22 Benefits of Urban Street Trees

By Dan Burden
Orlando, FL (August 2006)- U.S Forest Service facts and figures and new traffic safety studies detail many urban street tree benefits. Once seen as highly problematic for many reasons, street trees are proving to be a great value to people living, working, shopping, sharing, walking and motoring in and through urban places.

For a planting cost of $250-600 (includes first 3 years of maintenance) a single street tree returns over $90,000 of direct benefits (not including aesthetic, social and natural) in the lifetime of the tree. Street trees (generally planted from 4 feet to 8 feet from curbs) provide many benefits to those streets they occupy. These trees provide so many benefits that they should always be considered as an urban area default street making feature. With new attentions being paid to global warming causes and impacts more is becoming known about the many negative environmental impacts of treeless urban streets. We are well on the way to recognizing the need for urban street trees to be the default design, rather than a luxury item to be tolerated by traffic engineering and budget conscious city administrators.
The many identified problems of street trees are overcome with care by designers. Generally street trees are placed each 15-30 feet. These trees are carefully positioned to allow adequate sight triangles at intersections and driveways, to not block illumination of the street from overhead lamps, and not impact lines above or below ground. Street trees of various varieties can be used in all climates, including semi-arid and even arid conditions.
The science of street tree placement and maintenance is well known and observed in a growing number of communities (i.e. Chicago, Illinois; Sacramento, Davis, California; Eugene, Oregon; Seattle, Redmond, Olympia and Issaquah, Washington; Charlotte, N.C.). Although care and maintenance of trees in urban places is a costly task, the value in returned benefits is so great that a sustainable community cannot be imagined without these important green features.
Related Resources:
22 Benefits of Urban Street Trees
Research: trees make streets safer, not deadlier
Safe Streets, Livable Streets
Glatting Jackson and Walkable Communities Inc.