Street Hierarchies

To successfully delegate the care and maintenance of our streets and sidewalks, the city needs to determine which streets are not critical to the network, and what changes can be pre-approved. London and Seattle created Strategic Road Networks. Here in New York City, working with the international design and construction firm ARUP, DOT created a very effective hierarchy of streets in a 2004 Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Study.


Seattle defines the roadway network from an emphasis on mobility in commercial zones to an emphasis on access to property in the more residential neighborhoods. The city updates these classifications as streets change.

Seattle Street Type Matrix. Streets are defined according to place and movement, from the context of neighborhoods to downtown environments.


Through legislation, the City of London defines a Strategic Road Network and lists its major arterial roads. The boroughs have control over all of the remaining roads. A Roads Task Force further recommends that London’s 34 traffic authorities use a new ‘street family’ as a practical way to understand the mixed use of their roads. To implement this concept, the task force created a map with nine street types linked to a set of service standards and a toolkit of potential interventions.

An illustrated guide to London’s “Street Family.”

New York City:

In the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Study, DOT created three categories of streets — Traffic Streets, Community Streets and Living Streets — and defined objectives for each type.

Travel streets “provide critical transportation links and allow for movement, while also serving as destinations in their own right for commercial, cultural and institutional activities.” Community Streets are less critical for through traffic and serve more as “Town Centers;” their primary purpose is to “improve the environment for pedestrians, cyclists, business owners and their customers, while facilitating some through traffic.”

Living Streets, the streets NEP is most concerned with, serve the residents who live there; through traffic is discouraged, and protecting the residents and their quality of life is paramount. NEP asks city agencies to take their work one step further and do what London has done: create a toolkit with pre-approved applications for these Living Streets.

Street Category Map from the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Study.