Sunday, December 22, 2013


Oops! A decimal place error. Using Census QuickFacts–a $90 million general fund increase for transportation equals $350 per Vermont household per year or 0.6% of the median household income of $54,168. The $350 for the household cost compares, for example, to a saving from changing a solo drive to a 20-mile Link bus commute out of Burlington, about $3,500 after taxes–plus an employer saves about $600 a year for every “free” parking space no longer required for an employee.
Of course, $90 million in additional general fund revenues would include some from business and would be progressively raised by income and other sources. Are better roads, bridges, commuter and light rail, intercity rail, and a major walking and bicycling infrastructure for all downtowns and city centers–worth 99 cents a day for your household?


Vermont Digger reports the Vermont Democratic senators talking about priorities for Vermont like the State operates like a bankrupt Detroit or depressed jobless urban center.  Not nice to have a scrooge sighting reported two days before Christmas!

Vermont remains a rather low unemployment state with a high level of social services and a relatively sound financial status.  Getting caught up in austerian talk, thinking it must follow some silly yardstick which says it is not possible to add significantly to public expenditures really does not make sense.  Responded to the Vermont Digger piece this morning, in part: 

"...somehow Quebequers enjoy full nondeductible/no copay health care for all including prescriptions (also $8 a day regulated daycare services). Also, to provide the $90 million needed each year for transportation (commuter rail, intercity rail, light rail for Burlington/Rutland, walking/bicycling infrastructure statewide, increased Town Highway Grants and, yes, funding needed bridge/highway projects) costs $15 per capita per year even without fed help.  (Massachusetts did begin an allocation of about $15 per capita per year earlier this year from general funds for transportation--Vermont would not be the first.)  We do not have to choose to be public service poor, we can do so much more with public funds to support our citizens, improve our cities and towns and help both new and existing businesses. The Legislature/Governor need to stop poor-mouthing our status."

Vermont leaders looked at far bleaker conditions--for examples, Ethan Allen, and Governors like Phil Hoff, Dean Davis, Tom Salmon, Howard Dean and  Richard Snelling.  They each in their own way found a way to change the political dynamic to direct necessary resources to the challenges of the time, just as President Obama dealt with health care which most modern nations resolved over a half century ago.

The challenge today involves finishing the already pre-determined course in health care, addressing homelessness and the cost of housing and attacking the key element in energy use which involves shifting private use of the automobile to publicly supplied public transportation combined with walking and bicycling infrastructure in our downtowns, village centers and built up areas--$90 million worth of investment annually required as a first step.

Saturday, December 7, 2013


The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration issued a report this week "Traffic Safety for Older People - 5 Year Plan"

which carefully sidesteps infrastructure!  Sort of the ivory tower approach to older folks safety on the highway.  "Pedestrian"s do get a little space in the 22-page paper.  But certainly is news you will never find old folks on bicycles (or apparently accessing public transit either)--or at least (whew! I was worried) are there any safety issues for these modes!  Certainly none worth planning for apparently.

Certainly this is a report that give those folks interested in safety for older folks using roundabouts and cycle track, a little chuckle for the holidays. 

Apparently infrastructure (AARP advocates intersection conversions to roundabouts for improved older citizen safety) remains a potato still too hot to take out of the oven. 

And these folks are paid with our tax dollars!

Friday, November 29, 2013



  November 29, 2013

 Good day.  My name is Tony Redington, citizen of Burlington, Vermont,
20 North Winooski Avenue Apt 2, 05401 Email:, Blog:

My background and experience includes extensive public and private service in housing and rail transportation policy development, planning, and administration as well as published research in the fields of the walking mode and various aspects of the modern roundabout with its manifold aspects of its impacts on ground transportation, land use, and safety.

            Introduction and Background: the Vermont Transportation Policy Context Today

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on “transportation-related topics” as part of your legislative mandate to hold hearing and submit a report to the Legislature on transportation program related considerations.

First and foremost, transportation programming and finance takes place in a state of chaos at all levels of government today, a condition directly related to the wholesale change in the transportation “marketplace” from dominant car-centric condition dating from end of World War II to the beginning of this century when a new trend of reduced car travel paralleling high rates of growth in public transportation, walking and bicycling modes.  This now undeniable change in the marketplace and a new emergent paradigm recognizes and responds to: (1) reducing car travel; (2) increasing development densities to take advantage of non-car travel mode efficiencies; (3) proactively addressing energy conservation, cutting pollutant emissions, and curbing global warming gas generation; (4) attacking economic competitiveness issues related to transportation waste, inefficiencies, and infrastructure deficits involving movement of both of people and goods; and (5) for the first time employing the tools of roundabouts and cycle track to create urban infrastructure enabling freedom of choice for all citizens to walk and bicycle in safety and comfort regardless of skill levels or age.

The backdrop in transportation change particularly can be seen today as high single and double digit growth in urban public transportation and both walking and bicycling modes take place while car travel car travel stagnates or even declines in slow growth areas of the nation, like New England, other parts of the Northeast and the North Central areas of the nation.

Practically all demographic and economic data nationally as well as Vermont show the chaos and change well advanced and continuing.   For examples, the Census projects growth of senior 65-and-over age population through mid-century will be almost 100% while the younger far higher car traveling population grows only 20%.   In Vermont Census projects 124% 65-and-over population 2000-2030 increase and under-65 age population up under 2%.  Meanwhile in part because of economic factors and part consideration for the environment needs to reduce pollution and energy consumption, all population groups travel by car declines and the young 18-30 age population rate of driving licensing has declined 10%.  Here in Vermont employment growth and car ownership plateaus and the last decade of New England car travel change barely edged up 3%.

State Transportation Finance—For the First Time Deserting Car Based Taxes and Fees for General Fund Sources

Except for Massachusetts and Virginia which dumped car oriented taxation this year as the driver for transportation investments, no other states—including Vermont—have responded to the changed transportation marketplace and the required change in funding sources which must be made to provide needed the transportation infrastructure and services of today, much less meet the needs of the future.
The current approach of tinkering with car-oriented taxes to deal with the State’s transportation finance really does compare to the boy sticking his finger in a small crack in dyke to stop an impending flood.

Using Massachusetts as a guide, Vermont needs to tap general funds for transportation about $90 million a year. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is in the process of announcing their first year of $890 million in projects from non-highway oriented revenue source funding.   Using the Massachusetts appropriation on a pro rata population basis, a Vermont $90 million yearly can fund within a five year period, for examples: capital costs of commuter rail services along three corridors (Montpelier, Middlebury and St. Albans); other intercity services (such as a feeder passenger service from Bennington); capital costs for one light rail line (such as an east-west and north-south line within Burlington and a Rutland line north-south connecting the Mall to the downtown shopping area to the northern edge of the residential areas); a down payment on the major costs necessary to for the first time provide infrastructure making downtowns and village center both walkable and bikable (principally through roundabout and cycle track along corridors, town centers and areas); and, finally, long—but not least--deferred investments in bridges and other highway infrastructure.
These examples assume no federal matching funds and availability of federal funds expands the possible scope of annual investments.

One additional aside on United States transportation finance.  Of the roughly $100 billion spent annually on all highway construction and maintenance, the user pays only 62% with the balance coming from property taxes, general fund taxes and other non-highway related taxation (see FHWA “Highway Statistics 2010, Table HF 1).  (For this reason Vermont town highway grants supposed to support street maintenance and improvements needs to be substantially increased and and formulas revised to take into consideration such factors as lane miles year round cycle track and sidewalk as well as overall traffic volumes to reflect relative maintenance costs.)  Today there exists little relationship between the user costs placed on the highway system versus revenues—whether those user costs on the system are weight related measured by routine cost allocation updates, maintenance costs at the town level mostly property tax supported, or social costs at all levels.  

Because the majority of states—over 30—restrict use of highway related taxes and fees to highway use only, for highway finance to change in a way which meets national needs, federal taxation—particularly of gasoline and related highway imposts—must be expanded.  If the States—in this case Vermont—were able to employ a European level gasoline tax of $4 gallons instead of about twenty-five cents, a revenue stream of $800 million which mostly would be allocated for general fund expenditure.  Because of state to state competition enacting a large gas tax is not possible—and only a federal gas tax re-distributed to the states and easily bypass states constitutional restrictions of their own auto-oriented taxes to highway use only.

         Specific Recommendations for Immediate Transportation

There follows here specific policies, activities and changes recommended for Vermont transportation programming today. 

I  Amtrak

1.    Start an Ambus between St. Albans and Montreal connecting with the Vermonter which will immediately reduce overall State support costs to Amtrak and add back the 10,000 annual passengers per year lost when the bus connection ended.   Impact: reduce State annual support requirements for the two Amtrak services initially by about $400,000.
2.    Accelerate the schedule of extending the Ethan Allen service from Rutland to Burlington—immediately preferred by 2016 at the latest—the 2017 schedule now represents a two-decade timeline to extend the service the 80 miles between the two Vermont cities.  Impact:  While little change in annual State support costs would likely occur, numbers of annual passengers would increase and overall economic benefits to the Rutland, Addison, and Chittenden Counties would be significant. 
3.    Immediately revise current regional public transportation providers routes and schedules to provide connectivity to Amtrak passenger train stations throughout the State.  Impact:  Coordinating public transit connections with Amtrak trains would increase slightly the passengers numbers on Amtrak trains with resulting economic benefits to the regions surrounding the stations and a slight reduction in the State’s annual Amtrak support costs.

II Commuter Rail and Intercity Rail Passenger Services

As part of a “Vermont All-Mode Transportation Initiative of General Fund revenues annually dedicated to transportation: (1) initiate commuter rail service between Burlington and Middlebury, Montpelier and St. Albans; (2) initiate a “circuit train”, Burlington-Rutland-Bellows Falls—White River Junction—Montpelier-Burlington designed as the foundation for a full intercity rail passenger service with connections along all existing rail corridors; (3) a north-south light rail line in Rutland from the south end Mall via the City center area through the upper residential area; and (4) create full connectivity between rail services and the routes and services of regional transportation service providers.  Impact:  Each worker using these services on a 20 mile one-way commute in place of solo driving increases after tax income (between Burlington and St. Albans, for example), a 40 mile commute $7,000 (between Burlington and Montpelier, for example).  Note a study I authored earlier this year, “An Action Outline for Commuter Rail Passenger Service along Three Burlington Corridors” provides a complete market, capital cost, and operating cost analysis for Chittenden County-Washington County, Chittenden County-Franklin County and Addison County-Chittenden County commuter rail service.

III  Vermont All-Mode Transportation Initiative (VAMTI)

Establish a “Vermont All-Mode Transportation Initiative (VAMTI), a yearly appropriation starting at a $90 million level from General Fund revenues dedicated to transportation with a multi-purpose approach including:  (1) economic development; (2) transportation sustainability (with emphasis on land use transportation relationships); (3) energy conservation and pollution reduction; (4) downtown, town center, and urban investments in walkable and bikable infrastructure, particularly roundabouts and cycle track; (4) reduction motor vehicle travel through investments in demand management; and (5) transportation safety upgrades.

IV Urban and Town Center Walking and Bicycling Infrastructure: Cycle Track and Roundabouts to Move Busy Vermont Streets to Walkable and/or Bikable Status

Vermont city downtowns, town centers generally show the same pattern of lack of walkability and bikability found throughout North America.  Notable Vermont exceptions include: (1) Church Street Marketplace, Burlington’s four-block walkable mall dating from 1981 with shared space intersection areas for all modes; (2) walkable town center roundabout nodes in Montpelier and Middlebury; (3) bikable and walkable cycle tracked Dorset Street between Williston Road and Kennedy Drive in South Burlington (though not served by any roundabout intersections); (4) Vermont’s first walkable street, Main Street along the corridor of three roundabouts in Manchester Center completed in 2012; and (5) arguably, walkable/bikable shared paths along Stone Cutter’s Way in Montpelier, Riverside Avenue in Burlington and Kennedy Drive in South Burlington—again several street segments without any roundabouts at key intersections.

Walkable and bikable streets provide for all users regardless of age, skill or disability safe and comfortable accommodation for both modes along street segments and at intersections.  Street segments attain walkable and bikable status through presence of separate cycle track and sidewalk, or in combination which can include accommodation on a side path.  Generally, to attain walkable and/or bikable status each key intersection accommodation is supplied by a pathed roundabout for both modes or through traffic calming.   Generally, signalized busy intersections, lack of sidewalks, and unprotected bike lanes signify the type of busy streets which a minimum standard of walkability or bikability.

Address the almost complete lack of bikable and walkable urban, downtown and village center busy streets through: (1) initiation immediately of a roundabout/cycle track program as a the major thrust of the “bicycle pedestrian” program along with an initial allocation of $10 million annually from the Vermont All-Mode Transportation Initiative (VAMTI);  (2) initiate regional planning projects identifying all urban and town center streets and corridors to be sidewalked/cycle tracked/roundabouted into walkable and bikable status and prioritizing projects the corridors, areas and nodes so identified; and (3) since pathed roundabouts and cycle track when installed along with sidewalks comprises the very definition of a “complete street”, incorporate these three elements through revisions to existing projects where appropriate as well as in all new urban, town center, and downtown projects with priorities for funding guided by town and regional plans.  Comparing the cycle track, about two miles in Vermont, versus the Netherlands on a per capita basis the Dutch have 670 miles of cycle track versus Vermont’s 2 miles.

Finally, state transportation agency policies and regulations need to be revised to reflect the superior safety and service of roundabouts and provision of walkable/bikable busy urban street treatments in all projects.  Note three state transportation departments (New York State DOT since 2005) and two Canadian province departments operate on a “roundabouts first policy” and a similar approach needs to be adopted in law and Vermont state agency policies and regulations.  It is noteworthy that a search of the Vermont Agency of Transportation website of “roundabout” response is the site lacks any information at all.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on Vermont’s transportation-related topics.

Sunday, November 17, 2013



Search for "roundabouts" at the Vermont Agency of Transportation  (VAOT) website and you get the message, "your search yielded no results."

But, go to the NY State Department of Transportation website (it has a "roundabouts first" policy in place almost a decade) and not only will you find an extensive website on roundabouts but also animations on how to walk, bike and drive through multi-lane roundabouts, links, and photos, history, etc.  Ditto for the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) which spent the beginning of the century fighting Keene citizens from replacing a $60 million Bypass Expansion with three roundabouts, now listing in detail the 28 roundabouts on the State system and the 15 in planning or design phases.  

What is noteworthy is that until about 2005, Vermont led the roundabout emergence in New England as an injury reducing, congestion relieving, sprawl constraining, sole walkable-bikable intersection design, pollution cutting, energy conserving treatment. Vermont now has 11 roundabouts in place--including he first northeastern roundabout (1995) and first northeastern interstate interchange (1999).

        Cycle track (protected bike lanes)

At the same time all three state websites start out even when it comes to the new infrastructure "rave" found in numerous cities and towns now from Boston, to Chicago to Seattle--protected bike lanes termed "cycle track."  Cycle track provides a high level of safety to all bicyclists regardless of age and skill and paired with roundabouts which include a pathway for cyclists (shared or separate) creates for the first time a bikable busy urban street for use by everyone.  It also erases a great deal of the conflicts between cars and bicyclists.   Chicago Mayor Rham Emmanuel through his own initiative builds 100 miles of cycle track in his first term, Boston Mayor Tom Menino commits his City this fall to 30 miles by 2018, and new cycle track project completions now occur monthly somewhere in the U.S.
        U.S. modern roundabout history

While the modern roundabout got its start in the U.K. in 1966, it was already gaining ground in several British-related and European nations by the time the first roundabout came to the U.S. in 1990 in Las Vegas.  While the U.S. roundabout numbers approach 4,000, the French during the 1993-2003 period built at a U.S. equivalent rate of 7,000 a year--today France boasts about 35,000 roundabouts, the U.K. 10,000, and the City of Melbourne 4,000.  Thanks to the leadership of Carmel, IN Mayor James Brainard, that City of 70,000 with several freeway interchanges is about two thirds of the way to the goal of being a city of 100 roundabouts and one traffic signal 


Wednesday, November 13, 2013



BURLINGTON--Three North End neighborhood members of the North Avenue Corridor Study Advisory Committee took a November 1 field trip to observe two busy modern roundabout intersections in Montpelier, VT.  The neighborhood representatives, recruited through the Neighborhood Planning Assemblies (NPAs), found roundabouts a good option for key North Avenue intersections along the three-mile corridor under study from North Street north to Plattsburgh Avenue.
Two major new possible treatments possible along the corridor include roundabouts and protected bike lanes called “cycle track.”   Roundabouts and cycle track both move the corridor to a higher level of safety and service benefiting all modes and all users, regardless of age and skill.
Jim Holway (NPA Ward 4/7, Ward 4), RJ Lalumiere (NPA 4/7, Ward 7 Alternate) and Tony Redington (NPA 2/3, Ward 3 Alternate) all expressed surprise at how effortlessly traffic flowed and how little delay there was at Keck Circle, a block from the Main Street Middle School, as it handled the rush of school closing traffic of cars, trucks, school buses and students.  Added to the mix were four Greyhound tour buses using the roundabout to reverse direction.  
At the US 2/302 roundabout the three observed a volume of about 2,200 vehicles an hour during as Friday afternoon peak traffic numbers are highest of the week .  Backup waiting to enter the intersection never exceeded about ten cars and at most a 30 second delay, typically far less.
Holway explained the field visit:  “Our purpose in selecting Keck at the time we did was precisely to observe higher pedestrian and bike traffic.  As school was let out just up the street, we got our answer.  We observed congestion coming from the circle to the school. There was no slowing of flow as cars went to the school to pickup. On the other hand as cars came to the circle after picking up, the flow in the circle hardly slowed.  Children, bikers and buses all traversed the circle in relatively short span, yet it all flowed very well. The peds and bikers went through the roundabout with surprisingly little concern for doing so.  In other words it was the opposite as I would have thought.  In contrast, watching the signaled intersections. [At signalized intersections] peds and bikers had to queue up waiting their turn AND the frequency of jay-walking near signaled intersections was frequent by my observation. People between parked cars jutting out and running across. Where at the roundabout no jay walking was to be seen and every mode of traveler could easily see everyone else. 
Lalumiere took considerable video of the two roundabouts during the trip which can be accessed on YouTube at
Lalumiere said “I must say I was impressed by their functioning. Traffic flow was high, but safe; the intersections cleared any backups quickly…” 
Redington noted observing the “walking school buses” from Union Elementary three blocks away, a few children each for each “bus” with their adult “driver” crossing the roundabout. 
Redington said the Middle School students relaxed and nonchalant crossing of the roundabout may well reflect the fact its 1995 construction means it predates the birth of all of the Middle School which serves all 6th to 8th graders.   
Burlington Department of Public Works (DPW) and CCRPC websites provide access to study documents and meeting notices at .  Nicole Losch of DPW handles City coordination.  The next study step fleshes out a vision and goals for the corridor followed by developing options.   The last step of recommendations (short, medium and long term) leads to a final study report.
Other neighborhood representatives on the North Avenue Steering Committee are:  Tad Cook (NPA 2/3  W3), Bill Brachter (NPA 4/7 W7), Kelli Brooks (NPA 4/7 W4 Alternate) and Fauna Shaw (NPA 2/3 W3 Alternate).  Holway, Lalumiere, and Redington actively participate on the Burlington Walk Bike Council.  Holway points to his involvement in safe routes to schools initiatives in the New North End.  Lalumiere helped organize the new series of monthly “Bike Party” Burlington excursions on the last Friday evening of the month, May to October.  Redington, a roundabout expert and researcher, points to the almost 4,000 roundabouts now in the U.S. and Canada which to date have not experienced a single pedestrian fatality.
The first Burlington busy street roundabout scheduled for construction in 2017 is the “rotary” intersection of Locust St., Shelburne St. and St. Paul St.  Note three roundabouts the size of the new Burlington roundabout would fit inside the Winooski “traffic circulator” with room to spare. Modern roundabouts are of a substantially different design and thus produce a much different experience. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013



The Vermont Transportation Board [website: ]  is in the midst of six public hearings

for the purpose of taking public comment on a variety of transportation-related
topics. The Board also will accept public comment via email until November 30.
Please submit electronic comments to the Board’s executive secretary at

The two remaining hearings are: St. Albans, November 15 and Middlebury November 20 (details on website).  However, certainly everyone can be encouraged to submit their specific concerns in regard to any transportation issue.  Certainly every time a citizen comments in support of bicycle and walker infrastructure as well as its funding helps the cause of finally getting a real start on a walkable and bikable community, a vision we all share.

My comments submitted to the Transportation Board for changes in state transportation programming will address and include:

1.  Protected Bike Lanes (Cycle Track)   Over the past year policies for bicycle infrastructure moved from now passé bicycle lanes to a truly “complete” streets composed of protected bicycle lanes called “cycle track” paired where feasible with roundabouts armed with separate or shared walker/bike paths so bicyclists can choose the generally safer course of not “taking the lane” at an intersection.  Only through this new infrastructure (note NY 9 roundabout and separate bike and walker facilities north and south) approach can we begin to achieve true bikability in Vermont—now nowhere to be found in our downtowns, village centers and other built up areas.  An immediate infusion of $2-$3 million for cycle track within the current year budget (SFY 2014) can kickstart cycle track with administration placed in the Bicycle-Pedestrian Program.

2.  Rail Passenger Service Expansions  With sharp drops in the proportion of Vermont workers (3%) choosing car travel to work, a general end to car travel growth and the aging Vermont population (124% increase 2000-2030 of 65+ versus under 2% for under 65—U.S. Census), it is clear we need to: (1) advance the date of Amtrak extension of service from Rutland to Burlington to SFY 2015 nor 2018 as now projected; (2) Initiate an Ambus connecting the Vermonter at St. Albans to Montreal, a sure money maker and reducer of State Amtrak support dollars until rail service extension is completed in the indefinite future; (3) Complete planning and start initial service elements within two years of” (a) commuter rail service between Burlington along the corridors to Montpelier, Middlebury and St. Albans, (b) a “circuit” intercity service Burlington-White River Jct.-Bellows Falls-Rutland-Burlington, and (c) light rail service Fletcher Allen Health Car/UVM to the Burlington waterfront via the Church Street Marketplace.

3. Intersection Roundabout Conversions  With two states and two Canadian provinces adoption of “roundabouts first” policies and the undisputed safety and service benefits of the single lane roundabout for all modes, it is long past the time for Vermont transportation programming to: (1) immediately undertake through regional transportation planning a list of intersections to be converted to roundabouts taking into consideration walking/bicycling/economic factors and prioritizing the conversion list; (2) revise all new construction and other major projects (like the Burlington Champlain Parkway)  by replacing all designed/planned signals to roundabouts; and (3) moved quickly to a 20-30 roundabouts per year installation rate, easily achievable with the addition of the Transportation Funding Initiative (TFI) outlined herein.

Note the AARP policy advocating roundabout conversions because of the far higher incidence of senior driving and walking fatalities at intersections compared to the under 65 age population.  Transportation research clearly shows the primary differential in skills and abilities which change with aging involve judging gaps in traffic and speeds, major elements addressed by roundabouts versus the context of the signalized or signed intersection.

4.  New $90 Million Annual State Allocation of General Funds for Transportation  As car travel New England wide increased only 3 percent so far this century the revenue streams from car related taxes no longer even sustain necessary basic highway needs.  Meanwhile the rapidly expanding travel modes—rail and bus passenger services, walking and bicycling—all demand substantial additional resources to both meet demand and for first time installation in the case of cycle track and roundabouts.  Two states for the first time dealt straight up with the changed transportation funding needs—Virginia in February abolished the gas tax and replaced it with an across the board sales tax of one percent to be used to fund all transportation modes; and Massachusetts shifted for the first time on a regular basis $890 million yearly from general funds, again to fund needs for highway, rail passenger, public transportation, walking and bicycling.  The Vermont equivalent of the Massachusetts general fund shift of $890 million is $90 million (note Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick fought tooth and nail for an amount double that which his legislature finally approved).

 Examples of what $90 million in Vermont funds are: (1) a light rail system running from UVM and Fletcher Allen Health Care to the Burlington waterfront via the Church Street Marketplace (including the purchase of the light rail cars); (2) the full capital costs of commuter rail services from Burlington to Middlebury, Montpelier, and St. Albans plus intercity rail extended in a circular service Burlington-White River Jct.-Bellows Falls-Rutland-Burlington—including self-propelled rail cars; (3) 90 miles of downtown and village center cycle track; (4) 30 roundabouts with paths accommodating both bicyclists and walkers; and (5) rehabilitation of 45 miles of Vermont highways.

With Vermont households cutting back their almost $2 billion expenditure on car travel, the increase in taxes on progressive basis still results in an overall reduction in the typical Vermont household budget for transportation.  In a sense the new funding, a Transportation Funding Initiative (TFI) just reflects the consumer choice already clearly expressed in the marketplace.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


     …..applying the Massachusetts general fund transport projects principle to Vermont
The Boston Globe reported the announcement last week by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick of likely first set of transportation investments since his Legislature the first yearly shift of $800 million from general fund revenue for transportation projects.
The $800 shift from general fund revenues to transportation--about half of what Gov. Deval Patrick sought from his Legislature--goes primarily to many years overdue replacement of the subway fleets on two Boston lines, statewide electric tolling and straightening a Turnpike section, and very possibly new commuter rail service to he “South Coast” with services to long economically depressed Cities of Fall River and New Bedford.  Final details of Gov. Patrick’s transportation project list will be released by Thanksgiving.  Gov. Patrick says funding emphasis will be placed on improved transportation outside of Greater Boston.
Massachusetts and Virginia this year were the first states to disconnect highway, gasoline, and car-related taxes from their past singular role in transportation finance at the state levels.   Translating $800 million a year to Vermont—with a tenth of the population of Massachusetts—leads an $80 million a year equivalent as a minimum starting point.  And, $80 million in Vermont in just two years would enable, for examples: (1) capital and some operating support for commuter rail from Burlington to Montpelier, Middlebury and St. Albans; (2) additional intercity rail service along a circular corridor from Burlington-White River Junction-Bellows Falls-Rutland-Burlington; and (3) a light rail service from the Burlington waterfront to Fletcher Allen Health Care and University of Vermont campus via the Church Street Marketplace.   As important, Vermont could begin the critically needed investments to make downtowns, urban neighborhoods and town centers walkable and bikable for the first time though investments in cycle track (protected bike lanes) and at key intersections pathed roundabouts designed to serve both the walking and bicycle modes. 
At some point, a major gasoline tax at the federal level—in dollars not the nickels and dimes of the past—must be imposed (phased in over several years) to provide the kind of resources to states enabling the U.S. to join the first tier of nations whose transportation systems which are defined by either high-speed rail networks and/or walkable and bikable urban areas.  (Most Western European nations qualify on both criteria.)  Consider the fact that nations like Taiwan, South Korea and China already nations boast a basic network of high-speed rail countrywide.  In the United States and Canada there is not a single walkable or bikable urban area—investing in infrastructure to achieve walkable and bikable urban nodes, corridors and areas poses the greatest urban transportation challenge today.   (A tip of the hat though to Canada where both Montreal and Toronto extensive underground areas and corridors remain the only ones in North America and two of the few of such extensive enclosed car-free environments worldwide.)

Thursday, October 24, 2013



While those favoring walking and bicycling daily add converts, the bulk of the population knows well the lack of walkable and bikable infrastructure still rules the real world of American urban and town center streets—truly incomplete streets.  For walkers this means endless waits at high-injury-rate signalized intersections and for bicyclists it means being relegated to the “sider” class. 

The “sider” bicyclist by necessity only travels by carefully negotiating trips along sidewalks, side streets and “backways.”  When you bicycle at my advanced age or very young, less skilled on two wheelers, or wish to avoid the risk of mixing on streets with at most unprotected bike lanes with hordes of traffic—you become a sider by default or just put the bicycle away.  We do not partake of bike parties, bike rides, and other group activities taking place and bikable busy streets--these remain to us the dream of the future.  We do not fool ourselves—American bike infrastructure development trails Amsterdam or Copenhagen by decades (well, yes, the Burlington Marketplace is the one walkable corridor in Burlington but no bikes allowed !).

Being a sider means the shortest distance between two points has nothing to do with the shortest distance between two points—one is more like a thief on foot taking every which way to avoid capture.  A sider can end up taking a dozen different streets and backways just to go a few blocks to a favorite coffee shop less than a mile away.  Even after a dozen trips or so you have to take a moment to recall the sider route which on paper looks like a treasure hunt through a maze.   

Thanks to churches, parks, and housing developments all kinds short cuts abound.  (And without the alleyway behind Macys from Cherry Street in Burlington connecting with a left, right left through the People’s Bank to Pine Street it would be impossible to move north to south in downtown for the Burlington bicycle sider.)

Now for a long time also was a salmon—biking the wrong way on a street with a one way bike lane the wrong way (yes, during light traffic times I will use a bike lane for a block or two).  But after hearing that this is really not safe (and experiencing wrong way bicyclists from the opposite, correct, direction, must agree) gave up salmoning on my bicycle for life, something far easier than quitting smoking.

On sidewalks I follow some simple rules.  First, travel no more than a few miles an hour as you never know what will suddenly appear from a driveway.  Second, one travels across crosswalks at about walking speed (four miles an hour) and with the same attention to traffic as one would on foot—and be prepared to dismount at any point.  Generally, I for one never pass a walker on the sidewalk- period!  When a walker is approaching towards me I dismount about 50 feet away and walk my bike until past the walker traffic.   A person walking has a right not to be bothered by bicyclist—nothing irritates a person walking more than bicyclists rushing past from behind or approaching in front regardless of the speed. 

Some day us siders will get the new protected bike lanes and roundabouts with paths which together promise to put our sider days into history—like life without safety belts.   Our major urban streets—like Amsterdam and Copenhagen—some day will become places for all to walk and bike in safety and comfort. 



A landmark study published in the July American Journal of Public Health finds the installation of cycle track—protected bike lanes—promises for town centers and urban areas infrastructure enabling all regardless of age, sex, or ability the opportunity to travel by bicycle in comfort and safety. 

A former Vermont walking and bicycling leader, Dr. Anne Lusk, now at the Harvard School of Public Health, was a lead researcher on the study team.  The study examines: (1) state and federal highway guidance for bicycling in regard to cycle track; (2) 19 U.S. cycle tracks (including one in South Burlington, VT) with determination their safety far surpasses on-street bicycling; and (3) European experience where a large proportion of the population--all ages, all skills and both male and female—ride bicycles regularly.  U.S. urban trips by bicycle are about one percent and walking six percent while Germany and the Netherlands average about 20 percent each—more than 40% of all urban trips there are on foot and bicycle in those two nations. The paper, “Bicycle guidelines and crash rates on cycle track in the United States,” can be found at:     

Dr. Lusk--named by President George H.W. Bush as his 119th Point of Light, a designation for notable volunteer community leaders in a variety of fields--left Vermont a few years ago as a true legend in the field of walking and bicycling.  Lusk almost single-handedly built the Stowe Bikepath, lead a volunteer group of State and private members to create, promote and develop walking and bicycling initiatives culminating in an $11 million State funded bikepath program even before federal program began, and facilitated the formation of the Vermont Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition which now in its third decade continues fostering programs, policies and investments in what is now a burgeoning field of walking and bicycling growth in virtually every town in Vermont.  Vermont’s early leadership in roundabout development in the Northeast also resulted directly from the initiatives Lusk led.  Lusk also was involved in a study finding the safety superiority of cycle track in Montreal (built in 2007) over on-street cycling.

Cycle track is rapidly developing in the U.S--100 miles are under development in Chicago, announcement occurred this month that Boston will build 20 miles of cycle track by 2018, and cycle tracks plans and initiatives can be found bubbling up throughout the U.S. and Canada.   The study reports only 0.5% those aged 16 over population home-to-work trips by bike in the United States—and only 24% of those trips by women.  While male bicycle trips have increased recently, female bicycling has not changed and trips by children has decreased.

The study shows U.S. cycle track  experience far lower injury rates per mile of travel than on highways or streets with unprotected bike lanes or no lanes.  Cycle track in the United States totaled 40 miles at the time of the research while Dutch cycle track miles totaled 18,000 miles in a nation with the population about that of New England.  

There exists strong interest in safe routes to schools (until recently a federal program funded projects in this area) and European experience indicates that levels of walking and bicycling to school is closely associated with the presence of cycle track networks.   The study notes a survey of research indicating “cyclists are safer on roundabouts with cycle track.”

Finally, the study takes aim at U.S. bicycle guidance—particularly the American Association of Highway Officials (AASHTO) bicycle and highway guides from 1974 to 1999 prepared by committees dominated by males  (over 90 percent males for the two publications for which gender data could be found), publications which do not address in any way the value, benefits, etc. of cycle track—with much of the bicycle guidance given without foundation in research.

Thursday, October 10, 2013



An entertaining relationship movie (R rating) rattled along until six words of dialogue spoken by the character played by Julianne Moore struck almost like a lightning bolt as she spoke with sincerity and reflection, "the car is a terrible thing."

Brought up in New Hampshire where the Manchester Union Leader, the State's dominant statewide newspaper, for several years showing the latest gruesome fatal car crash scene emblazoned in large front page photos came to mind--and the still 30,000 plus Americans dying from car crashes each year (plus uncounted injuries as well as fatalities from road rage).   Gun deaths and car deaths now appear to be in a yearly contest from state to state as to which gets the lead.

But to hear "the car is a terrible thing" in a Hollywood production which also featured as a key element a lead actor who prided himself  in his Mustang SS and agressive driving including a scene of his own road rage breaking the window of the car whose owner yelled back at him--made this "terrible thing" all the more surprising.  The movie, Don Jon, does have Julianne Moore playing a character who near the end of the movie disloses the death of her son and husband 14-months prior as the result of that "terrible thing."

Friday, September 27, 2013


"Roundabout" often gets a bad rap around the Burlington, VT area as it is equated with the failed traffic circle design in nearby downtown Winooski--a traffic circle which roundabouts cure.  Here is the example of a roundabout curing a traffic circle--New York's first roundabout built in 2000 in Kingston.  You could fit two of them inside the Winooski circle,or three of Vermont's two-laner in Brattleboro.  

Check out this Alaska DOT website showing before and after of the Kingston roundie, plus a simple directory covering how the roundabout safely handles walkers and bicyclists approaching from cycle track/bike lanes. roundabout history, U.S. examples 

The Kingston 660 foot (more than two football fields) diameter circle is now
a 220 foot diameter roundabout.  The Winooski circle--really an oval--is about 500 feet by 200 feet.   

(Note Montpelier's first roundabout (1995) is pictured in the section "Roundabout Links" subsection "Roundabouts around the world" as it is the first north of Maryland and east of Las Vegas, the 19th in the U.S).

Still noteworthy, there has yet to be a single walker fatality at the 3,000 or so U.S. roundabouts.