Sunday, June 16, 2019

Charles Simpson on What "Everybody Knows" About the Champlain Parkway Letter


Letter of South End Resident Charles Simpson of May 13, 2019  Representatives of the Pine Street Coalition spoke out at the CCRPC Board of Directors meeting May 15

The Champlain Parkway: To What End?

Dear Andy Montroll (Burlington representative to Chittenden County Regional Planning Board [CRPC]); Charlie Baker, CCRPC Executive Director; and Chapin Spencer, Director, Burlington Public Works:

To put it in a nutshell, the “purpose and need” justifying the construction of the Champlain Parkway is defunct. And the parkway planned to accomplish that “purpose and need” is obsolete. It’s “sell by” date is decades old. Structures from a previous era--the 19th century buildings that embellish our streetscapes--serve a purpose. They remind us of our history in an aesthetically impressive way. Utilitarian infrastructure planned in another era does not.

In the more than 20 years I’ve lived in Burlington, I’ve continually marveled at the C1 section of the Champlain Parkway [“Road to Nowhere” between Pine St. and Home Ave.], a relic of past-planning and past needs that social changes have obviated. The beltway concept that girdled so many cities with obstructions that decimated waterfront areas has been abandoned. Not just abandoned, but undone. Witness the $22 billion Boston spent on removing and replacing the elevated Southeast Expressway running through the heart of the city. Witness New Orleans’ brush with death when planners sought to level the French Quarter to make room for a beltway. Or Manhattan’s hallucinatory quest to scour out Chinatown-Little Italy, SoHo and Midtown to build elevated highways linking New Jersey with Long Island. In every case, the tunnel vision of highway planners made the same mistake: they reduced thriving communities to bits of expendable geography separating one place from another.

It appears that a new generation of highway planners here in Vermont has inherited the same set of blinders, the same narrow focus on transit rather than arrival, on locomotion rather than life-in-place.

In the words of Lenard Cohen, “Everybody Knows” the Champlain Parkway makes no sense. You know it, I’m sure. The public knows it. But for the record, let us count the ways. 1) Less rather than more traffic is what’s desired downtown, with private vehicles replaced with right-sized electric buses and bikes to the extent possible. The old suburb-to-center-city model of urban vitality is dead. 2) The South End has emerged as the city’s center of technological innovation, the arts, food entrepreneurship, and residence. It needs full-spectrum travel corridors that separate bikes. pedestrians, and cars on roadways and paths designed primarily for local use. The Champlain Parkway design throws walkers and bikers together on the same paths, puts bikers in the street in sections, and flouts the very notion of “connectivity” central to our planning mantra by severing the head off of Pine Street and separating it from So. Burlington. 3) If the challenge of our age is anything, it is about preservation of the environment. That means augmenting the drainage corridor of Englesby Brook as a natural setting able to absorb surface water rather than dump effluent into our lake. The CP [Champlain Parkway] would burry it in 200 feet of culvert, accelerating its flow, paving its banks. 4) The future accessibility of our city lies in park-and-ride infrastructure. We already recognize this with our van system to Hill institutions and private businesses. Yet the CP would carve a 150 foot swath through our enterprise zone without replacing parking there, waste up to 6 acres of what would otherwise be job-creating space, all to move cars from Home to Lakeside where it would then dump them as congestion in the center of the Enterprise Zone. Congestion and inadequate concern for safety, one might add due to a rigid fixation on signaled intersections rather than roundabouts. And at a time when the City has trouble maintaining the present street surfaces, it proposes to build two parallel roads, Briggs and the CP 2, mere yards apart and serving the same purpose.

Ah, proponents say, but this is a $43 million dollar [now $47.1 million] stimulus to the city’s construction industry, “free” federal money. Well, it’s not free if we waste 6 acres of our valuable and limited manufacturing area. It’s not free if the locality bares the cost of future maintenance and the promised “post-construction modifications” that the “limited access” design will require to be made. It’s not free if it doesn’t meet current safety standards. “Everybody knows” that Burlington shouldn’t be an adjunct to the construction or real estate industries. Shouldn’t be, but too often, is. Nor is our decision making a matter of febrile excitation, the need to just get something, anything, done. Yet, as we see with the downtown hole-in-the-mall, it often is.

Please, listen to public voices such as those of the Pine Street Coalition and reopen the planning for roads in the South End. The first step would be to delay moving ahead with CP until you have a current environmental impact statement. The second would be to open C1from Home to I-189 to serve the industrial area via a roundabout at Pine. Then rebuild Briggs to serve local needs. That’s it!

Very truly yours,
Charles Simpson, Burlington




Sunday, June 2, 2019

Action Alert -- Champlain Parkway for June 3 City Council Meeting

ACTION ALERT – CHAMPLAIN PARKWAY

Action Alert:

Please Sign the Petition! https://petitions.moveon.org/sign/governor-scott-federal

Note Governor Scott by federal law has power to stop the Parkway

  1. Contact City Councilors by email/phon, and/or attend, speak Monday, June 3 at City Council Public Forum at 7:30 pm, Contois Auditorium
    City Council members email and telephone: https://www.burlingtonvt.gov/CityCouncil
  2. Oppose $2.5 million in City taxpayer funds to pay for Parkway contaminated soil removal/disposal, $700,000 more for City share of project approaching $50 million
--City $2.5 million costs for contaminated never discussed publicly
--Mayor Weinberger pushes for entire $3.2 million spending without a word of discussion or explanation – a councilor will have to object in order for this to be discussed and voted on
--the project in addition to up to unneeded 1.5 miles/6 acres asphalt has no “best practices” roundabouts (intersection safety belt) and separate/safe walk and bike facilities
--goal: stop the project, start new blank slate environmental impact statement process driven by this generation of South Enders and BTV residents

What is at stake?

The Parkway will proceed to construction this year with only the Pine Street Coalition effort in courts able to perhaps stop this hurtful project. The project not only increases injuries to South End travelers, it destroys key connectivity to Queen City Park Road, sharply increases climate change emissions, fails to address environmental justice to our lowest income neighborhood, creates about six acres of asphalt better used for economic development and public space, has no safe entries to new Petra Cliffs and City Market, builds two rather than one quality street between Home and Flynn Avenues, and forces higher ongoing street maintenance than necessary including six new traffic signals, a long ago discredited and outmoded technology.

Goal: A new environmental impact statement process, the goal of Pine Street, starts with a clean slate in a community driven process to design a roadway our City can love! Let's do it right the first time!

This meeting is the first since the illegal public hearing on project necessity and site visit early in 2018—we were not allowed in a public hearing to speak on the merits of the Parkway!

The now decade old 2009 environmental document—340 pages—and project design harks to 1950s car centric design and when it got watered down from a four-lane divided roadway only increases injuries to South End travelers, walls off the South End from Kmart Plaza, Hannafords, etc., does not contain one inch of new separate and safe walk/bike facilities, and does not conform to literally a dozen laws and policies at all levels ranging from the Vermont Complete Streets Act (2011), the federal requirements for best safety practices (2013), and the City Transportation plan (2011) along with planBTV Walk Bike (2017).

There is not one paragraph of safety analysis in the current base Parkway document, the the Weinberger administration itself erased the one safe sidewalk in the Parkway about 2016, now to force pedestrians to share space with high speed bicycle commuters, E-bikes, and likely E-scooters. Weinberger this action makes walking and bicycling “safer” for South Enders -- in a recent year on a shared use path Lebanon-Hanover, NH a bicyclist crashed into an killed a pedestrian, a second similar crash sent pedestrian to hospital in critical condition. 

Pine Street websites: SafeStreetsBurlington.com https://www.facebook.com/SSBPineStreetNOW/


Parkway items 5.18 and 5.19 set to be approved on the “consent agenda” without discussion.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

$3.2 Million More City Money for Shamplain Parkway at June 3 Meeting--Developments This Month

Good Day Parkway Community:

As many of you know the Pine Street Coalition leadership decided last week to go forward now to appeal the administrative decision by federal officials this month allowing the current Parkway design to go to construction. We anticipate being in federal court to try to stop the project construction early next month by addressing the  base project documents as stale, invalid, obsolete, and past usable date. 
Seven Days provides a rather one-sided report this week on the project: https://www.sevendaysvt.com/OffMessage/archives/2019/05/20/champlain-parkway-construction-could-begin-by-years-end

Pine Street leaders first stated this action last Wednesday at Chittenden Country Regional Planning Commission Board of Directors meeting. You can view the statements of Pine Streeters Tony Redington, Charles Daggitt, Carolyn Bates, and Steve Goodkind at https://www.cctv.org/watch-tv/programs/chittenden-county-regional-planning-commission-87#   Start at 1:53 minutes, the public forum.   Considerable background and history for the "Shamplain Parkway" as is gets addressed.

One interesting new fact from documents obtained from the Federal Highway Administration recently is the revision of the project in 2015-2016 when we are told by Mayor Weinberger pedestrian and bicyclist improvements were made.  In fact, the design at that time which did have a sidewalk on the west side of Pine Street from Lakeside Avenue to Kilburn St./Curtis Lumber was removed and the project now forces pedestrians to share a path with high speed bicyclists, E-bikes and E-scooters. This design change obviously degrades project for those on foot, and adds stress and higher injury rates to those who walk!

Our Pine Street re-design guidelines specifically endorsed by the BTV Walk Bike Council in 2016 feature both a sidewalk and an off-street bike path (properly lit and maintained for year round use) the length of Pine Street from Queen City Park Road along the Parkway route to Kilburn/Curtis Lumber.  Among other obvious changes all can support in redesign: (1) a safe and separate roundabout entry our new City Market and Petra Cliffs; (2) one quality street instead of two between Home and Flynn Avenues; (3) keeping connectivity for all modes between the bottom of Pine Street and Queen City Park Road/KMart Plaza which is permanently severed by the current design; and (4) converting new injury generating signalized intersections to roundabouts which in Vermont downtowns in a half century of testing recorded not a single bicycle crash, just one minor pedestrian injury, and four minor injuries to car occupants--overall just one injury per roundabout per decade compared to the 17 mostly BTV signalized intersections generating an average of one injury a year! Geico, AAA, AARP and FHWA today call for roundabouts first and converting signals to roundabouts with a resulting about 90% decrease in serious injuries and fatalities.
Of course the traffic signals and wasted construction of up to 1.5 lane miles of asphalt build in decades of climate emissions increase versus our City's Climate Action Plan calling for decreases which in this case means less roadway and emission reducing roundabouts. 

The City now proposes to spend another $3.2 million City tax dollars for the Parkway—much of this could be avoided with a reduced design. The June 3 City Council meeting will be asked to approve this money. Please consider attending this meeting as it is really an opportunity for this generation's voice to be heard on this project---the last public hearing on the Parkway was in 2006, a year before the first iPhone and the first protected bike lane (cycle track) network built in a North American community, Montreal. 

You can help in several ways—sign the online petition (address below), attend the June 3 city council meeting, and/or contact your city council member.    


Monday, April 22, 2019

Yes We Can: Winooski Avenue--Burlington's Greatest Street

The current North and South Winooski Ave corridor study seemed at first a challenging triage of a congested, narrow roadway--now it appears the Winooskis really can reach through flexible and unique design its deserving historic role as Burlington's "Greatest Street."

The Winooski Corridor Study may very well achieve a "yes, we can" outstanding urban pathway:
Yes we can--cut carefully some parking which takes away from green space and safe walking-bicycling accommodation.  Yes, we can--serve the neighborhoods first and through traffic second in providing safe walking and bicycling for all ho can (see photo of sidewalk level cycle track applicable from Riverside to the north to at least Main Street).  Yes we can--employ the core safe best practices on our streets--the "intersection safety belt" roundabout and the safe for all ages and skills cycle track (protected bike lanes).  Yes we can--eliminate parking on at least one side of the street except for the central area (Archibald-North Streets) shifting the space to green and bike space use.  And, yes we can: provide a green strip throughout the corridor.  And, finally, yes we can:  strengthen and rejuvenate both the businesses and residential neighborhoods into a more sustainable and livable context.


Sidewalk level "cycle track" shifts the purpose of bike lanes to serving the needs of the neighborhood cyclists to access nearby businesses services and friends--this leaves the through cyclist to a secondary position, still retaining the skilled rider to the vehicle travelways.    Suddenly, all who can--young, old, and in between regardless of skill can bicycle--now only about 10% of the Burlington population bikes much at all.  This photo from Kyoto taken in October.


The intersections?  Again as in the North Avenue Corridor Plan (2014) the all-modes intersections safety belt, is the obvious choice.  (Recent public opinion surveys show about 75% of Americans favor replacing dangerous intersections with roundabouts--plus this is a priority change for GEICO, AAA, AARP and federal highway officials.)

Here is a 2011AARP Pine Street workshop photo from the report recommending roundabouts from stop to bottom of Pine Street in the South End, this engineering base design at Pine and Maple Streets.


Roundabouts  (all one way) are feasible at all the key intersections--they are not only safe (reduced pedestrian/vehicle injuries by about 90% and reduce bicyclists injuries) but the roundabout also cuts delay for all, cuts green house gas emissions by thousands of gallons of gas at busy intersections each year.  In the case of the Winooskis all intersections adjacent to the Marketplace (Pearl, Cherry, Bank, College and Main) are among the "Dirty 17"  City intersections averaging one injury a year--and add North Street/N. Winooski to that list. 

So, the "Greatest Burlington Street"?  Yes, the sacred Winooskis with the historic library and Fire Station, the main access to the City's shopping street (the Marketplace), location of the highest grossing co-op market in America, and the home to the lowest income Old North End neighborhood, the main avenue for the original trolley line from the waterfront to the Winooski manufacturing complexes--yes, the City's Greatest Street!  YES WE CAN!!




Monday, April 8, 2019

Winooski Corridor Study Thoughts Applicable to Obsolete Parkway Design

There follows a number of concepts, cross section alternatives, and areas to seriously explore based on the Winooski Corridor Study advisory committee meeting last week, some discussions with residents and business owners north of Pearl along the corridor and the comment by a consultant team member regarding sidewalk level cycle track. This thoughts almost all directly apply and show why the Champlain Parkway current design is obsolete and environmental document dating a decade ago is no longer valid.
Some Principles and Thoughts Overall
Some key principles and thoughts in considering roundabouts and sidewalk level cycle track in redesign of any busy, urban, all modes street:
  1. “Equality street” is the fundamental principle to be followed—highest level of safety and service for walk, bike, and vehicle modes.
  2. Parking is the least economic use of the street right-of-way (BTV residential parking study)
  3. If retaining parking in a re-design results in significant extra costs to retain a bicycle facility (cycle track, bikeway, etc.), sidewalk and some green strip, then those costs are ascribable to parking as it is an expenditure required to enable parking, not the bike transportation facility. 
  4. One of the key benefits of a single lane roundabout in a narrow urban intersection (or converting to a roundabout) is the fact that roundabouts on all approaches require no turn lanes and generally move crosswalks about a car length away from the vehicle traffic area—this results in documented gains of considerable space which can be allocated to green space, adjacent business space, pedestrian space, accommodation of bicyclists, and even, yes, parking spaces. (Keck Circle in Montpelier freed up space, once used for a turn lane, on the adjacent Worcester Branch Bridge, allowing 3-4 parking spaces.
  5. VT Complete Streets Law requires not just consideration of walk and bike in any transportation investment, but “safe” accommodation! That one word safe almost orders safety/facility treatments like cycle track and roundabouts which cut serious and fatal injuries for both walk and bike modes by a substantial amount.
  6. Unlike signals and stop signs, a roundabout enables pedestrian movement as a priority with almost no delay and pedestrians deal with traffic traveling in only one direction at a time with the presence of a median treatment.
  7. Green New Deal--Climate change dictates two elements for the Winooski corridor: (a) use of roundabouts which cut climate change emissions about 30% at busy intersections; and (b) provision of active transportation, a must for built up urban areas/corridors.
  8. The Winooski Corridor is not primarily a through-corridor for bicycle and pedestrian transportation, but really a series of sections of street where the predominant role is to serve the trips of the neighborhood to and from substantial trip generators—mostly to, from, and via the Riverside-Marketplace and Pearl-Main related sections. 
  9. Our design work take place in a nation and state which has systematically ignored safety a concern for streets and highways leading to the U.S. sinking from first to 20thsince 1990 with 22,000 excess deaths today compared to the fatality rates achieved by the top four nations including our once co-number one, the UK.
  10. Burlington in 2014 adopted one of the first “equality streets” plan, the North Avenue Corridor Plan, which converts key intersections from unsafe traffic signals to safe roundabout and provides cycle track from end to end. 
  11. Safety achievements of other nations generally has begun through a comprehensive “systematic safety” plan and program ranging from licensing, education, enforcement and street design. Our design must reflect “best practices” for safety. 
Two issues emerged from the March 26 PAC meeting of significance: (1) questioning taking parking away from North Winooski, particularly along the mixed residential/commercial sections Riverside-Decatur/N. Union with its two-way traffic and Decatur/N. Union to North Street now southbound traffic only; and (2) a brief mention of cycle track (protected bike lane) placement at sidewalk level or a level midway between sidewalk and road level.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Be Careful Out There! Data shows one bicyclist/pedestrian and two car occupants injured weekly in BTV!

Be careful out there!! Based on 2013-2017 roadway crash data an average of one bicyclist or pedestrian is injured each week in BTV plus two car occupants. So about 50 bicycle/pedestrian injuries occur each year, 100 motor vehicle occupants injuries--150 overall. One fatality occurs on BTV streets every 5-6 years--last six three pedestrians, two drivers, and one cyclist with all but one fatal at one of the City's 75 signalized intersections. Roundabouts cut serious and fatal injuries on average 90%. Cycle track on street sections provide separate and safe accommodation of cyclists between busy intersections.

Safety First! Winooski Draft Material Mirrors Pine Street Re-Design Approach


Clear that Winooski Transportation Corridor Study places safety first! Great news! Winooski study draft plan material adopts Pine Street Coalition Re-design elements for a beneficial Champlain Parkway and basics of the North Avenue Corridor Plan (2014): roundabouts at busy intersections and cycle track end to end. Thank you Winooski Corridor planners! Time now to re-design a proper scale Parkway to incorporate safety and climate change best practices of today not those of 2006! Like the Winooski draft and North Avenue Plan--safe and separate walk and bike facilities and the "intersection safety belt", the roundabout, at busy intersections.

See https://www.ccrpcvt.org/our-work/transportation/current-projects/corridors-circulation/winooski-avenue-corridor-study/#documents Check out the four "Alternatives"