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New tool to support data-driven decision in street planning

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

A Future Mobility project enables the creation of more sustainable and livable streets

A photo of people on a street with stores, cafes and no vehicles.

Photo: Paul Rysz/Unsplash

Picture the street that you live on. What is the noise level? How many road users can pass through it? Is it safe for a 7 year-old to walk or bike on it? During a heat wave, would the available trees be enough to help reduce the temperature?  Streetmeter, a new tool developed in a bilateral collaboration between Sweden and United States provides answers to these and other questions, supporting urban planners in making better decisions when developing or transforming a street. 

Streetmeter works by allowing users to input various parameters of a street, such as sidewalk width, tree density, and traffic volume. It then generates a result display that assesses the street performance according to noise levels, pedestrian safety, greenery, climate impact, among other criteria. This data enables users to assess the performance of their street designs and compare different scenarios, facilitating informed decision-making in urban planning. 

Alexander Ståhle, CEO of Spacescape and manager of the project, explains that today, there is a global shift in street planning, with many cities making large-scale transformation projects, like the Superblock, in Barcelona, Spain, and the car-free city center in Oslo, Norway.   

These initiatives include converting highways into boulevards, establishing car-free zones, and prioritizing pedestrian-friendly streets. “In this context, Street Meter serves as a powerful tool in understanding and evaluating the outcomes of such transformations, providing evidence-based insights to support urban development decisions,” he adds. 

A screenshot of Streetmeter’s user interface

A screenshot of Streetmeter’s user interface, showing the performance in different KPIs for a street. 

The initiative behind Streetmeter originated from Vinnova, the Swedish Innovation Agency, and the Smart Streets research project. It highlighted the necessity for data-driven decision-making in street transformations, taking into consideration elements such as transportation, health, and social environment. This need was echoed by planners and traffic engineers, prompting the development of Streetmeter. 

Financed by Future Mobility, the project is a collaboration between cutting-edge practitioners in street design in Sweden (Spacescape & RISE) and the US (Street Plans & Streetmix), with extensive networks within public, civic and private sectors. 

Despite differences in street designs and infrastructure between European and American cities, the underlying challenges remain the same. Both regions face issues related to excessive car usage and the need for more sustainable, people-centric street designs. Collaborating with American partners enhances Streetmeter's relevance and effectiveness in addressing these shared challenges. 

Participating in the Future Mobility project amplifies Streetmeter's impact by expanding its reach and relevance on a global scale. This collaboration enables the tool to undergo rigorous testing and validation across diverse contexts, ensuring its applicability and effectiveness worldwide. 

We could not have the same impact without the international collaboration in Future Mobility, we would never be able to reach a global audience.”

Alexander Ståhle, CEO of Spacescape and manager of the Streetmeter project at Future Mobility

A background image with a gradient going from bright pink to dark blue.

 

The next step is now to integrate Streetmeter into another popular platform for urban design, Streetmix.net, so users could design a street in the tool and measure its performance with the access provided by Streetmeter. That will further increase the access and availability of the tool globally.  

Streetmeter has the potential to change street development by democratizing urban planning processes. Its user-friendly interface and comprehensive data outputs empower engineers, policymakers, and citizens to advocate for and implement transformative street designs that prioritize sustainability, safety, and livability.