Complete Streets for Phoenix

A Community Storytelling Series

Public Transit & Parks
are Community Lifelines

What are Complete Streets?

Complete streets are designed and operated to prioritize safety, comfort, and access to destinations for all people who use the street, especially people who do not have and cannot drive cars and need other reliable forms of transportation to get around.

Complete streets make it easy to walk, bike, skate, and move actively with assistive devices like wheelchairs. Complete streets have adequate shade and vegetation. They allow buses to run on time and make it safe for people to walk or move actively to and from their chosen mode of transportation. Complete streets will create the pathways for our future generations to be able to get to the location they need without fearing how they will get there, how long it will take, and the negative exposures they must go through to be able to get to their destination.

Source: Smart Growth America 

Worsening Heat &
Air Quality in Phoenix

The Phoenix metro area is now the fastest growing in the country, and as the region continues to rapidly grow, so too are its environmental issues. The metro area’s air quality is now the fifth most polluted in the country, and the National Weather Service recorded 53 days in 2020 with temperatures above 110℉, setting a new record high. These worsening climate factors have had deadly consequences. Over the past five years, heat has been linked to more than 1,500 deaths in Arizona, with a particularly devastating impact on the unsheltered community in the state.

The desert is a naturally hot environment, but these changes in climate are being driven by human behavior. The increase in temperature is, in part, a result of the worsening urban heat island effect as the metro area continues to grow with a lack of urban green spaces and unchecked urban sprawl.
Cars, trucks, and other forms of transportation are one of the biggest producers of air pollution in our country, and particularly here in the valley where the ease of mobility is extremely dependent on owning a car. 

A Broken Public Transit System

For those who cannot afford a car, a lack of reliable and extensive public transportation poses a significant barrier to working and getting around, leaving many residents to navigate a broken public transportation system.

Public transit options in our region need routes that depart more frequently during the day and night, transit stops that have adequate shading, and need to be more affordable. Our roads must be designed to accommodate more forms of active transportation, such as safe and dedicated bike lanes, barriers between the road and bike lanes, and tree shade cover. Ensuring access to reliable and clean transportation options supports the wellbeing of our communities.

To hear more from Phoenix public transit riders, you can view the results of Chispa AZ’s Clean & Green Campaign Public Transit Survey:

In Phoenix, there is a difference of up to 14 years in life expectancy comparing the South & West Valley to the East & North Valley.

Racism in Phoenix

Social factors such as race, income, and age have been found to determine who are the most vulnerable communities to the increasing temperatures, poor air quality, and gaps in mobility equity in urban cities. More specifically, there are significant disparities between North/East and West/South Phoenix, with Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and people of color being the most vulnerable. The differences in investment are undeniable when comparing the presence of tree shade and public parks, and important factor in determining a community’s quality of life.

Complete Streets as a Solution

By pushing our elected officials and regional leaders to invest in 100% electric public transit and infrastructure, we can work to improve our air quality by having less vehicle emissions on our roads. Expanding and improving our public transportation system also has the potential to influence the culture of the area and how people choose to get around. By pushing to invest in public parks and trees, we will not only mitigate the urban heat island effect, but also provide more transit equity and options for our most impacted communities, particularly active transportation options like walking, biking, and skating. The solution for our region is complete streets.

Our Community is Resilient

We are demanding that Phoenix leaders and policymakers listen to the communities that depend on our public transit when making future transit and parks investments for our region. The following stories highlight the experiences of our community as they navigate Phoenox’s public transit system and public parks.

Urban Heat Island & Shade Equity

Complete Streets include adequate, accessible tree shade and urban green spaces.

Cameron (he/him)

Extreme heat in Phoenix has devastating impacts, particularly on our unsheltered neighbors. Many, who are unsheltered – like Cameron – are forced to seek heat relief at parks and risk criminalization.

“We need parks to be open to everyone in our communities.”

Air Quality & Respiratory Health

Complete Streets include clean transit options, like electric buses. Complete streets means less tailpipe emissions on our roads.

Mayte (they/she)

As Phoenix’s air quality has worsened, Mayte’s respiratory illness has become more severe and difficult to manage.

“We need electric public transportation.”

Affordability & Equity

Complete Streets include free transportation options to ensure mobility equity.

Leah (he/she)

Many Phoenix residents struggle with the cost of public transit fare. As a student, Leah faces a financial burden to pay the bus fare.

“We need free public transportation.”

Reliability & Frequency

Complete Streets include public transit that runs frequently and on time.

Sherito (she/her)

Sherito shares how infrequent and late public transit impacts her ability to get around Phoenix.

“We need a public transit system with more frequent routes.”

Accessibility & Disability

Complete Streets include public transportation options that accommodate all abilities.

Julian (he/they)

Julian has a visual impairment and has difficulty navigating our public transit system.

“We need a public transit system that is accessible to all riders.”

Active Transportation

Complete Streets include safe options for bikers, skaters, and pedestrians to get around.

Jess (they/them)

Extreme heat and busy streets make it difficult for Jess to safely navigate Phoenix on their bike.

“We need a public transit system that has safe bike lanes.”


Complete Streets include public transportation routes that connect people to their destinations.

Trinity (she/they)

A lack of connectivity with public transit routes leave residents like Trinity struggling to reach their destination.

“We need a public transit system that connects people to their destinations.”

Housing & Gentrification

Complete Streets include affordable housing and services for unsheltered residents.

Jose (he/him)

As the cost of rent increases in Phoenix, Jose shares his perspective on how gentrification impacts our community.

“We need a affordable housing and rent control.”

Park Accessibility

Complete Streets include safe and accessible parks for all members of our community.

Vania (she/her)

Parks are vital for the health and wellness of communities; Vania shares her difficulties accessing local parks.

“We need parks that are accessible to all residents during daytime hours.”

Reimagining Public Safety

Complete Streets challenge the narrative that policing is the only method of public safety.

Reimagining Public Safety

Investments in public transit and parks keep our communities safe. Chispa AZ Clean & Green Campaign Manager Sawsan explores the idea of reimagining public safety through the lens of environmental justice.

“We need our elected officials to reinvest police funding into the infrastructure that keep us safe from extreme heat, dangerous air quality, and rapid displacement”

Phoenix residents are resilient and we deserve a robust public transportation system and more access to parks and shade. We must invest in the things that keep our community safe from extreme heat, dangerous air quality, and rapid displacement. By investing in complete streets, we invest in the health and safety of our community.

Join the Fight

It’s time to invest in the things that keep our community safe. Join our fight for complete streets by signing our Clean & Green Petition and demand that City of Phoenix leaders listen to the communities that depend on our public transit when making future transit and parks investments for our region.