Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Transportation issues a must for Weinberger's to-do list

From the Burlington Free Press

The age of cheap gas is over. Residents are now spending 20 percent of their income on transportation alone. How can we ensure residents will have affordable ways to get around in the future?
While many transportation policy issues will be hotly debated at larger levels, Burlington’s new mayor has the opportunity to show how a small city can lead the way.

The area’s transportation partners have been collaborating more and more — and the results are paying off:
• Bus ridership is up 59 percent over the last decade.
• 43 percent of Hill employees are now getting to work some other way than driving solo.
• Residents are now walking and biking more after a 50-year decline.
• CarShare Vermont’s vehicles are being used six hours a day.
The real team approach among CCTA, Campus Area Transportation Management Association, CarShare Vermont, Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission, SSTA, VTrans, the city of Burlington and AARP is improving our transportation options.
And yet, the new mayor can drive this collaboration to a whole new level and make Burlington a model small city for clean, safe, affordable mobility. Here are 10 steps:
1. Give downtown employees transportation options. Every downtown employee who doesn’t drive solo frees up a parking space for shoppers. Let’s figure out how to get CATMA’s award-winning commuter incentives (Bike/Walk Rewards, Guaranteed Ride Home, etc) and Go Vermont’s services into the hands of all downtown employees.
2. Be an active champion for a new CCTA transit center. The current outdoor terminal is under-sized, unheated and unwelcoming. The mayor can help increase ridership, reduce congestion and stimulate downtown development by supporting CCTA’s inclusive efforts to build an attractive new transit center with an indoor waiting area, rest rooms and other amenities.
3. Spur walkable downtown development. One concrete step the new mayor should evaluate is reducing on-site parking requirements for developers if they agree to pay into a downtown transportation fund that supports all modes of transportation.
4. Empower public works to implement your vision. NIMBY concerns and a reluctance to change have stalled sidewalk projects, created disjointed bike lanes, and delayed a consolidation of duplicative transit routes. Giving Public Works the policy support to implement changes consistent with the master plan and your vision will get things done.
5. Support a Business Improvement District (BID) — To avoid driving to the ‘burbs to shop, we must help our downtown compete with the big boxes. A BID creates a formal structure for business owners to help the city address pressing issues and often to maintain sidewalks, green space and parking.
6. Work regionally to jump start park and ride development. Planners have identified the need for “intercept lots” on the edge of Burlington for decades, but progress has been glacial. Not having a park and ride at exit 14 and a plan to fund a direct bus connection into downtown is a huge missed opportunity.
7. Lead the bike path rehabilitation. Our beloved 25-year-old path must be fully renovated to continue to attract tourists and events like the marathon. Among other steps, the mayor should motivate community leaders to establish a “Parks Foundation” so citizens and businesses can leave a legacy by investing in our waterfront path.
8. Help carsharing with dedicated parking — Carsharing has proven to reduce driving while also helping people get around, but the sharedcars need to be convenient and visible. A clear process for establishing dedicated and enforced parking for CarShare Vermont vehicles will provide better service to Queen City residents.
9. Articulate a transformative vision of “living streets.” Besides serving as transportation corridors, our streets are public spaces where we catch up with neighbors, admire a view, go for a jog, etc. Public art, pocket parks, benches and activities could transform our streets into vibrant social centers of our community.
10. Demand that it all work together. Transportation options don’t work alone. Carpooling, transit, walking, biking, passenger rail and carsharing don’t attract great numbers of people unless they work as a seamless system. Nothing less should be acceptable.
Thank you Mayor-elect Weinberger for mentioning many of these actions in your campaign. Now it is time to set a clear policy direction and hold us transportation partners accountable. We will rise to the challenge.
Let’s get moving.
Chapin Spencer is the executive director of Local Motion, board member of CCTA and advisory board member of CarShare Vermont. 

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