Complete Streets and Context Sensitive Solutions are complementary approaches that work together well. The differences between the two are subtle and as a result there is sometimes confusion about how they differ from each other.
Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS), or Context Sensitive Design, is at its root a project-oriented approach with a focus on meaningful collaborative stakeholder involvement in road design projects. In addition to transportation, CSS looks at uses adjoining the road, the historical perspective, and how to integrate roads better with the surrounding environment. CSS serves a useful internal function in many government agencies for developing transportation plans.
Complete Streets is a process-oriented approach that works to change everyday practice in how streets are designed and planned. Community context is one of ten elements of a comprehensive Complete Streets policy. The overall goal is for Complete Streets to be routine, the new way of doing business. The focus of Complete Streets is about transportation and accommodating the different types of road users who use the street. Complete Streets is typically about building political and public support for changing the way streets are designed and built.
"While Context-Sensitive Solutions involve stakeholders in considering a transportation facility in its entire social, environmental and aesthetic context, complete streets policies are a reminder that providing for safe travel by users of all modes is the primary function of the corridor." Context Sensitive Solutions in Designing Major Urban Thoroughfares for Walkable Communities
"Context sensitive solutions (CSS) is a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach that involves all stakeholders to develop a transportation facility that fits its physical setting and preserves scenic, aesthetic, historic and environmental resources, while maintaining safety and mobility. CSS is an approach that considers the total context within which a transportation improvement project will exist." Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)
"Context Sensitive Solutions offer many strategies and tools for understanding a street's or roads' context holistically, which can assist in the process of completing the street." Context Sensitive Solutions.org