Monday, February 28, 2011

"Back of the Bus" - Radio report on Transit, Race and Inequalities

    At the risk of speechifying: if you don't think transportation has been used as a mighty force in the intentional disenfranchisement of people of color, this piece may wefll change your mind. This remarkable work was produced by Transportation Nation, with funding through the Rockefeller Foundation.
    The documentary details how transit use came to be equated with second-class citizenry, and how transportation planning over the last half-century has been driven in large part around accommodating mobility for middle-class whites, and separating low-income people of color from access to jobs and other amenities.
    Starting with the southern bus boycotts and school desegregation of the 60's, the theme of social-engineering-through-transportation-planning is portrayed. A featured actor in the story is the construction of the interstate highway system.
    “At the same time we were doing Brown v. Board of Education and trying to integrate the school system,” says Angela Glover Blackwell, the head of PolicyLink, “we were investing billions of dollars in a highway system that segregated the nation by allowing people to be able to run away from urban areas that were integrated to suburban areas that were all white.”
    Listen to the piece for yourself, or read the exerpts and view the slideshows at

Friday, February 25, 2011

State your support for Complete Streets Bill proposed for Vermont (and other states)

"When I started, I wasn't even a bill, I was just an idea. Some folks back home decided they wanted a law passed, so they called their local Congressman and he said, 'You're right, there oughta be a law.'"
It is an exciting time for the Complete Streets movement, as a crop of new Complete Streets bills have already been introduced in a half-dozen state legislatures. Each of the introduced bills could have a significant impact in helping to provide safe transportation options for residents and equipping state departments of transportation with new direction to take with their projects.
With state governments tackling a number of issues this year, Complete Streets bills may get lost in the shuffle. It’s important that you contact your own state representatives to ask them to support the bills, and send a note of thanks to those who have introduced the language. Tell them how Complete Streets would make your life better by lowering your transportation expenses or for your children to be more physically active.


H. 198 (.pdf), introduced in early February, would change existing state statutes to more clearly direct accommodation for people of all ages and abilities, whether walking, bicycling, taking public transportation, or driving. It would also require annual reporting on progress. The bill already has support from 28 Representatives and is supported by AARP Vermont and 45 partner organazations.
  • You can look up your representatives and let them know you support a comprehensive Complete Streets approach in Vermont.
  • If you are represented by one of the follow, be sure to thank them for sponsoring the bill: Representatives Burke, Masland, Andrews, Bohi, Davis, Donovan, Edwards, Font-Russell, French, Haas, Head, Lanpher, Lorber, Martin, McFaun, Mrowicki, Pearson, Pugh, Ram, Shand, Spengler, Waite-Simpson, Webb, Weston, Wilson, Wizowaty, Wright, and Young.
Read about the other states here.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Amtrak ranks Vermont last as worst railroad

From the Burlington Free Press:

MONTPELIER — The Agency of Transportation launched an investigation Wednesday into Vermont Rail System’s “worst-in-the-nation” rating as a “host railroad” for Amtrak passenger service to and from Rutland. “This problem with Vermont Rail Systems is a very serious problem for us,” Transportation Secretary Brian Searles said. “We have to dig into it.” 

Vermont Rail Systems, headquartered in Burlington, maintains track between Rutland and Whitehall, N.Y., the route the Ethan Allen Express takes on its way to New York City. The rail company is under contract to ensure that the trip takes 55 minutes, but an Amtrak official notified the state in a Feb. 17 letter that the train frequently is delayed because of poor track conditions. 

“Because of this, on-time performance of the Ethan Allen Express is often below 70 percent,” Stephen Gardner, vice president of policy and development for Amtrak, wrote to Searles. “Unfortunately this situation is not temporary and despite numerous efforts to address the problem ... (Vermont Rail Systems) remains unwilling and unable to meet its ongoing obligations to adequately maintain the rail line.” 

David Wulfson, president of Vermont Rail Systems, countered, “We have been working with Amtrak about the so-called ‘get well quick’ plan.” He said he was surprised Wednesday to receive Searles’ letter announcing an investigation. 

Wulfson said he didn’t want to comment further until he had more details from Searles and his staff. 

Gardner’s letter offered some history on the performance problems. He said Amtrak officials met with Vermont Rail Systems in 2006 to discuss “slow orders,” directives to trains to run slowly. 

Amtrak issued two performance-violation notices to the rail company in 2008 and convened a meeting. Amtrak sent another contract violation letter in December, then sent a team to meet Jan. 27 with Wulfson. 

Searles noted that Amtrak officials questioned not only the ability of Vermont Rail Systems to meet the performance standards necessary to continue to offer the Ethan Allen passenger service, but also questioned whether the rail company was capable of serving as host for an extension of passenger service to Burlington and eventual rerouting of the passenger line south to Bennington. 

Gardner’s letter warned, “The ongoing lack of compliance and abysmal performance track record brings into question the ability of VRS to maintain the high level of service that would be required” for a high-speed inter-city passenger rail grant. 

The state is about to submit its third request for a $74 million grant to make upgrades to the western corridor tracks to allow for an extension of passenger service to Burlington, Searles said: “We have big plans.” 

Gov. Peter Shumlin talked with Canadian officials during a recent trip to Quebec about how to restore train service to Montreal. 

Read the full article here.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Complete Streets Bill Introduced in Legislature

With the active support of some 45 partner organizations around the state, AARP Vermont is leading a campaign to pass Complete Streets legislation that will improve safety and access for pedestrians and other users of Vermont roadways.  H.198 was introduced earlier this month, and would change transportation policy to ensure that the needs of all users – older drivers, bicyclists, transit riders, and people of all ages and abilities – are considered and accommodated in state and locally managed transportation projects.
Complete Streets is a key element of AARP’s transportation policy agenda because it provides older people with a variety of options for getting around. We know that Vermont is getting older – by 2030 the number of people 65 and older will almost double to about 25% of the population.
Research shows that as people age they drive less or stop driving all together. According to national research one in eight persons 50 or older and one in five persons 65 and older do not drive. Non-drivers make less than half the number of trips made by drivers and are six times as likely as drivers to frequently or occasionally miss doing something because they don’t have transportation.
When it comes to walking, 2 in 5 Americans age 50+ say their neighborhood sidewalks are inadequate.  Nearly half cannot cross main roads close to their home safely, preventing many from walking, cycling or taking the bus.
Despite our aging population and the need to provide more transportation options, two-thirds of transportation planners and engineers say they have yet to begin addressing older people in their street planning.
It is important that we take action now, according to Jennifer Wallace-Brodeur, Associate State Director of AARP Vermont. “Vermont’s population is older than most and as people get older they drive less or hang up the keys altogether,” she said. “This life change can mean a lower quality of life, less independence and isolation if alternative ways of getting around are not available.”
We need your help to pass the Complete Streets bill! Burlington Representatives Johanna Donovan, Jason Lorber, Chris Pearson, Kesha Ram, Rachel Weston, Suzi Wizowaty, and Kurt Wright are co-sponsors of the bill. Please thank them for their support of this bill and encourage otherlegislators to join them in support of Complete Streets.

Transportation Choice and Economic Competitiveness (Video) (NY & SF)

From Streetfilms:

New StreetFilms video:
Leaders from New York, San Francisco and Portland talk about what bicycling means for their city.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Carpooling is a great way to share costs, time commuting

Vermonters: start using this wonderful internet base to share a ride, find company commuting and cut costs while driving to work. The limited public transportation throughout the state of Vermont oftentimes makes it difficult for people to find an alternative to driving solo to and from work every day. Here's one great alternative. It's up to everyone now to start using it.


Transportation is one of the biggest contributodrs of greenhouse emissions. If you look out at city traffic, or at a busy interstate, it's easy to see why. Millions of people drive great distances alone every day. It takes a lot of energy to push all those vehicles. And so many of those people are going the same way. Why not share the ride?

eRideShare puts the power of the Internet to work, connecting commuters or cross-country travelers going the same way. Put two people together in one car instead of separately in two cars, and the greenhouse emissions are cut in half. This is significant impact. You still get where you want to go, while saving plenty of cash. Maybe you'll even make a new friend or two.

There are other ways of acting to reduce one's transportation footprint. You can reduce the miles you drive by combining errands into one trip. Public transit is an option for many. Even better, consider biking to work, and turn your commute into a great way to stay in shape.

We also need to demand that government does its part with policies to improve fuel economy and to switch to renewable energy sources, not black hydrogen from coal or natural gas. We're "marching" with because we fear for the planet's precious vulnerable plant and animal inhabitants as well as the very real projected human costs. We must act before it's too late.

One Revolution to Start Compost Pick-up by Bike!

Yes, Burlington’s pedal-powered delivery service One Revolution is starting a pilot project to provide weekly food waste pick-up (and finished compost product return) by bicycle.
Tuesday February 15 marks the start of sign-up for their new compost pilot program utilizing One Revolution Cargo bikes and crew!  Service begins March 15, 2011.
This is your chance to not only reduce the amount of waste being trucked to landfill, but to reduce the amount of fossil fuels that would otherwise be used to truck this waste to landfill or industrialized compost facilities.
Revolution Compost uses bicycles to provide this year-round service and recycles your kitchen scraps into rich organic compost.
How it Works:
For a one-time start-up fee, One Revolution will provide you with a 3 gallon kitchen bin and compostable bag liners. Click here for details: Kitchen Container and Bio-bags.  Bio-bags are certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute and are accepted locally.
Your initial fee also includes a Rubbermaid 18 gallon sealed outdoor bin, labeled by us for Revolution Compost pick-up, for collection of bags and pick-up by us!
Each week with One Revolution bikes, and trailer in tow, they pick-up the filled compostable bags from their designated outdoor bin left by you on your porch or designated outdoor pick-up spot. For every 12 bags of food waste picked up by One Revolution you receive one free 20 ounce bag of Intervale Compost delivered to your door! For a detailed description of the fees click here: Fees
Pilot program pick-up is scheduled for pick-up on Tuesdays between the hours of 8:00 A.M. and 6:00 P.M.  You need only identify a spot for placement of the outdoor bin for pick-up and One Revolution will take care of the rest.
One Revolution will bring your compostable waste to places that want to make lots of compost. We return finished compost to you!

Sneak peak on road conditions for this spring ...

This past week with temperatures (well) above freezing Vermonters were able to get a little preview of what awaits road users of all kinds as soon as the snow is gone. Bike paths, streets, even sidewalks are torn up by snowplows to an extend that is for sure going to cause problems and safety issues for all users. 
Here is a short piece from the Burlington Free Press about the conditions of streets in Burlington.

Mud season descends. Burlington may be deficient of dirt roads, but never potholes. These caverns appeared on Elm­wood Avenue recently. A driver was well aware as she drove past the pedestrian photographer yell­ing the holes made “things” drop off her car. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Public transit is the right move; President's budget supports stronger communities, economic growth

From the blog:
As President Obama made clear in his State of the Union Address, if America hopes to win the future, we must out-build and out-innovate the rest of the world in order to grow our economy and create jobs. Investing in a modern transportation network is a perfect example of how we can equip future generations to compete in a global economy.

One part of the President's plan is to promote more efficient, inexpensive, and environmentally friendly public transportation opportunities. The Administration’s 2012 budget proposal recommends 28 important transit construction projects across the United States that will improve transit service for millions of Americans. 

And once these projects are under construction, they’ll generate hundreds of thousands of jobs in cities and towns across the country.

Read the full article here.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Good news: Vermont national forest makes room for mountain biking

GOSHEN -- Green Mountain National Forest is making room for mountain bikers.
In a partnership with the Vermont Mountain Biking Association and the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, the U.S. Forest Service is setting aside $154,000 for trail improvement and increased mountain bike access in the Green Mountain National Forest. The money, from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will go towards creation of a nine-mile loop trail that begins and ends at Silver Lake Campground, in Goshen.
The trail will also be accessible from Blueberry Hill Ski Center in Goshen and from Branbury State Park.

Open doors at Bike Recycle Vermont this Sunday

From the Burlington Bicycle Coalition:

This Sunday (and every Sunday) Bike Recycle Vermont opens it's doors to the larger community it serves. From 11-4, come stop by for the community bike shop were current BRV volunteers and bike recipients can work on their OWN bikes. All others also very welcome to use the shop space for a small donation. Also, from 11-2 you can help Burlington FOOD NOT BOMBS cook up food and then serve at 2pm right out of the Bike Recycle community Kitchen. Come for any reason you want, and be a part of our community. As always, you can email the BBC or the Bike Recycle Ameri Corps volunteer This is going to be awesome!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Obama Admin’s Bold Transpo Plan Leaves Funding Question to Congress

The president’s six-year transportation plan [PDF], included as part of the administration’s FY2012 budget proposal, weighs in at a hefty $556 billion and lays out several policy reforms that, if enacted, could help the nation transition to a more multi-modal, less oil-dependent transportation system.
The plan is a blueprint that Congress can use as a basis for its transportation reauthorization bill. It has a lot in common with then-Transportation Committee Chair Jim Oberstar’s bill from 2009. And, like Oberstar’s bill, it leaves unanswered the question of how to fund transportation investments. This time, however, it comes in the midst of an all-out Republican war on deficit spending.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says the president's proposal represents the administration's "big bold vision" for transportation. Photo: Tanya Snyder
How much of this plan will survive the GOP cutting machine is anyone’s guess. There’s a lot in the president’s proposal that’s worth saving. Some notable elements:
  • Transit funding is going up by 127 percent, while funding for roads and bridges is getting a 48 percent increase. That represents a significant shift in the highways-to-transit ratio, which will go from an 80-20 split to a 74-26 split.
  • The Highway Trust Fund is getting a long-overdue name change. The new Transportation Trust Fund will now have four accounts – the traditional highways and mass transit accounts and also new accounts for passenger rail and an infrastructure bank.
  • Some advocates are disappointed that the proposed infrastructure bank will be housed at DOT and not be formed as an independent entity, as many had hoped. Still, the shift to more discretionary, competitive grants is a huge victory for reformers.
  • The consolidation of 55 road programs into five means there will no longer be separate pots of money for bridges, for example, or trucker rest areas, according to Undersecretary Roy Kienitz. That money will be rolled into a larger pot of funding for highways that states and local governments will compete for. The five programs will be: the National Highway Program, Highway Safety Improvement, Livable Communities, Federal Allocation and Research, Technology, and Education.
  • The TIFIA loan program will go from a $120 million allocation to $450 million; TIGER, which has given out $2.1 billion in grants so far, will get $2 billion the first year in the president’s proposal.
  • The funding for livability programs – $28 billion over six years – will include bike and pedestrian improvements, but allocation decisions rest with the states.
  • While the new bill doesn’t have a line item for a new national freight policy or a new office overseeing freight movement, Kienitz said freight programs got the lion’s share of TIGER grants (pun not intended, I think) and will be well-positioned to get money from the infrastructure bank.
  • Amtrak funding will be split into two accounts: one for state of good repair and one for new system development.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day, Montpelier!

From FreeRide Montpelier, Bike Coop:

All over downtown Montpelier today you could see (and take and give as Valentine’s Day’s presents) red hearts printed on a sheet of paper.
This happens every year, and no one really knows who’s behind this installation.
Anyway, happy Valentine’s day everyone, and keep riding!

Friday, February 11, 2011

(Providence) Pothole Project an option for Burlington?

A group of Providence cyclists have created a public map to document pot holes around the city. Some of Burlington's streets are in pretty bad shape, especially after a long winter and lots of snowplows going through. According to Transportation for America the percentage of Vermont roads in 'poor' condition is 9.8%, whereas US average is 5.8%. This creates dangerous situations for cyclists and other vulnerable road users. The Providence Pothole Project could be a great way for Burlington residents to create awareness for these dangerous spots on the city's streets. Here is how it's done:
Visit the map page to read more about it (and add your own pot holes to the map).

View The Providence Pot Holes Project in a larger map and read more about Providence here.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Snowy Neckdowns Redux: Winter Traffic Calming

Here is a great example for how winter snow-"removal" can help slowing down traffic in a productive way.   Check out the latest Streetfilms, about how left over snowbanks create a 'temporary neckdown' at certain intersections in New York City. 

Snowy Neckdowns Redux: Winter Traffic Calming

As you may recall, many years ago I shot a Streetfilm taking about what winter weather can teach us.  In many ways the snow acts like tracing paper on our streets and records road user movements: at each intersection where the snow ends up piled can teach us a lot about where people drive and chose to walk.  It's a great experiment that costs no money and anyone can play traffic engineer. If you ever want safer streets around your block get out and take some photos next time it snows, it can bolster your arguments before a nay-saying community board (orpolitician) whether you are in New York City or Iowa.
With it having been over a week since we had our last big snowfall, I had been noticing some of the most dramatic examples of neckdowns & curb extensions made out of the fluffy white stuff - now hard as concrete - which brought a real sense of calm to crossing some streets in Jackson Heights, Queens.  And predicted, drivers don't seem to be having any problems with them, just taking the turns a bit more slowly and carefully as they should 365 days of the year. I've seen delivery vehicles, garbage trucks, EMS, and buses all have little problem navigating them (although admittedly did not observe any firetrucks.)
Of course, you can also check out how chicanes naturally occur.


Also, just published, the East Side Action Plan by Transportation Alternatives -- a report about workshops all along Manhattans East Side to create more bicycle and pedestrian friendly and hence safer streets. Check out the whole PDF here. 

State Announces Bike/Ped Plans

By Nancy Schulz:
In remarks before the House Transportation Committee on January 27, Deputy Secretary of Transportation Sue Minter outlined the administration's bike/ped plans for Fiscal Year 2012 which begins July 1. Deputy Secretary Minter stated that: "This administration is committed to accommodating needs of bicyclists and pedestrians." This is good news, indeed, and it's news that the bike/ped community in Vermont has waited a very long time to hear.

The following are some of the highlights the Deputy Secretary shared:

The state's FY 2012 bike/ped budget is up 2 percent over FY 2011. In these extremely difficult economic times, this is an indication that the Shumlin administration is acknowledging that bike/ped hasn't received the attention it deserves. (A list of which bike/ped projects are scheduled for construction in FY 2012 is available from VTrans. Please let me know if you are interested in these details.)

In FY 2012, the state will increase bike parking at park and ride facilities, public buildings, downtown areas, and at strategic public transit locations. (At the urging of the VBPC, Rep. Jason Lorber, D-Burlington, is drafting legislation that will increase the availability of bike parking at state buildings. Rep. Lorber serves on the House Institutions Committee. It's gratifying that members of both the administration and the legislature will be addressing this issue. The VBPC also had discussed the need for improvements in this area with Rep. Mary Hooper (D-Montpelier) and Joan Lenes (D-Shelburne). Both serve on the House Institutions Committee.)

Local bike/ped safety education programs will be funded in FY 2012. No details yet as to the dollars available or the application process.

Although the state will re-open the bike/ped program that allows municipalities to apply for funding for bike/ped infrastructure, there will be some research before the door is flung wide open. The plan is to devote FY 2012 to assessing current needs. Part of this process will be an analysis of crash data. Members of the bike/ped community will be included in the conversation and invited to provide input. The VBPC welcomes this openness on the part of the Shumlin administration and we look forward to hearing specifics regarding when these discussions will begin. In FY 2013, the state will undertake a cost/benefit analysis to determine which bike/ped projects make the most sense to advance.

Jon Kaplan, the state's Bike/Ped Program Manager, announced that the first public meeting on the Bike/Ped Economic Study will be held February 16. VTrans has commissioned a study to determine the number of dollars that bicycling and walking generate in the Vermont economy. Public input into this process is welcome.

The VBPC will report updates on the above as info becomes available. Thanks for your support of the Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition.