Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Bicycling infrastructure 101 presents the two basic components required which enable safe, comfortable, expeditious movement in built up areas:  (1) street segments with cycle track; (2) bikepaths or multi-user paths at intersections, always to the extent possible at roundabout intersections.
Note that purely local residential streets with very light traffic may function well with traffic calming elements so cycle track is not needed, and in these contexts bicycles share the street (or may be the dominating mode and motor vehicles required to yield).  Again, at lightly traveled residential area intersections with traffic calming elements or residential roundabouts, a separate path for bicycles is not required.  Finally, there will be cases of sign control of local streets intersection with busier streets, but designs need to be T-intersections and cross-intersections except for roundabouts to be avoided.  At these locations the bicyclist will be accessing a cycle track.


Walking infrastructure 101 presents here the two basic components required which enable safe, comfortable, expeditious movement in built up areas:  (1) street segments with a sidewalk on at least one side (preferably both); and (2) street connections comprised of roundabouts.
Each of these two treatments, sidewalks and roundabouts, reduce serious injuries compared to locations without these treatments up to 90%.  Or the converse: (1) where there are no sidewalks on street segments walker crash rates increase about 900%; and (2) at any other intersection type, other than a roundabout, walker injury rates typically increase by up to 900%. 
Note purely local residential streets with very light traffic may function well with traffic calming elements as well as roundabouts at intersections with minimal traffic flows.  Finally, there will be cases of sign control of local streets intersection with busier streets, but designs need to be T-intersections and cross-intersections except for roundabouts to be avoided.
Roundabouts serve practically most persons with a handicap (sidewalks accommodate virtually 100% of persons with a handicap).  However, for those persons with a severe visual handicap, in order to be able cross an intersection with a high degree of safety, requires a roundabout with one or more additional treatments:  raised crosswalks/speed tables and depending on the location, additional traffic calming devices.  “Shared space” represents one additional case—generally the safest—for intersection crossing for all users, including those with a severe visual handicap.

Monday, March 25, 2013


Why not a "Vermont New Deal" to match the "Massachusetts New Deal" now on the plate there?  James Roosevelt, Jr. (FDR’s grandson) compares the Bay State’s Governor Deval Patrick proposal funding needed and ongoing transportation, pre-school and innovation as the state level equivalent of the New Deal his grandfather accomplished nationally in the 1930s.
The January “Massachusetts New Deal” $1.9 revenue annual increase divorces transportation funding from the ever declining car tax revenue stream and boosts transportation by about $1 billion and human service needs by another $900 million.  Virginia this year abolished the gas tax and switched transportation funding to a broad base sales tax.  Instead of the regressive sales tax, Governor Deval Patrick’s Massachusetts legislation calls for progressive income tax increases. 
The Boston Sunday Globe outlines in great detail in two articles and a half-page editorial the Patrick proposals—and today a major Globe editorial goes over the investment needs of Massachusetts transportation and Governor Patrick’s budgeted investments. 
Using the rule of 10—Massachusetts being ten times the population of Vermont—a Vermont New Deal amounts to $190 million a year, $100 million for transportation and $90 million for human service needs ranging from Gov. Shumlin’s proposal for university pre-K education to funds for health care reform and environmental/energy conservation measures so critical for the Vermont economy and quality of life.
Just take half the Massachusetts equivalent, $50 million a year , for the Vermont Transportation New Deal and see what one gets for this annual investment.  In just 24-months the Vermont Transportation New Deal completes the investments necessary for Amtrak extension from Rutland to Burlington’s Union Station plus commuter rail services along all three corridors from Burlington to Washington County (the State House), Franklin County (St. Albans) and Addison County (Middlebury).  Still another $15 million remains to fund the first efforts to provide bicycle “cycle track” in Vermont town and city centers to begin to make them truly bikable—and also a roundabout or two to continue moving to the kind of walkability now in place in Manchester Center where the first corridor of roundabouts came into being last November.
Start year three of the Vermont Transportation New Deal with the rail passenger commuter services in operation plus Amtrak to Burlington, both with operating support.  Then expand to those major towns without passenger service--intercity rail service to Bennington and Newport/Derby Line, Bellows Falls connected to Rutland, and a circuit train service—Burlingon-White River Junction-Bellows Falls-Rutland-Burlington—initiated.  Meanwhile, investments increase in city and town centers for bikability and walkability.
Remarkably not a single dime of federal transportation funds is assumed in the forgoing description of the Vermont Transportation New Deal.  Clearly considerable federal funding can be obtained for various elements of the Vermont Transportation New Deal thereby increasing the speed and reach of the program outlined above.
When one considers that going from $3.00 gas to $4.00 gas costs Vermont consumers over $300 million a year or that $50 million equals about a 15-cent gas tax—the Vermont Transportation New Deal seems like a no regrets investment with tremendous benefits to consumers, commuters and business.

Friday, March 15, 2013


The blinders remain on regarding the decline of car travel in Vermont and attempts to repair leaking transportation revenue bucket with more gas taxes.
Instead of serving the transportation needs of the State or even talking about those needs, the political leadership acts like the 9,000-plus workers in recent years ditching the car as a way to work, the decline of traffic along key urban roadways dating back more than two decades, and the surge of Link bus commuters nearing 500 daily—all this did not happen or suddenly will reverse magically and we’ll return to the world of Sunday drives and cruising symbolized by the iconic 1950s lifestyle found in the old TV show “Happy Days.”
The central element in shoring up the Transportation Fund for two years comes in the form of a gas tax which amounts to a 7.6 cent increase, according to press reports, which raises $25.8 million each year when fully in place.  Each penny in the gas tax raises about $3.3 million.  Vermont and New England states consumption of gasoline remained little changed 2000-2010 with three states reporting declines led by Vermont's -8.0%.  The year 2011 brought another 2.5% decline in Vermont gas consumption.   The State is well on its way to the level of consumption in 1990. 
Virginia last month and very likely Massachusetts within the next month or so drop the fantasy of drilling for revenues from a depleted gas tax well by switching to broad base taxes in order to meet the backlog of transportation needs—highway, bridges, public transit, bicycling and walking—and recognize these needs must be fairly shared through broad base sales and income taxes, taxes shared by everyone not just the car travelers. 
To give a sense of how little it would take to change, consider commuter rail services from Burlington along the three corridors served by 50 Link commuter buses each workday—Middlebury, Montpelier and St. Albans.  Other needs include shoring up and expanding public transit, an intercity rail network, and supporting employer-based commuter choice programing to encourage home to work trips by means other than the solo drive.  Commuter rail represents an easy change to visualize.  If you gave two cents (gas tax or its equivalent) for commuter rail then two corridors get served with 14 trains a day each serving a dozen downtowns and village centers--for another penny, you get rail service on all three corridors.  This gives one a view of the future.  No need to carry on the car fantasy transportation of the past—time to give your two cents (or three) for the transportation future now. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013


VT Representative Kesha Ram posting on the Burlington Front Porch Forum this month the following regarding plugging the leak in transportation funding:
Vermont's transportation system has faced some extraordinary challenges in recent years, with four federally declared disasters in 2011, including spring floods followed by Tropical Storm Irene. This year we face a different transportation challenge – fully funding our transportation needs. An additional $36.53 million in state funds are required to fully fund the proposed FY2014 transportation budget. Without action, we risk our ability to match significant available federal transportation dollars. The Governor has proposed the following to fill the immediate funding gap: 1) Transportation Infrastructure Bond proceeds of $9 million; 2) a decrease in the current per gallon gas tax by 4.7 cents per gallon with a 4% assessment on the retail sales price; and 3) indexing the per gallon gas tax to inflation, which partially assists with long term structural funding…"
 This was my response to Rep. Ram's posting:
No to Tripling 4.7¢ Gas Tax "Adjustment" - Use Income/Progressive Taxes
Switching a 4.7 cent gas tax to a 4% sales tax on retail tax means--for gas at $4--a 16 cent per gallon tax, more than tripling the 4.7 cent tax "reduction." For what? For whom? Virginia (not progressive) repealed their gas tax last month and went to an across the board sales tax (0.8%) dedicated for all transportation needs (food exempted). Massachusetts the second state in the revolt against gas taxes this year as the base for transportation funding moves, as proposed, to the progressive income tax. The car age is over. Car travel likely declines this decade in Vermont. We need commuter rail and public transit (not a single person added to those using a car to get to work 2000-2010--9,000 added in Vermont to those using public transit, walking, bicycling and working at home--not a single additional commuter by car). Transportation needs to be viewed now as a necessary human service and added to the those unmet needs the legislature is grappling with--no more regressive taxes like gas and license fees which hit those least able to afford it. 
Tony Redington Blog;

Sunday, March 10, 2013




It happened in Germany and the Netherlands near the end of the last century, and now it is time for Vermont to launch a major town and urban center infrastructure program with initial investments at the rate of $10-$20 million mostly from federal transportation funds, entirely allocated to the walking and bicycling modes.

A good start for walking and bicycling infrastructure spending would be an immediate infusion of $5 million this year with an invitation for submissions of proposals by towns and cities with basic cycle-track (a la Montreal), roundabouts, and other easily designed and built walking and bicycle facilities serving local residents along major streets and thoroughfares.
When starting their infrastructure programs Germany and the Netherlands already boasted the typical European modal share of bicycling and walking in the range of 25-35%, but still both invested heavily on big improved facilities for walking and bicycle travel.  Meanwhile U.S. and Canadian modal share remain stuck to on average about 1% for bicycling and 10% for walking. 
Two key factors demand the investment  $10 million or so each year right now. Consider a typical highway expansion or bypass which today costs $15-$30 million.  Several of these high expenditure highway projects are now in the State five-year construction program.  So, a $10 million-a-year expenditure for walking and bicycling infrastructure program over and above the current bikepath program continues very affordable.  The first factor favoring a new direction  involves the very success of the bikepath program itself--the cycle of building bikepaths and basic sidewalks in most of Vermont’s downtowns and village centers has run it course since the landmark program began 1990-1991. 

Second, more importantly, car travel plateaued and will likely decline this decade in much if not all of the state.  Part of this phenomenon gets reflected in car travel growth sliding to a crawl 2000-2010.  Remarkably in the workforce no increase occurred in car travel to work during this same period while a flood of over 9,000 workers, over two percent of the workforce, suddenly walked, biked, took public transit or worked at home.  The end of car travel growth and workers abandoning the car as a way to work means the need suddenly exists to make downtowns and town centers quality place—and safe places--to walk and bicycle as is the case in our urban small town counterparts in Europe.  Burlington’s Church Street Marketplace arose in great part as an inspiration from a similar effort in Copenhagen.  Now, Vermont town and urban centers, again, need to replicate the infrastructure changes which sustained and expanded walking and bicycling in continental western Europe over the recent decades.

Regional planning agencies and key state agencies need to develop on a coordinated basis detailed plans for town and urban center cycle track and roundabout (and traffic calming elements also) which assure markedly improved and safer walkability and bikability for all ages.  These planning efforts build on already existing basic walking and bicycling plans mostly done in the 1990s.   Planning this time around not only looks at basic cycle tracks and roundabouts, but also the informal built up area “back” ways and creation of connections closed off in the past but with camera monitoring equipment can now be safely made available for walking and bicycling connections to and between the street and sidewalk networks.  These investments surely will spur increases in walking and bicycling and insure either stable or declining car travel and congestion in all built up areas of the State.

Finally as Vermont surely will follow other states moving to broad base taxes and away from constantly declining revenues associated with car travel, a new stream of resources can fund walking, bicycle, passenger rail and public transit.

Now the modern age of community transportation begins: (1) first commuter and intercity rail passenger services along with local bus and other public transit; and (2) provision in our town centers and urban areas basic safe walking and bicycle infrastructure along streets and backways which enables a renaissance of walking and bicycling mode.