On May 5, 2016, the Delaware General Assembly passed Senate Bill (SB) 130—the Complete Communities bill—which takes a unique policy approach whereby the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) and local communities work together to create more bikeable, walkable communities around transit.
The bill makes it possible for local governments to designate areas as “Complete Community Enterprise Districts” (Districts) that allow for a greater density of transit development while providing safe access to transit through biking and walking infrastructure—and limiting investment in road infrastructure. The goal of the bill is to increase transit ridership numbers and encourage more people to get out of their cars.
The Districts must be at least 1 square mile and no more than 9 square miles in area, and must inhabit a compact and contiguous space that has existing transit or is densely developed enough to support transit. Each local community must also create a master development plan that 1) allows for the additional concentrated transit density and 2) identifies the area’s most significant walking and biking barriers to transit access as well as projects to overcome those barriers. Transportation planners must refrain from developing any projects that expand road capacity unless they can show the project will not have a negative effect on transit access, pedestrian safety or the percentage of trips made by bicycle under low-stress traffic conditions.
Once a local community establishes a District, DelDOT is required to 1) develop transit capital improvement projects in the District with the goal of increasing transit ridership and 2) assign these projects with the highest weight for multimodal projects in DelDOT’s project prioritization process. DelDOT must also set a goal of engineering all streets that are not limited access in the District for an 85th percentile speed of 25 miles per hour.
Advocates for the bill included Bike Delaware and a coalition of local smart-growth groups and developers. The Delaware Association of Realtors and Delaware Chamber of Commerce embraced the model as the future of sensible development, and AARP Delaware backed the bill due to the benefits it would provide seniors, creating better, safer access to transit by foot or bike.
Although some resistance came from anti-development groups who were concerned about the potential negative impacts of additional development, transit developers and smart-growth groups countered that SB 130 would focus development in areas where it is most appropriate to occur, and would also help ensure that transit is more self-sustaining by promoting its use and making it more accessible. No additional funding is necessary for this bill, which aims to prioritize existing state transportation funding.