The Ecos “Population Elf”
The Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission (CCRPC) in its “Ecos" regional plan wants County citizens to add the “Population Elf” to the Easter Bunny and Abominable Snowperson. That’s right, even though the under- 18 population continued to decline 2000-2010 somehow the Population Elf elevates future population growth to double that for the last decade to over 2,000 yearly, and the CCRPC claims 35,000 population growth from 2015 through 2035.
Forget recent continuing decline in population increases in Vermont and the County decade by decade, and forget the pesky Census (it’s only a “government estimate” really) which suggests Vermont with practically no increase in the under 65 age group 2000-2030 while the over 65 age crowd more than doubles. (Governor Douglas tended to side with Census and not the Population Elf on population data.) And, of course, forget the under 1,300 average yearly County population increase 1990-2011, and under 1,000 yearly 2000-2011—again those pesky Census folks at work.
Then there are those stubbon under-30 generation folks who increasingly refuse to get driver licenses—a drop of 20% at last count. But the Population Elf will get after these young folks to get to their Chevrolet freedom and stop shifting to those 50 Chittenden County Transportation Authority (CCTA) Link commuter buses each workday. Yes, about 50 commuters abandoning their cars yearly for the bus, perhaps to try to make their family budgets work.
Oh, Burlington citizens, just ignore the fact that all major approach streets from the burbs—Colchester Ave., Main St., the Northern Connector, Pine St., Shelburne St.—boast traffic declines of 8 to 29% since traffic peaked about 20-25 years ago in the late 1980s. Believe the Population Elf and his twin, the Traffic Growth Elf, not the lying statistics! The Population Elf will get to work to change the accelerating downward trend in City car traffic after it stops the flood of commuters converting from car drivers to bus riders. The Population Elf assures us transportation sector stops its cutting greenhouse gases, now about back to about 1990 (down 8% 2000-2010 statewide) and aiming at 1980s and even 1970s levels.
The CCRPC inherits the legacy of the former Metropolitan Planning Organization where the Vermont Digger nicely summarized, $40 million in design and planning funds went down the tubes on the Circumferential Highway. Maybe with a little extra help the CCRPC Population Elf can revive this plan also.
Seriously, what we need at this point is a little honesty and integrity in regional and local planning. Population and traffic numbers and projections need to be backed up with peer reviews of those with long term experience in the areas.
In transportation policy and programming this means accepting the end of the car age and starting by plowing full speed ahead with commuter rail from the Burlington to Montpelier, St. Albans and Middlebury. Finally, it means unclogging intersections for all users and that goal along with safety, the first priority, cannot be done without converting County intersections on a priority basis with roundabouts. At the same time let’s revive the Burlington waterfront with a quality connection using light rail to the Marketplace, UVM and Fletcher Allen. However, even with all this the Population Elf likely remains in the realm of myth, right where it began in Ecos.