The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) released a Blueprint for Autonomous Urbanism, a first-of-its-kind street design vision to help cities worldwide prepare for the age of autonomous vehicles (AV). Building on NACTO’s library of street design guidance, the Blueprint envisions a future where cities benefit from new transportation technologies to improve the public realm and build streets that work for people, rather than merely redesigning streets to accommodate emerging technologies.
Developed with a steering committee from NACTO’s 61 member cities and transit agencies and funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Blueprint outlines the physical and policy steps that cities could take to ensure that their streets can be reimagined and redesigned to improve safety, prioritize people and public space, strengthen the role of mass transit, and manage the contested curb as automated vehicles arrive on city streets.
“The expansion of autonomous vehicles is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rethink city streets and save lives on an unprecedented scale — but only if cities are prepared,” said Janette Sadik-Khan, NACTO chair and principal at Bloomberg Associates. “The Blueprint gives city leaders across the country and around the world the vision they need to partner with the private sector and design streets that are smarter, safer, and more efficient than ever before.”
“As cities guide the autonomous revolution, we want technology to solve our mobility challenges, not settle for more of the same,” said Seleta Reynolds, NACTO president and general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation. “This Blueprint will help cities everywhere lay the foundation for 21st century streets designed to serve people first and foremost, no matter how they travel.”
“When it comes to autonomous vehicles, cities are where the action is,” said Linda Bailey, executive director of NACTO. “This is the start of a critical conversation with AV companies about what cities need today and will need tomorrow.”
The Blueprint for Autonomous Urbanism is a series and will expand and adapt as transportation technologies emerge and evolve. It is designed to help cities develop best practices to harness new technologies to significantly reduce the 1.3 million people killed annually in traffic crashes, repurpose street space no longer needed for driving lanes or parking, and ensure equitable economic benefits.
The first module focuses on three concepts cities are already grappling with today:
Designing for safety — through streets that are designed primarily as public spaces for people, with more frequent and convenient pedestrian crossings and slower, steadier, and more predictable vehicular movements. This requires updating the rules of the road to ensure that people on foot and bicycle are given priority over automated vehicles.
New mobility systems — ensuring that fixed-route mass transit continues to serve as the backbone of urban transportation, while the expanding range of fleet vehicles provides flexible, equitable first- and last-mile connections.
Curbside management — providing guidance on policies, street designs, and pricing incentives cities should implement to ensure that road space once used exclusively for parking is dynamically available for more diverse and valuable uses, including transit, bike lanes, bike share stations, parklets, green infrastructure, freight deliveries, and passenger pick-up/drop-off zones.
The Blueprint outlines key tools and objectives for cities to use as they update their physical and digital infrastructure and on every type of street and intersection, from narrow residential streets to major multi-modal boulevards. Future modules of the Blueprint will expand on these topics with new focus areas including roadway pricing, data partnerships with the private sector, regional planning, designing autonomous networks, and autonomous freight delivery needs.
The document is based on NACTO’s library of peer-reviewed street design manuals for people-oriented city transportation, including the Urban Street Design Guide, Urban Bikeway Design Guide, Transit Street Design Guide, Urban Street Stormwater Guide, and Global Street Design Guide — documents that have each been recognized and adopted by dozens of cities, counties, states, and organizations, addressing a variety of street typologies and design elements found around the world.