Friday, September 4, 2020
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
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
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
https://www.facebook.com/SSBPineStreetNOW Stop! Reevaluate! Redesign: the Champlain Parkway
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- 25 August 2020
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
Comment online here until August 24! ChamplainParkway.com/NEPA/ Also here: July 29 hearing and other comment ways. Translation and other help: 802-496-8956 email@example.com
Parkway Delayed at Least to 2027 if Federal Highway/VTrans/City Refuse Collaborative New Street Resolution
Saturday, July 11, 2020
Monday, June 22, 2020
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!