Thursday, April 28, 2011

Vermonters keeps an eye on rising water

From Burlington Free Press
JEFFERSONVILLE — Megan Dorsey looked out her window at Jeffersonville Family Housing at 7 a.m. Wednesday and watched as the parking area in front of her apartment turned into a lake.

“At, like, 7 there was no water. Then at 7:30 it was up to the speed bump, and within 10 minutes it was getting in up to the doors,” she said. “It came in fast; it came in really fast.”
She grabbed some clothing and left.

Dorsey and many other northern Vermont residents hoped forecasts for more rain today would be wrong as they grappled Wednesday with flooding that forced people from their homes, filled basements and turned Jeffersonville’s Main Street into a pond.

Kayakers and canoeists paddled down the street in Jeffersonville, population 729. Volunteer firefighters filled sand bags, roads were blocked, schools were closed, power was out, and neighbors stepped in to move horses and livestock to higher ground, pump out basements and help the displaced find shelter.

The flood response in the small Lamoille County town was replicated in other Vermont communities as the Lamoille, Missisquoi and other rivers surged over their banks in the wake of a drenching rain storm.

Water lapped up to the doorways of the Jeffersonville Family Housing and Senior Housing complex, the power was turned off, and about a dozen residents were evacuated. Dorsey’s neighbor, Erin Guyette, also was forced to rush out with a few outfits for herself and her son, along with her laptop computer and her cat. The women were planning to stay with other evacuated residents in temporary lodging that was offered to residents by the Smugglers’ Notch resort.

“At least we have a place to stay,” Guyette said. “We’re very grateful.”

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Lake Level Damages Island Line Trail

Lake Champlain’s current high water combined with southerly and westerly winds has damaged two sections of Vermont’s most popular multi-use trail.  In Burlington, the Burlington Bike Path by Perkin’s Pier is underwater and being eroded.  In South Hero, the northern section of the causeway (the Allen Point Access Area) has also been severely eroded.  Time will tell how bad the damage will be.   Stay tuned.
More pictures/tweets: Our superstar volunteer Annie Follett posted a few more photos on her blog, Annie Bikes. We’ve also heard from @spencervt on Twitter about erosion on the Causeway. Phelps Holloway sent in photos of the Causeway, see below.
Erosion to the South Hero Causeway

Will state DOTs target bicycle and pedestrian funds in rescissions?

In the latest budget deal between the Republicans and Democrats, the two parties agreed to rescind (read: take back) $2.5 billion in unspent federal transportation funds. Your state DOT has the power to decide which funds they send back.
We are sending out an alert to ask governors to work with their state DOTs to make sure bicycle and pedestrian funding programs are not disproportionately targeted, if at all.
Take Action now. (Go to this link and select your state from the drop down list.)
What are rescissions?
Periodically, Congress rescinds, or cancels, unspent transportation funds from State DOTs.  Rescissions are essentially a bookkeeping measure, which allows the USDOT to take long unspent funds off the books. However, some state DOTs have turned them into an opportunity to gut neglected bicycle and pedestrian funding sources in order to preserve favored programs.
The USDOT tells states how much money they have to give back – but state DOTs decide which unspent funds they will send back first. Historically, some of the strongest programs for bicycle and pedestrian projects – Transportation Enhancements (TE), Congestion Mitigation & Air Quality (CMAQ) – suffer dramatically higher rescission rates than other programs.
For example, TE and CMAQ made up just 7.3 percent of state DOTs’ 2010 transportation apportionments, but they made up a much larger share of what a state sends back. In August 2010, out of the $2.2 billion rescinded, $968 million (44%) came from CMAQ and TE. Not all these funds would have gone to bicycling and walking, of course, but based on historic spending rates, some $330 million would have.
The best way to protect bicycling and walking programs from disproportionate rescissions in the long run is to ensure that state departments of transportation are making full use of programs that most often fund bicycle and pedestrian projects. As advocates, we can help programs compete for priority by finding political and agency champions who will make sure these programs are expertly administered.
See the Advocacy Advance document, Understanding Rescissions – a Call for Proportionality, for suggestions and resources to increase spending on bicycle and pedestrian projects.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Photos like these need to be used to sell sustainable transportation...


Sustainable transportation...

A bicyclist passes a 76 station with fuel prices in the $4.00 range in Los Angeles Monday, April 11, 2011. With the price of gas above $3.50 a gallon in all but one state, there are signs that Americans are cutting back on driving, reversing a steady increase in demand for fuel as the economy improves.(AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Gas Prices
A bicyclist waits at an intersection between competing gas stations and multiple posted gas prices Monday, April 18, 2011, in Seattle. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell are blaming commodity speculators for pushing up the price of gasoline and the two held a news conference Monday in Seattle to call for federal regulators to crack down on speculation. The AAA auto club reports the average price of gas in Washington is $3.92, nine cents higher than the national average. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Streetfilms Moving Beyond the Automobile: Road Diet

What’s a road diet? Quite simply, traffic-calming expert Dan Burden told Streetfilms, “A road diet is anytime you take any lane out of a road.”
The first time people hear about a road diet, their initial reaction likely goes something like this: “How can removing lanes improve my neighborhood and not cause traffic backups?” It seems counterintuitive, but taking away lanes can actually help traffic flow smoother while improving safety for everyone. Read more…

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Deal reached, Burlington bus strike avoided

The settlement, first reported on the Burlington Free Press’ website, was announced shortly after 8 p.m. by Messier; Burlington lawyer Joe McNeil, who represented CCTA management; and Elayne L. Tempel, the federal mediator from Portland, Maine.
“It’s been a long, very difficult but very productive day in the end,” McNeil said as the trio met with reporters at the Best Western Windjammer Conference Center on Williston Road.
Messier and McNeil said it would take another two weeks before the contract could be ratified by both sides.
“We do of course have to make sure this is written up, and it’s never over until it is absolutely over,” McNeil said. “But we are pretty confident that we have been careful enough about the language that we are going to write and agree to that at the end of the day, or the evening, we will be good to go.”
Acrimony between CCTA bus drivers and the authority had been simmering for months.
In November, bus drivers rejected a contract proposal because of objections about hiring part-time workers to handle busy rush-hour bus routes. The drivers also objected to working split shifts that broke up their days and left them little time for relaxation between shifts.Most of the terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but the settlement means buses will roll today for the 9,000 daily one-way riders who use the transit system in Burlington, South Burlington, Essex, Shelburne, Williston and Winooski.
“Both parties, we worked very hard to get to where we are,” Messier said. “Both parties made some movement to be able to come to an agreement.”
Once the proposed agreement is reduced to writing, it will be circulated among the 62 union members, who will be given a week or so to review and vote by mail, Messier said.
McNeil said the CCTA will wait until word is received from the union on its vote before calling a public meeting of the Board of Commissioners to weigh in. He said five commissioners were present at negotiations for much of Thursday.
The sides were camped out in conference rooms across the hall from each other, with Tempel shuttlinng back and forth throughout the day trying to bring home a settlement.
By early evening some of the tension seemed to have evaporated, and smiles were seen on faces of negotiators as they walked out to get some fresh air. In the end, Tempel said she was pleased.
“It was fairly tough, but the parties worked very hard at it,” she said. “The thing that they did is that they never quit listening to one another. That was very helpful. We didn’t know for sure until this evening whether we would have an agreement. Now we have a tentative agreement, and they are going to go write it and hopefully have a ratification.”
The agreement is retroactive to July 1.

Part-time hiring 

One of the sticking points had been a plan by CCTA to hire up to 13 part-time drivers to help fill shifts, and possibly cutting some drivers from 40 hours a week to 37½. There also was a concern about disciplinary procedures.
The agreement allows the CCTA to hire up to 13 part-time drivers, Michael Walker, a CCTA bus driver and a chief shop steward, and CCTA Acting General Manager Meredith Birkett said during a news conference.“We secured 40 hours for the majority of the people,” Walker said. “Some people will have to work at getting their hours, but in the long run they will be able to get their 40 hours to take care of their families.”
Union members had been seeking to protect full-time positions because they provide health and retirement benefits to employees, unlike part-time positions.
The tentative settlement also limits the frequency of split shifts, in which bus drivers work during the morning rush hour, take a break, then return to work. The normal cap on a work day will be 12½ hours, Walker said.
Birkett said CCTA agreed to meet with bus drivers regularly to develop schedules that minimize the number of times employees must work split shifts.
Walker expressed relief at the tentative settlement. “We do care very much about the passengers, and we’re glad we’ve come to an agreement,” Walker said. “We’re ready to move forward. We’re excited to move forward.”
CCTA Board Chairman Chapin Spencer said the tentative settlement means the public transportation organization can now concentrate on continuing CCTA’s growth. “This is where the exciting work gets to begin,” he said.
He said CCTA has grown 63 percent during the past 10 years and will now continue to grow.
Birkett said the negotiations were lengthy because the issues “deserved a lot of time and consideration.” In the end, bus service for passengers will continue uninterrupted. “We came through for them,” she said.

Won't have to walk 

Burlington school students were among those who could have been stranded by a drivers’ strike. The city has one of few school districts in Vermont that does not use a full-service yellow school bus system.
About a third of the district’s 3,680 students depend on CCTA “neighborhood special” routes daily under a contractual arrangement between the School District and the transportation authority. The arrangement is less expensive than a traditional school-bus system and potentially reduces the number of buses needed to ply city streets.
More here.

Why they ride - a sampling of CCTA bus passengers

As negotiations continued between CCTA bus drivers and authority leadership, the Burlington Free Press asked riders how they rely on local bus service. Here are some responses:
• Penny Martin Hathaway, 22, Colchester: For Penny Martin Hathaway, 32, Chittenden County Transportation Authority bus service is part of her routine. Most mornings she must leave her home in Fort Ethan Allen in Colchester to make it to her job, via the bus, by 9 a.m.
She was pulling for an agreement between the CCTA management and the drivers’ union so she wouldn’t have to impose on friends for rides. She said she knows many who rely on the bus.
“A lot of people I work with take the bus to go to work,” she said.

• Gabriel Ayuen, 32, Colchester: Ayuen, 32, also lives in Fort Ethan Allen. He says he relies upon CCTA for almost all of his travels, including trips to work, shopping and meetings in Burlington.
“I have no car,” he said.
For instance, he was scheduled to meet with his probation supervisor in Burlington at 8 a.m. today. He said he had no idea how he’d get there had there been a strike.
“What can I do? I have to come in. I need to take the bus,” he said.
This morning’s meeting wasn’t the only reason he needs the bus. He works at Twincraft, a bar soap manufacturer in Winooski, and needs transportation to and from work, he said. CCTA buses are the only way he can be on time for work at 7 most mornings, he said.

• Roch Thibodeau, 50, South Burlington: Thibodeau can put away his walking shoes after all. Had CCTA bus drivers gone on strike, he said he would have been doing a lot of walking.
His daily routine is to take a cab from his South Burlington home to work at Fletcher Allen Health Care. The cab ensures he arrives on time. In the afternoon, he takes a CCTA bus home, since he doesn’t have to be there at a certain time.
Had CCTA bus drivers joined picket lines, Thibodeau said he would have had to hoof it. He estimates it would take up to 45 minutes to walk home from work.
He’s a regular bus rider, beyond the afternoon commute.
“I use the bus for transportation, for going to dinner, shopping,” he said. He takes the bus to Burger King to eat, or to treat himself to meals at the Texas Roadhouse restaurant in Williston.
• David Dalley, 26, South Burlington: Most days, David Dalley drives his own car to work at the University Mall Taco Bell in South Burlington, but Thursday his vehicle was in the shop, so he took the bus, like many of his employees.
Before news of a tentative settlement that averted a strike surfaced, Dalley was trying to think through contingency plans. Most of his employees take CCTA buses to work.
“I might have to go pick people up at home,” he said earlier in the day, while the bus drivers’ strike still loomed.
— Matt Sutkoski, Free Press 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

CCTA Chairman Spencer: CCTA agreement: A good deal for drivers, public

By Chapin Spencer, CCTA Chair:
The public is rightly wondering about the status of the collective bargaining agreement between CCTA and our drivers. As chairman of the CCTA board, I want to make our position clear.
CCTA and union have been negotiating since March 2010 and have participated in a mediation and fact finding. Upon the release of the fact finding report this March, the union proposed an agreement to CCTA, which CCTA accepted. This agreement has been brought to the drivers and the voting results are expected today.
CCTA feels the current proposal offers a fair and reasonable contract that raises pay each year, continues excellent benefits, and greatly improves driver work schedules. However, there is a parallel struggle going on that CCTA believes is influencing the drivers' consideration of the proposal. CCTA drivers are represented by the Teamsters Local No. 597. Some CCTA drivers are also affiliated with the Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), an offshoot of the Teamsters who have an agenda with respect to the national Teamsters leadership. CCTA believes an internal union struggle is fostering an environment where it may be difficult to reach any agreement.
The one substantive issue most often cited by the union's negotiating team is long spread times; the time from the beginning of a split shift to the end of the split shift, not actual work time. CCTA ridership has increased 63 percent over the last 10 years because of an increased focus on commuters. This focus creates two large peaks in service each day, during the morning and evening rush hours. This peak hour service requires drivers to work the morning shift and then return for the afternoon shift to resume work. CCTA agrees with the union that spread time should be limited and the proposal includes a way to do that: Hire part-time union drivers who would:
Help reduce the peak hour demands on full-time drivers,
Dramatically limit full-time driver exposure to long days, and
Guarantee every full-time driver has two consecutive days off.
Comments and More

Monday, April 11, 2011

Flooding closes roads across northwestern Vermont

Road crews close North Williston Road near Rt. 117 on Monday, April 11, 2011 after heavy rainfall flooded the roadway near Essex.
All of Vermont is under flood warnings or flood watches as of 5:45 p.m. Monday, according to the National Weather Service office in South Burlington. Rivers including the Winooski, Lamoille and Missisquoi are above flood stage and rising in some communities.
Flood warnings -- meaning flooding is occurring -- were in effect in Chittenden, Caledonia, Lamoille, Orange, Orleans and Windsor counties, according to the weather service.
Forecasters issued a flood warning Monday night for the Winooski River in Essex, where as of 7 p.m. the waterway was only 6 inches below flood stage of 15 feet and expected to rise about 12 more inches.
Along the Winooski in Richmond, a large tree floated down the river until it became lodged under the Bridge Street Bridge and threatened to snap water and sewage lines that run along the span. The road and the bridge both were closed.
The tree was about 1 foot in diameter and some 50 feet long.
The incident threatened to dump sewage into the Winooski and cut off municipal water service to part of town if the tree snaps the pipes. Several days would be needed to restore water service if the pipe is severed, town officials said. Crews said there was little they could do other than hope for the tree to break apart before it causes damage, and to wait for the water level to fall.
Vermont 15 is closed between Cambridge and Jeffersonville due to flooding at the Wrong-Way Bridge, where forecasters said the Lamoille River was 2.4 inches above flood stage of 13 feet and forecast to crest near 14 feet before receding by morning.
The Missisquoi River in North Troy was more than a foot above flood stage of 9 feet but was forecast to begin receding by early Tuesday. If the Missisquoi reaches 11 feet, "water will inundate River Road between Troy and North Troy, as well as portions of Loop Road in Westfield and Troy. Water will cover portions of Route 100 near Troy and well upstream near Lowell. There will be widespread flooding of lowlands, fields and pastures along the Missisquoi from Lowell to North Troy," forecasters said on the weather service's website.
Read more here.

CCTA bus drivers reject contract

Chittenden County Transportation Authority bus drivers overwhelmingly rejected a proposed three-year contract Sunday and began bracing for a strike.
Bus drivers could go out on strike at 12:01 a.m. Friday if a federal mediation session fails Thursday, said Jim Fouts, a spokesman for the drivers.

A strike would halt bus service in Burlington, South Burlington, Winooski, Essex, Williston and Shelburne. It also would impact the so-called link trips to Middlebury, Montpelier, Milton and St. Albans, Fouts said.

CCTA hopes the mediation session with Elaine Temple will settle the ongoing dispute, said its lawyer, Joe McNeil of Burlington on Sunday after being told the vote results.

He noted the rejected contract was proposed by the union leadership to CCTA management following a fact-finding session with mediator Ira Lobel. CCTA management approved the union offer, he said.

The drivers voted 52-6 to rebuff the contract that had been agreed upon by the two negotiating committees, Fouts said.

“We are pretty united; 52 no votes says something,” said Fouts, who noted almost all the drivers eligible to vote had submitted their ballots by mail by the deadline so they could be counted Sunday in Barre.

“I think that the local and the drivers are very united on this. What we want is not unsolvable. That it has come this far amazes me,” Fouts said.

The stumbling points are a plan by the CCTA to increase the number of part-time bus drivers to 13 to help cover shifts and the possibility of cutting full-time hours from 40 to 37½ each week.

“All full-time workers will still be offered to work 40 hours,” McNeil said about the CCTA’s position. “No full-time workers will be reduced to accommodate part-timers.”

McNeil said CCTA has heavy use in the early mornings and late afternoons for commuters, but there is a very light load during the day.

“The point we are making is we want to protect jobs,” Fouts said.

Fouts said the drivers believe the contract calls for greater use of part-time drivers and that means a reduction in the number of full-time drivers.

He said the work schedule under the proposed contract has 56 full-time drivers and the part-timers filling the other shifts. There are 62 full-time drivers now.

“Six would lose their jobs. We are looking out for everybody. We are not going to accept people losing their jobs,” Fouts said. He maintains CCTA also wants to cut up to 2½ hours of work each week from drivers.

The union could have gone on strike this Thursday, but an agreement was reached by both sides to extend it at least 24 hours in order to give a federal mediator one last chance to settle the dispute, McNeil said.

The proposed three-year contract would have been retro-active to July 1, 2010. The bus drivers have continued to work under the terms of the old contract.

“If we cannot come to an agreement, we will go on strike,” Fouts said. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Vermont Commuter Challenge! May 16-20 2011


Vermonters are putting a dent in carbon pollution during the weeklong Way To Go! Commuter Challenge. Last year we reduced over 240,000 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. So leave your car at home and join the fun. Individuals, businesses, schools, organizations - everyone is welcome. Last year we walked, biked, carpooled and rode the bus all the way to our goal. Join us for this year's commuter challenge and enjoy the benefits. It's healthy, fun and saves serious money and gas. Plus you'll be entered to win this years great prizes. Win a Burton snowboard, an ipod or go all the way and win the prestigious CARBON CUP! So let's GO. Together we can make a big impact on carbon pollution.

The Carbon Cup trophy is a new Way To Go! award this year to recognize Vermont employers and a Vermont community for their efforts to encourage participation, save energy, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation during the Way To Go! week. An engraved trophy will go to one small employer (under 50), one large employer (50 and over), and one Vermont city or town. The Carbon Cup winner will demonstrate strong participation and significant savings in transportation emissions. A winner will hold the cup for a year until the next year's Way To Go! Carbon Cup winner is declared. Be the first to win what is sure to become a prestigious annual award! 

We also will continue to offer Way To Go! participation awards to employers and communities to honor and thank those that demonstrate the highest levels of participation in the Way To Go! statewide challenge. 


Business AwardsOffered to micro, small, medium, large, macro and major employers based on percentage of employees participating.

Community Challenge AwardsVermont cities and towns compete to see which community can achieve the highest participation rate.

The 2010 Way To Go! School ChallengeA challenge for students, faculty and staff to walk, bike, carpool or take the bus to school.


1. One-Week Family Passes to Area Fitness Clubs
2. Discounts at Selected Area Sports Stores
3. ...And a Chance to Receive the following Raffle Prizes...

Learn more here.

Moving Beyond the Automobile: Traffic Calming

What’s the most effective way to make city streets safer? As Chicago Alderman Mary Ann Smith told Streetfilms, “Signs don’t do the job, even having police officers on the corner does not do the job.” To prevent traffic injuries and deaths, you need to change how the street functions and make it feel slower for drivers. You need traffic calming.
Traffic calming takes many forms and can describe any measure taken to reduce traffic speeds, improve safety, and make using the street a better overall experience. The most effective traffic calming measures are those that influence drivers to “behave in a civilized manner,” as Smith put it.
Changes like curb extensions, neck-downs, and bike lanes are all traffic calmers that save lives by sending the signal for drivers to slow down. In this Streetfilm we highlight some exemplary traffic calming projects from cities across the country.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Meeting planned on Vermont-New York bridge project

WEST ADDISON — Vermonters are going to be getting an update on the progress of construction on a new bridge across Lake Champlain to New York.
On April 7, officials from the Vermont Agency of Transportation are going to be attending a meeting at the Addison Central School to update the progress of the $70 million bridge from West Addison to Crown Point, N.Y.
In addition to a construction update, topics to be discussed include plans to restore the site where a temporary ferry is now running and commemorate the original bridge, which was deemed unsafe in the fall of 2009.
Vermont Public Radio says that despite the contractor being give 65 extra days to finish the bridge, officials still hope to open the new bridge to traffic as scheduled on Oct. 9.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Venture Vermont Outdoor Challenge


Download poster to share (Adobe pdf)
Download Score sheet (Adobe pdf)
View thumbnails

2011 Score sheet will be posted on April 1st

Check out last year's participants:
1. Download a score sheet
2. Do fun outdoor activities listed on the score sheet
3. Take photos of your activities
4. When you reach 250 points, submit your score sheet and photos to us
5. Receive a VIP gold coin, good for free state park entry for rest of this year and all of next!
6. Have a blast!
If you are doing the challenge as a family, you can take group 
photos, but each family member needs their own score sheet

Saturday, April 9th 2011: Vermont 200k Champlain Valley Randonneur Ride

From /

Ride Information
Destination: Brandon, VT
Start Location: The Old Spokes Home, Burlington, VT (Google Map)
Start Time: 06:00
Length: 200k / 129mi ~7750′ climbing
Time Limit: 13.5 Hours
Controls: Richmond, VT; Bristol, VT; Brandon, VT; Middlebury, VT
Sanctioning: RUSA and ACP
Cue Sheet: Preliminary Cue Sheet (final cue provided at start)
Registration: Register Online or Postal Registation Form
Lights: Recommended
The Vermont 200k winds south from Burlington exploring the west side of the Green Mountains and the northern Champlain Valley. The terrain is generally rolling, with two sharp climbs in the first half of the ride with rewarding spring views to Camel’s Hump and Lake Champlain. Cafe stops in Richmond, Bristol and Middlebury offer the chance to enjoy a hot beverage, soup, or baked goods while exploring early spring in the northern Vermont.