Sunday, April 3, 2022

Parkway Update: Lawsuit, Racial Equity Dismissed, Price Doubles, Innovation Center Joins Lawsuit

 

 Pine Street Parkway US District Court Lawsuit Begins,
     Finally, May16

City Ignores King Maple Neighborhood Certified
      Community of Color with Zero Change in Parkway     
      Blatant Environmental Injustice Design After
      Almost 3 Years Public Review

City Quietly Puts Parkway to Bid—Only One Bid  
     Received Two Weeks Ago, About Doubles the
     Overall VTrans/City Estimated Total from $30
     million to as much as $60 million! (Yes, Pine Street
     RIGHTway would cut project construction costs by
     about one quarter!)

Fortieth Burlington, LLC Owner of Major Lakeside
     Office Complex, Innovation Center, joins Pine
     Street in Litigation at Vermont’s US District Court


April 2, 2022


Good Day Pine Street Grassroots Members:

Please note recent highlights as the Champlain Parkway moves from an almost three year delay to apply new Environmental  Justice regulations (not a whisker of change in the harmful Parkway design!) to the Pine Street US District Court lawsuit filed June 6, 2019 (D-Day).  And the apparent ill-timed rush to Parkway construction by the Mayor Weinberger administration. The one bid received March 18 signals a doubling of estimated construction costs!  The Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission and VTrans estimates of $30 million for construction based on a partial Parkway construction bid of $40.1 million suggests construction costs doubling to about $60 million!

If you have not yet signed the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance petition to support our joint Champlain RIGHTway, please take a moment to visit the petition site provided at the end of this message.  And continue to encourage our City Councilors and Legislative representatives to push for the exciting RIGHTway and its benefits (and save up to 25% of the construction estimate!) instead of the current harmful to the South End design!

When asked the question of who makes the decisions on the Parkway, one is reminded of a conversation between then former Secretary of Transportation Sue Minter following a campaign appearance in her campaign for governor when she told Pine Street leader Jack Daggitt in response to questions about the Parkway design, she responded simply “this is a City project!”  Minter herself is said to have nixed roundabouts in the project in a 2015 meeting.  Still, the point she makes is the Mayor of Burlington is the key person in decisions making regarding the Champlain Parkway.  The Parkway is a City project!!

    Tony Redington
        Walk Safety Advocate
    for the Pine Street Coalition


 


Pine Street Parkway US District Court Lawsuit Begins,
     Finally, May16


Grassroots volunteer Pine Street Coalition (Coalition) filed at US District Court here in Burlington on D-Day June 6, 2019 with the purpose of stopping the obsolete, harmful Champlain Parkway design and obtaining a re-design which responds to safety for all modes, addresses climate change, and most important, relieves not adds to the overburden for King Maple neighborhood.  The City now opposes and always has the current design cutting in two the now certified community of color King Maple and adding 22-37% more traffic and installing two injury generating traffic signals to an already overburdened low-income, community of color area.  

Now the plaintiffs, Pine Street and Fortieth Burlington, LLC, Innovation Center owner face off with the City, VTrans and Federal Highway Administration with first legal brief filings due by May 16.   

City Ignores King Maple Neighborhood Certified
      Community of Color with Zero Change in Parkway     
      Blatant Environmental Injustice Design After Almost 3
      Years Public Review

It remains puzzling after almost three years and a unanimous strong public hearing opposition and comments against the Parkway cutting through the now certified King Maple neighborhood as a community of color—just why not a whisker of design change in this overburdened neighborhood where 32% of residents have no car access and are pedestrian dependent?

A major change this year is the National Roadway Safety Strategy document from the US Department of Transportation (January 2022)

https://www.transportation.gov/NRSS

This policy document calls for a “Safe System Approach” and “Safe System Intersections” (primarily roundabouts) to transport funding to address “preventable” serious and fatal roadway injuries—there are at least 21,000 preventable fatalities each year on US roads, about 30 in Vermont.  (US plunged from first in world road safety in 1990 to18th today, ped deaths up 51% since 2010 with two recorded in Burlington.)

The new national strategy expressly makes both racial/low-income equity and climate change the two vital companion objectives in safety spending. The National Roadway Safety Strategy ties directly to 2021 Executive Orders https://www.transportation.gov/NRSS/SafetyEquityClimate  EO 13985 on Equity and EO 14008 on Climate Change.

It is difficult to conceive of a roadway investment in Vermont which could be more damaging to racial and low income equity and the climate than the current design of the Champlain Parkway!

City Quietly Puts Parkway to Bid—Only One Bid  
     Received Two Weeks Ago, About Doubles the
     Overall VTrans/City Estimated Total from $30 million to
     as much as $60 million! (Yes, Pine Street RIGHTway
     would cut project construction costs by about one
     quarter!)


On March 18, Burlington opened the one bid for construction of just part of the Champlain Parkway between Main Street and Home Avenue—that bid, reportedly $40.1 million alone exceeds the $30 million City estimates on the books for about three years.  The $40.1 million when added some time in the future of the balance of the Parkway from Shelburne Rd to Home Ave (“Road to Nowhere”) means the current Parkway design will double to about $60 million the current estimates.  

This number also calls into question the $20 million estimate for the Railroad Enterprise Project (REP) which just about all in the City favor being built first to bypass the King Maple neighborhood already overburdened with traffic, pollution, and social disruption of high traffic volumes.  The City is responsible for 100% of REP costs over $20 million.

Some say the Weinberger administration ill-timed bid maneuver was to avoid facing the court challenge and avoid a possible injunction stopping construction.  That occurred at US District Court in the Circumferential Highway lawsuit when VTrans let contracts followed by the Court rejected the environmental document and the project died—same issue here with the Parkway?  

Fortieth Burlington, LLC Owner of Major Lakeside Office
     Complex, Innovation Center, joins Pine Street in

     Litigation at Vermont’s US District Court


It is news that the owner of Innovation Center on Lakeside Avenue took action recently to also oppose at US District Court the current Parkway design and seek a quality, modern South End transport facility which is safe, addresses climate change (Efficiency Vermont was a longtime tenant) and corrects the overburden for the low-income and community of color King Maple neighborhood.
Pine Street and Innovation Center have worked closely in the past in regulatory and State courts to obtain a responsible Parkway design.

Attached please note a simple example of a street, a dedicated bikeway, and sidewalk.  This is the type of design Pine Street and Vermont Racial Justice Alliance call for between Queen City Park Rd to Home Avenue and from Home Avenue to Flynn Ave.  It is the RIGHTway!  It is “doing it right the first time!”

Please stay safe!

    Yours truly,


    Tony Redington
    for the Pine Street Coalition

 


 

 

What can you do?

Sign the Stop the Champlain Parkway Project and Choose the Champlain RIGHTway Petition: http://chng.it/tS9Ts5FjDx   SafeStreetsBurlington.com

 

Friday, April 9, 2021

Povertyville Section of Vermont--Time for Historic Burlington-Winooski Axis Urban Renew to String of Pearls?

4/9/2021 Draft Burlington-Winooski, the Two Centuries Old Historic Economic Axis Engine Declines to Vermont’s Povertyville Section—Ready for Renewal from the 1980-to-Date Devolution towards a String of Urban Pearls for the 21st Century? …A future Burlington-Winooski as a Shining 15-Minute Shangri-La Urban Corridor “The gods of the valleys are not the gods of the hills” Ethan Allen 1770 “There must be a radical redistribution of political and economic power in this nation and in this town” Mark Hughes, director of the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance speaks as Burlington officials and 30 organizations declare “Racism a Public Health Emergency” July 2020 The Current Burlington-Winooski Axis Decline Extends Back Decades Since the early 1980s about every Vermont major economic indicator save the education export economy crept slowly down or stagnated in Vermont. This mirrored the trends of loss of good paying manufacturing jobs which spurred the post-World Ward II economy upward ending about 1980 then moving to decline—what significant real growth incomes occurred in the last four decades in the slow-growth states of the northeast and mid-west rust belts tilted to the well-to-do. This recent trend impact on the historic economic centuries old engine of Vermont represented by the Burlington waterfront to Winooski City riverside “axis” has been most pronounced and profound. During both the post-World War economic boom ending about 1980, subsequent decline population and wealth shifted away from built-up Burlington and Winooski to the suburbs and rural Chittenden County towns. For almost two centuries the two cities remained the economic engine of Vermont but since the 1980s their role faded. For Vermont, the 1960s investments by then Governor Hoff in being the first state in the nation to buy their critical major rail operator (the Rutland Railroad) and literally birthing the ski industry with two unprecedented major speculative public ski road investments—helped the state avoid the empty storefronts and dominating skeletons of former manufacturing facilities as the 1980s and 1990s progressed. Springfield in 1960 was the home of a major portion of the machine tool industry of the nation! A critical player in the manufacturing industry of the day. The Springfield incomes of a unionized workforce were the highest in the state and the slow but sure economic decline as the industry atrophied left the community begging a state prison to rescue its depressed economy. Compared to northeastern New York and all Maine except for the area a two hour drive from the Boston metro, Vermont faired relatively fairly well only because of the ski/tourism and educational economic sectors growth until the plateau of the ski economy in the 1990s followed by education plateau in student numbers beginning in 2010. For Vermont that buffering of economic and social stagnation arose from the baby boom education bulge in its colleges during the 1990s and first decade of this century which plateaued in 2010 and now succumbs to the demographic collapse of college age population. And yes that boomers boomers were the first ski generation. The education industry future seems even more murky as record lows in birth rates in the northeast and nationally continue. Not even mentioning distance learning and the competitive disadvantage of norther New England state universities with the highest tuitions in the nation. Private St. Michael’s College, for example, planned ahead for the student bust and carefully with full participation of the college community managed the 16% decline from 1,900 students a decade ago to the 1,600 today. UVM and the State colleges systems did not plan—as is obvious now—as educational bankruptcy measures are in place for the state colleges and UVM’s modest 3% drop in students in fall 2020 signals the first statistical slight downtrend dating back to the peak year 2010. UVM’s current approach to the future appears unplanned and undirected. The drop of direct employment by IBM in Essex Junction of about 8,000 at its peak in the 1980s to now about 2,300 at successor Global Foundries—still the State’s largest private employer—gives the best evidence of the past and continued manufacturing decline. UVM rates as the largest Vermont employer excepting state government itself. The pandemic has given all a pause to reflect on our economic and social history, and ask the question where do we in Burlington Winooski “axis” go from here in a predominantly rural state where among many challenges is the requirement to sharply reduce non-renewable resources to stop global warming? Of course, Vermont never really possessed non-renewable energy resources in the first place. Note that over half the Vermont non-renewable resource consumption centers on petroleum fuels used to power the motor vehicle dominated transport sector. Longer History View and Recent Arrival of “Povertyville” To ask the question where do we go from here, consider Vermont and most important the driving engine throughout our history being primarily the story of the economy of Burlington and Winooski. Those two communities began with transportation centered along the Burlington waterfront accessing markets by water and Winooski riverside manufacturing production driven by the Winooski River waterpower. The Burlington waterfront where transportation to markets occurred was centered—first just to the lake and northward to Canada, then with the Erie and Champlain Canals accessing markets south the New York City and the west in the 1820s, then amplified by the arrival of the railroads in the mid-1800s, finally redirected into the “modern” highway oriented economy with the completed interstates here in 1982. That original economic engine spread from the Burlington waterfront to the Winooski falls area—more or less defined today by the King Maple neighborhood and Old North End (ONE) in Burlington onto really the entire geographically small Winooski City itself, where former manufacturing along the riverside drew from the immediate residential areas fanning outward to that City’s borders. It is fair to say that Burlington/Winooski with its waterfront as a harbor for exchange and movement of goods along the the manufacturing along its own and adjoining Winooski mills not only became the “economic spine” of the Vermont economy during Ethan Allen era ending about 1800, but also became a permanent dominant economic fixture of the state. First, reflecting the changing economy during the era of waterborne traffic until the railroads came into prominence, then the auto age emergence early last century followed by the interstate. Ironically, the completion of the interstate coincided with the overall crest and shortly thereafter relative stagnation of the Vermont economy which endures today—the Burlington Winooski axis being the primary victim. From the beginning of the interstate era the historical “spine of the Vermont economy,” Burlington and Winooski population and influence declined. Once the majority of Chittenden County population, Burlington now amounts to less than a quarter—both Winooski and Burlington populations outside of Burlington’s New North End have been in decline for decades. Again, a surge of students population growth from 1990 to the present day helped to mask this population downtrend trend. From 2000 to 2010, the Burlington population small population growth was entirely attributable to the increase in the college age numbers along with a small but important immigrant population of New Americans. The slow deterioration in Vermont through suburban carcentricity was mirrored by the decline of historic built-up Burlington and Winooski into a poverty belt. Today Census data shows King Maple/Old North End/Winooski City feature poverty rates of residents of 26-29% compared to under 12% for Chittenden County and Vermont. This poverty belt seems an unlikely candidate for a caterpillar to butterfly transformation—but that is the very opportunity which appears to exist through undertaking some key public investments today. These investments do not differ a great deal from the kind of investments which led to the successful transitions in the past, including those of Ethan and Ira Allen period themselves. And one must not forget the native American population which Ethan himself engaged with in his full lonely winters near Salisbury trapping furs to take back each spring to sell in order to support his family back home in Massachusetts. (Little wonder Allen stood up for his Indian allies when all were captured in the ill-fated foray to capture Montreal and his subsequent imprisonment as an enemy combatant by the British.) Housing The renewal of the historic Burlington-Winooski corridor remains central to this thesis in order to repair, remediate and expedite a natural economic and community potential ignored for decades. That both transportation and housing elements are key to this process can no longer be ignored. The decision to expand bike lanes and shift road space away from parking has been well underway now for years. Those changes are significant and show a change in community viewpoints but still incremental—in the right direction but only point to the larger issue of community renewal requiring a far more extensive change in transportation infrastructure combined with changes in housing. Housing programming must address the low and moderate income. Housing is not a subject here but the raising of the issue nationally and in Vermont to a priority is a clear indicator that transportation change must also be matched by making safe and sanitary housing available to all regardless of income. That President Biden and Vice-President Harris who proposed universal housing vouchers (30% income rent max) is an encouraging sign of kind of movement critical in the housing area. Enter the 15-Minute City Approach to Urban Design, Urban Life Transportation and land use go together—it was the lake as a transportation mode and waterpower of the Winooski River as a power source for manufacture that created with the presence of developable land adjacent the Burlington-Winooski axis in the first place. Consider for a moment past compact community design thinking in town and city planning. Creating complete new towns and idealized city designs became a cottage industry in the late 1800s in England with “Garden Cities of Tomorrow” by UKer Ebenezer Howard the leading proponent and movement leader who actually built more than one “new town.” Several more have been built since in a practice that can be found now scattered across the globe in one form or another. Reston, VA near Washington was one such American “new town” experimental community developed in the 1960s. Howard ’s base design involved a circular community with a one-mile radius featuring a public “white palace” and park in the center with rings outward of retail/commercial, housing, and heavy industry with rail—passenger and freight—at the periphery. All told 30,000 residents would live within the “garden city”—slice off the New North End, compact the rest around the waterfront here in Burlington and that is not so far off from the “garden city” concept and population. What is important is the garden city was accessible to just about everyone on foot, easily accessible when you add provision today for light rail and bicycles. Cars which consume about 25% of urban lands today in satisfying parking and road street needs prevented compact development worldwide. Just the opposite, particularly in America. The car age and pro-car policies and subsidies for homeownership jointly produced American sprawl since World War II. Canada is a perfect counterpoint as their urban areas are at least half again more dense, explained in great part because Canada does not subsidize either homeownership or cars. Canada levies a $1 Cdn per gallon of gasoline, a national tax used for general fund purposes—it has no federal highway program. It has no significant homeownership help. The U.S. has used its under 50 cent gas tax to support the highway system! The U.S. sprawl was created by intentional public policies and expenditures! The garden city from an urban planner perspective really is the pre-cursor to the “15 minute city” ideas advocated by urban planners today—to the extent feasible meet as many human needs within a 15 minute walk/bike/transit trip within a small geographic area (see https://www.15minutecity.com ) Burlington-Winooski: Pedestrians, Environmental Justice, Remediation and Structural Redesign There exists a confluence of forces making the Burlington-Winooski poverty corridor, Povertyville, ripe for a hoped for community transformation and renewal. The corridor already has in place a significant density, an historic rail network radiating in three directions from the Burlington waterfront. Except for re-establishing light rail in a configuration not that dissimilar to that of a past trolley history, a safe walkable/bikable/transitable area is easily installed. The major barriers to transportation the in Burlington and Winooski “poverty corridor” remain like most older urban center lack of walkability, about century removed from trolley service, and presence of numerous, dangerous/delaying new fangled traffic signals. Until this century with the late in the game U.S. use of the modern roundabout technology using stone age materials, little was done to repair the car-ravaged urban environment of modern America. Simply for decades to accommodate the car we wiped out existing urban space, much of it to park cars and build parking garages. Older urban space increasingly became the home of low income and BIPOC populations—symbolized by the traffic signal which when compared to a modern roundabout, especially kills, injures, delays pedestrians and overall pollutes, uglifies and heats the planet. The forces today at work include emergency demands for reductions of non-renewable resources both because they are unavailable in states like Vermont and because of commitments at all governmental levels to reduce consumption of them in order to stop the increasing world temperatures rising with just the continuation of status quo. That half Vermont use of non-renewables sits in the transport sector dominated by the car and clearly reigning in car subsidies—particularly parking and general government funds—means transportation will be a continuing dominant element of public policy in regard to global warming. Cutting car subsidies and homeownership subsidies which promulgated sprawl are not enough. There must also be a commitment to safe, energy efficient transportation—read transit, walking and bicycling which only thrive in relatively dense corridors and communities. The old urban areas and corridors have all the ingredients to respond to the demands and opportunities for a reduced carbon life—in a word the densities already exist there. High densities, transit services such as they are, and potential for walkabilitating through use of roundabouts are obvious. Except for the Church Street Marketplace neither Burlington or Winooski score particularly well on walkability—the 20 high crash state intersections mostly in the Old North and downtown alone testify to that. It was the very threat of cutting King Maple in two with the Champlain Parkway which led to our understanding of how the traffic signal in built up areas becomes a weapon of economic, social, and racial injustice—and the converse principle—how to reverse the historic destruction of livability forced onto the urban fabric by accommodation of the car through traffic signals which in turn literally injures the low income/BIPOC residents at higher rates than whites and embodies the context of both unlivable urban space as well as heightened incentives for use of motor fuels on most to move to lower density areas. In a word transportation inefficiency—read poor walking, biking and transit conditions—worked and works now directly opposite to efficient density and energy/resource use reduction which only density can provide! So the now two-year process of Environmental Justice discussion of the Champlain Parkway leads to an understanding of both the opportunity to renew Povertyville, but also its absolute necessity. That absolute necessity does mean a makeover of transit too, primarily in the form of light rail infrastructure! Without light rail combined with density there can be no successful economic renewal and only a continued shift of population to other northeastern metro areas who will have solved the transportation/energy equation. Nationally in a slow but sure fashion light rail has begun to return to major urban areas. It is the arch enemy of the car! Nearby, when Vermonters are allowed in Montreal again they will see nearly completed light rail line ready for use next year, the current $6 billion project already is set for a $10 billion expansion! Beginning in 2022 one no longer will have to drive onto Montreal island, no longer have to braves the wilds of to get to Trudeau International Airport. Just jump on the automatic light rail line at the large retail complex the Vermont side of the Champlain Bridge and safely, quickly, and comfortably travel to downtown, Trudeau Airport and a dozen other locations. See map and schedule—Brossard southern terminus to downtown set to open in 2022: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R%C3%A9seau_express_m%C3%A9tropolitain Base information: https://rem.info/en/light-rail Already being expanded: https://www.rtands.com/rail-news/extended-light-rail-line-in-montreal-will-be-one-of-the-longest-in-the-world/ Burlington along with adjoining towns went through a light rail study in the 1990s with an agreed on first step a line between the waterfront and UVM/UVMMC via the Marketplace. Extensions to the airport and University Mall and even to Essex Jct. via Winooski were examined. The base cost of the first section from waterfront to UVM/UVMCC was about $80 million—not much different than the current $109 million planned investment in the Champlain Parkway. So, initial studies were undertaken and preferred routes determined for light rail in the 1990s. Has anything changed in the City since? Economically, socially, population, etc. Other than the trends outlined here what have been the changes—(1) increase, plateau then declines in college students; (2) stagnant “povertyville corridor” population and incomes; (3) regular decline in primary tech jobs reflected in transition from IBM to Global Foundries; and (4) Chittenden County population growth almost entirely outside Burlington and Winooski cities boundaries. One other trend is important to note. While senior population remained about 12% of the Vermont population through 2010, the major change in demographics—senior population doubling to 1 in 4 residents by 2030 and non-senior population declines (only in Chittenden County does non-senior population remain relatively constant). The statewide population rapidly slowing growth turned shifted into a slight decline 2010-2020. The implication is quite clear, only bringing in a significant change in direction of public investment can one expect these trends to suddenly change—particularly as far as the historic Burlington-Winooski corridor. Systemic change was demanded at inflection points the 200-plus years of the Burlington/Winooski axis and systemic change is required today. There must be a working with neighboring towns, a collaborative effort to change the economic and community structure of the still dominant economic driver of Vermont, the Burlington-Winooski axis. Some Thoughts on Light Rail Routes A complete background on Burlington trolley services history, the 1990s study and future potential along with exploration of the “bus rapid transit” (BRT) fad, can be found here in a paper prepared at the time of the last City Transportation Plan (dated 2011). https://www.burlingtonvt.gov/sites/default/files/Burlington_Streetcar_Briefing_Report_FINAL.pdf (BRT is notoriously expensive, energy inefficient and consumes wide swaths of urban land.) The original trolley routes were, first, Burlington waterfront to Winooski along North Winooski and Riverside which for the first few years in the 1880s were horse drawn then electrified. A line was added out along North Avenue to Ethan Allen Park, a Main Street line to UVM, and the Winooski line eventually extended to the rail connection at Essex Junction. The 1990s study included a connection to the airport as an important potential line. The study was very much in isolation without consideration of economic trends, demographics or the faintest hint of a non-carcentric community design—the idea of light rail was an add-on, a very expensive extravagance. Discussions during both the Railroad Enterprise District, recent Pine Street Coalition outreach on Champlain Parkway design and the North Avenue Corridor Plan process found significant support for a north-south light rail line, something not considered in the 1990s plan. In purely historical and community development, the prime high rail line would repeat the Burlington waterfront to downtown Winooski. That would directly address the Burlington-Winooski axis, i.e., Vermont Povertyville. The “Winooski line” would move through the Marketplace via College, then along North Winooski Ave, Riverside Ave and at Colcheter turn left to Winooski downtown. The natural waterfront to UVM-UVMMC also starts for a block or so with the Winooski line then ascends. The question is whether this line is shifted over to Main Street (a 1990s route suggested) and onto University Mall and new South Burlington “downtown.” The third line would follow the suggested north-south route from Flynn School at the north end to the South Burlington border at Pine street then very likely along Perimeter Road southward through KMart Plaza, Palace Theater, etc. Walkability, Racism and Remediation of ONE, King Maple and Winooski Downtown Light rail for the Burlington-Winooski axis is not an add-on but part of a larger multi-modal redesign starting on walkability and safety on the streets. The pedestrian mode remains the apartheid mode when it comes to street engineering and the task of remediation of this in Povertyille remains very much both a transportation undertaking and one to repair decades of transportation racism still a daily experience for the BIPOC and low income who comprise a large segment of this and other older Vermont urban spaces. Weekly in Burlington a pedestrian or cyclist suffers an injury in a car crash in addition to two crash injuries to car occupants. Nationally the U.S. road fatality pandemic amounts to 21,000 excess deaths in a nation once first, now 18th in highway safety—Burlington experiences one fatality on its streets every three years, the majority since 1998 pedestrians (3) and cyclists (1). Discussed elsewhere, the 20 high crash Burlington intersections, all but one signalized and concentrated in Povertyville each average 1.5 injuries yearly and account for 28 injuries a year while five downtown Vermont roundabouts, the new standard intersection, record about one injury a decade, all non serious in the first 52 years recorded. The point is the renewal of the Burlngton-Winooski corridor depends on both integration of a light rail network but also reparations and remediation to the area which has suffered decades of pollution and high rates of pedestrian, bike and vehicle injuries. And the victims in Povertyville of discrimination in the apartheid mode, walking, continue to be disproportionately people with black and brown skins. Tony Redington TonyRVT99@gmail.com @TonyRVT60 TonyRVT.blogspot.com A walk safety advocate, Redington is a policy development specialist with 20 years experience with the NH and VT state transportation agencies, author of several transportation research papers including some on the subject of modern roundabouts, and five years as a statewide housing planner and director of the New Hampshire Housing Commission. Since moving to Burlington in 2011 has lived car free. An Aside—Mostly Living the 15-Minute City 1976 to Date Except for about four years 1980-1984 when residing in suburb 6 miles from Concord, NH, have lived the 15-Minute City life in Concord, NH, Montpelier, VT, San Francisco (North Beach), Montreal (adjacent Atwater Metro, cycle track network) and now Burlington (within a block of the Marketplace). In all locations shopped within two-three blocks from just about all basic needs ranging from food stores, shopping, schools, employment, etc. In all that time generally never used a car to travel to work, most all vacations from 1990s on via Amtrak and extended public transit (mostly in Canada’s metro areas), and mostly (like today) within a few feet of a bus stop, a few blocks to a transit center. In Burlington, Montpelier, San Francisco and Montreal presence of a major supermarket or two was critical to the 15-minute life along with a job. In all four cities a car was not only no needed, it was relatively useless and not cost effective. Yes, the bicycle fills in the “mobility” need year round except in 0 degree weather. And as important our family learned the 15 minute life experience in Montpelier, how to use public transit, and how to live carless. Living and modeling the 15-minute City life can be inherited! So to me, the 15-minute City has been most of my adult life—it certainly was the bulk of my life growing up in Keene, NH where most years I lived within a few blocks downtown and all schools including high school. My favorite grades 1-2-3 were spent about 2 blocks from two doors north of Union Street to Court Street to School Street. Home to middle school was about six blocks and to high school varied from a couple of blocks to a half mile. All Keene home addresses were less than six blocks from the central shopping district on Main Street. Until college except for one year in the suburbs, the 15-minute life! Interestingly Keene is now home to five going onto seven roundabouts likely the highest concentration of any New England city. The historic traffic circle there—Central Square—is now bounded at the other end of the commercial/retail Main Street by a neat two-lane roundabout which acts as a gateway to the downtown and Keene State College with a the post office on one corner and the College on another—downtown three north south Main Street sidewalks on its way to renewed walkability. Tony Redington

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Pine Street Coalition Demands Reopening of Environmental Justice Process, Allow Consideration of Alternative Designs as Per Regulations

TO: FHWA, VTrans, City of Burlington FROM: Pine Street Coalition DATE: 02-11-2021 RE: Demand to Re-open Environmental Justice LSDSEIS Comment Period on the Burlington, Vermont Project MEGC-M5000(1) Southern Connector/Champlain Parkway Project and Present Alternatives for Public Comment The Pine Street Coalition, on behalf of itself and its members, hereby demand that you re-open the comment period on the LSDSEIS Environmental Justice review of the Burlington, Vermont Project Megc-M5000(1) Southern Connector/Champlain Parkway Project Chittenden County, Vermont. The reasons for re-opening the comments include, but are not limited to, the following: 1. The Covid-19 pandemic gave rise to a governmentally-declared state of emergency in the State of Vermont which encompassed the comment period time, curtailing participation, particularly by affected persons intended to be protected by environmental justice principles. On March 13, 2020, Vermont governor Phil Scott declared a state of emergency relative to the Covid-19 pandemic. That state of emergency continues through the present time. The state of emergency impacts every aspect of citizens’ participation in civil society. Child care and transportation that enable in-person participation in hearings is restricted. As noted in the letter of Steve Goodkind appended to the Pine Street Coalition comments, this marks the first time that a NEPA document published for comment for a Burlington public works project was not made available in hard copy at City Hall and public libraries; it was only available online. A December 2020 Vermont Department of Health Data Brief details the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on Vermonters who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. Chittenden County had the highest rate of Covid-19 among BIPOC communities, at a rate much higher than the state average. June and July 2020 represented the peak instances of Covid-19 cases among BIPOC Vermonters. https://www.healthvermont.gov/sites/default/files/documents/pdf/COVID-19-among-BIPOC-Data-Brief.pdf The LSDSEIS – a 556 page technical document -- was digitally distributed for public comment on July 10, 2020. The only public hearing on it was held – online via a web conferencing application, with a small number of in-person seats available to persons who preregistered – on July 29, 2020. Comments closed on August 24, 2020. This time period coincides with the peak instances of Covid-19 cases among BIPOC people in Chittenden County. Families were preoccupied with keeping their loved ones alive, accommodating schooling and working from home, loss of work and income, and profound disruption to the fabric of their lives. Despite the highly unusual circumstances of a state of emergency -- in which in-person gatherings were strictly limited, where hard copies of the document were not available, in which the only access to the documents was online, and access to the hearing was either online or required advance online registration (only one person, Pine Street Coalition member Steve Goodkind, attended in person) while the low-income people of the affected community have lower rates of internet access and were, in many instances, coping with working from home and children at home, and in which the affected environmental justice community was disproportionately affected by Covid just at the time of this hearing – you afforded only the minimally-prescribed 45 day comment period. This was a time for expanding the comment period beyond the minimally-prescribed 45 days and for taking other steps to ensure that voices of the affected community were heard, such as making paper copies available on request. The affected Black, Brown and immigrant community members were unable to meaningfully participate in the LSDSEIS comment period within the timeframe and under the logistical constraints presented. We therefore demand that you re-open the comment period for a period of at least 60 days, and take reasonable steps to make the LS DSEIS available in hard copy to members of the community, and engaged in further measures to ensure that the voices of the affected community are heard. 2. The presentation made at public hearing by FHWA, VTrans and the City of Burlington stated that these agencies had already made both a determination regarding Environmental Justice and selection of a single project design prior to accepting comments. No alternatives to either the project design or the environmental justice determination were presented Only one public hearing was held on the LSDSEIS, on July 29, 2020, via Zoom (presenters at the ‘outreach meeting’ in September 2019 did not even advise the public that the purpose of the meeting was to accept comments pertaining to environmental justice). At that one public hearing, a PowerPoint presentation was made to the public prior to acceptance of comments. That PowerPoint presentation states, at Slide 36: The FHWA, VTrans and City of Burlington announced its determination of no disproportionate impact BEFORE accepting any comments from the public, and a month prior to the close of the comment period. Such process turns NEPA on its head. The fundamental objective of NEPA is to ensure that the decisionmaker is informed by the NEPA process including public comment prior to making a decision. Here, the FHWA, VTrans and the City of Burlington announced its decision before you had heard from the people whose input is mandated by NEPA and Environmental Justice policies. The announcement of that determination precluded consideration of any other alternative – and indeed, no alternatives whatsoever were presented as part of the LS DSEIS process. Despite recission of the 2010 RoD, and despite the fact that the purpose of Environmental Justice review is to obtain comment from the affected communities on the impact of the various alternatives, the public was presented only with what is designated the “preferred alternative” in the LS DSEIS. No information was shared, and no comments sought, on any alternatives other than this one “preferred alternative”. Agencies “must, in fact, consider all of the alternatives discussed in an EIS.” 40 CFR §1505.1(e) and CEQ FAQs #1. The object of identifying a particular alternative as the “preferred alternative” is so that the public can be aware of the agency’s position when making its comments on the range of alternatives. 40 CFR §1502.14(e). Presenting ONLY the “preferred alternative” with no other options in the LSDSEIS wholly deprives the affected community of any meaningful opportunity to participate and comment in the decision-making process. Because the 2010 Record of Decision has been rescinded, all the Alternatives considered in the 2009 EIS document should be under consideration and open to comment. Those Alternatives include Build Alternative 1, which the same agencies—FHWA, VTrans and the City of Burlington – are now proceeding with in a separate NEPA process. The Railyard Enterprise Project, without the segment of the proposed Parkway running on Pine Street between approximately Marble Avenue and Main Street, is precisely the alternative that will alleviate harmful impacts to the Maple-King community. The LSDSEIS, with no alternatives, was released to the public on July 10, 2020; the public hearing was held July 29, 2020. Supplemental scoping for the Railyard Enterprise Project which bears directly on the environmental justice aspects of the Champlain Parkway project was released August 5, 2020. The public in general, and the affected Environmental Justice community in particular, should be given information about and opportunity to comment on this alternative. CONCLUSION: The Covid-19 pandemic and related state of emergency, with its particularized impacts on the BIPOC community in Vermont, deprived affected members of the environmental justice community of opportunity to meaningfully participate in this LS DSEIS commenting process. The announcement by FHWA, VTrans and the City of Burlington that an environmental justice determination had already been made and an alternative already selected prior to accepting public comment inverted the NEPA process and excluded the public, including the affected members of the environmental justice community, from meaningful participation in this LS DSEIS commenting process. We therefore demand that FHWA, VTrans and the City of Burlington: 1. Release a revised LSDSEIS which sets out a range of alternatives presently under consideration, including the Railyard Enterprise Project/Build Alternative 1; 2. Disseminate public outreach materials indicating that a range of alternatives is under consideration, and that selection of an alternative as well as a determination regarding environmental justice impacts will be made AFTER public comments are received and considered; 3. Re-open the public comment period, after releasing these described documents, for a period of at least 60 days, while making all efforts to ensure that the documents are made available in the affected community and that comment is actively solicited (not merely accepted), taking into consideration the logistical constraints of the Covid-19 pandemic. Pine Street Coalition, By Their Legal Counsel, /s/Cindy Ellen Hill, Esq Cindy Ellen Hill, Esq. Hill Attorney PLLC, 144 Mead Lane Middlebury

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Pine Street Joins Vermont Racial Justice Alliance Asking Governor Scott to Stop Parkway Cutting King Maple in Two!

 

                                                                                                            2 February 2021


Governor Phil Scott

109 State Street

Montpelier VT 05069

 

Re: Champlain Parkway Environmental Justice

 

Dear Governor Scott,

 

            The Vermont Racial Justice Alliance contacted you two weeks ago with an urgent letter calling for environmental justice in the Champlain Parkway project in Burlington(bit.ly/ChamplainRIGHTway). The Champlain Parkway is a joint project of the City of Burlington, VTrans and the FHWA. The project stakeholders are looking to the State of Vermont for leadership in rectifying the racial injustice in the presently proposed project design, which would bifurcate the Maple-King community – Vermont’s most prominent Black neighborhood – converting the present neighborhood streets to a dangerous thoroughfare, increasing safety risks and diminishing the quality of life. 

            In conjunction with Pine Street Coalition and Burlington business anchor Fortieth Burlington, the Racial Justice Alliance has developed the Champlain RIGHTway proposal. The present obsolete and injust Champlain Parkway decreases traffic in the more affluent white neighborhood to the south at the expense of the lower-income Black Maple-King neighborhood. 

            By contrast, the Champlain RIGHTway fulfills the original project goals by reducing traffic in both residential communities, while increasing traffic safety and efficiency. The Champlain RIGHTway would also cost significantly less money, minimize environmental harm, and provide effective pedestrian and bicycle transportation routes. 

            The racial injustice of the present Champlain Parkway proposal mandates your immediate attention. The Champlain RIGHTway is the win-win-win solution.

            Time is of the essence: The FHWA has rescinded the 2010 Record of Decision for the project, and is awaiting the results of the environmental justice analysis by the City’s consultants, which is anticipated in late March 2021. Should the racial justice issues not be resolved prior to issuance of a new Record of Decision, the Pine Street Coalition and our fellow stakeholders stand prepared to move forward with the federal NEPA litigation presently pending in the U.S. District Court. The delay and public expense of such litigation is unnecessary, as the resolution to the injustice of the present design is in your hands.

            We strongly urge you to respond to the Racial Justice Alliance communication immediately, and to direct state resources to pursue the Champlain RIGHTway solution. We would be happy to provide you with any further information and to join in your meeting with the Racial Justice Alliance. 

 

Very truly yours,

 

/s/Tony Redington

 

Tony Redington, Coordinator

Pine Street Coalition

125 St. Paul Street #3-03

Burlington VT 05401

802-343-6616

tonyrvt99@gmail.com

 

For further information:

 

Cindy Hill, counsel for Pine Street Coalition

Hill Attorney PLLC

144 Mead Lane, Middlebury VT 05753

802-989-6906

hillattorneypllc@gmail.com 

 

Steve Goodkind

260 Ethan Allen Parkway

Burlington VT 05408

bludriver@aol.com

802-316-6045

 








Friday, September 4, 2020

Roundabouts Emerging to Addressing Urban Systematic/Structural Transportation Racism in America

The Roundabout Emerging as Antidote to the Traffic Signal Role in

        Urban American Systematic and Structural Transportation Racism!

It took the current Environmental Justice outreach by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to determine in a very low-minority Vermont (Census, 94% white) state the urban traffic signal may well qualify as a transportation racism practice.


In the current first federal inter-agency guided Burlington, VT application of new Environmental Justice regulations, absent when the Champlain Parkway project route got channeled through the heart the minority/low-income King Maple neighborhood, the signal as a racist treatment when replacing two-all-stop intersections became a target of neighborhood defenders.  ( For details: http://champlainparkway.com/nepa/ ) Note the City itself always opposed the route through King Maple for the project, a vestige of the 1960 auto-age thinking. 


First King Maple did qualify as minority with 21% minority residents (commenters identified 24% as a more likely number after a Census analysis).  The neighborhood may have the highest concentration of minority residents in the entire State.   The federal initial finding that the low-income population did not rise to Environmental Justice guidelines is being challenged.  It was a shock to many that the City overall has a poverty household percentage of 24.7% (Census) compared to the State 10.8% and US percent 11.8%.  The Burlington percentage rivals that of poor southern states' counties. 


There is a direct relationship between being poor in America, being a minority in America and transportation discrimination and racism.  These groups are highly dependent first and foremost on walking and public transit.  That dependency makes pedestrian safety the most important aspect, highest level of safety for pedestrians is a must in these neighborhoods.   All-way-stop control is practical in low traffic conditions and as is the newly emerged roundabout which handles all traffic volumes—both provide far lower rates pedestrian injuries and injury severity, including fatalities versus the traffic signal.  Signals increase speeds at an intersection which is a major factor in frequency and severity of pedestrian injury, the higher the speeds the higher the injuries and their severity.  Plus signals inherently increase delay for pedestrians versus the roundabout or all-way-stop control.  


 While less than 9% of households lack access to a car nationally, the figure is about 30% for Burlington's King Maple area.   It is clear that low-income/minority pedestrians walk more, use transit more, and bike more—for transportation—than the well-to-do neighborhoods.  And the figures of pedestrian deaths per 100,000 persons confirms this:  Hispanics 51% higher, African Americans 87% higher, and Native Americans 386% higher respectively than Whites. 


Just increasing traffic (or decreasing it!) in a low income neighborhood has a higher impact in pedestrian injuries when compared to a similar change in more affluent areas—a Montreal study found not only higher rates of injuries per population in low income areas intersections, but found a change  1,000 vehicle a day changing injuries 5% (up if vehicles increased, down if vehicles decrease—per thousand vehicles).


A Streetsblog USA analysis connects the dots:

In some states, racial disparities are even more stark. In 

Louisiana, for example, people of color are nine times 

more likely to be killed while walking than white people. 

In Texas, the risk is about three times greater. SGA

[Streets Blog USA] attributes these disparities 

to “disproportionately unsafe conditions for walking” 

where people of color live in these states.

                        Angie Schmidt January 10, 2017  

 ( https:// usa.streetsblog.org/2017/01/10/the-unequal-toll-of-pedestrian-deaths/ )


In any case, the roundabout is generally a better choice for safety for all modes.  But even more important the choice of a traffic signal shifts to the status of transportation towards discrimination and racism when applied to a minority/low-income neighborhood.  And vice versa--when applying roundabouts in an urban area there must be a priority given to conversion of signals to roundabouts minority/low income neighborhoods as a relief to an existing context of context of transportation racism and/or discrimination!


Burlington, a college city of 42,000 population records about 150 road injuries a year, a fatality every three years—with recent fatals three pedestrians, three car occupants and one cyclist.  About one injury is recorded each week, either a pedestrian or cyclist, and two car occupant injuries.  Over a quarter of its roughly 75 traffic traffic signals (has no roundabouts) are listed in the state’s high crash intersection list (19 of the 111). It has no interstate or freeway mileage, and is the largest City both in the State and in its one metro area.     


The United States since first in 1990 in world's highway safety since has fallen to 15th place with over 21,000 excess deaths yearly when its fatality rate per vehicle mile is compared to the top four nations (Norway is number one now).  And the U.S. recent record in pedestrian safety, a 50% increase in the last decade, is even more disturbing when racial and low-income impacts are considered. 


Separately major organizations promote roundabouts and converting signals to roundabouts--American Automobile Association (AAA), Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) among them. But none of these groups nor Federal Highway Administration Itself recognize the connection of roundabouts and addressing transportation racism and discrimination.   


In sum, installing traffic signals in urban areas now represents a form of transportation racism in minority/low income areas.  Many jurisdictions with “roundabouts first policies”—NY State Department of Transportation and Canada’s British Columbia and Alberta Ministries of Transport come to mind—avoid entirely having to deal with signals in the first place.  For those jurisdictions where traffic signals remain common practice expect challenges in terms of racism as well as discrimination when applying traffic signals in minority/low-income areas.  Burlington, Vermont brings this traffic signal as urban racism to the fore with the remedy all-way-stop control and in most cases today the modern roundabout.