TRANSPORTATION

In Montpelier The common complaint is that we have a parking problem. What we really have is a transportation problem that stems from a housing problem.

Parking lots comprise roughly 60% of Montpelier’s downtown real-estate, preventing creation of what could be ecologically sustainable, residential and commercial development. There are 7,500 residents living in Montpelier, but 15,000 people work in our small city during the day (Montpelier Master Plan). Over 2,800 commuter cars transport people coming into Montpelier to work.

Why is this a problem?

Commuter cars are warehoused during the day in large parking lots along the river. More parking leads to more cars (Parking and the City, Donald Shoup). Traffic congestion is a common occurrence in our downtown, creating a less friendly, less walkable community. The Sustainable Montpelier Coalition is working to free-up land along the river so that there are — “more uses of the same space for more people more of the time.”

Montpelier has been experiencing low vacancy rates that drives up the rental costs and makes it very hard for people to afford to live here. Younger people, seeking to live and work in Montpelier are unable to find housing downtown. Montpelier employers report that retention of young workers is challenging, because of the lack of housing and transportation options. Why do Millennials drive less than Boomers? explains how we must start to cater to the needs of younger generations. Montpelier also offers limited alternatives for area seniors looking to downsize. Our housing shortage contributes to our transportation problems, because people have to live further outside of downtown and then need cars to commute to work, shop and dine. Why the Transportation Energy Intensity of buildings matter explains the correlation between green buildings and the transportation required for their occupants to travel to work, shop and recreate.

Why do Millennials drive less than Boomers?

Vermonters drive 20% more than the US average. Transportation is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas in the state. Montpelier’s City Council is committed to being Net Zero by 2030. Montpelier alone has many cars. From an ACS Community Survey, done between 2012 to 2016, of 3,534 Montpelier households: 1,568 have 1 vehicle, 1,243 have 2 vehicles and 193 have 3 or more vehicles, while only 530 do not use a single-occupancy vehicle. The Montpelier Parking and Shuttle Study (1993) identified 3,088 parking spaces, with underutilized private parking spaces. Surprisingly, approximately 1,000 Montpelier residents drive to work and park their cars on site. How do we adopt the use of multi-passenger vehicles to free-up land for better uses and reduce the number of vehicles in our downtown?

How we design our land, our built environment, influences the choices people can, and want to, make. What we think of as being a transportation problem is indeed a housing problem. Providing people with more choices for downtown housing and transportation is a key goal of smart growth. We can work together to transform the transportation and land-use of Montpelier by participating in on-demand transit, local rail, and then we can develop mixed-use downtown housing and open space. Supporting these systems will benefit all of us. We will see a healthy, happy, more resilient Montpelier community.

How we design our land, our built environment, influences the choices people can, and want to, make. What we think of as being a transportation problem is indeed a housing problem. Providing people with more choices for downtown housing and transportation is a key goal of smart growth. We can work together to transform the transportation and land-use of Montpelier by participating in on-demand transit, local rail, and then we can develop mixed-use downtown housing and open space. Supporting these systems will benefit all of us. We will see a healthy, happy, more resilient Montpelier community.

Why does the transportation energy intensity of buildings matter?

Key Elements in Changing our Transportation System

Remote/Satellite Parking

Remote or satellite parking is the concept of placing parking around the perimeter of the community to free up critical downtown land for other uses such as: housing, commercial, and open space. This also reduces traffic and congestion downtown. It is especially helpful when commuters use remote parking and free up parking for tourists and shoppers.

Satellite parking will also require a last-mile transportation solution to move people from parking to downtown. For State Workers, The Department of Labor (DOL) lot is an example of a working remote parking system. The free Capitol Commuter Shuttle runs continuously Monday-Friday. It picks up people from the DOL parking lot and completes the last-mile connection to National Life or the Statehouse.

During the legislative session there is an influx of cars. Many state workers choose to start work 1-1.5 hours earlier during the session in order to get a parking spot. This year the new construction downtown has reduced parking by 230 spaces. Where will these commuters park?

Other satellite parking options were suggested in the design by Team Bridges, winner of the Sustainable Montpelier 2030 Design Competition: the Grossman’s lot near the Rt 302 roundabout and another near the train station at Montpelier Junction. Recently, since the completion of construction on Northfield Street, the former Brown Derby lot is also being considered as possible satellite parking location.

On-Demand Micro-Transit

SMC is working with the state and local employers to create an on-demand, micro-transit system which could replace the current, traditional fixed-route, fixed-schedule bus routes. At a recent SMC sponsored roundtable of key transportation stakeholders, Via, an on-demand transit company, made a presentation on their service. On-demand transit uses dynamic routing that will get you from your street corner to your work, child’s school, grocery store, or doctor’s office.

This service will provide a comparable experience to that of the personal vehicle at a fraction of the cost. We are working towards a pilot demonstration in Montpelier within 2019. This on-demand transit would be provided by 9-person, preferably electric, vans. By either calling directly or using a smart phone app, the service will factor in your location and destination to pick you up and deliver you with the greatest efficiency.

What are the benefits of switching to on-demand transit? It can be as convenient as driving a car. One real key to getting people to select on-demand transit is offering an excellent service at a desirable price. The other key is that car ownership is not cheap.

People spend an average of $8500 a year to keep a car. Calculate the cost of your of operating your vehicle here.

Individuals and families might easily have an on-demand transit membership that is much less than half the cost owning a car.

This will not only be helpful for personal budgets, but will also be helpful for Montpelier as a community.

No more warming your car up in the winter or stepping into a hot vehicle in the summer, your ride will pick you up at your door and drop your off at your destination in comfort and on time.

If and when Montpelier residents choose on-demand transit, less parking will be required for cars downtown. The parking lots can be freed up for other uses, such as housing and open space. On-demand transit creates a win-win for individual residents and the whole community.

SMC is working with state and local government, corporations and non-profits to develop an on-demand transit plan. Future public forums will be held to gather input from the community.

Local Commuter Rail

Montpelier and Barre are connected by rail. This rail also extends west to Burlington and east Lebanon, NH. Sadly, our local rail has not been maintained to passenger line standard. In the Sustainable Montpelier 2030 Design Competition, the winning team Bridges vision proposed the revitalization of rail use. SMC is interested in making this vision of commuter rail a reality.

In September 2018 SMC convened the Transportation Roundtable II. AllEarth Rail made a presentation about commuter rail. Not only does commuter rail get people to where they want to go, it contributes to the economic development of communities along the rail line. Communities with a commuter rail line report a 7:1 Return-On-Investment.

Many of the workers in Barre and Montpelier have easy access to the existing rail because the tracks pass through both cities downtowns. As rail becomes available, commuters can hop on the train and ride to work. Have a meeting in Waterbury? Hop on the train. Have a meeting in Barre? Hop on the train. Want to shop at the stores along the Barre/Montpelier Road? Hop on the train. Easy, accessible, and fun! Who needs a second car when you have the option of taking the train where you need to go?

AllEarth Rail has purchased a number of Budd cars. These cars are self-propelled, stainless steel railcars inter city passenger rail service. The City of Montpelier has applied for a grant for a Scoping Study for local rail service, with the Federal Transit Authority. Notice of their approval will come in Spring ’19. Other groups are expressing interest in getting the rail line upgraded as soon as possible.