Saturday, December 26, 2015

Vermont No Longer the "Beckoning Country"

The Associated Press Christmas day news article appeared in an inconspicuous place about half way into the Burlington Free Press with a headline about Maine losing population in the latest 2015 U.S. Census state estimates as we enter the second half of the decade in a few days. Well, Vermont lost population too, 725 residents, the second straight year of decline and putting Vermont's “growth” since the 2010 Census at an anemic 301 equal to about 120 additional households.

The net 301 resident growth 2010-2015 compares to the average of two Vermont official projections of over 14,000 for this decade. Certainly the 2008 Great Recession depressed the economy nationally but not so much so in Vermont. And while total Vermont population barely changes, the explosive growth in senior population in Vermont continues its relentless pace of over 4,000 a year—equivalent to a Town of Stowe population age 65 and over additionally yearly. Obviously the Vermont workforce, school age, and the total non-senior population of the State remains on track for a significant decline—a projection State experts definitely got right.

It is long past the time for changing overall state policies and budgeting to reflect the new demographic reality. Talking about increasing population of any age—your or old—to our state faces a grim hurdle—all other New England States and New York face the same bleak population trends—more seniors and less non-senior population. Some nations—Japan and some Western European nations moved into the “young-decline” decades ago and have adjusted public policies and budgets like an explorers in a new world. Politicians who run on the claim they will increase Vermont's population by 70,000 or so appear like a Kings convinced they can hold back the daily rise of the ocean tides.

The 1960s and 1970s in Vermont brought an economic boom spurred by the combination of the new interstate highways, the baby boomers coming of age, and a new recreation industry centered on skiing. There is nothing on the horizon which which change the economic and demographic tides. One obvious possibility—and it was studied by a New York/Quebec/Vermont international study—would be a high speed passenger service averaging 175 mph (fastest European train schedule average speed 179 mph) between Boston and Montreal via Vermont. Such a service would make commuting from Burlington to Montreal about 30 minutes, from Montpelier 45 minutes. For White River Junction area to Boston commuting time would be about 50 minutes. Still the speeds contemplated for the Boston-Vermont-Montreal “high speed” plan right now are only 110 mph.

In the early 1960s a Vermont promotion with the theme of come to the “beckoning country” was dropped because the growth of the State had become so rapid. Right now without any change Vermont appears to be the “non-beckoning country.”

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Why? Why? Why?

During the past months I have held back from looking at the intersection numbers along the [Burlington, VT Champlain] Parkway because quite frankly they do not reach the levels found on our busier streets and in particular the North Avenue highest trafficked section--VT 127 to Ethan Allen Parkway--which do reach near the limit of the single lane roundabout.  (Compared to any signal or signs at busy intersections, the single lane roundabout drops vehicle occupant, walk, and bicyclist serious and fatal injuries about 90%.)  

The current and 2028 numbers for each street section and each intersection are readily available in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) traffic chapter for the Champlain Parkway on the Department of Public Works websit. 

Still looking at the Pine/Maple intersection where anyone familiar with that intersection well knows waiting 5-7 minutes going north on Pine during the afternoon peak is routine.  Good time to get some internet time when on the Montpelier-Burlington Link!

Still, a detailed look at the p.m. peak hours at the Maple/Pine intersection for 2028 with the new signal as planned there dismays.  Why?   Well, the traffic numbers 13 years hence are slightly above those today at Montpelier's downtown roundabout, Keck Circle, where peak hour delay a.m. and p.m. can be counted on a hand with three fingers. 

Yes, a roundabout--checked out by one of the foremost roundabout designers in the world as part of the AARP Workshop in September 2013 as both workable and feasible--would likely delay the average vehicle on a Friday drive time about 5-6 seconds in what is called "stop delay."   This is not a fairy tale, the Parkway consultant, CHA will tell your their Keene, N.H. Main Street roundabout dropped the Winchester Street leg adjacent to Keene State College from six minutes to six seconds during drive times compared to a proposed signal.    

What in the world is wrong with our Department of Public Works that it will not install a roundabout at Pine/Maple next spring at the 10% of the cost of the Pine/Lakeside signal upgrade of $419,000?  Why not?

A traffic signal at Pine/Maple--part of the current Parkway design--will likely delay an average vehicle 20-30 seconds, about ten times the wait time at a roundabout there.  What is far, far worse, the signal will generate more crashes and injuries over and above the four-way stop now in place (the four-way stop, next to the roundabout the safest intersection).   So the signal promises a 20-30 second wait for everyone (pedestrians face no significant delay today) as well as an extra crash and injury or two each year.  Why?

Burlington already has the "dirty 17" intersections (13 signalized) averaging a pedestrian injury each per year and so the City in its wisdom clearly is on a crash course to install another signalized intersection (one of five new ones on the Parkway) sure to add to the City's transportation unsafety.  Why?   

      Tony Redington 
(The message above sent to the Commissioners of the Department of Public Works does not mention the tens of thousands of gallons of fuel saved and associated pollutants deduced, scenic quality, etc.)

Tony Redington

Champlain Parkway:  Stop!  Re-Evaluate! Re-Imagine!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Senior Boom Population in Vermont II--More Detail

Boom and Bust Sweeping Vermont—A Population Tsunami of More Seniors, Children and Working Age Residents in Decline

At a Burlington governor candidates forum November 2, 2015, all expressed concern over the need for more working age population—a Republican and a Democrat called for the State to grow its population to 700,000 to provide for economic stability.   The candidates face a Vermont tide of declining working age population, a doubling of senior residents, and collapse of school aged children numbers during the current 2010-2030 period.  The 2010-2030 State average estimate of total growth of 19,500, 3.1%, barely pushes the population needle from the 2010 number, 625,700 to 645,300 in 2030.  The estimated growth of senior age residents, 4.446 yearly, exceeds  the total population of towns like Stowe, Richmond, Rutland Town or Manchester. 

The tide of an aging population paired with declining non-senior population remains typical for slow growth areas like New England and the upper mid-West—with Vermont’s senior population growth typical of all states.  

Vermont now moves into the second quarter of a 20 year period of population decline in all key age groups but one—a senior population which almost doubles 2010-2030, an average estimate from 88,900 residents 65-years-and over to a 2030 total of 180,500.  The average population projection for 2030 places the total State population of 645,300 with seniors comprising 25.9% compared to 14.6% share in the 2010 Census.  

The radical change in Vermont population trends since the 2010 Census include a year of actual decline and for 2014 estimated total population declines in nine of fourteen Vermont counties.  In the State projections averaged, the decline in 0-19 population is 27,100 and for the prime working age 20-64 42,200.  

The two official State population estimates averaged does show a 3.1% growth or 19,500 2010-2030.  But even Chittenden County which accounts for over half the 3.1% growth for the State loses in the all the key age groups under 65: -10.8% in under 19 aged, -19.7% college aged 20-24, and -4.6 in the prime working aged population 20-64.

While Chittenden County declines in the younger population reflect a major departure from historic patterns going back a half century, the numbers neighboring county Addison startle: 0-19 age -35.9%, 20-64 age -20.7, overall under 65 22.5%.  Seniors 65 and over?  Up 112.2% from 5,100 to an estimated 10,800. 

This analysis averages the two growth estimates, Scenarios A and B, from “Vermont Population Estimates 2010-2030” published by the State of Vermont in 2013, and the report may viewed at

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Senior Population Tsunami, Non-Senior Drought Hits Vermont

Population of More Seniors and Fewer Non-seniors Tide Begins to Sweep Across Vermont

At a Burlington governor candidates forum November 2, 2015, all expressed concern about the need for more  Vermont working age population—both a Republican and a Democrat called for the State to grow its population to 700,000 to provide for economic stability. The candidates face a Vermont tide of declining working age population, a doubling of senior residents, and collapse of school aged children numbers during the current 2010-2030 period. The 2010-2030 State average estimate of total growth of 19,500, 3.1%, barely pushes the population needle from the 2010 number, 625,700 to 645,300 in 2030.

Whatever the numbers, the tide of an aging population and stable or declining non-senior population remains typical for slow growth areas like New England and the upper mid-West—with senior population growth typical of all states.

Vermont now moves into the second quarter of a 20 year period of population decline in all key age groups but one—a senior population which almost doubles 2010-2030, an average estimated additional 88,900 residents 65-years-and over to a 2030 total of 180,500. The average population projection for 2030 places the total State population of 645,300 with seniors 25.9% of that total compare to 14.6% in the 2010 Census.

The radical change in Vermont population trends since the 2010 Census include a year of actual decline and for 2014 estimated total population declines in nine of fourteen Vermont counties. In the State projections averaged, the decline in 0-19 population is 27,100 and 20-64 42,200.

While the official State population estimates do show a 3.1% growth or 19,500 2010-2030. But even Chittenden County which accounts for over half the 3.1% growth for the State loses in the all the key age groups under 65: -10.8% in under 19 aged, -19.7% college aged 20-24, and -4.6 in the prime working aged population 20-64.

While Chittenden County declines in the younger population reflect a major departure from historic patterns going back a half century, the numbers neighboring county Addison startle: 0-19 age -35.9%, 20-64 age -20.7, overall under 65 22.5%. Seniors 65 and over? Up 112.2% from 5,100 to an estimated 10,800.

This analysis averages the two growth estimates, Scenarios A and B, from “Vermont Population Estimates 2010-2030” published by the State of Vermont in 2013, and the report may viewed at

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

More Vermont Roundabout Corridors Arriving!

More Roundabout Corridors Coming to Vermont!
Roundabouts, about 3,500 strong now in the U.S. and Canada, now arrive in bunches, 3, 4, 5, and even more. Three or more roundabouts along a mile or two qualifies as a “roundabout corridor” and Vermont's first in Manchester completed in 2012 soon gets company with two planned and others in the offing. The first five roundabout corridor along Brattleboro's Putney Road corridor now reaches the design stage with VTrans. The commercial retail will include full walk/bike facilities along what amounts to a business strip of retail and food outlets. The business community wanting to compete effectively with nearby Keene, NH pushed for making the corridor an attractive, congestion free environment for all modes.  (Keene, NH boasts five going on six roundabouts in the City including one just outside on the road to the airport.)
Roundabouts cut serious and fatal injuries about 90% according to an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study. And a recent study of over 50 U.S. roundabout corridors in place found little difference in through traffic travel times as reduced delay at intersections overcame the positive result of reduced speeds through the corridor.  Burlington's North Avenue Corridor Plan adopted last October converts at least three signalized intersections to roundabouts along a mixed use corridor. Four intersections comprising all of Montpelier's Main Street in the downtown found roundabout feasible include the oldest roundabout in the northeast, Keck Circle at Main and Spring Streets and a second intersection at Barre Street in pre-design, an intersection which enables final connection of Winooski East and Winooski West transportation paths (bikepaths fully lit and plowed in the winter).
A second three roundabout corridor planed along Depot Street (VT 11) in Manchester has an anchor roundabout at the Main Street over the Batttenkill River. This corridor would complete making Manchester reaching signal-free status.

In Burlington an AARP Vermont workshop report and the Burlington Walk Bike Council supports a roundabout corridor along both Pine Street and the Champlain Parkway overall about ten roundabouts.  


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Burlington's (VT) Walk Crash Record--When did the Canary Stop Singing?

The recent revelation in the Burlington Walk Bike Master Plan process, planBTV Walk Bike, of the “dirty 17” Burlington intersections with nearly one walker crash per year average for 2011-2014 brings to mind the silence of a canary signifying dangerous gas buildup in a coal mine. When did the canary stop signaling here?

A little arithmetic translates the four years of data, 61 intersection-related walk crashes, to 150 injured pedestrians for the decade plus 2.5 fatalities. Burlington recorded one fatality on a crosswalk in 2011 and another walker died in a crash on the Sheraton/Staples crosswalk just beyond the City boundary in So. Burlington last fall. The 150 estimated injuries suffered by those on foot for the decade equals about one per hundred City households.

The 150 injured pedestrians estimate applies to only the “dirty 17” intersections—many more occur yearly at other City intersections.

Burlington prides itself in being “pedestrian friendly” and certainly the Marketplace precinct and Bikepath deserve that raring.. But for residents who must ply the other streets of City including those needed to access the Marketplace and other key destinations—City Market, Fletcher Free Library, and neighborhood stores, for examples—conditions remain less than friendly.

Since speed remains the primary factor in frequency of walk mode crashes and injury severity, a real reduction in speeds at the “dirty 17” and other City intersections must be the first and foremost way to reduce injuries and fatality to those who move on foot. Education and enforcement cannot overcome the speed factor, safe infrastructure comes first. The one and only treatment which reduces the existing rate of walk mode injuries about 90% at intersections is the single lane roundabout. It does the same for walk safety at intersections as does installing a sidewalk along street sections, also a walk mode reducer of injuries by about 90%.

Most of the “dirty 17” intersections can be converted to roundabouts (American Association of Retired Persons [AARP] advocates converting signals to roundabouts for reducing senior driving fatalities). The U.S. dropping from first to 19th in safety among nations in significant part can be explained by its failure to rapidly adopt roundabout technology. There are other traffic calming measures which can be used to reduce speeds—medians which divert the vehicle straight path, raised crosswalks, speed humps/bumps, and similar measures. Measures which do little to diminish speeds—signs, flashing lights and pavement markings.

What if” the “dirty 17” were converted to roundabouts, what would the the likely result? Well, instead of 61 injuries per year at the 17 intersections, the number would be six and those injuries less severe on average. Fatalities? Instead of 2.5 per decade estimated above, the number would drop to one every four decades!

The American Automobile Association (AAA) in a study found the costs of injuries were far higher than congestion costs in metropolitan areas. The Federal Highway Administration uses dollar figures to estimate the cost of a highway crash injury--$126,000 in 2009 and a separate figure for a fatality “Value of a Statistical Life” (fancy way to say value of your life) which in the most recent policy ranges between $5.2 and $12.9 million. The life value is taken from a number of economic studies. AAA used the high value in their metropolitan congestion versus vehicle crash costs analysis.
Taking the $126,000 per walker injured and $12.9 million for a pedestrian fatality and applying that to the estimated 150 walker injuries for the decade and 2.5 walk fatalities for Burlington this decade provides a sense of the dimension of the cost of pedestrian crashes at the “dirty 17” Burlington intersections 2010-2020: $44.7 million total.

What Burlington needs to concentrate on are “safe” streets. Then there remains the subject of bicycles crashes in the City...

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Burlington's "Dirty 17" Most Pedestrian Injuries 2011-2014

The Burlington, VT “Dirty 17”: Walk Mode Injury Generating Intersections 2011-2014

During the 2011-2014 period, 17 Burlington intersections generated on average 0.9 walk mode injury crashes yearly. Of the “dirty 17”, 13 were signalized with at least two with the highest technical designs with a dedicated pedestrian phase, and four were stop controlled. Every one of the five intersections along South Winooski Avenue parallel and accessing the Marketplace made the “dirty 17” list.

Any of these intersections replaced by a single lane roundabout (or mini roundabout) which reduces walk mode injures by about 90 percent, would drop one injury a year predicted to one injury per decade as well as a reduction in injury severity. The corollary: replacing a roundabout with a signal or sign control on average will increase pedestrian injuries by about 800%. Injuries recorded 2011-2014 are in parenthesis. Any intersection recording more than one pedestrian injury a decade (except those in the Marketplace area bounded by Battery St./Main St./Pearl St./So. Winooski Ave. and a few others) needs to be of special concern and if feasible converted to a roundabout. Further, the South Winooski Avenue intersections parallel to the Marketplace demand attention and part of any improvements to those intersections for pedestrian safety should include speed management designs.

The intersections along South Winooski Avenue between Pearl and Main Streets certainly have both a heavy volume of vehicles and pedestrians crossing. The Murray St./North St. crossing is noteworthy (as is Shelburne St. “rotary”) for bordering elementary school grounds.

  1. So. Winooski Ave./Bank St. (6)
  2. Archibald St./Intervale St. (5)
  3. So. Winooski Ave./College St. (5)
  4. So. Winooski Ave./Main St. (5)
  5. Main St./St. Paul St. (5) Kaye Borneman, 43, driving vehicle, in fatal crash 2010.
  6. Riverside Ave.--Intervale St. to Hill St. (4)
  7. North St./near Murray St. (4)
  8. No. Prospect St./Loomis St. (4)
  9. No. Winooski Ave./Pearl St. (4)
  10. So. Winooski Ave./Cherry St. (3)
  11. No. Winooski Ave./North St. (3)
  12. Pine St./Lakeside Ave. (3)
  13. Colchester Ave./Barrett St. (2) Bruce “Sam” Lapointe, of Winooski, fatally injured on Barrett St. crosswalk 2012.
  14. Colchester Ave./East Ave. (2)
  15. Pine St./Locust St. (2) Critical injury 2014 on “rapid flashing beacon” (installed about a year before) crosswalk.
  16. Shelburne St. “Rotary” (2)
  17. Shelburne St./Home Ave. (2) Linda Ente, 48, Winooski, supermarket employee, fatally injured on crosswalk 1998.  

    Note: injury data from draft documents of the Burlington walk bike master plan process planBTV Walk Bike.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

"Intersection of Death" Lives at Least until 2021

Shelburne Street Roundabout--Burlington, VT

A contact Monday (September 14, 2015) with the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) section handling the design and construction of the Shelburne Street Roundabout at the “rotary” intersection in Burlington finds the Chittenden County's first roundabout on a busy public street now scheduled for construction 2020-2021.  The project is for safety improvement as the intersection has a high accident rate history.

As this intersection is one of the "dirty 17" in Burlington identified this year averaging one walk mode injury per year, the period from the time base design was completed in 2010 to actual roundabout constructed, 2021 about six individuals crossing the intersection will suffer injuries.  

VTrans engineer Michael Lacroix explained there will be some exploratory work related to underground utilities at the Shelburne St./So. Willard St./St. Paul St./Locust St. shortly but that work does not signal construction. The intersection project also addresses easing entry and exit to Ledge Street just three or four car lengths south of the roundabout as designed. The 100% federally funded roundabout with safety program funds involves a single contract for construction with the first year, 2020, re-configuration and any new/upgraded various utilities which criss-cross the intersection, and 2021 the actual construction of the roundabout. Lacroix said there is no truth to a recent rumor in Burlington that a design contract send out to bid found no takers.

In fact the project with the roundabout design completed in 2010 following the final public meetings and reports in 2008 still requires time consuming right-of-way acquisition before the bid plans are prepared, the bidding process takes place, contractor selected and construction begins. Interestingly the first northeastern U.S. roundabout in Montpelier took three years from authorization by the City of a committee to opening for traffic, development period which included a twelve month pause for addition of funds to the City budget for the project.

At the present pace the project, first discussed and began its development process in 2002, will be completed after 19 years. Meanwhile the high level of walk, bike and vehicle injuries and crashes the roundabout chosen to address continue. In the four year period 2011-2014 two pedestrian crashes occurred. The intersection ranks among the “dirty 17” with highest walk mode injuries in a draft report from the planBTV Walk Bike master planning project now under way. The average frequency of walk mode injuries at the “dirty 17” intersections reaches almost one per intersection per year. A single lane roundabout based on Vermont roundabout experience and research findings can be expected to reduce injuries for those who walk, bike or travel by vehicle—particularly serious and fatal injuries—by about 90%.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Comment on Champlain Parkway in the Vermont Digger Srory Today

Posted by Tony Redington

The Parkway design now set for construction actually features not a single inch of quality
 walkable/bikable or even high safety drivable roadway. Against the City’s walk bike council 
advisory developed over six months and delivered to Mayor Weinburger in December, not a 
single recommendation can be found in the design–no separate walkway and bicycle 
facilities to assure safety, and not a single roundabout to assure safety for each mode at 
busy intersections. And, the lack of connectivity from Pine St. to points south using a 
roundabout gets shelved. A “Happy Days” 1950s design prevails for the Parkway which 
guarantees decades of relative desolation and commercial blight for the South End. Most 
important will be the needless serious injuries and a fatal or two over the life of the project 
which quality design prevents. Clearly the design represents an indelible black mark for the 
VTrans leadership of Secretary Minter and Mayor Weinberger whose administrators 
continue to mislead the community about this wolf in sheep’s clothing. One merely lays the 
landmark 2.8 mile North Avenue Corridor plan adopted last October against the Parkway to 
see the obvious fatal flaws in the South End project.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

City Snookered by State Highway Agency?

Is the Vermont Agency of Transportation Snookering the City on the Champlain Parkway?

Any careful observer of the evolution of the Champlain Parkway since the last full public hearing in the fall of 2006 might guess the latest meager crumbs this year of public information indicates a complete abandonment by the State to any improvements at all along Pine Street and Lakeside Avenue—the project now may be just the “new” roadway from the base of Pine Street with intersections at Home and Flynn Avenues ending at new third signal intersection at Lakeside Avenue.

For nine years the public of Burlington mostly resemble an audience at a long play with the curtain never going up as a number of major changes develop on stage. As a practical matter for the $43 million project there remains no playbill, a simple public document describing what the Parkway is all about in the first place and noting the changes, if any, since 2006. Some involved in Act 250 say there will be a signal at Maple and Pine Streets but how would the public know if that is true?

Earlier this year a strange almost surreal exercise took place at the Burlington Walk Bike Council as attendees were asked to move lines around on Pine Street without being able to move the curblines as one would do if the Parkway project were a re-construction as described in early renderings. The current project in addition to new roadway includes the intersection Lakeside Avenue then existing street to Pine Street, then north on Pine Street to the Maple Street intersection where the Parkway project ends. At least that was the case in 2006. Now, apparently nothing really is involved on either Lakeside or Pine except for rearranging pavement markings.

Some would like for the Parkway project to respond in a meaningful way to further agreed upon aspects of the vision contained in the planBTV South End draft plan recently released. But a Parkway plan—certainly the resources are there—as recently intimated will do nothing of the sort.

Of course from what we know those interested in quality, high safety facilities for all who can walk, bike and travel by vehicle were left out of the 2006 design—yes, there is not an inch, not a penny of walkable or bikable along the route and not a single safe intersection for those traveling by car. Reduce delay for all? No. Energy efficient? No. Minimum pollutant and global warming emissions? No. Any roundabouts?  No.  Any cycle track (protected bike lanes)?  No.

So, the question remains shrouded in mystery behind the curtain out of sight of the public—what is the Champlain Parkway and why have nine years gone by without a plain and simple document that residents can ponder over and discuss? The latest on Pine and Lakeside appears to indicate the Vermont Agency of Transportation has abandoned any consideration of carrying through on investments to benefit the South End along Pine Street and Lakeside Avenue—how sad if true that 98% federal/State funding of those potential benefits have been lost somewhere in goings on behind the curtain. Looks like the City may be snookered by the Agency. Time to raise the curtain? 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

First Northeast Roundabout Becomes 20-something

The First Modern Roundabout East of Colorado and North of Maryland Reaches 20th Birthday This August: Keck Circle Montpelier, VT.

At eventide on August 16, 1995 just after application of the Spring and Main Streets modern roundabout's first course asphalt paving, two young bicyclists circled a time or two on the still hot circular travelway. A few minutes later after the paving equipment fully cleared, traffic barriers came down and the first modern roundabout in the northeast opened for four-wheeled vehicles too. So began the first hour of Keck Circle in Montpelier, Vermont's first roundabout--the first north of Maryland and east of Colorado, and 19th built in the U.S.

That roundabout, Keck Circle, so named by City Council action commemorates citizen-activist and member of the Montpelier Roundabout Committee Andy Keck who died just weeks before the opening of his namesake roundabout, is located a block from grades 6-8 Main Street Middle School. Keck Circle traffic calms a block or two along each leg including the main crossing to the school, and has never been found to require crossing guard protection at school times. To all Montpelier school students today Keck Circle has been in place their entire lives. The roundabout defines one of the four corners of the simple rectangular Vermont Capital City downtown street grid composed of north-south Main and Elm Streets and east-west Spring and State Streets.

Controversial up to and in its early operation, a survey a year later found 85% acceptance and support. That survey was the first U.S. public opinion survey undertaken on a roundabout after construction. To date in almost 20 years of operation no serious injuries were recorded and in the first decade injuries were less than the decade previous. With about 3,000 roundabouts built as of the end of 2014 in the U.S. and Canada not a single walk mode fatality was recorded. (In Burlington, VT two walk mode fatalities occurred at the City's 75 traffic signals between 1998-2014 alone and a third at a signal adjacent to the City border in South Burlington.)

The single lane roundabout with a diameter which averages about 106 feet continues to serve about the same traffic approaching along its three legs,12,000 total vehicles entering it on an average day. About 42 tractor trailers a day travel through the roundabout as it is located on Route 12, and large tour buses are a frequent users during the fall foliage season. Designed by Michael J. Wallwork, Alternate Street Design, Orange Park, FL, Montpelier leaders at the time were Mayor Charles Karparis, City Manager Ryan Cotton and Department of Public Works Director Steven Gray. The Montpelier Roundabout Committee members included: Peter Meyer and Tony Redington (co-chairs), Keck, Gray, then Police Chief Douglas Hoyt, Donna Bate, Alan Lendway and then City Planner Joseph Zehnder. Keck Circle cost $162,000 and involved only City funds. From concept to ready-to-construct, it took two years, then one additional to complete accommodation within the City budget.

Since the opening of the roundabout the other three major intersections along Main Street received favorable preliminary feasibility studies for roundabout conversion—Main and State, Main and Barre (now in detailed study), and across the Winooski Bridge at the south terminus of Main Street at River Street/Northfield Street/Memorial Drive. Montpelier's second roundabout, a single lane roundabout at US 2/302, opened in 2009. Through 2014 there are now 14 modern roundabouts with downtown roundabouts in addition to Keck Circle in Waterbury, Manchester Center (3) and Middlebury. The three roundabouts in Manchester Center with the last two completed in 2013 constitute the first Vermont corridor of roundabouts and first walkable busy corridor in the State.

Wallwork, one of a handful of engineers who designed and promoted roundabouts from their inception in the U.S. in 1990 through today, wrote in 1992: “...I predict that engineers will increasingly realize that traffic signals are not the cure-all and, adopting a more international outlook, roundabouts will proliferate in this last major bastion of the traffic signal. Roundabouts will be used in residential streets to reduce speeds and accidents, and on arterial roads to reduce accidents and provide higher capacity. In all instances they will be more cost effective and aesthetic...” (“Roundabouts for the U.S.A.” 1992).

In the United States, once first in highway safety, fatality rates continue to slide below now a total of 18 nations with top nations (including the U.K., birthplace of the roundabout, in first place). Roundabouts cut incapacitating and fatal injuries about 90% for all modes. The U.S. fatality rate per mlle of travel now is twice that of nations at the top of the list. This means about 20,000 additional deaths each year here, as reported by Malcolm Gladwell in New Yorker Magazine, May 4. Most of the nations ahead of the U.S. heavily invested in roundabouts as well as in urban areas a full range of safe walk and bike infrastructure.

To see Keck Circle in action at school closing one can view this 5 minute-43 second video taken on the afternoon of November 1, 2013 by R.J. Lalumiere of Burlington during a field visit of North Avenue Corridor Plan Advisory Committee members.

Notes: 1. The public opinion survey report referenced, Montpelier's Modern Roundabout at Keck Circle Neighborhohod Opinion Survey: January 1997” can be viewed at:
2. The New Yorker article referred to: “The Engineer's Lament” by Malcolm Gladwell, May 4, 2015 New Yorker Magazine
3. The base reference for the “about 90%” reduction of “incapacitating and fatal injuries” obtained by installing roundabouts is: R. Retting, B. Persaud, P. Garder, D. Lord. (2001) Crash and injury reduction following installation of roundabouts in the United States” American Journal of Public Health
. This study because of sample size did not apply directly to either bicycle or walk mode rates, only “all modes rate.” Separate studies of single lane roundabouts do show reductions of serious and fatal injury rates of about 90% for walk mode and bike mode.

Thursday, July 23, 2015


Notre:  State Energy Plan "draft" handles in its transportation section all text devoted to walk and bike modes and rail passenger/rail freight in less than five pages

Comments for the 2015 Vermont “Comprehensive Energy Plan”


Tony Redington

Burlington, VT 05401 @TonyRVT08

July 23, 2015

Thank you for the opportunity to submit comments regarding the 2015 draft Vermont “Comprehensive Energy Plan” (CEP). The period starting about 1990 marks a continuing
rapid and escalating change in all aspects of transportation, land use and demographics both here in Vermont and the nation. The 2011 current CEP largely failed to capture this ongoing process of change across the spectrum, but generation of data, new services, new infrastructure choices, and collapse of car-oriented finance for transportation investment and maintenance make it paramount that the 2015 plan not only recognize the changes, but also anticipates and aggressively supports all the key positive aspects of this new transportation/land use world whether that be in the area of commuter rail, an immediate adding of Ambus service from St. Albans and Montreal to connect with our Amtrak services to New York City and beyond, fostering building of urban roundabouts and cycle track in order to introduce for the first time walkable/bikable streets in Vermont cities and town centers for the first time, moving “free parking” to paid parking over time for those commuting and using public space, changing our transportation finance to recognize non-car auto taxation now is the new normal, and carefully re-tuning highway cost allocation to reflect new realities thereby reducing the subsidy we all pay for heavy trucks on our highway where a large portion never even stop in Vermont.

With the greatest area of petroleum use in Vermont found in the transportation sector—about half of State consumption—arguably addressing this sector provides both the greatest challenge and greatest opportunity for moving towards a fully sustainable human settlement in this unique State.

The following addresses some of these issues following the content of the CEP Volumes 1 and 2.

  1. In the section outlining “strategies” and “measurable goals” for land use and transportation (Energy Plan, Volume 1 p. 15) actions include “tripling the number of spaces in the State park-and-ride program to 3,426 by 2030.”

This policy element is as effective as pouring water in a bottomless pail. Truly it is a measurable failure. The park-and-ride and ride program probably does little to encourage or even support auto-based rideshare, even if that were possible or desirable from benefit/cost standpoint. The decades long decline in rideshare likely continues, a trend since at least 1990 when 55,187 workers reported ridesharing to work, 24.9% of all commuters. All Census data since shows both a numerical and percentage decline to the ACS 2011 report of 31,421 ridesharing, down to 9.9%of all commuters. Since park-and-ride lots may well occupy prime land for high level value development, current lots should be reviewed for sale for that very purpose.

Providing convenient parking spaces—practically all surface parking—at key intersections of major arterials is both expensive and and the least valuable use of land. The Richmond park-and-ride lot expansion required by the success of commuter Link buses but not by rideshare demand, and the installation of a dangerous stoplight remains a certain source of a serious injury.

Solo journey-to-work grew until 2000 hitting 75% and since declined very slightly to a point between 74.0 and 75.0 percent in every ACS survey since. The slight decline remains very significant in view of the aforementioned decline in rideshare—this means the a shift of both rideshare and solo commutes both recently moved into negative territory. Because of the decline in rideshare, the total worker commute by car topped out at 87.1% in 2010 and since in three ACS samples has averaged 84.5. A one-percent shift is not insignificant since each percent point change represents a shift of about 32,000 Vermont workers. The current Burlngton Link commuter bus services began in 2003 serves about 500 daily commuters, and my recent study of commuter rail along three corridors out of Burlington estimates about 2,200 served while a lower number, perhaps 200 continue on reduced Link services. Overall, commuting by car declined since 2000 while walking, bicycle, work at home and public transit
increased at an average well into double digits.

The rapid change in demographics—such as, absolute population decline since 2010 in nine of Vermont's 14 counties and the doubling of the senior population to 24% total population between 2010 and 2030—require a full re-examination of not just how to improve “efficiency” of worker commuting but also how the entire population travels and how travel can be accommodated for all types of trips. Using the official Vermont population projections, we are experiencing an increase of about 4,500 new seniors each year and an reduction in under 65-aged population in excess of 2,000 a year. While the 4,500 “homegrown” senior population grew yearly or about 18,000 2010-2014, overall population in Vermont according to Census increased less than 1,000.

These factors of demographics and modal shift alone imply both relatively major land use and transportation considerations, the re-emergence with a vengeance of every mode other than carcentric forms, and providing proper incentives for re-vitalizing town center and city transportation systems with, for the first time, quality/safe walk/bike infrastructure allowing those two mode to take an equal place in the transportation marketplace, as well as intercity-commuter passenger rail and in more than one case light rail services.

  1. In the section outlining “strategies” and “measurable goals” for land use and transportation (Energy Plan, Volume 1 p. 15) actions include fostering more compact land uses though efforts at the State, regional, and local level.

This entire discussion misses the basic transportation equation—if you cannot improve, capacity and service to particular modes while retaining a modicum of safety, no changes occur in land use or travel modes other than those dictated primarily by household incomes and demographics. That is the nature of the transportation/land use equation. The reason for sprawl—other than huge public expenditures to foster it through car subsidies—remained in great part streets and intersections unable to handle vehicle traffic. This forced the well known devolution of alternative modes so dependent on high densities—walking, bicycling and transit—still dominating much of Vermont urban landscapes, particularly in Chittenden County. Two infrastructure inventions, the roundabout in 1966 and cycle track in the 1990s, increase intersection capacities by about half, reduce delay for all modes, and overall can reduce serious and fatal injuries for all modes up to 90%. Because of the safety gains these innovations provide thereby fostering alternative modes, and because the roundabout improves safety, service and capacity for ALL modes, densities can increase and growth of walking and bicycling in downtowns and village centers can now begin. To see these dynamics in reality one can visit any of the Vermont downtown examples, first and foremost the State's first roundabout corridor in Manchester Center and the downtown roundabouts in Middlebury, Montpelier and Waterbury.

For the first time, transportation designers and policy makers have a all-modes opportunity to make urban areas and town centers walkable and bikable—and yes drivable.
So, the primary State planning goal of compact urban and town centers separated by rural countryside can be in fact achieved, not the impossible dream really was when first entered into legislation more than a half century ago when the landscape remained under siege by seemingly limitless resources being plowed into car ownership and operation. That siege suddenly has lifted.

Note the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) calls for converting existing stoplights to roundabouts (and not to build new ones) as half of all senior driver deaths occur at signalized intersections compared to less than a quarter for those younger. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (2000) found U.S. roundabout cut serious and fatal injuries about 90%--from about 1990 the U.S. has dropped relatively like a stone compared to leading nations, from first to 19th in fatalities per mile of vehicle travel, twice the rate of the top nations including the U.K. at number one.

Sensible housing policy (placing housing near services with walkable/bikable/transit), provision of mixed use development, and slow weening of Vermonters off car and truck public subsidies (about 43% of all highway construction and maintenance comes from general not vehicle levies according to a just released study by USPIRG) promises both a major reduction of vehicle miles of travel and associated motor fuel consumption, but also major economic gains in incomes, health, and resources badly needed in human services areas by government.

  1. In the section outlining “strategies” and “measurable goals” for land use and transportation (Energy Plan, Volume 1 p. 15) rail passenger service gets an insignificant and total comment “...the State must continue to support...rail passenger initiatives that dovetail with northeast and Canadian rail initiatives (sic)”.

The 2011 plan process did not catch the rapid shift of commuters to and from Burlngton along “Link” corridors, now more than 50 buses daily between Burlington and Middlebury/Montpelier/Milton/Jefferfsonvile/St. Albans. With daily commuters approaching 600 and 330 commuters served between Burlington-Montpelier, the Link services represent the key mode change in Vermont commuting patterns. All modes other than car commuting are up and solo/rideshare car commuting trends downward. Note the huge benefit to the Burlington-Montpelier commuter who saves $8,000 in after tax income for taking the Link service over the solo commute by car.

Because of the 130 or so commuters from Montpelier have one destination—Burlington--the Link service tells us that the Montpelier and four surrounding towns has about a quarter of its total workers traveling to Burlington taking the Link each workday. This “market” data using journey-to-work Census information constitutes the major yardstick for estimating commuter rail potential when reasonably applied to the three rail corridors potentially served out of Burlington. Compared to the three towns served by Link between Montpelier-Burlington, for example, commuter rail can serve seven plus Technology Park in Essex Jct. In the same travel time as the Burlington-Montpelier Link.

While Amtrak on/off passengers in 2014 totaled 106,000, commuter rail Burlington-Montpelier service estimate would be five times that number, 550,000 and with the additional two corridors, total annual on/off passengers 953,000. Overall over 2,000 Vermont journey-to-work trips would be represented with the three rail corridor commuter service, a number equivalent to about 5% of the total workers crossing the Burlington border to and from work each day, 1% of solo drivers statewide, 7% of rideshare statewide, and 80% of cyclists statewide.

An immediate increase in Amtrak passengers—about a 15% increase or 17,000—can occur by just contracting an Ambus to connect the Vermonter at St. Albans to Montreal. This service likely cuts the current State support for Amtrak from $8 million to $7 million overnight. This really constitutes a no-regrets action—if the bus fails to earn its keep, the service can be ended.

  1. The modern roundabout installed in 200 Vermont busy intersections promise about a 3% reduction in current levels of motor fuels use in the State: the reductions come in three parts: (1) direct motor fuel reductions short term (2) medium term reductions from from increased development densities and modal shifts altogether; and (3) long term reductions from the same combination of change, modal shift and higher density land development.
    The reductions in motor fuel consumption and associated emissions, about 30% compared to signals not only has been determined empirically and in models but is also calculated routinely in roundabout analysis in U.K. and Australian developed software which dominate U.S. traffic analysis.
    One Greek case study using an empirical “car following”method to determine annual fuel consumption and related emissions employed a before-and-after set of data on a signalized intersection converted to a roundabout. That study of an intersection with 23,500 vehicles a day entering compares reasonably with Vermont busy intersection conversions such as, Montpelier US 2/302 roundabout conversion with 21,000 vehicles per day and Brattleboro's Keene Turn Roundabout with 28,000 vehicles per day including an usually high 900 tractor trailers daily.
    The reduction in fuel totaled almost 19,000 gallons annualized. With about 400 signalized Vermont intersections it is fair to estimate about 200 busy intersections is a reasonable objective for roundabout conversion at least one criteria being impact on fuel consumption. Certainly about 90% of signalized intersections are roundabout-conversion feasible.

Conversion of 200 busy intersections to roundabouts with a resulting average 19,000 gallon annual reduction in fuel consumption represents a 1.2% decrease in the 2012 Vermont consumption of 307 million gallons of motor fuel. Another 1.2% in the medium term”, 10 years, can be estimated and a third 1.2% for the “long term”, 10-20 years, comprised of a combination of modal shifts to non-motor vehicle travel combined by the impacts of increased development densities. Overall, the 200 signal-to-roundabout conversions represent a 3.6% decline in motor fuel consumption. This does not address the ancillary benefits of hundreds of thousands of hours of reduced travel time for all modes, injuries and fatalities avoided, and improved scenic quality.

  1. The 2010 plan miscalculates both post-2000 Annual Vehicle Miles of Travel (AVMT) but also presents a slow growth AVMT scenario already proven not to be the case.

First, the 2000-2010 growth to 7 billion-plus AVMT clearly is in error. Vermont AVMT growth for the period likely was less than the 3.1% average growth rate for all New England AVMT for the period leaving Vermont AVMT below 7 billion AVMT as of 2010. The Vermont AVMT actually declined 1.8% 2010-2013, a figure which is reasonable when compared to other Ne England States (all but Massachusetts declined). The problem with Vermont 2000-2010 change of AMVT occurred in two changes in how the State calculated AVMT during the period—the lack of a consistent method skewed the 2000-2010 upward.

Second, as Vermont population growth slowed more than expected (dipping into negative territory in a recent year) and the 2014 Census data showing population decline in nine of fourteen counties clearly indicate a slow growth in AVMT regardless of other factors. But, the growth of the senior population factor—about a half percent of Vermont population each year or about 3,000, shifts into the senior age category while the under-65 population slowly declines. This trend reflected in the official State population estimates means—all other factors equal—a slow and steady decline in AVMT as that over-65 driver mile-per-year over the decades has remained 40% below the under-65 aged driver. So, Vermont absent any other factors can anticipate a flat to slow downtrend in AVMT at least through 2030 based on demographics alone.

Of course other factors are not equal—the under 30 age group driver license proportions have dropped, employers and public policy pushes for reduced solo driving, and there are clear indications of decreased public financed of motor vehicle use.

One of the major areas for action is abandoning “free” parking for solo driving Vermont workers who burden the public and private sector with $120 million year parking costs.

  1. Transportation finance must move away from vehicle taxes to support needed non-vehicle services.

USPIRG in a report this year found 42% of the investment and maintenance of highways came from non-user funding. The federal government ended motor vehicle taxes to support the so-called Highway Trust Fund about three years ago and currently is considering a number of non-motor vehicle taxes of about $8 billion to keep federal transportation programs continuing for a short time. At the state level Virginia abolished the gas tax last year and funds all highways through an across the board dedicated sales tax. Nothing complicated here—car travel decline combined with rapid growth of all other modes (walk, bike, rail, bus, etc.) means other sources must be tapped. Vermont must address these new reality—commuter rail, for example, might be funded by a northwest/central Vermont dedicated sales tax. And, subsidies of high-petroleum use/polluting heavy trucks by everyone else needs to

Most important our urban areas and town centers needs a $100-$200 million immediate investment in modern, quality, safe walk and bike infrastructure to respond to making a reality safe, multi-modal transportation increasingly found in our town and regional plans.

  1. Annual Vehicle Miles of Travel (AVMT) Exhibit 9-7 appears seriously flawed; Exhibit 9-8 similarly historically misleading.

The picture presented of Vermont change in Exhibit 9-7 appears seriously in error, representing a false trend line. The growth 1980-1990 appears about 25% versus actual growth of 57%. From 1990 to 2000 growth collapsed to 16%, then about 3% (using New England average) 2000—2010, turning negative about 2008 and never reaching that number since. The sharply reduced growth in AVMT was known to the VAOT in a study and an analysis in the 1989-1991 period when a 20% growth (overstated by about 20% as it turned out) was projected 1990-2000. This graph needs to be revised to reflect the real trends it fails to reflect.

Exhibit 9-8, of course, must be replaced by now historic data showing a downtrend/flatlining in AVMT from 2008 forward (note earlier comments that the Vermont peak never hit 7 billion AVMT because of changes in Vermont calculations of AVMT made a one time unjustifiable increase in the figure subsequently used as a base for annual calculations thereafter). As AVMT represents a key metric, Vermont's numbers for the 2000 forward need to be revised to better reflect actual levels. Because HPMS and motor fuels—along with comparisons with other New England States—serve as a guide, such a revision in numbers for 2000 and after do not pose a major obstacle.

Without accurate trends and inventory, policy discussions and setting objectives become exceedingly difficult and lead to a mis-allocation of scarce resources.

  1. Public transportation, walking and bicycling—the three rabbits along with one horse, the car, in the transportation horse and rabbit stew
    While Vermont households spend about $2 billion in their household budget for car-based transportation, they spend perhaps $10 million for public transit including Amtrak, walking and bicycling. Now it is well understood that a network of intercity and commuter rail as well as modern high quality and safe walk/bike infrastructure is not only possible but a market driven demand, sizable investments are needed outside of highway taxation stream to fund these burgeoning transportation modes while decreasing subsidies to all forms of motor vehicle transport except the public transport vehicles.
    It is noteworthy that less than five pages is devoted to walk, bike and rail passenger modes even though these three can represent more than half the urban trips in some urban planning. In Copenhagen, bike trips topping half of all urban trips in about two years has been a goal since 2000. Commuter, intercity and light rail along with walk/bike modes shares of 20% or more represent the very minimum that CEP needs to recommend along with estimates of modal shifts from vehicle miles, car registrations, etc. (Note that in a recent month there was a 1,000 vehicle decline in registered cars and light trucks in Vermont.)

Thank for the opportunity to submit these comments.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Burlington Going All Dutch Cycle Track in Walk/Bike Master Plan?

Burlington Vermont with 45 Miles of Cycle Track—Going Dutch

Burlington walk/bike advocates look to cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen as examples to emulate. For cycling what would Burlington major streets be like with the Netherlands cycle track (protected bike lanes) per person?

An American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) survey found only one percent of 5,000 Burlington seniors bicycle for routine trips to shop, do errands and visit friends. It is one thing to bicycle on quiet residential streets and quite another for bicycling on busy urban arterials where only the young risk takers dare walk and bike. Bicycling remains the province of mostly young adult males everywhere—and for cities like Burlington will remain so in the future until infrastructure—cycle track for busy street sections and roundabouts to provide safe passage and traffic calming at intersections—gets built.

Right now, Burlington has 5 miles of cycle track in its landmark corridor approved plan, the North Avenue Corridor Plan (NACP) with a design free of dooring from adjacent parked vehicles. On a per person basis—there are 18,000 miles of cycle track in the Netherlands—Burlington would feature 45 miles of “track”--compared to the 127 miles of sidewalk, for example, that the City maintains year round.

As a matter of fact 45 miles of cycle track installed likely lines all of Burlington busy streets. Again, unlike sidewalks which the usual treatment on both sides of every street in the City—cycle track generally gets installed only on busy key corridors with most “local” streets considered safe and bikable by most of the population. Cycle track mostly would be on what transportation planners call collector and arterial streets. The 45 miles of cycle track would come in two basic forms—a two-way bikeway or single lane protected bike lanes about six feet wide on either side of the street. The bikeway or lanes can be built either at the vehicle lane level the sidewalk level or in between. Curbing, flexible posts or just about any other barrier can be employed to separate cyclists from vehicle lanes—just as sidewalks are separated. And in a given long corridor the cycle track configuration can change along the way.

Obviously, 45 miles of cycle track—North Avenue from North Street to Plattsburgh Avenue being 5.6 miles—means most of the major corridor streets in the City including but no limited to:
--the North Union from North Winooski-South Union (to Main Street)
--North Winooksi Avenue from Riverside to Main Street
--all of Pine Street (assuming reconnection through the Burlington Town Mall)
--North Champlain
--North Street
--Battery Street
--Pearl Street
--Main Street from Union Station to University Heights-So. Burlington border
--East Avenue
--Colchester Avenue
--College Street
--Several street sections related to the UVM and Champlain College campuses as well as UVMMC
--Lakeside Avenue
--Sections of North and South Prospect Streets and North and South Willard Streets
--Shelburne Street, lower St. Paul and So. Willard Streets

Right now the City does not have a busy street roundabout or an inch of cycle track. The only cycle track in Vermont was built a decade ago on the street segments of Dorset Street, South Burlington between Williston Road and Kennedy Drive.

The Walk Bike Master Plan process faces an easy task for identifying and some prioritizing cycle track (except for North Avenue) and roundabouts for safe walk-bike infrastructure so all residents and visitors can enjoy safe walkable-bikable busy streets here regardless of age and skill. Just go all Dutch! 

Friday, June 26, 2015

VT Digger Posted Comment Today on Burlington Bikepath Foundation Fund Raising

While seasonal bikepaths represent an important economic and health benefit to a community, so do safe, walkabe/bikable streets where the City’s record over the last 34 years is perfect–little to no quality/safe infrastructure. Even more disturbing is the seven year timeline for its first safe intersection project at Shelburne Street and a $30 million design for the Champlain Parkway without a single intersection or street segment with safe, separate pathways for the cyclist and walker. With a walk/bike fatality on a Burlington stoplight intersection every three years the place to invest is not hard to find. Burlington now trails even some Vermont cities and towns in safe, quality walk/bike infrastructure on busy streets.
Tony Redington @TonyRVT08

Friday, May 15, 2015

Vermont Rail Safety--Crossings Needs and Positive Train Control

Vermont: No Positive Train Control (PTC),  Lot of Rail/highway Crossings Needing Active Warning Systems

The recent death here in Vermont of a person walking along the tracks hit by the Vermonter Amtrak train and the tragic—technically preventable if the planned investments had been completed---four fatalities and dozens of injuries both point to America’s antiquated rail safety systems.  There are probably about 30 rail/highway crossings along Amtrak routes here which are very dangerous with no active warning or insufficient active warning—many which underwent review team analyses recommending active warning (gates and flashers) or upgrades to gates/flashers from flashers only.  There are literally only a handful of busy rail/highway crossings in the State with sufficient sight distances to obviate the need for active warning.  And “positive train control” (PTC), the system which stops down train speeds or literally stops them when required when engineers make mistakes like the one in Philadelphia—not going to be done according to one rail policy maker here as Vermont’s two passenger trains a day along with a few freight trains does not as of today force PTC installation.  Another safety “compromise”?  Yes, PTC is expensive, about $100,000 a mile.  Still federal highway officials value a life saved at $9.1 million (1999 dollars).   In New York State, for example, every public crossing with a passenger train has active warning so as the Ethan Allen Amtrak trains cruises though several crossings in Rutland, Fair Haven and Castleton without active warning, the train enters New York State where every crossing has at least flashers.  Two recent Vermont injuries at rail/highway crossings along the Amtrak Vermonter route both involved crossings with no active warning system.  Oh, one in four rail-highway crossing injuries is fatal compared to one in 75 car occupant injuries.