City's Vital Streets Plan wins national planning achievement award

Published on March 28, 2018

.jpg image of the Vital Streets Plan cover

City recognized for guidelines to rebuild safer, more accessible streets in equitable way

The Grand Rapids Vital Streets Plan has received the 2018 Silver National Planning Achievement Award for Transportation Planning from the American Planning Association, or APA. The award recognizes the Vital Streets Plan for implementing design guidelines to rebuild safer, more accessible streets and revitalize neighborhoods. Grand Rapids is among 16 Achievement Award recipients this year.

“We are honored to be recognized for the work we have done as a community to make this a safer city for everyone,” said Suzanne Schulz, the City’s managing director of design and development. “Our Vital Streets Plan is an important tool as we continue to address community needs today and well into the future.”

A 25-member Vital Streets Oversight Committee developed a detailed plan to improve roughly 60 percent of the city’s streets deemed in poor condition by the Grand Rapids Sustainable Streets Task Force. Developed over 12 months and adopted in December 2016, the Grand Rapids Vital Streets Plan outlines the principles and design goals for rebuilding safer, more accessible streets, integrating green infrastructure and protecting the region’s waterways. The Plan aims to reduce single-occupant vehicle travel from 95 percent in 2016 to 45 percent by 2035 and reduce fatalities and serious injuries from traffic accidents. 

The Plan’s design guidelines specify the design controls and streetscape elements needed to ensure projects meet established goals, and an equity analysis identifies the neighborhoods with the greatest need for street improvements and the populations that rely on non-vehicle transportation. The Plan also provides a framework for the City’s Community Engagement Division, which manage the organization’s outreach activities. The Vital Streets Plan is an ongoing effort to create a more healthy, safe and livable downtown.

“The team’s efforts to improve community health and ensure access and opportunity for all is a model for other communities to follow,” said W. Shedrick Coleman, chair of the 2018 awards jury. “The Plan demonstrates the importance of planning and addressing current community needs but also looking toward the future.”

Each year, APA recognizes outstanding efforts in planning and planning leadership through its National Planning Excellence and Achievement Awards. The two-tier awards are selected through a juried process. Excellence Award recipients are the highest honor and Achievement Awards recognize accomplishments in areas of specialization within the planning profession.

APA’s national awards program – the profession’s highest honor – is a proud tradition established more than 50 years ago to recognize outstanding community plans, planning programs and initiatives, public education efforts and individuals for their leadership on planning issues.

For a complete list and summary of all the APA 2018 National Planning Excellence and Achievement Award recipients, visit Award recipients will be honored April 23 at APA’s National Planning Conference in New Orleans. They also will also be featured in the April issue of Planning magazine. 

About American Planning Association
The American Planning Association is an independent, not-for-profit educational organization that provides vital leadership in creating communities of lasting value. APA and its professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners, are dedicated to advancing the profession of planning, offering better choices for where and how people work and live. The 38,000 APA members work in concert with community residents, civic leaders and business interests to create communities that enrich people's lives. Through its philanthropic work, APA’s Foundation helps to reduce economic and social barriers to good planning. APA has offices in Washington, D.C., and Chicago. Learn more at

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