Letter today to Assistant Director Aaron Frank of the Chittenden County Transportation
Thank you for taking the time to talk with me at the Cherry Street terminal on the “information day” regarding the excellent new Transit Center design proposal. I plan to attend the public hearing this week and speak in favor.
One of my concerns is whether the concept anticipates a doubling or tripling of Transit Center use as all data shows a growth spurt for transit continuing as public habits change toward less use, licensing, and need for the motor vehicle. The rapid growth of the Link service shows the tip of the iceburg of change in Vermont and U.S. transportation away from the car to other modes and public transportation. European modal shares provide a sense of where the U.S. urban modal shares will move towards, potential shares also applicable to Burlington.
Roundabouts and public transit...
Upon further reflection on your comments regarding use of “pre-emption” for transit bus accessing Pearl Street, it became clear that one really needs to look at the “customer”--in this case the walker or the driver primarily—when considering intersection improvements. I have suggested, for example, in past PlanBTV comments:
- remove the signal at Church/Pearl and install a median refuge which also diverts traffic slightly to constrain speed, thereby leaving it for walkers and vehicles to work out in a “yield to walker” context rather than using a very often ignored signal (including walkers who decline to actuate the signal so as not to delay vehicles)--this new betterment would also facilitate the highest level of accessibility if the PlanBTV concept of expanding the Marketplace with development along with periphery of the Unitarian Church lands moves forward (“shared space” would be the ideal), and
- install single lane roundabouts along Battery beginning with Pearl and Main intersections which present the least constraints—ultimately leading to a series of roundabouts along all the intersections from Main to to the north end of Battery Park (also adding a narrow median and cycle tracking to what becomes essentially, “Battery Parkway”.
Key Question: How does CCTA benefit from roundabouts?
As I pointed out, installing a mini roundabout at St. Paul/Pearl would enable ease of entry an exit of all vehicle on St. Paul—and a similar treatment on Cherry/St. Paul also makes sense. In both cases experience predicts increased walker safety and reduced delay for all users—and a large portion of those walkers are your customers. Customers safety and their reduced delay need to be CCTA's two major concerns. Minis have the greatest level of safety for walkers and car occupants—about a 90% reduction in serious injuries, and single laners reach about the same level of safety. (Note that with about 12,000 “roundabout years” recorded in North America since the first roundabout in 1990, not a single fatality has been recorded—the first one is, unfortunately, expected in a year or so.)
But our talk leads to the larger question as roundabouts become the rule—like they are across the pond: how do roundabouts benefit CCTA and public transit in general? Generally, at busy intersections all roundabouts reduce delay for all users—and reducing delay at a number of intersections may be able to reduce transit route times. Not much of an issue here. Further, by reducing delay for walkers, the distance a walker can normally negotiate increases—planners sometimes calculate such distances from various key locations in an urban center through “reach” diagrams. Simply for public transit, improved “reach” for walkers equates to increased numbers of walkers who can access a given bus stop. Not much of an issue here. For drivers the reduced conflicts and movement of walker crossings about two car lengths from the circular travelway also reduces bus/walker conflicts.
We know that in France where there are hundreds of roundabouts associated with intersections which also provide passage to light rail—many splitting the center of the roundabout central islands—showing roundabout and transit vehicle compatibility.
Here in the U.S. a reasonably small city with a large number of roundabouts is Carmel, IN. The mayor there, James Brainard, in a recent Economist issue suggests his 70,000 population city is about two thirds the way with about 60 roundabouts to converting all but one signal to a roundabout—Carmel then becomes a one traffic signal city with one hundred roundabouts. Among Carmel intersections are those serving about a half dozen freeway interchanges.
My suggestion is that CCTA contact its public transportation equivalent in Carmel to identify the benefits—and hopefully no drawbacks—to the spread of roundabouts on their operations, schedules, driver comfort with roundabouts versus signalized intersections, etc. Then CCTA can take that knowledge—along with any other gained from Carmel's public transportation agency's suggested further contacts—and apply it to Burlington's situation and the immediate case of the Transit Center accesses to nearby streets.
Finally, CCTA and its sibling, GMTA in Montpelier, already deal with a few roundabouts on their existing route structures: (1) the two Montpelier roundabouts; (2) the what I term a “hybrid”, the Winooski City Center; and (3) the roundabout at the termination on the Middelbury Link service in Middlebury. Note the first official Vermont “mini” roundabout is now in construction in Manchester Center along with a second at the once termed “malfunction junction” (will Essex Five Corners, another single lane roundabout candidate become Vermont newly annointed “malfunction junction”?).
Again, thank you for taking the time to listen to your customers and please consider this message as input and comment on the new proposed Transit Center.
20 North Winooski Avenue Apt. 2