In the United States, our most ubiquitous public space is the street. On the whole, US cities don’t have the same public squares and plazas that are found in Europe and Asia, but we do spend a lot of time and money on our streets. The Complete Streets movement pushes local decision makers and engineers to “complete” the streets by making space for ALL users: motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, and transit. As a society, we’ve spent 50 years building plenty of road capacity for our cars, but we’re woefully deficient in making space in our public streets for anyone else.
A recent report from the Political Economic Research Institute has found that dollar for dollar, “Complete Streets” projects create more jobs than other road projects. From the report (emphasis added):
Pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure such as sidewalks, bike lanes, and trails, can all be used for transportation, recreation, and fitness. These types of infrastructure have been shown to create many benefits for their users as well as the rest of the community. Some of these benefits are economic, such as increased revenues and jobs for local businesses, and some are non-economic benefits such as reduced congestion, better air quality, safer travel routes, and improved health outcomes… Using detailed cost estimates on a variety of projects, we use an input-output model to study the direct, indirect, and induced employment that is created through the design, construction, and materials procurement of bicycle, pedestrian, and road infrastructure.
Overall we find that bicycling infrastructure creates the most jobs for a given level of spending: For each $1 million, the cycling projects in this study create a total of 11.4 jobs within the state where the project is located. Pedestrian-only projects create an average of about 10 jobs per $1 million and multi-use trails create nearly as many, at 9.6 jobs per $1 million. Infrastructure that combines road construction with pedestrian and bicycle facilities creates slightly fewer jobs for the same amount of spending, and road-only projects create the least, with a total of 7.8 jobs per $1 million.