Re-making our transportation system will shift us toward better, cleaner, and more equitable living.
Imagine useful, affordable, and accessible village centers and downtowns with a variety of services, housing, and jobs. Where many people of all ages, socio-economic classes, and backgrounds could live and work, without needing frequent trips to a commercial strip or school complex accessible only by car and flanked by vast parking lots.
Imagine if cars weren’t king of our downtown streets. Instead, streets were a true common space, where kids could walk or bike to school or sports practice, people could engage with neighbors and nature on foot or human-powered wheels, and where transit, car-share and ride-share would foster strong social ties.
For people who live outside of town, imagine a robust public transit system where vanpools, buses, and trains bring elders, workers, and school kids in and out of village and downtown hubs, reducing our need for parking lots, highway expansion, and fossil fuels.
If that doesn’t sound like a future worth working for, here’s a reminder of what we have now—a system that gives people tough choices with their limited money, time, and mental energy, all causing a vicious cycle of physical and emotional stress and degradation of our Earth.
Our car-dominated transportation system is hard on our wallets. Vermonters collectively spend $1.38 billion on fuel every year – and most of those dollars leave the state. Add car payments, insurance, maintenance, and snow tires to the cost of gas, and how much of your pay goes to your commute, especially if you can’t or don’t live close to town?
Policy makers say there’s not enough funding for a region-wide transit system, but it’s worth looking into how much taxpayers spend on parking lots, highways, and subsidies to the automobile and petroleum industries.
Our car-dominated transportation system degrades our health and wellbeing. Many of us spend an hour or more driving to work plus more time running errands and shuttling kids. Many kids spend an hour on the school bus each way. Time sitting in a motor vehicle is inactive, cloistered, and adds to stress, plus drains time from exercise, healthy eating, and community engagement.
Also, the Upper Valley’s population is getting older. Soon, a large cohort of elders will stop driving. They will need affordable places to live and rides to critical services and social events so they aren’t isolated at home. How will we make this happen?
We hear that bike/pedestrian infrastructure and more efficient land use is too hard and expensive, yet how much money and energy do we spend on fitness regimes, health care, and sub-standard elder care?
Our car-dominated transportation system fuels climate change. Fifty-five percent of household carbon dioxide emissions are from transportation. And worsening climate change will likely contribute to a less stable economy, more volatile gasoline prices, and increased storm damage, exacerbating all the other issues we face.
Some see electric vehicles as a silver bullet for halting greenhouse gases from transportation, but will a new kind of car operating in the same old system just provide a stop-gap while maintaining other deep problems in our society?
So what are we waiting for? Let’s get together to change the future. We frugal people of New England specialize in people-sized solutions, simple, ingenious, and on a shoestring. Let’s get to work to combat climate change using those local values and make our community healthier, more vibrant, more prosperous, and more resilient for everyone. Get started today by checking out these resources:
Then contact the Vital Communities Transportation Team to learn more!
– Bethany Fleishman, Transportation Program Manager
Celebrate the hot, new eatery in White River Junction
Visit Trail Break taps + tacos January 11-25, give them a high five for being the BOM, and get a free chips & salsa or a free upgrade to a large “FLiPs”(aka churros- the most amazingly light, fluffy, and sweet dessert)!
And, wait, there is more!!!
Enter into a raffle for a chance to win one of two $25 Trail Break gift cards AND a chance to choose a beer that will go on tap in March!!
Visit Trail Break at 129 South Main Street, White River Junction, Vermont
Weatherize Round Two kicks off this month across the Upper Valley region.
What is Weatherize?
Vital Communities partners community volunteer teams with local contractors to help Weatherize participants complete cost-effective home energy improvements. These upgrades save residents money on heating bills, increase comfort, and reduce the amount of energy needed to stay warm throughout the winter.
How can you get involved?
New Hampshire residents living in Orford, Piermont, Lyme, Lebanon, Plainfield, and Cornish and Vermont residents living in Springfield, Chester, Woodstock, Pomfret, and Bridgewater can participate in this round of Weatherize. Visit your state’s Weatherize homepage or sign up here to stay in the loop about all the latest Weatherize events and deadlines.
Each community team will be hosting a launch event later this month. See below to learn more about your community’s upcoming kick-off.
- Orford-Piermont-Lyme: Saturday, January 27 at the Rivendell Academy in Orford. 2 – 3:30 pm.
- Lebanon: Monday, January 29 at the Kilton Library. 7 – 8:30 pm.
- Plainfield-Cornish: Wednesday, January 24 at Plainfield Elementary School. 7 – 8:30 pm.
- Springfield-Chester: Thursday, January 25 at the Springfield First Congregational Church. 6 – 7:30 pm.
- Woodstock-Pomfret-Bridgewater: Tuesday, January 30 at Norman Williams Public Library. 6 – 7:30 pm.
What happens at the kick-off events?
The kick-off event is an opportunity to meet your community’s volunteer team, partner contractors, and Vital Communities in a fun and informational setting. You’ll learn about what you can expect from the Weatherize program, chat with neighbors who’ve been through the process before, and get the nitty gritty on costs, benefits, financing, and incentives– all in one place! You don’t want to miss it. Refreshments will be provided and the events are free and open to the public with no registration required.
We’ll see you in January!
Photo credit: Molly Drummond
Working together to empower home buyers and sellers throughout the Upper Valley to understand home energy costs and invest in energy efficiency.
Over 50 real estate professionals from across the Upper Valley will gather on January 9 to kick off the new Upper Valley Green Real Estate Network, a project of Vital Communities. Participants include Realtors, lenders, home inspectors, appraisers, real estate lawyers, and home energy professionals.
Five Reasons Buyers Care about Energy
- The Upper Valley is home to some of the oldest housing stock in the nation
- Energy is often the second highest cost of home ownership (behind mortgage/taxes/insurance)
- $7-12k of air sealing and insulation can reduce energy costs by 15-30% andimprove home comfort
- Rebates and special financing programs exist to help residents pay for energy improvements
- Cost effective energy efficiency improvements are possible in almost any home
Why Time of Sale?
Energy efficiency upgrades deliver cash savings and home comfort from month one. Waiting to weatherize means leaving cash on the table. Buyers can use the transaction process to gather necessary information for efficiency improvements. For example:
- Past heating fuel use data needed to qualify for rebate programs
- Confidence that cost effective energy improvements are possible
- Ability to secure financing for energy improvements alongside a mortgage
Vital Communities and our partners believe we can do more to promote “Green Real Estate” in the Upper Valley by working together than we can by working in isolation. Stay tuned for more from this inspiring group of local real estate leaders!