visual corridor, including the public realm and how it relates to the adjacent land uses. Submissions should document the street's character across this realm.

Streets of different types are eligible, ranging from pedestrian realms through arterial roadways, but each should have a definable beginning and end.

Special emphasis is placed on streets that are complete, that is, streets that service and take into account all users — not just motor vehicles.

Description of Street

It is important to identify the start and end points of the street and describe the setting in which it is located, whether it's in a downtown, suburban, or exurban area, small village, or small town.

Street Form and Composition

How does the street ...

  • Accommodate multiple users and connect to the broader street network?
  • Accommodate social interaction, encourage pedestrian activity, or serve as a social network?
  • Use hardscaping, landscaping, street furniture, or other physical elements to create a unique personality and capture a sense of public space?
  • Capitalize on building design, scale, architecture, and proportionality?

Street Character and Personality

How does the street ...

  • Benefit from community involvement and participation (festivals, parades, open-air markets, etc.)?
  • Reflect the local culture or history?
  • Provide interesting visual experiences, vistas, natural features, or other qualities?

Street Environment and Sustainable Practices

How does the street ...

  • Utilize green infrastructure or other sustainable strategies

Great Streets — Characteristics and Guidelines for Designation

A street comprises the entire three-dimensional visual corridor, including the public realm and how it relates to the adjacent land uses. Submissions should document the street's character across this realm. Streets of different types are eligible, ranging from pedestrian realms through arterial roadways, but each should have a definable beginning and end. Special emphasis is placed on streets that are complete, that is, streets that service and take into account all users — not just motor vehicles.

Characteristics of a Great Street include:

  1. Provides orientation to its users, and connects well to the larger pattern of ways.
  1. Balances the competing needs of the street — driving, transit, walking, cycling, servicing, parking, drop-offs, etc.
  1. Fits the topography and capitalizes on natural features.
  1. Is lined with a variety of interesting activities and uses that create a varied streetscape.
  1. Has urban design or architectural features that are exemplary in design.
  1. Relates well to its bordering uses — allows for continuous activity, doesn't displace pedestrians to provide access to bordering uses.
  1. Encourages human contact and social activities.
  1. Employs hardscape and/or landscape to great effect.
  1. Promotes safety of pedestrians and vehicles and promotes use over the 24-hour day.
  1. Promotes sustainability through minimizing runoff, reusing water, ensuring groundwater quality, minimizing heat islands, and responding to climatic demands.
  2. Is well maintained, and capable of being maintained without excessive costs.
  3. Has a memorable character.

Description of Street

  1. How are you identifying this street (number of blocks, start and end points)?
  1. Where is the street located: in a downtown, urban area, suburb, exurban area (i.e., on the fringes of a metropolitan area), village, or small town?

Guidelines for Great Streets

1.0 Street Form and Composition

1.1 Describe its accessibility and connection to the broader street network?

1.2 To what extent is the street well maintained? How is safety addressed? Is there a big disparity (i.e. activities, usage, etc.) between night and day?

1.3 How does it accommodate multiple users and activities (i.e. continuous and unobstructed travel lanes, road-sharing measures, traffic calming measures, wide sidewalks, median strips, bike lanes, etc.)? 

1.4 How is parking handled?

1.5 Describe how the hardscape or landscape, street furniture, or other physical elements (i.e. signage, public art) create a unique personality?

1.6 How do the physical features create or capture a sense of public space?  

1.7 How does the street accommodate or encourage social interaction, or serve as a social network? Is there regular pedestrian activity?

2.0 Street Character and Personality

2.1 What makes the street stand out? What makes it extraordinary or memorable? What elements, features, and details set the street apart from other streets?

2.2 How is the community involved in adding vitality to the street (festivals, parades, open-air markets, etc.)?

2.3 How does the street reflect the local culture or history?

2.4 Does the street provide interesting visual experiences, vistas, natural features, or other qualities? How does the architecture of the buildings add to the street's visual experience and public realm? 

2.5 Is there consistency of scale between buildings (i.e. are buildings proportional to one another), and are the buildings designed and scaled for pedestrians?

3.0 Street Environment and Sustainable Practices

3.1 How does the street promote or protect air and water quality and minimize or manage stormwater runoff? For example, how much tree cover is provided? Are there other forms of "green infrastructure"?