Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Take the survey and comment and "Where are we now?"

Each of us from North End (roughly Wards 3, 4 and 7) can participate through an online survey just like the last Public Workshop (May 20) participants did—the online survey instrument is set for use starting at some point on May 21 (go to the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission [CCRPC] website where the survey can be accessed when up and running:  ).
Over 50 citizens attended the final Public Workshop May 20 at St. Mark’s Church where they were brought up to date up on all the “options” developed for improving North Avenue along street segments and each major intersection.  Then participants went to the large displays of the “options” and could vote twice—for their preferred alternative from a set of choices for each intersections and street segment with a second vote for their least favorite choice.  The “leave it as it is” was always the first option listed.
            Cycle track and roundabouts
Roundabouts at key intersections and cycle track from end to end of the corridor remain the two innovations in the set of options, options necessary to in the long term to attain a world class all-mode street usable by all regardless of age or skill.  Clearly for some time, cycle track (separated-protected bike lanes) from end-to-end of the corridor appeared a near consensus treatment.  Roundabouts which calm traffic speeds and provide the safest treatments to allow both walking and cycle-tracked bicycling to flourish sill face some headwinds going into the final lap of the study.   A roundabout is an option listed for the Plattsburgh, Ethan Allen Parkway, VT 127 and Burlington High School.  For some unknown reason it is not included as an option at Shore Rd./Heineburg Rd., the Shopping Center or North St.  It is important for the Task Force to encourage support through the survey process for both roundabouts at key intersections to insure inclusion by the Advisory Committee in its final deliberations June 11.  Note that the words “roundabout” and “cycle track” do not appear anywhere in the City Transportation Plan completed a few years ago.
            Particular cycle track and roundabout designs, Local Motion study
Some of your representatives on the Advisory Committee have significant questions about the type of roundabout or cycle track included in the set of “options.”  But the corridor plan does not—and cannot for that matter—address the specifics of cycle track widths, whether cycle track is two-way on one side of the street or single lane on each side of the street, roundabouts of a certain type or some two lane travelway.  All these decisions and public process would be left to the future when competent firms with necessary expertise are involved—and we all get an ample opportunity to chime in in those decisions.  The North Avenue Corridor Plan is just that, a plan, and a broad outline with many of the details to be worked on at a later date. 
Very important is the commitment of Local Motion reported last week that they are undertaking a very technical, research-oriented analysis on the Washington St.-North St. segment to determine the number of apartments in each residential structure and measure the number of parking places available.  This scientific study can determine whether or not sufficient parking is available (including adjacent off street parking) and on-street no longer necessary.  This street section is the only one with any significant on-street parking in the entire corridor, and re-configured with the parking lane eliminated allows immediate possibility of a first-level cycle track in this section, the area with the most mixed land use on the corridor.  If that is possible, then consideration of Local Motion’s short-term (in part or all) for cycle track proceeds.  In the long term parts or all of North Avenue require at least some re-construction to reach the “world class” all-modes usable by all regardless of age and skill, the aspiration contained in the Vision/Goals draft in the plan.
The survey and Public Workshop is not an ideal process but a practical one given the dollars available for the study and the complexity of decisions.  For example, the consultant responded to a question about how the options take into consideration the lower roundabout emissions and gasoline consumption compared to signals—this energy/environmental consideration the consultant can only be pointed to in participant comments and are not reflected in the option “choices.”  Ditto for safety, perhaps the most important element of the “why” for roundabouts for walking safety, safety for cyclists in combination with cycle track, and for seniors as half their deaths in cars occur at intersections versus less than a quarter for the younger population……The cost of improving the corridor and where the money would come from was surfaced with one answer that you cannot determine what the costs and benefits are of a plan until you decide where you would like to go and the corridor plan defines where you would like to go and there will be approximate costs outlined in the plan for the improvements...One gentleman asked how a pedestrian or a wheelchair could cross a roundabout—the first Vermont roundabout in Montpelier is adjacent to senior housing and for several years a young handicapped State worker in a motorized wheelchair scooted on the roundabout crosswalk (with its median refuge) to an from his job in the Pavilion Office building…..Again in 25 years of U.S./Canadian roundabout history not a single pedestrian fatality has occurred.

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