Friday, January 31, 2014
FACING HEAD-ON THE REQUIREMENT THAT ON-STREET PARKING MUST GO FOR CYCLE TRACK TO START ON BUSY STREETS: THE BURLINGTON (VT) UNION STREET CASE
Union Street from Main Street to North Winooski Avenue in Burlington (VT) gets “bike street” status in the adopted 2011Transportation Plan. About four-fifths of a mile it looks ideal for a first installation in the City of cycle track (protected bike lanes). Further, a bike lane already exists along the roughly three-quarter mile corridor, and that bike lane has no adjacent parking.
But appearances deceive. The one-way street (northbound) throughout does not function well for cyclists. The upper four blocks, North Union Street, for example, contains a uniform width of 25-feet breaking down this way: west side parking 8 feet (absolute minimum in standards); travel lane 9 feet; divider markings between the travel lane and bike lane 2 feet; and bicycle lane 6 feet. At first it looks like cycle tracking poses not problem, for example, properly placed bollards, about 50 of them, could be installed to protect the one-way (northbound) traffic from the northbound bike lane while enabling easy access in and out of the residential driveways (North Union is almost entirely residential in character and there are nature strips between curbs and sidewalks on both sides.
Rookie bicyclists quickly learn and drivers know, the bike lane does not work as the vehicle lane of 9 feet width and with no clearance from the minimal width parking lane means many vehicles (and almost always the transit buses) use part of the bike lane, often half of it. Regular bicyclists know the bike lane is not safe after trying out the lane and experiencing some rather uncomfortably close vehicle buddies. On Union Street traveling by sidewalk becomes the sensible bicyclist choice. In effect, the current parking and bike lane together make drivers unwitting scofflaws and exposes unwary bicyclists to high risk travel. Note the northbound bike lane on North Union pairs with the southbound lane on North Winooski.
While the Union Street corridor does feature green strips on either side along most of its length it is unlikely to be a high priority for reconstruction just to provide bike lanes—compared to, for example, reconstruction of certain sections of North Avenue where a complete corridor of cycle track nicely fits within the public right-of-way and a high percentage of the corridor either lacks parking on either side or sporadic use of curbside parking.
What to do, then, with this Union Street Corridor? If one erases the curbside parking along the west side of Union Avenue from North Winooski to Main Street, thereby making available eight additional feet, then almost magically two easy choices come into play: (1) a six foot wide cycle track on both sides of the street using bollards combined with a 12 foot wide travel lane; or (2) a two-way cycle track using bollards and, again, a 12 foot vehicle travel lane.
Even with the task of forging a consensus and necessary accommodation of on-street parking demand in an alternative way, the Union Street corridor represents a good place to start cycle track in Burlington. Cycle track—like recreational bicycle paths—will surely develop neighborhood and public support once built leading to a far easier task to extend them along other busy corridors, such as, Winooski Avenue, Battery Street, Shelburne Street, Pine Street, etc. Those streets pose far more difficult barriers as possible first corridors to install cycle track. North Winooski Avenue, for example, with parking on both side of the street throughout presents difficult challenges with the street from the North Street intersection north to Riverside Avenue having extensive commercial and retail businesses on either side of the street.
Consider the two-way cycle track along the Union Avenue corridor and the access it enables for the far larger potential users the cycle track hopefully will attract. First, there are major residential areas whose streets feed into Union Avenue. And, second consider the destinations north and south for that potential bike traffic. The south end destinations include: (1) Memorial Auditorium with its variety of events and arts facilities and daily activities; (2) the YMCA; (3) the second highest attraction magnet (second to the Marketplace) in the downtown area, City Market; and (4) within a block or so the Fletcher Free Library as well as the Marketplace itself. On the north end significant destinations include: the McClure Center, Barrios Bakery, the food shelf, social services, and other local stores, restaurants and human services.
Addressing directly ending on-street parking through working with the neighborhood and installing two-way cycle track can be broken down to two phases: (1) North Union Street from Pearl North Winooski Ave. and (2) South Winooski Avenue from Main St. to Pearl St.
While each “phase” has its pros and cons, the “north option” does entail only one predominant current land use—residential—and affords a chance to determine the popularity, use, and value of cycle track, including finding out how to deal with snow and other clearance issues--this 0.4 mile section has been suggested as a possible demonstration project.
If Burlington is going to get their 45-mile Dutch equivalence of cycle track providing a safe and inviting travelway for all regardless of gender, age or skill--then Union Street makes a good place to start.
Monday, January 27, 2014
ANYTHING WORLD CLASS IN BURLINGTON AND CHITTENDEN COUNTY TRANSPORTATION?...THE REMAINING PATH TO GET THERE
The following comments (third year with no particular response to date) were submitted to the Chittenden Country Regional Planning Commission on Friday, January 24 in response to their invitation to comment on their Unified Planning Work Program for the coming year.
“Achieve a world class transportation corridor with quality service and highest safety for those who walk, bicycle and travel by motor vehicle or transit.”
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the FY 2015 Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP).
The comments below reflect the kaleidoscope of transportation transformation and the desperate need for State and Chittenden County planning and policy in transportation to catch up with the resulting investments needed to accommodate the change whether it is light rail, passenger rail (including commuter), and most important walking and bicycling infrastructure.
No need to cite the shifting numbers—from 50% car travel growth in Vermont in the 1980s to the peak in urban car travel about 1990 symbolized by the subsequent decline on key Burlington arterials showing an 8 to 28% decline since (and very likely negative growth overall for the State this decade), the growth of Burlington commuter Link services from zero in 2003 to about 500 a day on over 50 schedule buses, the continued growth of Amtrak passenger numbers, and through the joint efforts since 2000 of Fletcher Allen Health Care, UVM and Champlain College who employ one-of-three workers in Burlington solo driving to work soon will dip under 50% compared to Vermont average still in the mid-70th percentile.
The challenge to public policy which CCRPC uniquely takes responsibility for comes from the fact that as family choices move from car-centered transportation to other modes, all those other modes depend on substantial public investment and support (forget the subsides to solo driving like the $150 million each year for employers to provide Vermont workers “free” employee parking!).
The financial issue is twofold. First, the Vermont household median spending on transportation—about 16% of the family budget—mostly goes to cars, about $1.8 billion for everything from car ownership and maintenance, gas, and insurance. Meanwhile, for example, regional public transit agencies in Vermont, like CCTA, must make due with about
$12 million farebox revenue to develop and maintain regional networks of primarily of bus services. The change of consumer choices is unprecedented with recent data showing 3% `of all workers choosing something else than a car to get to work—a shift of 9,000 since 2000 to walking, transit, bicycling and working at home (car pooling numbers haven slowly declined for decades).
On one side of the coin then, the “demand” side of transportation if you will, clearly moves and moves rapidly from motor vehicles to something else. The flip side of the coin which CCTA faces in policy and planning comes in the form of a strangulation of car-based revenue sources which in Vermont began in the 1990s when the car travel slowdown began (as it did in New England and to a lesser extent in other parts of the nation). From the 1990s car related revenues grew at a rate of about two percent and then actually flatlined at times, well below the costs of maintaining much less improving the highway system.
As Virginia as the first state did in February and Massachusetts similarly attempted, transportation funding for the future depends no longer on gas taxes and car-related sales taxes (though they need to remain in place) but on general fund revenues. Virginia cut the car revenue cord by abolishing the gas tax and established a new across the board sales tax to support all modes of transportation. Gov. Deval Patrick obtained about half the $1.9 billion requested including substantial income tax revenues to meet the Massachusetts transportation needs over the next decade. An equivalent increase in revenues for Vermont now in place in Massachusetts is $90 million—sufficient to fund commuter rail, intercity rail, walking and bicycling infrastructure needs in the urban areas and town centers, and light rail for Burlington and Rutland during the next ten year period—the sort of minimum program to meet the minimal current needs of Vermont, Chittenden and Burlington transportation to bring us toward the efficiency and safety enjoyed today by most Western European residents.
One last note regarding change. This set of comments submitted to your yearly invitation for public input. Three major changes in these comments are: (1) recognition of cycle track as an integral and necessary part in the company of roundabouts at key intersections, together comprising a “truly complete street” (TCS) versus the flimsy, fuzzy “complete street” language used in policy and law; (2) completion of my paper “An Action Outline for New Vermont Commuter Rail Passenger Service along Three Rail Corridors out of Burlington, Vermont” not only determines commuter rail feasibility but covers a number of issues ranging from demand management successes as well as trends in Chittenden County, State and New England related travel and transportation; and (3) through involvement in now several planning processes in Burlington and the region, it is clear that the preliminary language and public process in the North Avenue study gives guidance, a standard if you will, on what we need to seek as a community for our major urban thoroughfares serving all modes:
“Achieve a world class transportation corridor with quality service and highest safety for those who walk, bicycle and travel by motor vehicle or transit.”
The North Avenue goal sets the table for where we want to go. The North Avenue Advisory Committee discussion included calls for cycle track along the entire 3-mile corridor, single lane roundabouts at key intersections (pathed to allow bicyclists to avoid the necessity of using the vehicle travel lane), light rail to connect with the waterfront-Marketplace-Fletcher Allen—UVM-Champlain College line, and walk/bike infrastructure spurs to the Bikepath and key public and private facilities and schools. Bike lanes which primarily serve with complete unsafety young-adult-white-males generally do not belong on any high traffic volume urban street. The young, the old, non-male gender and less skilled in the population are excluded from use of simple marked bike lanes. The reason for the sudden move to install cycle track along busy streets comes form the fact cycle track along street segments provide a safe and comfortable environment for those of all ages, skills and gender.
Recommendation 1: Study all County intersections technically for conversion to roundabouts with the assistance of a nationally recognized roundabout design firm--much of the rejection of roundabouts arises from the use of traffic engineers who see the roundabout as, justifiably, a threat to the jobs in their profession.
This recommendation, needed now more than ever, continues to be a major problem. The study of Pearl St./Prospects Street/Colchester Ave., now sitting with a traffic light recommendation, completely missed the mini-roundabout alternative with its safety and no-delay benefits for walkers and bicyclists, and the ability through FAHC and UVM to manage peak traffic numbers (projected increases arguable in view of current and historical trends). The Parsons Brinkerhoff consultant for North Avenue lacked sufficient background or expertise in roundabouts nor did the firm obtain competent expertise knowing from the first instance that roundabouts would be a key consideration at all busy intersections. The Champlain Parkway with recommendations for roundabouts early for cost saving were reversed into signals, again, without even allowing offered roundabout expertise.
Now that cycle track has become a desired treatment on busy urban streets, the importance of bicycle safety at busy intersections escalates as a pathed single-lane roundabout in research shows performance of increased safety over signals approaching the walker reduction benefit of 90%.
Further, it has come to light over the past year the importance of roundabouts to seniors as half of all senior fatalities on our roadways occur at intersections compared to a quarter of all fatalities for all ages—it is little wonder then that AARP policies urge conversion of signalized intersections to roundabouts. It is time for the UPWP to undertake a Countywide planning process for evaluating and prioritizing intersections for roundaboutization, perhaps combining that process with cycle tracking thereby taking into consideration the prioritization of both so that that in the case of roundabout conversions accommodating cycle track is incorporated at the very first instance.
Recommendation 2: There are three studies of light density commuter/intercity rail dating from 1989. Vermont is unique with all of its cities connectable by modern single unit diesel-electrics similar to the Budd RDCs. For Burlington, runs from Main Street Station in terms of commuter services could operate to Barre-Montpelier, Vergennes, and St. Albans. Stops would include IBM entrance at railside and possibly the few hundred feet feeder to BIA. These services would integrate to the larger intercity services using the same equipment statewide in part designed to shift basic transportation to the tourist industry from cars to rail passenger.
My 2013 study—done at no cost—fulfills the request made in this instance. One other important aspect is for CCRPC review and provide for interconnectivity of all bus services under County jurisdiction—which includes GMTA services in Washington County—with Amtrak services. This study can be coordinated with Central Vermont Regional Planning, CCTA and Amtrak—and preferably through a statewide effort coordinated by VAOT. Right now there are service breaks—or no service at all—in terms of regional transit services and Amtrak stations. Transit agencies work to connect their own service routes but seem tone deaf when it comes to other transportation modes. Again, on this topic, the free College Street Shuttle changes route in the summer to serve the waterfront station adjacent to Echo but the needs of those connecting to the Lake Champlain Ferry during the summer season remain un-addressed.
3. The CCRPC needs to place emphasis on planning for those who walk, not those who bicycle whose interest groups have dominated the discussion and investments in non-motorized travel. Actually, roundabouts are themselves are primarily a benefit and fostering of the walking mode--even though all modes and transit also benefit. A roundabout qualifies as a bike/pad project too!
Let these 2014 comments alter the view expressed in 2012. While still maintaining “CCRPC needs to place emphasis on planning for those who walk,” it also should give equal weight and consideration to the needs of bicyclists who after those who walk are next on the list of those most affected by malign neglect among the transportation modes. As clearly pointed out above, the roundabout not only is critical to walker safety, it also fulfills the same function for cycle track at intersections—the bicycle community itself through the Palo Alto research decades ago identified the safety of sidepaths as one of high intersection crash rates erasing whatever advantage the sidepath might provide by giving the bicyclist physical separation from road segment traffic (as cycle track does). Simply, the roundabout with an off-travelway path for cyclists addresses the issue identified in the Palo Alto study for both sidepaths as well as cycle track. Note that the Champlain Parkway current design repeats the very treatment found unsafe in the Palo Alto study, a side path which passes through four signalized intersections!
Recommendation 4: It is fair to say that transportation planning and particularly projects in Chittenden County have failed miserably to serve business and economic growth and
viability. There are many blatant examples. Can any state be pointed out with a poorer entrance for its largest employer than IBM in Essex Jct.? A roundabout as an entrance at the Park Street and Maple Streets entrance would show that Vermont really is concerned whether IBM stays or leaves. While the decades old Church Street Marketplace cannot be overpraised, the failure to expand the "shared space" elements along Bank, Cherry, and College Streets remains inexcusable--time to work on expanding "shared space" to bring merchants on those streets the same kind of expanded opportunity to draw customers as those on the Marketplace. Other locations in the County need examination for Marketplace-type conversion to shared space.
With the possible sale of the IBM plant as part of IBM-Lenovo deal along with more Essex Plant reductions in force since this recommendation, is it not time to consider the entries on Park and Maple Street to IBM and space now shifted to others and called Technology Park?
With the construction of the new Burlington Transit Center the expansion of the Marketplace outward to serve businesses makes even more sense. So also does the introduction of cycle track along adjacent streets—Battery, Pearl, Main, and S. Winooski in particular. And, of course single lane roundabout where they can fit in—South Winooski/Main Street may well accommodate a single lane roundabout, act as a traffic calmer and a formal gateway to the Marketplace itself. While this may seem somewhat extreme, a study of how a “bicycle spaceway” along the center of the Marketplace might make sense now as increasing numbers of those accessing the marketplace or wanting to move within it will be traveling by bicycle.
Recommendation 5: Bike track needs to be installed starting in town and city centers--expanding off the Dorset/Kennedy Drive bike track type grade separated paths in South Burlington and off the Church Street Marketplace in Burlington. For example, why not bike track from the Marketplace down Main Street to the Main Street Safety [Landing}--with a roundabout first at Pine Street. Such an installation might well have prevented the tragic fatality at Main/St. Paul in December 2010.
“Bike track” means “cycle track” in the language of today—this is discussed in more detail above. Cycle track from the Marketplace to the waterfront became the one cycle track contained in the City’s “Plan BTV.”
Other recommendations: "…revising estimates of vehicle travel growth taking demographic changes into consideration, fitting housing development needs to changed demographics…”
Among a short list of other recommendations, it is clear that CCRPC lacks a coherent rationale for evaluating modal level changes, vehicle miles of travel changes, population and employment change, etc. Using the word “growth” must now be altered to “change” since many changes today involve decrease as opposed to increases. Certainly estimations and projections are not easy—perhaps a high and low estimate might be provided and project
determinations be far more nuanced by potential changes with consideration, for example, of employing demand management to maintain a low traffic estimate in a corridor as a way to utilize a safer roundabout alternative over the clearly less favorable signal alternative.
Review of 2013 Recommendations submitted February 19, 2013
The 2013 UPWP recommendations reviewed the 2012 recommendations which were generally ignored by CCRPC and with some variation repeated the 2012 recommendations. The initial commuter Action Outline draft received attention as did the "transportation tectonic shift" in state transportation finance just emerging in Virginia and Massachusetts. (Note that overall FHWA’s “Highway Statistics” shows of all public expenditures on highways, about $200 billion in 2011, 38% came from non-user levies including property taxes, general funds and bonding proceeds.)
Finally, the CCRPC invented population and employment growth projections which suggest a County growth of 1,700 each year 2015-2035, about 35,000 total. Yet statewide Vermont growth 2010-2013 amounts to 277 yearly or 23 monthly over three years. Not a very good warmup for the Chittenden “population express” launch next year. There is a growth of 1,700 a year, however, going on right now, the projection 2000-2030 of over-65 population by the Census doubling the percent of Vermont population over-65 from 12 to 24 percent (U.S. percentage by 2030 about 20%). Note the over-65 crowd car travel drops by 40% compared to the high car travel group aged 25-55. And not surprisingly seniors travel more by planes, trains, and public transportation.
The “black hole” of walking and bicycling infrastructure in Burlington, Chittenden County and the State—and the United States
The balance of comments directly relate to the “black hole” in walking and bicycling infrastructure in the City of Burlington Chittenden County and the State.
But first, consider the study needs already directly enumerated or implied:
1. The need for updates of feasibility and routing of light rail, a first phase to align from the waterfront through the Marketplace to FAHC/UVM, and finally (my vision) under Main Street to connect east and west UVM facilities and ending at the edge of Champlain College. In addition the waterfront section can be extended from the rail passenger loading platform northward parallel to Lake Street ending near the New Moran facility thereby providing access to tends of thousands of visitors and Vermonters to the waterfront facilities and services. And undertake a new study of a north-south light rail facility extending from Flynn School on the North End to the bottom of Pine Street on the south end.
2. Revisions of studies and approaches to project evaluation as they relate to population, employment, traffic, etc., such that flexibility is provided in possible options. Benefit cost analysis should be applied to all projects, costs and benefits which incorporate social costs as well as environmental, motor fuel, and crash costs and benefits.
3. Complete examination of all major streets and thoroughfares for inclusion of cycle track and roundabouts.
4. Working in a coordinated fashion with Central Vermont and Franklin County planning agencies, undertake an update of past plans and detailed feasibility for commuter rail services along with a consideration of potential and actual intercity services.
5. Initiate a series of town centers—Essex Jct., Williston, and Hinesburg, for examples—for full re-construction which includes both roundabouts and cycle track. Note the irrelevance of bypassing Essex Five Corners when single-lane roundabout accommodates all traffic (as also found, for example, in the Taft Corner scoping). Can the CCRPC explain why a simple solution is not even evaluated in a scoping study for that intersection?
6. Revision of all current designs for streets—particularly the Champlain Parkway with a cost of $37 million—to insure roundabouts and walkable/bikable infrastructure is included. Almost by definition the absence of roundabouts—like in the Champlain Parkway design—means the new roadway is neither walkable or bikable in spite of street sections with a shared sidepath. With an annual transportation program of about $160 million in federal funds it makes no sense to spend any of that money for poor quality, substandard walking and bicycling infrastructure.
When describing walking and bicycling modes in our nation, State, County and City one must only look to Rutgers’s Professor John Pucher and his study of walking and bicycling fatality rates and injury rates to determine the almost complete absence of safety for the “active” modes—our urban fatality rates for walking are four times per mile of travel on foot and almost three times by bicycle even though mostly young adult men bicycle in the U.S. while the Germany/Netherlands study comparison involves bicycling by all ages and skills in the comparison countries. An even more startling statistic is the U.S. bicycle injury rate per mile of travel 25 times that of the two Western European nations urban areas.
While Burlington does have a “bicycle friendly” and “walking friendly” designation it represents more a sport equivalent of making a good effort than any objective measurement against gold standards set by a multitude of Western European urban areas. In reality when it comes to walkable and bikable streets our urban areas constitute a black hole.
However we can point to few isolated examples of the kind of infrastructure here in Vermont, the seeds of what require hundreds of millions of dollars of urban and town investment to reach a status of solid walkable and bikable urban infrastructure. (Many urban areas since 1990 have developed excellent seasonable recreational paths, including the outstanding Burlington Bikepath and other similar facilities in other Chittenden County towns but these are by definition seasonal, generally unlit and unplowed, and do not qualify, therefore, as mainline transportation facilities.) There are two notable walkable corridors in Vermont. The first is the Burlington Church Street Marketplace, a four block long shopping walkers-only corridor on Church Street, which opened in 1981. The second, completing half a 1995 plan, Main Street in Manchester Center came on line with the completion of two roundabouts (three total now) in November 2012 including a “bridgebout” roundabout replacing “malfunction junction” there in the center of this self-described “Fifth Avenue of the Mountains.”
In the case of Manchester Center the three single-lane roundabouts with sidewalks provide first class walkability. The second half of the Manchester Center plan of roundabouts replacing two signals on adjoining Depot Street can easily be revised to include cycle track to create a true walkable/bikable street.
The Middlebury town center roundabout and Montpelier’s Keck Circle (1995) represent other points of light in walkability in an otherwise black hole of walkability. One can argue that although they do not meet the intersection criteria (pathed roundabouts, preferably of the one-lane kind) the cycle track along Dorset Street, South Burlington between Williston Road and Kennedy Drive, the shared sidepath along Kennedy Drive there and the Riverside Avenue shared side-path in Burlington qualify as bikable—certainly very close to bikable status. But compared to the East and West Winooski paths in Montpelier with a plan in place to connect the two at some point with a roundabout the Burlington and South Burlington cycle track and sidepaths remain on the lower rung of bikability. If one rejects the Champlain Parkway design—as it should be rejected as unwalkable and unbikable for lack of one-lane roundabout safety provision at the intersections and the lack of separate walk and bicycle space, then the other treatments until roundabouts are provided at intersections below a reasonable standard.
Finally, Burlington will be the site of the first busy public street roundabout in Chittenden and Franklin Counties when a single laner arrives in 2017 at the junction of Shelburne St./Locust St./St. Paul St. (we all call the location “the rotary”). The “Rotary” Roundabout completion in 2017 mark the 27th year since the first roundabouts were built in the U.S. and 22 years since the first roundabout in the northeast—Keck Circle in Montpelier.
To reach the equivalent French roundabout production rates 1993-2003 (1,400 a year) we would build about four roundabouts yearly in the county and 1-2 in Burlington, hardly a daunting task when you start from zero. Vermont does have two-miles of cycle track on Dorset Street, South Burlington and using relative Dutch proportions we would have in place today: 45 miles in Burlington, 170 miles in the County and 670 miles statewide.
We can and must do better to create the safest world class streets in our urban areas and this means miles and miles of cycle track and roundabouts at key intersections.
1. School Release Nov 1, 2013. Keck Circle Montpelier—walkable node. Shows bicycles, emergency vehicle going and returning, charter and school buses, walking
school bus—5:43 minute video by R. J. Lalumiere, Burlington
2. NHDOT—photos of 10 NH roundabouts, list of 28 NH roundabouts and 21 planned/under consideration, links, background, etc.
. Cycling safety what Copenhagen can teach global cities
4. Pathed roundabouts NL [Netherlands] Bicyclist, graphic, historic photos of Amsterdam location where pathed roundabout was built 2007—videos and text.
6. Glens Falls, NY five-leg roundabout—neighborhood views before and after construction
7. Dozens of photos of cycle track (with examples of unprotected bike lanes, a google grouping (?)
9. . Swedish national highway research agency, VTI paper on roundabout safety
Thank you for opportunity to submit these comments.
Monday, January 6, 2014
New Hampshire—Tax Shangra La, Maybe--New England economic and population growth star no longer
Like high flying Daedelus flying too close to the sun losing his wings, New Hampshire for decades occupied a myth of self-reliance and no-to-low taxation as the steps to the warm sun of income growth and jobs. As a New Hampshire native and former state government policy specialist and administrator there, I can attest to the post-World War period being an unprecedented growth of population and jobs outstripping the other five New England states and often ranked the second fastest growing state east of Mississippi after the constant leader, Florida.
But something happened with the millennium with New Hampshire resident growth dropping to a point where the under a percent a year for 2000-2010 dropped to even less 2010-2013, 0.18% per year. This rate of growth means it would take the better part of this decade to surpass just one year of growth in the 1990s which was 1.15% a year.
For the years 2000-2013 New Hampshire trails the states it used to look down on—Massachusetts and Connecticut—in the rate of population growth. For some time it has been sort of a secret that Vermont, slow growing, yes, but a relative high tax and good government service state, records lower unemployment rates than the Granite State (lower this month too). Could it be that states with a full bore Obamacare (Massachusetts) and far better public transportation services—include Vermont and the rest of New England in that group—mean workers are less likely to leave for a tax-free state with inferior public services? There is perhaps not greater symbol of the impotence of New Hampshire when it mooches off Vermont and New Hampshire for free Amtrak services along the Connecticut River Vermonter service and the Downeaster from Portland to Boston which serves hundreds of New Hampshire commuters daily. Both services are supported not only by the prime sponsors—Vermont and Maine—but also by Massachusetts.
Maybe we need a few more years of data but it may well be that high property taxes (something New Hampshire dos not want to talk about) and social services make living in the Granite State quite unattractive after all. Maybe the fallen face of the Old Man of the Mountain applies to the State’s façade of self-reliance and austerian politics, a false façade now there for all to see.
Sunday, January 5, 2014
FOR A CHAMPLAIN PARKWAY WITH QUALITY AND SAFE WALKING AND BICYCLING FACILITIES
A December 27 letter to the Burlington, VT Department of Public Works Commissioners—below--asks the City to convert new and other affected intersections on the Champlain Parkway (Parkway) project to roundabouts. The $29 million cost requires a 2 percent City match, about $600,000 overall.
The safest single-lane roundabouts were recommended to the Commission several years ago by an independent engineering panel, but the Commission rejected the recommendation. Single-lane roundabout properly configured for walking and bicycling really amount to an “intersection safety belt” for all users.
The goal here of quality infrastructure for all users cannot be sacrificed because it might cost a year or two—Burlington, its citizens and businesses deserve only the best quality transportation facilities. In a way we are fortunate that this project delay brings us to the point where we can add innovative walking and bicycling designs which came to the fore only in the last decade or two.
The decades old project (pre-dating the first modern roundabout in the world in the U.K. in 1966!) needs updating. Right now the “new” roadway section includes signalized intersections at Home Ave., Flynn Ave., and Lakside, Ave. The “new” roadway includes a shared off-street path similar in approach to the one on Riverside Avenue. In addition to the basic changes for walkers and bicyclists contained in the letter below, a widening of the shared path similar to that on NY 9 at the south edge of Plattsburgh needs to be considered thereby providing a separate pathway for bicyclists and walkers. This change along with cycle track along adjacent approaches to the Parkway, particularly along Lakeside Ave., completes the basis formula for walking and bicycling treatment. Fair and equal treatment of all modes along the Parkway route means bicycle and walker infrastructure usable by all regardless of age, skill, and gender.
December 27, 2013
Dear [Burlington Department of Public Works]…Commisioners:
This letter respectfully requests a Champlain Parkway design adjustment with the following changes: (1) new intersections at Home, Flynn and Lakeside Avenue be changed to single lane roundabouts; (2) any other projected construction involving intersections, particularly Pine Street and Lakeside Avenue, be revamped to roundabouts; (3) that each roundabout be designed to include shared or separate walking and bicycling pathing (see Dutch CROW design approaches and also that of NYSDOT at Plattsburgh NY 9 intersection at City’s south edge); and (4) provision for Lakeside and Pine Streets of either one-way cycle tracks or a single two-way track configuration.
The key point remains: the City can get for little or no money (over 90% federal funds) walkable and bikable infrastructure—what the City cannot afford from the current Parkway design is more unwalkable and unbikable streets, the kind that with the exception of the Marketplace permeate the busy City streets.
In support of these project revisions please consider the following:
- As you are well aware, the original “value engineering” study by a third party engineering panel identified roundabouts as a cost saving measure for the project which your Commission then decided to reject. Your re-consideration of this action at this time for cost savings alone deserves consideration. But, in addition, as your Commission and staff are well aware, the roundabouts at the three key intersections—all single lane roundabouts—assure a reduction in serious injury rates for vehicle occupants and walkers of about 90%, something beneficial to the Commissioners themselves, the Public Works Department staff, and all who travel to and along Lakeside Avenue itself.
Commission Chair Alberry December 27, 2013 Page 2 of 3 Pages
- This year a vital connection between safe bicycle infrastructure and roundabouts suddenly became important as the cycling community abandons bicycle unfriendly and bicyclist-unsafe bike lanes for protected cycle lanes (cycle track). UVM’s Prof. Luis Vivanco, a Local Motion Board member, in his new book, “Reconsidering the Bicycle” from the first paragraph onward charts the sudden change to cycle track because it enables everyone regardless of age, skill, and gender to safely and comfortably bicycle busy streets. The Dutch who built cycle track rapidly starting in the 1980s to address literally young bicyclist carnage on their streets as car traffic grew after World War 2
now have 18,000 miles of cycle track—the Burlington equivalent is 45 miles and the only Vermont cycle track, about two miles, can be found along Dorset Street, So. Burlington, between Williston Road and Kennedy Drive. (Both the walker and bicyclist fatality rate per mile of travel are four times the average of the Dutch and German rates and our U.S. injury rate per miles of travel for bicyclists is 25 times (twenty-five times) that of the Dutch/German average.
The key point regarding the Parkway is any provision of bicycle accommodation along Lakeside Avenue and other segments of construction (the Parkway itself has a shared sidepath) requires either a sidepath treatment and/or cycle track for bicyclists. Examples of cycle track include those in place in downtown Montreal in 2007. A google search yielded this site showing well over 100 examples plus typical designs:
You may find the landmark study showing cycle track safety by Stowe Bikepath creator, now Dr. Anne Lusk, Harvard School of Public Health, in the American Journal of Public Health July issue apropos: http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/pdf/10.2105/AJPH.2012.301043
- The newest—and most noteworthy consideration—involves safe accommodation of bicyclists at intersections since sidepaths or cycle track provide a superior level of safety and service for every one along street segments. General consensus in the engineering and transportation policy community exists regarding the far superior performance of roundabouts for walker and car occupant safety, particularly at single lane roundabouts where research is conclusive—it is the reason that four states, including New York since 2005, and two Canadian provincial transportation departments operate on a “roundabouts first” policy for intersection investments Meanwhile for decades some leading bicycle organizations and bicycle experts found sidepaths unsatisfactory since increases of bicycle crashes at intersections cooled any safety gain along street segments. But two unconnected studies—one Dutch and one by Sweden’s highway research agency (VTI) http://www.alaskaroundabouts.com/Nordic2safety.pdf
reveal this issue resolved and confirm single lane roundabouts giving a cyclist the choice of “taking the travel lane” or going off to a separate or shared path with walkers
Commission Chair Alberry December 27, 2013 Page 3 of 3 Pages
and using the crosswalks leads to major improvement in safety, i.e. a sharp injury reduction moving from an overall of about 60% towards the walker reduction versus signals/signs of about 90% lower injury rates.
Therefore the need to switch intersections from signals to roundabouts (something AARP policy calls for since about half of all older citizen fatalities occur at intersections) includes not only the gain for car occupants and those who walk, but also because only through the combination of cycle track and “pathed” roundabouts can we attain a similar safety and comfort gain for bicyclists of all skills, ages and gender!
Finally, again, changing designs at this point costs little or nothing for the City, but pays huge dividends in every aspect ranging from reduced pollution, gasoline consumption, improved scenic quality, reduced delay for all, to the known safety gain for all modes for decades to come.
The deaths at 25 mph intersections here—for examples, Dealer.com employee Karen Borneman driving the intersection in sight of City Hall, Sam Lapointe crossing a marked cross walk at Barrett and Colchester Avenue, and Charles Burch bicycling at Manhattan Dr./VT 127—need to give us pause as to the price we pay for poor, inadequate walking and bicycling infrastructure.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.