Monday, May 6, 2019

Plattsburgh, NY Rents $4,000 to $8,000 Lower Per Year than Burlington, VT

Renter and Economy the Big Losers in Current High Plateau of Burlington Rents Compared to Plattsburgh Market 

A combination of historic market forces—all harming the renter and the economy—leaves Burlington renters paying thousands of dollars more each year for the same or even sometimes inferior apartment than renters across the lake in Plattsburgh. While the difference in rents—Burlington over Plattsburgh—is in hundreds of dollars monthly the annual cost of a median rent is $4,200 higher in Burlington for a 1-bedroom (1-BR) apartment, $8,100 for a 2-BR apartment. 

Certainly over decades a collusion involving real estate interests, banks, rental property owners, yes, even the large non-profit housing sector all have played—and continue to play—a role in reaching the high rent levels and unfortunately those same interests have a stake in maintaining those high rents regardless to how overall this is a self-inflicted wound to both to the renters (with particular pain to low and moderate income).

From the early 1990s through the early years of the recovery from the Great Recession in 2010-2012, the Burlington housing market featured notoriously low vacancy rates as both population and student numbers grew in the County a the City. Suddenly, thanks in part to mayoral leadership and growth moderation in the County, rental housing supply increased and so did vacancy rates reaching healthy 3-5% levels about 2016-2017. Today with about 1,000 new apartments coming on line and student populations, flat since 2010 at UVM, likely to slowly decline, pressures will likely build to lower rents. 

My first look at Plattsburgh versus Burlington rents occurred in 2011 when considering a move from Montreal back to the Burlington area. Took a look at both Plattsburgh and Burlington rents at that time and those in Plattsburgh were significantly less than Burlington. In 2011. Burlington and Chittenden County rental vacancy rates as measured by Allen and Brooks surveys each year generally were 1-2%. When I sought an apartment in late 2011 there were literally no apartments which were decent on the market. Needing a studio or 1-bedroom (1-BR), there was a 2 BR available here and there but about twice the 1-BR rent. Suffice to say did come across a 1-BR which had not yet been put on the market at a reasonable cost. Will leave further history on rent and landlord relations moot at this point.

Plattsburgh like Burlington does have a large number of 4-5 bedroom apartments termed “student housing” on Craigslist. Plattsburgh is about half the Burlington population of 42,000. As part of exploring rental housing in Burlington I have from time to time over almost three years undertaken “snapshot” rental vacancy tabulations by price and bedroom size in a two-three day period. This involves examining available vacant units primarily on craigslist, but also on various websites—Bissonnette Properties, Trulia, MyBurlingtonApartment, etc. The snapshot surveys began in mid-2016 just when significant numbers of new apartments began to come on line. Follow up snapshot inventory numbers show about a 3% annual increase in median 1-BR rents and 5.6% increase in 2-BR rents. 

Give credit to Mayor Miro Weinberger for opening up Burlington for private development of housing, a rising tide which now appears a flood with more than 1,000 housing units coming on the market (Cambrian Rise [Burlington College property site], Bayberry [SD Ireland site on Grove Street] and City Hall Place numbers alone top 1,000). Note rents surveyed generally did not include heat and electric so one might add, for example, about $100 to a 1-BR and $125 for a 2-BR to adjust a median rent as offered to a median rent with all utilities included. 

Here are the 1 and 2 br numbers BTV, Plattsburgh and 2019 HUD FMRs used for all housing assistance (HUD Fair Market Rents include all utilities):

                                     1 Bedroom        2 Bedroom

Burlington                            $1,140             $1,575
(March 2019 Snapshot Survey)

Plattsburgh                             790                 900
(May 2019 Craigslist survey)

Rent Difference: Monthly       350              675

                     Yearly             $4,200        $8,100

HUD FMR (2019) (Source: 

Burlington                              $1,044          $1,341
(Burlington-South Burlington Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA)

Plattsburgh                             810              1,052
(Clinton County)

Rent Difference:                   $234                 $289

Note:U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) FMR (Fair Market Rent) tables by location are published each year and are approximately 80% of median rents. These are the maximum rent that HUD will subsidize for a Section 8 Voucher (affordable housing assistance). The FMRs are updated annually. 

Some preliminary thoughts. Apparently the past tight market for housing in BTV may have led to bidding wars for private apartment sales with the student housing pricing somewhat inelastic and essentially zero vacancy rates overall in the rental market (now 5-7% or more in the pure private sector) resulting in high capital cost and therefore very high rents in BTV (forcing many to live in outlying areas). The market now has about 1,000 units on tap (Ireland's Bayberry, Cambrian, and about 60 units behind COTS by Redstone--plus about 250 units in the currently stalled City Place).  

Both cities probably have comparable property tax rates and cheap natural gas via pipelines.  So, we have overcapitalized housing (nice depreciation!).  Until the price of private purchasing of rental housing comes down and/or CHT-Cathedral find HUD or other sources to reduce their acquisition costs, rents like Plattsburgh remain far off.  

Then there are the other "soft" actions--activist tenant unions, better communications on pricing/tougher negotiation by tenants, etc.  CDBG could be brought into play. 

Key is a housing plan (there is none) at the state level and Region/City levels which recognize these realities and work on bringing market rents in line with Plattsburgh--looking a little more into the market there (the loss of population/air base a factor in current low rents?).  

Note there are a number of good landlords and apartment owners who buck the "all the market will bear" approach to renting and whose rents for quality units are below the median numbers with quality housing. 

Just building more housing which is capital intensive because of the once tight market (which inflated the rents and squeezes the tenants) is one sure way not to solve the problem of the current high plateau of rents. Still the offering of a free month of rent with an initial lease at Bayberry, a one year reduction of about 8% in the rent is an encouraging sign of a rental retrenchment in Burlington. 

Be aware that as a former state housing director I did deal in New Hampshire in a number of new/rehab housing projects where I encountered honest and fair minded developers and do not assume these folks are anything but effective and efficient builders of needed housing.  That said, conditions and individual owners can vary across the spectrum!  I view the HUD Section 8 New/Rehab program (initiated by Nixon) with 20-25 year commitments of affordable housing assistance as perhaps the most successful housing development programs to date. 

Tony Redington TonyRVT99@gmail.comMay 6, 2019

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Internet Tour of Roundabouts at Event Venues, Airports, Tourist Attractions

Roundabout engineers recently put together a list of roundabouts now in place at event venues (like the Indianapolis 500), tourist destination (like Yosemite Park and Disneyland) and airports (Ann Arbor, MI--not listed the two new roundies at Manchester Airport).  An internet tour!

Major Venues with roundabouts nearby:
Indianapolis Motor Speedway:
Lambeau Field (NW of stadium):
Pepsi Center, Denver, CO:
Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, NE:

Tourist destinations also have seasonal influx issues:
Bird Rock, San Diego, CA:
Grand Canyon National Park, AZ:
Fort Frederica National Monument, GA:
Legoland, Carlsbad, CA:
Downtown Disney, Anaheim, CA:
Kings Beach, CA (Lake Tahoe):
Incline Village, NV (Lake Tahoe):
Kimball Junction, UT:
Steamboat Springs, CO:
Midway, UT (road to Brighton):
Canyons Village, Park City, UT:
Snoqualmie Falls, WA:
Northstar at Tahoe, CA:
Truckee, CA (Sugar Bowl):
Summerlin, Las Vegas, NV:
Swinomish Casino and Lodge, WA:

Airports are known to have peak travel periods:

Modern Roundabouts at Airports
Portland, OR, economy parking:
Kansas City, economy parking:
Grand Junction, CO:
Charlottesville, VA:

St Johns Int’l, NL, Canada:
Victoria, BC, Canada:
Hobart Int’l, Australia:
Dublin, Ireland (RAB and rotaries):
Munich, Germany (elevated):
Southampton, England:
Edinburgh, Scotland:
Manchester, England:
East Midlands, England:

Monday, April 22, 2019

Yes We Can: Winooski Avenues--Making Burlington's Greatest Street

Yes We Can: Winooski Avenue--Burlington's Greatest Street 

The current North and South Winooski Ave corridor study seemed at first a challenging triage of a congested, narrow roadway--now it appears the Winooskis really can reach through flexible and unique design its deserving historic role as Burlington's "Greatest Street." 

The Winooski Corridor Study may very well achieve a "yes, we can" outstanding urban pathway:
Yes we can--cut carefully some parking which takes away from green space and safe walking-bicycling accommodation.  Yes, we can--serve the neighborhoods first and through traffic second in providing safe walking and bicycling for all ho can (see photo of sidewalk level cycle track applicable from Riverside to the north to at least Main Street).  Yes we can--employ the core safe best practices on our streets--the "intersection safety belt" roundabout and the safe for all ages and skills cycle track (protected bike lanes).  Yes we can--eliminate parking on at least one side of the street except for the central area (Archibald-North Streets) shifting the space to green and bike space use.  And, yes we can: provide a green strip throughout the corridor.  And, finally, yes we can:  strengthen and rejuvenate both the businesses and residential neighborhoods into a more sustainable and livable context.

Sidewalk level "cycle track" shifts the purpose of bike lanes to serving the needs of the neighborhood cyclists to access nearby businesses services and friends--this leaves the through cyclist to a secondary position, still retaining the skilled rider to the vehicle travelways.    Suddenly, all who can--young, old, and in between regardless of skill can bicycle--now only about 10% of the Burlington population bikes much at all.  This photo from Kyoto taken in October.

The intersections?  Again as in the North Avenue Corridor Plan (2014) the all-modes intersections safety belt, is the obvious choice.  (Recent public opinion surveys show about 75% of Americans favor replacing dangerous intersections with roundabouts--plus this is a priority change for GEICO, AAA, AARP and federal highway officials.)

Here is a 2011AARP Pine Street workshop photo from the report recommending roundabouts from stop to bottom of Pine Street in the South End, this engineering base design at Pine and Maple Streets.

Roundabouts  (all one way) are feasible at all the key intersections--they are not only safe (reduced pedestrian/vehicle injuries by about 90% and reduce bicyclists injuries) but the roundabout also cuts delay for all, cuts green house gas emissions by thousands of gallons of gas at busy intersections each year.  In the case of the Winooskis all intersections adjacent to the Marketplace (Pearl, Cherry, Bank, College and Main) are among the "Dirty 17"  City intersections averaging one injury a year--and add North Street/N. Winooski to that list. 

So, the "Greatest Burlington Street"?  Yes, the sacred Winooskis with the historic library and Fire Station, the main access to the City's shopping street (the Marketplace), location of the highest grossing co-op market in America, and the home to the lowest income Old North End neighborhood, the main avenue for the original trolley line from the waterfront to the Winooski manufacturing complexes--yes, the City's Greatest Street!  YES WE CAN!!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Safety First Before You Build a Parkway, $3.28 Million added Parkway Soil Bill?, and Parkway Climate Change

Safety, City taxpayers and climate change--all related to Champlain Parkway are the subject of three tweets this morning. It goes without saying that lack of any safe and separate walk and bike facilities in the Champlain Parkway is a non-starter when it comes to climate change emissions as travel along the Parkway corridor is only practical by motor vehicle (bus service also problematic as well as GMT terminal access), and even more important signals are a cesspool of climate emissions compared to a roundabout.

Here are the tweets:

Hero pilot Sully Sullenberger Saturday on 737 Max 8 crashes: “quality and safety pay for themselves...always better & cheaper to get it right than repair the damage after..." Re-design Champlain Pkwy. group targets no safe walk/bike facilities, no safe intersections

Tweet March 17
BTV facing $3.28 million taxpayer bill for Parkway contaminated soils—figure City Engineer Baldwin revealed at CCRPC Board last month? He says construction start 2019--Pine Street Coalition safety re-design cuts $43 million cost ~$8 million, likely soils too.
The fight to re-design the Champlain Parkway here in BTV from the start included climate change—absence of separate and safe walk and bike facilities, half mile of unneeded street, 1,000s of gallons gas wasted yearly at intersections. Safety 1st of course.

BTV Winooski Corridor Bike/Ped Injury Rates Astronomical Compared to VT Downtown Roundabouts

Data from the Winooski Corridor Transportation Corridor reveals real carnage on Burlington streets in addition to the fatality recorded about every 5-6 years, the latest in December Jonathan Jerome, a pedestrian who died in a crash on North Avenue.

Based on five years of data through 2017, about 150 injuries occur each year on Burlington streets, three per week. About 50 injuries or one a week are bicyclists and pedestrians in roughly equal numbers and 100 card occupants or two a week. 

About 10% of all 150 annual injuries on BTV streets occur on North and South Winooski Avenues.  And 43% of all yearly crashes occurred at intersections.    On the 17 Winooski corridor  intersections 0.21 injuries occurred to bicyclists per year per intersection--no injuries in a half century have occurred at the six downtown VT roundabouts (Manchester Center, Middlebury and Montpelier).  A similar rate for Winooski intersections injuries per year--0.21 pedestrian injuries per year per intersection--occurred for the 2013-2017 survey period.  Comparison the Winooski 0.21 figure compares to 0.0032 injures per year per downtown VT roundabout.

For car occupants the Winooski Avenues figure is 0.13 injury per year per intersection (2.8 injuries yearly 17 intersections).   Car occupant injuries for the 6 downtown VT roundabouts:  0.013 per year (4 injuries recorded total for lifetime of the six roundabouts through about 2016). 

So on the Winooski Avenues, an injury occurs about once every two months--7.2 per year.  For comparison, the six downtown VT roundabouts record an injury about once a decade! 

In addition to crashes involving personal injury, the vast bulk of crashes are property damage only--about 1,200 average yearly, almost ten times the injuries, about 150, recorded.

These are metrics BTV Police Chief Del Pozo would likely love!

One Pedestrian or Bicyclist Plus 2 Car Occupants To Be Injured this Week

Data from the Winooski Corridor Transportation Corridor reveals real carnage on Burlington streets in addition to the fatality recorded about every 5-6 years, the latest in December Jonathan Jerome, a pedestrian who died in a crash on North Avenue.

Based on five years of data through 2017, about 150 injuries occur each year on Burlington streets, three per week. About 50 injuries or one a week are bicyclists and pedestrians in roughly equal numbers and 100 car occupants or two a week.

About 10% of all 150 annual injuries on BTV streets occur on North and South Winooski Avenues.  And 43% of all yearly crashes occurred at intersections.    On the 17 Winooski corridor  intersections 0.21 injuries occurred to bicyclists per year per intersection--no injuries in a half century have occurred at the six downtown VT roundabouts (Manchester Center, Middlebury and Montpelier).  A similar rate for Winooski intersections injuries per year--0.21 pedestrian injuries per year per intersection--occurred for the 2013-2017 survey period.  Comparison the Winooski 0.21 figure compares to 0.0032 injures per year per downtown VT roundabout.

For car occupants the Winooski Avenues figure is 0.13 injury per year per intersection (2.8 injuries yearly 17 intersections).   Car occupant injuries for the 6 downtown VT roundabouts:  0.013 per year (4 injuries recorded total for lifetime of the six roundabouts through about 2016).

In addition to crashes involving personal injury, the vast bulk of crashes are property damage only--about 1,200 average yearly, almost ten times the injuries, about 150, recorded.

These are metrics BTV Police Chief Del Pozo would likely love!

Sully Sullenberger Message Applies to Champlain Parkway Injury Generating Design

Just tweeted: Hero pilot Sully Sullenberger Saturday on 737 Max 8 crashes: “quality and safety pay for themselves...always better & cheaper to get it right than repair the damage after..." Re-design Champlain Pkwy. group targets no safe walk/bike facilities, no safe intersections. #vtpoli #btv

As Chapin Spencer stated at the last so-called "public hearing" about two years ago, if we were to design the Champlain Parkway today we would not do the same design for this $43 million project. Doing it right the first time--particularly by using today's best practices for safety totally absent in the design is exactly what Sully is talking about. Listen up Governor Scott, Agency of Transportation Secretary Joe Flynn, Federal Highway Administration VT Division Director Matthew Hake, BTV Mayor Weinberger, and City Councilors!

Monday, March 11, 2019

Bicycles Traveling Through 1 and 2 Lane Roundabouts --Burlington VT

A Bicyclist Traversing a One and Two Lane Roundabout – Examples: the 1-lane at St. Paul/Locust/Shelburne/S. Willard (Shelburne Street Roundabout) as Designed; and the 2-lane at Colchester/Barrett/Riverside (COLBARI Roundabout) Preliminary Feasibility Design

How bicycles traverse roundabouts safely and expeditiously has been raised by Burlington and Chittenden County cyclists with the first 1-lane roundabout on a busy roadway is set for 2021 in Burlington and discussion of the a 2-lane roundabout to benefit in part the environment of the adjacent neighborhood at the Winooski Bridge continues.

Since the 1966 birth of modern roundabouts, design of 1-lane roundabouts reached maturity in recent years as the 2000s emergence of bicycle cycle track became incorporated at the design level. But 2-lane designs have significantly evolved since the dawn of modern roundabouts and for cyclists design concepts incorporating the bicycle safety and cycle track continues to this day. From the start roundabouts design assumed the cyclist as a vehicle, and in a sense roundabouts were viewed and judged by the “vehicle cyclist” population, a very small segment of the population, mostly young, adult, white men, the same basic population utilizing the roadways in urban America today along shared roadways and painted lanes and shoulder spaces. In western Europe particularly a cross section of the population survived the car invasion and with proper infrastructure in place young and old of all skills and abilities safely travel in urban areas today, a goal still far from being realized anywhere in North America. Roundabouts are part and parcel of the infrastructure now a given in order to reach safe “walkable and bikable” downtowns, town centers and other built up areas.

First a note of history. The short “bicycle age” extending from 1880s to the first decade of the 20th century cycling really was the new new mode reaching down from the upper classes of society to become a democratic travel mode. Cycling groups helped obtain the paved urban roadways bicyclists needed for quality travel surfaces. But the advent of the automobile quickly drowned out cycling among a cross section of the population, bicycling became almost extinct as did roadway designs became the “wider faster smoother” environment of the automobile, really still extent in some areas today. The demarcation from bicycle to auto age is symbolized by them passage of the first U.S. federal highway act in 1916. (A good history of this age up through the cycle track emergence this decade with emphasis on Burlington can be found in UVM Professor Luis Vivanco's landmark book “Reconsidering the Bicycle.”)

While Europeans never really ended wholly attention to walk and bike modes--thankfully--the car except for sidewalks became king in America until 1991 when change began. It was 1991 following public referenda in Maine and California where voters overall rebelled against vehicle mono-modalism, the “Intermodal Surface Transportation Energy Act of 1991” referred to as ISTEA, passed congress and was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush—revolutionizing all federal highway programming to enable walk and bike facilities as well as expanding financing of commuter and intercity rail programming. Under previous law bikepaths, for example, maximum allowed projects nationwide were held to under $20 a year while under ISTEA the bounds were loosed and billions annually were allowed (one state, Ohio, walked off with over half the funds available nationally). Walk and bike facilities have increasingly been built on the basis of need if not yet reaching complete equality to this day. (The Maine referendum rejected an expansion of the Maine Turnpike and in a companion approved vote for comprehensive bottom up multi-modal transportation planning and programming. The California referendum authorized sizable funding for rail projects including the now successful commuter rail service services of Caltrain. Note in spite of breaking up the carcentric aspect of U.S. transportation, highway safety remained a neglected, fragmented aspect of all U.S. transportation investment and that condition remains mostly intact to this day.)


The first roundabout was built in Montpelier in 1995, the one laner was the 19th built in America and first east of Vail, CO and north of Maryland. There are over 10,000 roundabout roundabouts today in the U.S. and Canada and just a single bicycle fatality and a single pedestrian fatality recorded to date in the 29 years since the first roundabout opened in a Las Vegas housing development in 1990. For comparison to the 10,000 US/Canada roundabouts, in Burlington since 1998, three pedestrians have died at intersections—two at the 75 signalized intersections—and one cyclist at a signalized intersection. Burlington recorded (2013-2017) a bicycle or pedestrian injury each week plus two car occupant injuries. Again, for comparison, in a half century of data the five downtown roundabouts in Vermont (Montpelier, Middlebury and Manchester Center) recorded one non-serious pedestrian injury, 0 bicyclist injuries, and four minor vehicle injuries. Base national research show roundabouts reduce serious and fatal injures about 90%.

As important the roundabout performance in addition to safety is also light years ahead of traffic signals in service (delay included) and capacity. Delays of up about two minutes at a signalized intersection at Colchester/Barrett/Riverside (COLBARI) drops by over one half in a roundabout, with most of that drop benefitting vehicles entering from Riverside and Barrett. For pedestrians, delay at a roundabout crossing is about zero seconds. Maintenance costs are lower for the roundabout and there are no electric bills.

There are no busy street Burlington and Chittenden County roundabouts found among the 14 in Vermont. There are five busy intersection 1-lane roundabouts in three Vermont downtowns and the one 2-lane, Keene-Turn Roundabout (I 91/US 5/VT 9) built in Brattleboro in 1999. Through 2015 involving over a half century of operation no cyclist injuries have been recorded at the five downtown roundabout and apparently none at the one 2-lane Brattleboro roundabout.

All Cyclists versus the Vehicle Cyclist

With the advent of safety designs for a cross section of cyclists (young, old, experienced, non-experienced) there is some divergence of the interest of the vehicle cyclist who wishes the speed and freedom of the automobile. In built up urban areas like Burlington with less than a handful of roadways with speed limits above 25 mph, vehicle cyclist can function quite well and variation of speeds do not pose a problem versus areas dominated by 35 mph roadways and above. That by no means a reasonable level of safety provided to the vehicle cyclist and for the less experienced cyclist no provisions exist, the still challenged cycle track on part of the Unions notwithstanding.

Cycle track which became almost overnight a universal design in US urban areas during the last ten years does serve all cyclists but—like busy highways—while providing maximum safety does get congested and slows overall bicycle speeds compared to vehicle lane travel. Result? Many vehicle cyclists will, depending on traffic conditions, opt to use vehicle lanes even in the presence of cycle track with its given superior safety rating. Vehicle cyclists do properly express the demand to retain their “rights” to operate in vehicle travel ways.

Bicyclists at a One Lane Roundabout: Bicyclist Movements at St. Paul/Locust/Shelburne/S. Willard

The first 1-lane roundabout scheduled to be built in Chittenden County in 2021 occupies the “rotary” intersection known in the neighborhood as the “intersection of death” at Shelburne Street/Locust Street/South Willard Street/St. Paul Street (Shelburne Roundabout). This intersection is in the top five of the worst crash records of any in Vermont and is funded with 100% federal safety funds. This one lane roundabout, about 130 feet in diameter, starts at the north end of Shelburne Street, now a four lane roadway with no bicycle lanes. The safety afforded by roundabouts occurs in great part by slowing vehicle at entry and constraining speeds through a curvature—“deflection” is the word used to describe this design. Also an island,

splitter island” forms a median separating lanes at entry and exit. The median areas provide a refuge for pedestrians so they only deal with crossing one lane at a time. Entry and exit lanes are also only about 10-15 feet in width, narrowness and curvature all inherent in “deflection” design of roundabouts to manage entry speeds and maintaining low speeds throughout the circular travelway.

Based on some preliminary designs, the cyclist at Shelburne Roundabout will either merge into the vehicle travelway about two-three car lengths from the circular travelway of the roundabout, or “ramp off” to the right onto what is essentially “share space” with pedestrian and then move across one or more crosswalks before “ramping on” to the street lanes beyond the intersection. Based on European studies this “choice” for the cyclist is a critical element in assuring a roundabout is safe for cyclists. The less able, less skilled cyclists will generally choose to ramp off/ramp on. Roundabout research clearly shows providing a cyclist “choice” at a roundabout brings reductions in bicycle injuries approaching car and bicyclist upwards of 90% compared to a signalize or sign controlled intersection.

So, the Shelburne Roundabout will provide off ramp/on ramp to serve cyclists. The vehicle cyclist can choose to merge with traffic at entry (not a problem most times of the day except peak times) or switching to shared spaces before re-entering the destined roadway. This integration from bike lanes/cycle track is the situation routinely faced by cyclists at signalized intersections today where lanes end in recognition in part that vehicles will be turning right through the straight forward path of the cyclist.

Why not a separate bike lane? Where there is sufficient right-of-way certainly (new intersections along the Parkway where there is sufficient room—Parkway/Home, Parkway/Flynn, for examples—a separate and safe circular lane for cyclists along with one for pedestrians meet fully the preferable “equality street” goal at intersections. A separate circular bike lane is the regular design approach where room is available, clearly not the case at Shelburne Roundabout because of adjacent development constraints. The bike lane is between the vehicle travelway and the pedestrian crossing, about mid-way between, about 10 feet with pedestrian crossings are about one car length or 25 feet from the circular travelway. (The Dutch “Assen” design is preferred by some here in Burlington as the design slows bikes at vehicle lane crossings—generally the thinking so far is for cyclists to yield to traffic at such crossing—yet to be determined. For graphics in this regard and video see .)

Bicyclists at a 2-Lane Roundabout: Colchester/Barrett/Riverside/Mill (COLBARI)

Vehicle Cyclist North-South Movement Through a Roundabout on Colchester Avenue at Barrett/Riverside Intersection onto Winooski

For the basic movement for the vehicle cyclist north-south on Colchester Avenue and the Winooski Bridge past Barrett/Riverside/Mill Street intersections, the basic northerly move from the single entry lane on Colchester is onto the outside lane straight through the roundabout along the outside (east side) lane on the Winooski Bridge to the Winooski Traffic Circulator. From Winooski Traffic Circulator south onto Colchester Avenue, the vehicle cyclist takes the inside lane onto the inside lane of the roundabout, then passes the Riverside entry where entering vehicles are to yield to the cyclist,and then, finally the cyclist exits onto the Colchester southward.

The 2-lane roundabout presents a different set of issues for cyclists but retains several basic elements of the 1-lane discussed above. First and foremost where space allows, a separate circular bike lane is provided. (For sake of discussion it is assume that all legs leading to the roundabout have bicycle lanes.) And, where a separate bike lane is not feasible as in the case of COLBARI. all entries and exits like Shelburne Roundabout provide ramp off/ramp on cyclist “choice” of either taking a vehicle lane or switching to shared space pedestrian space and using the pedestrian crossings.

This discussion utilizes the COLBARI report design on page 49 of the draft final 2018 report ( ) References to the signal alternative design will be “Alternative 1 4-Way Intersection” on page 42

Before considering specific pathways for cyclists, the base performance of a roundabout cuts delay per vehicle at peak hour almost two thirds, 26 seconds average vehicle delay for the roundabout compared to 71 seconds, over a minute, for a signal. So before a bicycle or vehicle enters a COLBARI roundabout it stands to save upwards of 45 seconds versus approaching a roundabout. Pedestrians would experience based on the phasing length, likely in excess of 30 second delay per crossing at a signal versus essentially zero seconds per crossing in the roundabout. During off peak times vehicle delay drops dramatically to a few seconds, a greater decline then the stop control constrained systems.

Approaching the Roundabout and Choice

Consider each approach first, then how the cyclist would move to a set of destinations from each approach leg. COLBARI both in signal and roundabout design faces the physical constraints including south and west grades, drop-off to the river, Mill Street access needs, etc. (for example, the current two-lane eastbound approach on Riverside Ave on the south side bordering a steep embankment has no sidewalk, and a shared space multi-use path is sited on the north side). The roundabout approach for cyclists westbound on Barrett remains but there is no apparent “choice” ramp off onto the sidewalk northerly—though this should not be complicated as there is a parking area to the rear of large commercial at the northeast corner of Colchester/Barrett. The roundabout northbound on Colchester plan features the important “choice” addition,ramp off shared use path/sidewalk with pedestrians, apparently from a point at or near Chase. At this location a ramp off might also be considered in the normal design just before the splitter island onto the shared space. This other approach, the 2-lane southbound on Colchester from the Winooski Bridge also appears to lack an off-ramp prior to narrowing and the cross walk opposite Mill Street.

An Aside: Access to Mill Street Southbound from Winooski

Access to Mill Street remains problematic for a signal more than than a roundabout, but still less than ideal. For cyclists and pedestrians the easiest access southbound from Winooski appears to be the sidewalk on the east side of the bridge—presumably expansive and accommodating of both those on foot and bicycle in a new bridge—perhaps even with a sidewalk level cycle track/sidewalk tandem. In this case because of the overall geometry of the intersection bicyclists southbound would move to pedestrian space north of the bridge and then take the crosswalk to the east side of the bridge, then to Mill Street. Northbound, again, all pedestrian traffic would mostly use utilize shared space/sidewalk space from Chase, across Barrett, then to Mill. For persistent vehicle cyclists southbound from Winooski, the east lane is used and then a left turn onto Mill (note the roundabout preliminary design does not accommodate a left hand turn—this might be revisited in a more detailed design process). Still the roundabout—unlike the signal—does provide a pedestrian crosswalk at Mill and a ramp off and ramp on for cyclists on the southbound Bridge lane on the west side and northbound on the east side needs to be included in the final design.

So the roundabout option provides a crosswalk to access Mill Street. So regardless of route approaches of cyclists and pedestrians, a crosswalk—not provided by signal and a serious lack in the signal choice. The lack of a signal at Mill Street arises simply from the horrific delay throughout the intersections which would occur—again, the signal not only provides poor safety but poor to unacceptable service.

Finally for both cyclists on the eastbound lanes of Riverside Ave and those on the shared use path on the north side, one choice to access Mill is shared space via the Riverside crosswalk, Colchester Ave crosswalk, and Barrett crosswalk for pedestrians and cyclist in shared mode. For cyclists (and pedestrians as well) approaching from Riverside Ave the preferable second choice--the quickest and easiest--access to Mill Street is via the roundabout crosswalk across Colchester to Mill. The access to Mill Street from the shared use path on Riverside in a signal context requires negotiating three separate signals crossings—Riverside itself, Colchester, and Barrett.

Cross Lane Movements

Note, about one in five roundabouts in North America have partial or full 2-lane configurations—but the one cyclist fatality to date occurred at a 1-lane roundabout in Truckee, CA (which in the process of building another roundabout this year).

Clearly the less experienced cyclist will likely choose to shift to pedestrian mode rather attempt to deal with either bike lane to vehicle travel lane at roundabout entry approach and/or lane changes dictated for all vehicles where, essentially, left hand turns are involved. For right hand turns and through movements, cyclists can stay in the outside vehicle lane. First and foremost the cyclist must shift from a bike lane either to a vehicle travel lane approaching the entry line or ramp off. A decision to
merge into the vehicle lane is familiar at just about every signalized intersection in
Burlington where there a bike lane approaching a signal—this is not an unusual movement faced by the cyclists. Finally the task of moving from a bike lane to a vehicle lane then moving to an inside lane where left turns are dictated (see, for example, a cyclist if a bike lane were south bound roundabout approach of Colchester Ave from the Bridge on a bike lane facing both merging into the vehicle travel lane and crossing the outside lane to the inside lane necessary to make a left hand turn on the roundabout to Barrett Street.

There are a number of pavement markings, signal control options, etc., to ease cyclist movements at multi-lane signal entries to move across lanes. A set of pavement marking at the end of a cycle lane into a two-lane roundabout entry have also been devised by MTJ Engineering. At the end of the bike lane the cyclist is given two choices—a solid green ramp off to shared space, and second wide broken-block green line indicator to vehicles taking the cyclist into the right lane with continuance into the left entry lane. With roundabouts low speed conditions exist compared to a cyclist coming to a green signal and dealing with 20-25 mph or more traffic at stale green/early red conditions—delay is dictated here (still a right turn on red an additional contention for cyclists in many cases when abandoning a bike lane at signals).

Barrett Street Entry: For moving northbound, the cyclist enters the right hand lane with first “exit” onto Mill Street, then if continuing, being prepared to at a later point on the Winooski Bridge making any lane adjustment required on the Winooski Traffic Circulator approach. To go to Riverside or Colchester south from the Colchester north entry, the cyclist enters directly into the inside lane which takes the cyclist directly to Riverside and Colchester south access accomplished by holding to the inside lane and exiting via the “spiral” to the outside lane—traffic southbound from Winooski to Riverside are to yield to the cyclist exiting the one lane exit at Riverside—and a similar action by vehicles entering the roundabout from Riverside eastbound entry. These maneuvers are most challenging to cyclists at a multi-lane roundabout. Note that all these destinations can be done via the ramp off/ramp on pedestrian spaces and pedestrian crossings.
Colchester Northbound Entry: The roundabout northbound entry, 1-lane, on Colchester presents the cyclists with two choices: a. outside lane for right turn at Barrett or Mill Street and straight ahead in right exit lane at 2-lane north roundabout exit to the Winooski traffic circulator at the Winooski end of the bridge; and (b) enter the inside lane destined to inside lane at 2-lane exit north exit onto the bridge to the Winooski traffic circulator or continuing on the lane which through spiral marking becomes “outside” opposite the north splitter island and onto the 1-lane exit onto Riverside.
Colchester Southbound Entry: The Colchester southbound 2-lane entry outside lane is for Riverside destination only at the 1-lane exit onto Riverside. The inside lane following the pavement markings exits onto Colchester and Barrett, both 1-lane exits.
Riverside Entry: The Riverside entry is 2-lane. The outside lane accommodates all destinations: the 1-lane exits at Colchester, Barrett , Mill and outside lane at the north 2-lane exit as well as by moving to the inside lane after the Colchester exit onto the inside lane at the north 2-lane exit toward the Winooski traffic circulator. The inside lane entry at Riverside serves only vehicles northbound to the Winooski and vehicles are to use the west exit lane at the north roundabout exit.
Reversing Direction: Reversing direction is a natural service all roundabout provide. Generally the reverse direction move is straightforward, enter to the left onto the inside lane and remain on the inside lane until the exit on the entry one started form—this may or may not involve yield by vehicles on an outside lane where there is an outside lane at the exit point.

The COLBARI design is a preliminary design and changes may be made—but the types of pathways described here pretty much cover all the possibilities a cyclist would encounter at COLBARI or any other multi-lane roundabout (three lane roundabouts do exist but are rare and present an additional set of challenges). Pavement markings and some signing will aid all in decision making at a 2-lane roundabout.

All roundabouts experience startup hiccups as drivers, pedestrians and cyclists learn the ropes. But roundabouts easily accommodate the learning curve with little or no crashes as the the caution of users at an already low speed environment remains forgiving. The COLBARI roundabout will be significantly smaller than the Brattleboro Keene Turn roundabout, 172 feet in diameter. COLBARI will be about 150 feet in diameter which insures lower speeds which are more compatible with urban levels of walk and bike users as well as, most importantly, reduced injuries for all modes. It is noteworthy that Oakland County, MI, a two-million population center adjacent to Detroit has a large number of roundabouts (Waterloo, ON does also) including 2-laners and already is showing injury and fatality rates far lower than state and national averages. Vermont is about the national average in serious and fatal highway injuries. Roundabout are in fact beginning to reflect reduced area rates of serious and fatal injuries where their numbers are dense.

Finally, there are now several videos and educational materials (and more all the time) on “how to” negotiate 1-lane and 2-lane roundabouts. So as we approach the first roundabouts in Chittenden County, these AV materials can be provided both the to the public—and as was done at Montpelier High School driver ed and private driver ed training in 1994 and forward the education of future drivers will cover the coming dominance of roundabouts on our northeastern Vermont roadways. The roundabout education materials will be incorporate on how those on foot, bicycle and motor vehicle can work together to their personal safety and reduce the needless carnage on our streets and highways, now 22,000 fatals a year over the low rates of the leading four nations as the U.S. has fallen from first to 20th since 1990.

Two Lane Roundabouts and Pedestrian Signals

The U.S. is the only nation where two-lane roundabouts likely will include pedestrian signals, ostensibly because because recent regulations and policies under the American Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). There are no ADA policies and regulations in regard to single lane roundabouts. There is not evidence that signals, like the Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon (RRFB) familiar to most in Burlington, or other types of signals will increase or decease safety for pedestrians at 2-lane roundabouts. That said it can be expected that actuated signals at each pedestrian crossing (and at splitter islands between lanes) will be equipped with this technology.

1. Colchester/Barrett/Riverside 2018 final draft report

Roundabout alternative page 49; signal “Alternative 1” page 42

2. St. Paul/Locust/Shelburne/S. Willard Website Addresses

3. CCRPC Shelburne Street Rotary

Tony Redington