April TAC Notes: Transit changes and a study of the Interstate

April TAC Notes: Transit changes and a study of the Interstate

The April TAC meeting had a higher attendance than usual. In addition to town representatives and staff, several citizens were there to hear about the latest transit plans for the region. Green Mountain Transit (GMT), which provides transit service to northern and central Vermont is in the midst of a deep re-think of their Chittenden County routes. The re-design, known as the Next Gen study, is scheduled to start in late June 2019.

The plan calls for cutting headways (the time between buses) to twenty minutes on the four most used lines. This is expected to improve on-time schedules and cut the wait time between buses. The best transit systems in the world operate so frequently that bus riders don’t check the schedule. This is a step in that direction.

A new service to the airport will be added and a Williston village service will be cut. A fare increase—the first one since 2005—is planned to raise the cost of a ride from $1.25 to $1.50.

Perhaps one of the biggest impacts will be a the introduction of a new app. The platform is called Swiftly, but the app will be known to GMT customers as “Transit,” enabling them to track buses in real time and buy tickets online. Transit users elsewhere are increasingly used to checking their phones for schedules and the bus locations. This new app will bring that convenience to northern Vermont.

One unresolved transit issue I see on the horizon, is who will pay for the College Street Shuttle—currently free to users but subsidized by the City of Burlington to the tune of $125,000 a year. Initially envisioned as a shuttle to connect tourists and other visitors between the waterfront, Church Street and the Hill, the Shuttle now sees heavy use by employees of UVM and the UVM Medical Center. Shifting that cost burden will likely feature in future discussions.

The other agenda item discussed at this month’s TAC meeting was the UPWP (Unified Planning Work Program) function of the CCRPC. The full list includes roughly equal amounts for Roadway projects ($330,000); Bike/Ped ($290,000); Water Quality ($407,000) and TDM ($246,000). The biggest project ($150,000) was the first phase of a study of I-89 that promises a comprehensive look at the highway, and exchanges, including adding additional capacity (e.g. travel lanes). This is the first phase of $450,000 or so to study the Interstate in a sole source contract with VHB.

Richard Watts teaches policy and media studies at the University of Vermont and is a regular bike commuter, transit rider and pedestrian from his home in Hinesburg.