Vermont transportation investments need to put first things first. The “biggest transportation spending plan in State history” touted by Governor Peter Shumlin yesterday does not contain the elements needed for a re-direction of Vermont transportation in an age when more Vermonters daily reject the 100% auto centric life. The following comment online today responded to the Burlington Free Press report and points to the two principal gaps in our transportation investments:
Vermont transportation projects continue down a dead end street, failing to address two key, long-neglected priorities—(1) establishing commuter rail, a start towards an in-State rail passenger network which recognizes rail the emerging backbone of Vermont transportation as more Vermonters every day join in reducing or abandoning altogether an unsustainable car lifestyle and (2) improving urban areas and town center walking and car circulation through a dozen or so new roundabouts annually—like the two under construction in Manchester Center. AAA calls for a “zero fatality” rate on our streets and anything but a roundabout on average increases serious injury and fatality rates about 900% per the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety decade old study. Car travel in Vermont declines now while public transit, bicycling, and Amtrak grow at single to double digit rates. Time for a change in transportation, our lives depend on it.
Other important elements in the changing transportation market include: (1) the need for businesses and government agencies to enable and support employees use of their own dollars to take advantage of the incentives in the federal tax code allowing tax free commuter benefits for those who commute by transit, bicycle, or carpool--sorry walkers, you get left out in the cold on this one; (2) supportive bus networks which work in harmony with rail passenger services and extend or take the place of rail where it is uneconomic or where the rails do not go; and (3) re-examining the entire highway network to see where in a changed environment federal and state highway networks can be downsized to conform to the reduced demands for highways as car travel declines.