Instructional Guide: Measuring Street Sections

John Pattison
John Pattison
  • Updated

The measurements and dimension of a street provide critical information that help us to understand the use of space. A section drawing of a street is a virtual slice through the street, providing a clear picture and dimensions of the parts that compose the street. For example, a section drawing may display the number of travel lanes and their widths.

Common elements that compose the street are as follows:

    • Travel Lanes or Cartway: The area dedicated to the movement of cars. This would include all travel lanes and turn lanes.
    • Median: Concrete or planted strip in the middle of the street.
    • Parking Lanes: Area dedicated for on-street parking. 
    • Verge or Planter Strip: Green street or swale at the edge of pavement. This area may include grass, landscaping, and trees.
    • Sidewalk: Paved area for pedestrians. 
    • Front Yard: Area from the back of sidewalk to the face of a building. This measurement can be estimated. 

A simple drawing with basic measurements assists in better understanding the existing conditions of the street. These dimensions may not be measurable through online mapping software. For example, the number of travel lanes may be evident, while the lane widths can only be determined in the field.  

Strong Towns created a simple form that can be used in the field to organize key measurements and elements specific to a street. Street sections can be measured with a measuring wheel, tape measure, or by pacing off the distance. Widths can generally be measured at marked crosswalks or signalized intersections, which are safer areas to cross the street. Remember, please use extreme caution when measuring a street. We recommend measuring the street in pairs so one person can measure while the second can be aware of the surroundings.




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