The following suggestions were submitted for consideration for the transportation planning work program for 2012--anyone can submit suggestions and it is welcome that the agency has invited citizens to submit suggestions.:
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the upcoming work program of the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission (CCRPC).
Specifically, the Winooski public meeting asked:
"Help us develop new transportation planning and study ideas (such as intersection improvements, roadway corridor studies, traffic circulation analyses, etc.) for all travel modes."
First, in a prefatory note, the CCRPC and the Chittenden County Metropolitan Organization (CCMPO) literally spent tens of millions of dollars over the recent decades on the now defunct Circumferential Highway project, the misguided Dean train (24 passengers a day versus a market potential about two dozen), and other poorly conceived concepts. Might I be so bold as to suggest that at least proposed planning projects be approached with some sort of benefit/cost in mind.
Second, please note my blog this week, TonyRVT.blospot.com which outlines the car travel trends in Vermont and Chittenden County--they trends are down with a likely decline in car travel this decade, a truly historic reversal of growth dating from the time of the Stanley Steamer. The blog explains the demographics at work. Meanwhile, the single digits growth of car travel last decade is dwarfed by far greater growth in bus, train, and probably non-motorized modes.
Now here are some suggestions for study:
1. Study all County intersections technically for conversion to roundabouts with the assistance of a nationally recognized roundabout design firm--much of the rejection of roundabouts arises from the use of traffic engineers who see the roundabout as, justifiably, a threat to the jobs in their profession. Further there are practically no other projects which can compete with the benefit/cost calculation for roundabouts at a busy intersection (note the earlier blog on all intersections but one signalized likely to be converted to roundabouts in Carmel, IN, a city of about 80,000 with lots of freeway interchanges). After the base study, a prioritization scheme involving a public process can be undertaken for setting up which intersections/corridors/areas undergo roundabout conversions first.
2. There are three studies of light density commuter/intercity rail dating from 1989. Vermont is unique with all of its cities connectable by modern single unit diesel-electrics similar to the Budd RDCs. For Burlington, runs from Main Street Station in terms of commuter services could operate to Barre-Montpelier, Vergennes, and St. Albans. Stops would include IBM entrance at railside and possibly the few hundred feet feeder to BIA. These services would integrate to the larger intercity services using the same equipment statewide in part designed to shift basic transportation to the tourist industry from cars to rail passenger.
3. The CCRPC needs to place emphasis on planning for those who walk, not those who bicycle whose interest groups have dominated the discussion and investments in non-motorized travel. Actually, roundabouts are themselves are primarily a benefit and fostering of the walking mode--even though all modes and transit also benefit. A roundabout qualifies as a bike/ped project too!
4. It is fair to say that transportation planning and particularly projects in Chittenden County have failed miserably to serve business and economic growth and viability. There are many blatant examples. Can any state be pointed out with a poorer entrance for its largest employer than IBM in Essex Jct.? A roundabout as an entrance at the Park Street and Maple Streets entrance would show that Vermont really is concerned whether IBM stays or leaves. While the decades old Church Street Marketplace cannot be overpraised, the failure to expand the "shared space" elements along Bank, Cherry, and College Streets remains inexcusable--time to work on expanding "shared space" to bring merchants on those streets the same kind of expanded opportunity to draw customers as those on the Marketplace. Other locations in the County need examination for "Marketplace-type conversion to shared space.
5. Bike track needs to be installed starting in town and city centers--expanding off the Dorset/Kennedy Drive bike track type grade separated paths in South Burlington and off the Church Street Marketplace in Burlington. For example, why not bike track from the Marketplace down Main Street to the Main Street Safety--with a roundabout first at Pine Street. Such an installation might well have prevented the tragic fatality at Main/St. Paul in December 2010.
There are other planning needs such as monitoring and reporting on "commuter choice" programs for all employers which utilize federal tax help to non-solo drivers (all walker deserve the same incentives when implementing "commuter choice"), revising estimates of vehicle travel growth taking demographic changes into consideration, fitting housing development needs to changed demographics, and an examination of who pays and how much for each mode of transportation infrastructure compared to the costs they impose through use (heavy truck damage to pavements, for example).