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: ) 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:// )

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. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Residents Blast City for Champlain Parkway Harm to Maple-King Community!

Champlain Parkway: Let's shape a roadway our City can love! 

The Pine Street Coalition—a Grassroots Volunteer Community Group 

For a Cheaper, Greener, Quicker and Much Safer “Right-Build” Roadway Stop! Reevaluate! Redesign: the Champlain Parkway 


ENVIRONMENTAL INJUSTICE: Residents Blast City for Champlain Parkway Harm to Maple-King Community 

The City of Burlington's obsolete Champlain Parkway project is under fire 

for the disproportionate harm it would cause low-income and minority residents by increasing traffic and accidents in the Maple-King neighborhood. 

The City “malignantly ignores the affected low-income community, marginalizes the affected minority community and fails to consider public 

health impacts and the quality of neighborhood character,” according to comments filed Monday by the Pine Street Coalition in response to the Environmental Justice report recently released by the City, VTrans and the Federal Highway Administration as part of the project's federal environmental review. 

At the heart of the issue is the Maple-King neighborhood. The City's report stated that the community has only a few more minority residents than the Burlington average. But according to CCV statistics professor Miriam Dash, the City only used broad-brush estimated data for the full Census Tract which covers a large area, from the waterfront to Flynn Avenue. 

"Using the entire [Census] Tract 10 as representative of Maple-King dilutes the significant presence of the minority population and does not accurately represent the demographics of the neighborhood," Dash writes in the comments submitted by the Pine Street Coalition. “ Minority residents represents 24.2% of this neighborhood." 

Employing statistical hocus locus to bulldoze over concerns in low-income and Black neighborhoods is an unfortunate pattern of American history which has once again been brought to bear, according to Champlain College professor of Race and Media Lionel Beasley. "The minority community of the Maple-King neighborhood has been diluted by addition and thus negated," he writes. 

The City's highway project would reduce traffic in the more affluent area between Flynn and Home avenues by 52% to 72% by opening the bypass 

around the neighborhood. Vehicles would then return to Pine Street and Lakeside, and traffic between Maple and King streets would increase by 37%, according to the City's report. The project would also convert the present four- way-stops -- the most common type of intersection in Burlington's residential neighborhoods -- to traffic lights. 

"Adding traffic signals at two King Maple intersections increases speeds, rates of pedestrian injuries and pedestrian delay—disproportionately harming King Maple minority and low income residents” said the Coalition's Tony Redington, a retired transportation policy planner for the State of Vermont. The danger is even greater as about 30% of the residents of the Maple-King community lack access to cars and so depend on walking, bikes, and public transit. Redington pointed out that US pedestrian deaths have increased 50% in the past decade, and that African-American pedestrians die at twice the rate of white pedestrians--a public health risk that Burlington has chosen to ignore, despite the City's recent declaration of racism as a public health emergency. 

Environmental justice guidelines requiring outreach to low-income and minority populations, but the ability to access and comment on the report was much more difficult than for most environmental impact study documents. “With no prior warning, a voluminous document was issued only in digital form," said Steve Goodkind, a Coalition leader and former director of the Burlington Department of Public Works. “In the middle of a pandemic the public is given 45 days to comment, no hard copies were made available, even at City Hall or the library.” 

The Coalition lawsuit appealing the $47 million Parkway at U.S. District Court filed in June 2019 triggered the Environmental Justice review. The Pine Street Coalition has called for a cooperative approach to redesign the Champlain Parkway to a “right build” project to save money and insure a safe, quality transportation investment beneficial to the South End neighborhood and City. 


(1) Pine Street Coalition August 24, 2020 filing
(2) Pine Street Coalition “New Street” approach released during the pandemic period 

Tony Redington 343-6616 

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Environmental and Racial Justice--No Parkway in King Maple Neighborhood!

                   Champlain Parkway:  Let's shape a roadway our City can love!

Fight Environmental and Racial Injustice—Burlington’s Champlain Parkway Racial Discrimination Against King Maple Neighborhood: largest minorities in City, one in five residents, 21%! 80%+ low/moderate income! 31% pedestrian/bus dependent—no car access!  Black pedestrians die twice the rate of whites!

No Parkway! Proposed Pine/King and Pine/Maple traffic signals will bring 
      higher speeds to neighborhood traffic!
No Parkway! The Parkway will bring even more traffic to Pine, King and Maple
      Streets—up to 37% more! 
No Parkway!  The Parkway’s new traffic lights at Pine on King and Maple 
      Streets will increase pedestrian injuries about 20%, and car crashes!
No Parkway! The Parkway design will force pedestrians to wait when crossing 
      Pine Street at King and Maple and increase noise.

Comment online here until August 24!  Also here: July 29 hearing and other comment ways. Translation and other help: 802-496-8956 Pine Street Coalition 7/2020 Rev 2

Stop Environmental, Racial, and Economic Injustice!  Speak Out!

Say “No Parkway” racial and environmental injustice 
                     in King Maple Neighborhood
U.S. walk safety leader, 58th on all-time world urbanists list tells our
   Mayor Weinberger face-to-face a traffic signal in place of the
   all- way stop at Pine/Maple would be a “huge mistake!” 
   Dan Burden, AARP Pine Street Walk Audit

Champlain Parkway fits Burlington’s Declaration of Racism a Public 
   Health Emergency!  
    “Our job is not to be saviors, but to find areas where you have
    embedded racism in your institution and remove it”
               City Councilor Zoraya Hightower, Burlington’s Declaration of 
               Racism a Public Health Emergency, July 16, 2020


Comment online here until August 24!  Also here: July 29 hearing and other comment ways. Translation and other help: 802-496-8956 

New Street starting at Curtis Lumber/Kilburn Street along Parkway route over two miles to Queen City Park Road features this two-way separate bikeway and adjacent sidewalk

Pine Street Coalition’s “New Street” proposal preserves King Maple safety, cuts traffic numbers, a basis for a smaller scale compromise—a cheaper, climate responsive, highest safety Parkway for our South End avoiding another Burlington “holeintheground”!

Parkway Delayed at Least to 2027 if Federal Highway/VTrans/City Refuse Collaborative New Street Resolution

Tweet 7/28/2020 Ready for the Champlain Parkway—in 2027? A letter from Pine Street Coalition counsel Atty. Cindy Ellen Hill in the Burton case before the BTV Development Review Board she advised that with a a normal legal process for the Champlain Parkway would clear the court in 2025, then construction and completion takes two years. The Coalition's New Street template certainly would speed things up. See #btv #vtpoli

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Impossible City/VTrans/Federal Highway on New Street--All Possible but New Street!

(Im)Possible: BTV/VTrans/Feds--Cut Parkway off waterfront--Possible! Cut Parkway 3 lanes to 2 on Pine St--Possible! Cut new Parkway 4 lanes to 2--Possible! New Street cuts road 2 blocks Flynn Ave/Lakeside Ave, saves millions IMPOSSIBLE! #btv #vtpoli

Monday, June 22, 2020

Burlington "Systematic Safety" Program for Dummies

 June 12  @TonyRVT60 :
BTV [Burlington] "Systematic Safety" Program for Dummies: Now, 150 injuries/yr, 1 fatal/3 years. Convert our 21 VT high crash intersections (1.4 injuries/yr. each) to roundabout. After: 20% injury drop to 130, 1 fatal/3 yrs. to 1/5 yr.; 100,000 gallons gas/yr cut cools planet! #btv #vtpoli

Upon further reflection additional background to "BTV Systematic Safety for Dummies" connects directly with AAA's study of the impact of roundabouts being 30% of the estimated US reduction of 63,000 deaths and 353,000 serious injuries.  

That background is combined with the known downtown roundabout safety performance uniquely recorded right here in Vermont--we are reasonably confident that  90% or more reduction in injuries can be obtained by converting signals with poor injury performance to roundabouts.

BTV "Systematic Safety" Program for Dummies: Now, 150 injuries/yr, 1 fatal/3 years. Convert our 21 VT high crash intersections (1.4 injuries/yr. each) to roundabout. After: 20% injury drop to 130, 1 fatal/3 yrs. to 1/5 yr.; 100,000 gallons gas/yr cut cools planet! #btv #vtpoli

The identification of the current U.S. yearly pandemic of excess highway fatalities—21,000—and 4-5 times as many serious injuries along with actions led by roundabouts is reflected in the American Automobile Association Foundation (AAA) 2017 report calling for a Vision 0 fatality policy on highway safety and advocating 10 proven roadway treatments to decrease over 20 years 63,000 deaths and 353,000 serious injuries. The top of ten proven treatments is the roundabout, alone responsible for 30% of the reductions. Roundabouts “first,” again. (See AAA report Safety Benefits of Highway Infrastructure Investments” )  

If Burlington, VT were not itself part of the US national highway fatality/serious injury pandemic and its infrastructure were up to snuff of the four leading nations (Norway, Denmark, Ireland and Switzerland) then instead of a 20% drop in injuries with installation of 21 roundabouts at high crash locations, then the comparable pro rata figure would be 8 less injuries, a 5.3% reduction.

In US highway safety no lives seem to matter much. Note the City's transportation plan states that in regard to transportation safety is “critical.”  Yes, we know the drop of injuries will be about 90% when roundabouts are installed in Burlington. The five downtown Vermont roundabouts first half century of service recorded 0 bike injuries, one pedestrian and four car occupant injuries—none serious. At least four of the Burlington roundabouts—along the four intersections on North Street between North Avenue and North Union would be mini roundabouts. 

Only two for certain would be two lane roundabouts—Colchester/Barrett/Riverside (site of a pedestrian death) and Shelburne Road/Home Avenue (site of a pedestrian death and a car occupant death). Vermont's one two-lane roundabout safety record—five years before and five years after the roundabout was installed in 1990 at I 91/US 5/VT9--was 55 injuries including a fatality as a signalized intersection and just 1 injury as a roundabout—a 98% injury reduction. The majority of the remaining Burlington high crash intersections would be single lane roundabouts similar to the Shelburne Roundabout (at the “rotary”) now scheduled in 2022 after a decade of delay.

Note there are many, many more benefits of roundabout magic—scenic quality, reduced delay, reducing sprawl, global cooling, etc., etc.

              Converting Burlington's "Crash 20" High Crash Intersections to Roundabouts

 The following which shows the impact of converting 21 of Burlington's 75 traffic signals to roundabouts using just those on the current official list of high crash rate intersections. This integrates a number of data sources but to me suggests a complete lack of most jurisdictions in the United States rationally addressing the 21,000 excess fatalities a year on our highways—in this case addressing urban highway deaths and injuries. AAA, Geico, IIHS, AARP—among others—clearly provide research and policy leadership which is wholly ignored. 

In other words, systematic safety programming is the answer to address our home grown pandemic of highway deaths and its “hot spot” of pedestrian fatalities (up 90% over the last decade and hitting numbers not seen since 1990, the last time the US  was number one in worldwide safety).

Burlington is just a few miles across Lake Champlain from New York State where the NY State DOT adopted a landmark “roundabout first” regulation (except NYC which fought them for more than a decade) in 2005. While Vermont once led New England in roundabout development in the 1990s, the Burlington “metro” (our only one!) has the distinction of 0 roundabouts on a busy public intersection. Expect to change during the coming decade!