Sunday, December 4, 2011


A remarkable study and policy paper released by the American Automobile Association (AAA) last month estimates a highway fatality costing $6 million each and $126,000 each injury.  The policy recommendation by AAA calls for a White House conference on highway safety establishing a safety goal of achieving "zero" fatalities.

The study using a Federal Highway Administration methodology for injury/fatality cost to society and standard evaluation of congestion costs found in urban America highway casualties on average more than double the costs of congestion, the latter touted as a major concern.  Cambridge Systematics performed the research and data analysis.  AAA supports focusing on reducing the annual 30,000 plus fatalities and 5 million injuries each year. 
(copy of news release and paper at: )
  The following letter addresses one example of how current policies--Vermont rail/highway crossing policy--assures continued injury and deaths with an easy conversion of all mainline crossings to gates and flashers able to cut over 90% of the casualty crash rates.

FINAL LETTER AS 802-343-6166
November 6, 2011
Burlington Free Press
PO Box
Burlington, VT 05401

Dear Forum:
The Northfield rail crash which critically injured a Norwich University student last week did not have to happen and exposes decades long refusal of the State—the Legislature and Agency of Transportation—and Vermont rail firms to address rail-highway crossing safety at a high level (Driver injured in Northfield when train hit his pickup, November 3).
The AAA released a study by respected Cambridge Systematics this month showing highway fatalities and injuries as the third highest cause of health-accident related costs to society, third on the list after cancer and heart disease. An average highway fatality societal costs $6 million and an injury $126,000 with the cost of highway casualties per year twice that of congestion, the report states. 
Rail-highway crashes drop over 90% when flashers with gates, apparently not in place in the Northfield crossing, are installed.   Across the Vermont border, New York State requires all railway crossings on rail passenger routes flashers with gates protection. The Northfield crossings all handle the daily Vermonter trains subsidized by the State and operated by Amtrak.   The Ethan Allen passenger train from Rutland to Albany operates through several dangerous Vermont crossings protected by either just cross bucks or flashing red lights while similar crossings when the train passes the New York border get full flasher with gates treatment under New York law.

It is long past the time for Vermont to require gated and flasher signals on all rail passenger service route rail crossings.

Yours truly,
Tony Redington
Norwich University graduate and former Vermont Agency of Transportation Policy Analyst

Friday, September 16, 2011


A few years ago any suggestion of enabling towns to set speed limits under 25 mph quickly found the legislative waste basket--today the City of Burlington, VT starts the process of setting the maximum speed on all streets of 25 mph and the business district 20 mph (two streets excepted with a 30 mph limit).

The reason for lowering urban speed limits comes from the desire to improve walker safety--30 mph is the speed where the chance of surviving is a 50-50 proposition and at 20 mph walkers survive over 90% of the time.  All the traffic calming imported from Europe over the last two decades apparently brought a public opinion shift to the belief that speeds can be reduced in a way that does not cause much discomfort or hassle for drivers while bringing lots of comfort and ease of moving through busy intersections to those on foot.

Still, North American walker injury rates per mile of travel remain several times higher than those in urban Netherlands and Germany in a study by John Pucher of Rutgers University.  A key treatment, the emerging modern roundabout, reduces injuries by up to 90% while reducing delay for all users--another key encouraging citizens and public works folks that yes, you can improve walking and car traffic at the same time.  (The roundabout also cuts serious injuries for car occupants by 90%.)  The critical feature of the roundabout comes from its design which forces vehicles to slow speeds.  

 Still there exists another plateau for speed management which can be applied to lower volume streets including most residential areas and town and city centers, a speed limit of 0-10 mph.  This type of speed context already exists at the three cross streets at Burlington's Church Street Marketplace, including Cherry Street where upwards of 100 buses cross from the transit terminal just west of the Marketplace.   Europe already features this next plateau, termed "shared space" and in the U.K. "naked streets" where the low 0-10 mph speeds allow mixing of all modes with the safest movement for all users.  The "shared space" style design further features a total absence of signs and traffic signals. 

So, the new walking renaissance can now begin and Burlington soon be joined by hundreds of urban areas can move to impose the much slower vehicle speeds needed for the safety and comfort of those who walk the streets.