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!