Streets as Places

Design streets that support local land use and respond to local context.


Streets are places. Streets provide the spaces that people inhabit when they are in between the private and other public spaces of the community. They provide a network for the vital social, economic, and physical activities of our communities. Street design affects people’s perceptions of a place and largely determines the livability of our communities.

  • Design streets to have a clear sense of place, establishing a street with its own brand/identity.  
  • Associated transit stop design should balance transit brand identity with street identity as a wayfinding tool for transit riders. VTA’s Transit Passenger Environment Plan includes guidelines for a “Community Destination” bus stop typology. Local jurisdictions may provide custom shelter and amenities to reflect a locally important destination.
Design Guidelines
Policy & Implementation
The Role of Local Government & Transit First Policies
Guiding Principles of Land Use
Flexible Zoning Strategies
Street Design Implementation
Revising Transportation Analysis Practices
Transportation Demand Management
Rethinking Vehicle Parking Requirements
Parking Management
Best Practices to Attract Successful Developers
Clarifying Design Expectations
Integrating Retail into Transit Oriented Development
Community Planning for Rail Transit
Additional Resources
Photo of outside of cafe with people sitting and walking on the sidewalk
1st Street Parklet, San Jose, CA. (Source: Flickr - Sergio Ruiz)
Photo of crosswalk and people sitting outside restaurant
Downtown Menlo Park
Photo of building with colorful panels partially covering the windows with trees and an artistic bus stop in front

Streets nest into the scaled nature of land use. Local and collector streets are land uses that fill in between buildings and sites. Arterial streets can serve as corridor spaces, which connect districts, in the land use sense.

A photo of a main street with people walking in a crosswalk.
State Street, Santa Barbara, CA. (Source: Flickr -La Citta Vita)

The balance of land use and transport is based on the scale of the street. Local streets and collectors should emphasize designs that support placemaking. Arterials should have a balanced emphasis between placemaking and transportation. Regional expressways and freeways should emphasize designs that support mobility and transportation.

Graphic of a street with wide sidewalks shown in blue, landscaping and bike lanes shown in green, parking shown in grey, and vehicle lanes shown in turquoise surrounded by white buildings
Local | Collector Street
Graphic of a four-lane roadway shown in turquoise, bike lanes shown in green, and sidewalk shown in blue surrounded by white buildings. There is a bus leaving the bus stop shown in white
Arterial Street
Graphic of a six-lane expressway with lanes shown in turquoise and white vehicles. Sidewalks, medians, and buildings are in white and trees are in green
Expressway | Freeway
Graphic of a line chart showing how land use and transportation scale as you move from a local to regional context.
A mutimodal approach: the dual roles of streets

Begin with the pedestrian in mind. Designing streets for pedestrian comfort and convenience is the strongest way to ensure a street has been designed to fulfill its land use role. To be successful as a place, streets must be comfortable for pedestrians, connected to fine-grained pedestrian networks, and include pedestrian-scale street elements, such as lighting and other amenities. 

Photo of a sidewalk with people walking under a tree canopy and colorful umbrellas hanging
9th St, Oakland, CA. (Source: Flickr - Sergio Ruiz)