Green streets offer opportunities for all urban areas to address a significant source of stormwater pollution. Current programs effectively demonstrate a number of factors critical to implementing and sustaining a beneficial municipal program. Each of these items allows the incremental progression of a publicly supported program.
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- Pilot projects: Successful municipal programs have demonstrated the value of green streets with well documented and monitored pilot projects. The pilots demonstrate the local effectiveness and reliability and the coordination with existing conventional infrastructure. Pilots help to educate and increase awareness and buy-in of stakeholders.
- Leadership from the top: The cities with the strongest green programs are those with mayors and city councils that have championed sustainable green infrastructure. The political support results in binding policies or mission statements that effectively institutionalize green street approaches. This leadership is required to establish a lasting green street infrastructure program and is one of the most often overlooked critical components to success.
- Buy-in from all municipal infrastructure departments: Streets cut across many municipal programs. Green street practices impact stormwater management, street design, underground utilities, public lighting, green space planning, public work maintenance, and budgeting. All relevant agencies must be represented during program development to identify and address technical and administrative issues. Coordination among the agencies can also decrease implementation costs by taking advantage of coordinated improvements.
- Documentation: Green street projects should document design and construction information and monitoring and tracking to record green street variations driven by different street types and physical site conditions. Construction information is important for identifying future cost saving approaches; monitoring green street practices across the city is crucial for managing maintenance and quantifying aggregate benefits.
- Public outreach: Outreach is important for public awareness and building support. Green street programs have grown in some cities because of public request for green retrofits in their communities. In addition, public works departments have coordinated maintenance responsibilities for vegetated stormwater BMPs with local citizen groups.
The Benefits of Public Installations
One of the most significant benefits of green streets is that they are primarily installed on public property. This is useful in the overall development of sustainable stormwater programs because of the opportunities public spaces offer to municipalities. Stormwater BMPs on public property can provide the following benefits:
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- The public develops familiarity with the LID strategies and practices: By implementing stormwater BMPs in the public realm, members of the community have an opportunity to come in contact with them, perhaps frequently, and even learn about the practices from educational signs. Public areas provide high visibility locations for applications. As the public is exposed to these practices and can witness them functioning throughout the changing seasons, they become more familiar and more comfortable with the practices and potentially more likely to implement something similar on their property.
- The private sector can monitor the success of the LID applications: Individuals or organizations interested in installing stormwater BMPs on their property, but unsure of the level of effectiveness or maintenance needs, can observe or inquire about applications they see installed in public space.
- Costs decrease as a local market is created: As more stormwater practices are installed, efficiencies and improvements to the process bring cost savings and often a better product. For example, as the Chicago Department of Transportation purchased and installed more porous concrete, the price decreased, making it a more viable alternative for private property owners to purchase and install on their property.
- Local supplies and local businesses grow: As the public sector invests in stormwater practices, it is investing in local, green businesses. This allows those businesses to grow and provide an even better product with more experienced installers.
- The municipality gains first hand experience with design, construction, and maintenance before requiring it of others: As municipalities begin to require stormwater BMPs in their jurisdictions, property owners will ask questions about design, construction, and maintenance in the local climate conditions, soil types, and rainfall patterns. If the municipality has applications that they own, operate, and maintain, they will be able to answer questions and help private property owners so that their BMP(s) will succeed.
- Easy access for monitoring and tours: Public property applications of stormwater BMPs are easily accessible to the public for monitoring by students or tours by those interested in implementing something similar in their community or on their property.