Attention, Vermont Schools: It’s WAY TO GO! Time

This year’s statewide Way to Go! School Challenge is September 25 – October 6. It’s a great way for schools to battle carbon pollution head-on!

Sign up your school here and get tools to motivate students, staff, and teachers to take the bus, walk, bike, roll, or carpool as much as possible during this two-week event. You’ll get updates before the challenge and access to the School Success Kit.

If your school gets at least 50% participation for three days during the challenge, you can quality to win an AllEarth Renewables Solar Tracker for the school and other great prizes.

Find out more here.

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Survey Says: Parking and Transportation in White River Junction Are…

Thank you to the more than 500 downtown White River Junction residents, employees, business owners, and visitors who took our survey about parking! We’ve learned much about your transportation and parking needs in this vibrant downtown. You can see full survey results here. Our findings include:

  • White River Junction has a lot going on! Of our 551 survey respondents, 60% enjoy the downtown’s restaurants, half work here, more than a third are Northern Stage patrons, and 40% go to other arts and cultural activities.
  • Nearly 20% of survey respondents said they feel unsafe parking in certain areas of downtown, mainly due to poor lighting. Good news: The town plans to upgrade street lighting near the courthouse, along South Main Street, and in the lot behind the former American Legion.
  • The town is investigating how to best reach residents about parking bans during snowstorms and other emergencies. Our work confirmed the vast majority (75%) would prefer a simple text message.

Didn’t take the survey but have something to say? Please e-mail us to share your opinions on how the town can manage parking and transportation options as development rapidly occurs in the historic downtown.

Advance Transit Releases Real-Time App

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An increasingly common tool in urban areas, a real-time transit app has come to the Upper Valley. You can now use an iPhone or Android to see where Advance Transit’s buses are located in real time and when a bus will stop near you. Want to plan farther ahead? Once you click on a stop, you can also scroll through the schedule to see when boardings occur throughout the day. Just tap on the estimated arrival time to see a full schedule.

I recently tested the app for a short trip through White River Junction. It was a slightly cold day – perhaps 25 degrees with the wind chill – so I pulled up the app from the comfort of my heated office. I saw I had about fifteen minutes before an Orange Line bus arrived at the closest stop, Bugbee Senior Center, so I waited at my desk. Once I had only six minutes left, I headed to the stop across the street.

A man in his early 20s was already waiting there. I glanced down at my phone and saw an orange bus icon on a map, which showed me that the real bus had made its way to the end of Sykes Mountain Avenue.  I waited and the bus icon sat there. Another man walked up to the stop for the Orange Line. The three of us each stood there and messed around with our smartphones. I started to wonder if the bus got stuck at a long light, but then the estimated time of arrival changed to give the bus two extra minutes and the bus icon moved ahead.

The bus arrived right at the updated time. I showed the driver the app and asked if he was stuck at the light on Sykes. He said he had a stop there connecting to Greyhound. That explained the slight delay. “It works,” I told him. As I rode the bus, I continued to watch my location pin and the bus icon. The blue dot showing my location moved faster than the bus icon, but the two came together when I got off at my stop.

Now that the real-time app is available, Advance Transit is looking for people like you and me to test it and provide feedback. It’s easy to do! Visit the App Store or Google Play for the free download. Search “Advance Transit” (and make sure you filter for iPhone only apps if you’re using an iPad). Use it on a trip. Submit feedback through the main menu.

If your experience is anything like mine, you’ll find yourself realizing that this app could make it quite easy to use Advance Transit for mid-day trips, like a lunchtime run to King Arthur Flour or an afternoon meeting in Lebanon.

Stagecoach Away

More Bus Service for the Bradford Area and I-91

Exciting new bus service improvements from our partner, Stagecoach Transportation Services!
  • Expanded RIVER ROUTE (Wells River-Newbury-Bradford-Fairlee-Thetford TO Hanover-Lebanon-White River Junction)
    • More consistent timing
    • Better connectivity with Advance Transit
    • Late morning and mid-day trips
    • Service to Centerra Business Park, the new State complex in WRJ, and destinations along Rte. 5 including the Haven and King Arthur Flour
    • Reverse commute service – morning northbound and evening southbound trips
    • Eight daily trips to VA Medical Center
    • FARE FREE UNTIL DECEMBER 1, 2015
  • New CIRCULATOR bus provides service around Bradford, Newbury, Wells River, and Woodsville!
    • Runs Mon.-Fri. 8:30 am-4:30 pm
    • Provides access to grocery stores, pharmacy, senior center, Upper Valley Services, and more
    • FARE FREE UNTIL JANUARY 31, 2016

Find SCHEDULES and more info here.

Ledyard Bridge Bikes

New Study on Funding Local Transportation

Vital Communities is pleased to release a new study that examines an optional vehicle registration fee used by over a dozen New Hampshire municipalities. The fee, authorized under RSA 261:153 VI, allows municipalities to collect up to $5 per registration to establish local transportation improvement funds for projects as diverse as basic road maintenance, sidewalk construction, and public transit.

Vital Communities Transportation Program Manager Aaron Brown, the report’s author, concludes that a growing number of communities are interested in the fee and that towns and cities have benefited greatly from their local transportation funds.

“The municipalities that collect the fee range in population from under 2,000 to more than 100,000, but they share a common theme: the revenue collected under this program is essential for maintaining good local transportation options.” —Transportation Program Manager Aaron Brown

Representative Patricia Higgins, a Democrat who represents Hanover and Lyme, recently introduced a bill that would raise the maximum amount that a municipality may add to their vehicle registration fee from $5 to $10, but only if the voters of that municipality decide they want to raise more revenue.

“Towns and cities can no longer rely on state funds to meet their important transportation needs, be it repairing a bridge so goods can reach a market, funding public transportation so commuters can get to work, or making a bike route safer for students to get to school. This fee, totally optional, allows localities to identify and solve their own problems. I’m grateful for the work of Vital Communities in educating towns and cities all over the state of the existence of this enabling legislation, and I hope my bill will allow local residents more flexibility to arrive at local solutions.”

Read the full report: A Look at the Municipal Vehicle Registration Fee

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Your Input Needed – Stagecoach Bus River Route

Do you ride Stagecoach’s River Route? Or would you like to?

Stagecoach is improving efficiency and increasing options on the River Route Bus Service from Wells River, Newbury, Bradford, Fairlee, and Thetford to Hanover, White River Junction, and Lebanon.

Share your input at a public meeting on the proposed changes to the River Route. 

Tuesday, September 1
    – DHMC in Auditorium G from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm
    – VA Hospital in B-44 Room 103B from 1:30 to 2:30 pm
    – Bugbee Senior Center in White River Junction from 6:30 to 7:30 pm

OR

Wednesday, September 2
      – Bradford Academy Building6 to 7 pm 

For more information, please call Stagecoach at 802.728.3773 or email Info@Stagecoach-Rides.org.

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Stagecoach’s Jim Moulton Named National Transit Manager of the Year

The Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) has honored Jim Moulton of Addison County Transit Resources (ACTR) and Stagecoach Transportation Services (Stagecoach) as the 2015 Community Transportation Manager of the Year. CTAA consists of member organizations that support creating mobility for all Americans regardless of where they live or work. Each year CTAA chooses from the best among thousands of Community Transportation Managers across the nation to receive this award. Moulton is the first Vermonter to be selected for this honor. The Manager of the Year demonstrates exceptional leadership while providing transportation service that is integral to the community by creating vision for the system and gathering support both from within and outside the organization. “I am humbled to receive this honor,” said Moulton, “and grateful for ACTR and Stagecoach’s team of committed and caring staff, dedicated volunteers and invested board members”.

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The Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) gave Moulton a vote of confidence when they requested his leadership support for Randolph-based Stagecoach, which had lost its founding executive in 2013. “Under Moulton’s leadership, Stagecoach has become stronger financially, operationally and administratively,” said Paul Kendall, Stagecoach’s Board Chair. “In a short time period, Stagecoach has expanded services to the most vulnerable community members, achieved fiscal stability, strengthened community connections, revitalized its board of directors, and developed staff management and leadership. The Stagecoach Board is thankful for the experience and visionary leadership that Jim has brought to the organization.”

During Moulton’s tenure at Middlebury-based ACTR, ridership on the bus system has grown by more than 430% while the service budget has more than tripled. Last year ACTR provided 173,000 rides through its bus and dial-a-ride programs. “The ACTR Board of Directors is very proud that Jim has been chosen for this honor,” said Adam Lougee, Board Chair. “In his more than 12 years with us, Jim has taken a struggling transit organization with limited routes and facilities and transformed it into a vibrant organization. ACTR lives up to its motto, “transportation for everyone” each and every day, by providing safe, reliable and affordable transportation. Jim’s vision for the organization, communication skills, financial acumen, compassion and ability to implement systems make him an exemplary leader. We believe Jim deserves the recognition and accolades and recognize how fortunate we are to have Jim leading ACTR.”

Moulton has also chaired the Vermont Public Transit Association for over a decade, working to promote the use of and investment in public transportation statewide. “Jim has done a great job of leading sustained growth at ACTR for over a decade,” said Chris Cole, VTrans Deputy Secretary. “The gains are clear in the ridership increases, diversity and quality of services offered, and the stunning facility project, recently completed under his direction. Over the past year, Jim has stepped up even further to also manage Stagecoach. This was all accomplished at the same time as continuing to serve as the longtime Chairperson of the Vermont Public Transit Association. VTrans thanks Jim for all of his hard work and congratulates him on the well-deserved CTAA recognition.”

To learn more about the ways that ACTR and Stagecoach’s services have impacted the environmental, economic, and social health of Vermont, please visit www.actr-vt.org or www.stagecoach-rides.org.

Bike-Bus-Car Race 2014 (1)

And the bikes win!

L to R: Charlotte Jeffreys, Bethany Fleishman, Sharon Racusin, Marcia Cassidy, Martha McDaniel, Scot Drysdale, and Hilde Ojibway. Photo: Aaron Brown

A chilly autumn morning greeted 5 volunteers and 3 Vital Communities staff members who met in front of Dan and Whit’s to test an interesting question: Is it fastest to get from Norwich to Hanover during rush hour by taking the bus, riding a bike, or driving alone and finding parking? It was October 21, a normal Tuesday workday, and traffic was thick while the competitors waited for the bus to arrive. Three cyclists with varying levels of equipment were there. Scot sported a recumbent bicycle, which are exceptionally efficient converters of pedal power to speed. On the opposite spectrum was Hilde’s used purple Schwinn, an unassuming but serviceable machine.

Vital Communities Transportation Program Manager Aaron Brown had cyclists and drivers sign a pledge to follow all traffic laws while participating – no speeding cars, no bikes running red lights or stop signs, etc. This would be a fair and legal race. Then the familiar sight of a white and blue Advance Transit bus turned right at the Norwich Inn at little after 8 am.

Valley News reporter James Patterson joined Aaron, Bethany, and Charlotte on the Advance Transit Brown Route bus. The race began when they boarded. The two drivers – Martha and Marcia – headed off in pursuit of the lots where they normally park for work – one at Dewey and the other at Thompson Arena. Riding on the bus, it was hard to keep track of the two cars due to the steady stream of other vehicles in the left lane. The cyclists, however, were easy to spot. Scot blazed ahead with his safety flag flying several feet above his bike.

The bus and bikes traded the lead a few times going down Route 5. But, right after the I-91 northbound exit ramp, the bus hit traffic. It was clear early on that the bikes would win. The bus riders continued to look for the cars but couldn’t see them.

The bus riders arrived at the finish line at the Hopkins Center about 11.5 minutes after boarding at Dan and Whit’s. Scot, Hilde, and the third cyclist, Sharon, were all waiting for them. Scot had arrived there first. His ride took little more than 9 minutes. Hilde barely beat the bus, but she made sure to “keep the results neat and clean” by keeping all cyclists in the winner category.

The group waited for the drivers to arrive. And waited. And waited. Finally, after the 20-minute mark, Marcia emerged from the side of the Hopkins Center, where she had walked from Thompson. The group enjoyed coffee and pastries and waited for Martha to arrive. It took her more than 30 minutes to join the group!

We had guessed that the bikes or bus would win, but we didn’t think the differences would be so drastic. Thanks to good bus service, a separated bike lane, and no need to find parking, biking and taking the bus are the fastest, most convenient ways to get into Hanover at rush hour. Plus, Zipcars are available on Dartmouth’s campus, which means one can enjoy a shorter commute and still have access to a car during the day for meetings or errands.

Commuting by Bus

Kristi Veverka, Hypertherm employee, committed to try taking the Connecticut River Transit bus to work last summer. Although she was “really feeling out of my comfort zone” on the first day — she got lots of help and advice from other bus riders. Since then Kristi has striving to ride the bus 5  times a week. Kristi says, “I find riding the bus so relaxing. I am taking a class right now and have lots of reading to do so the bus gives me a perfect opportunity to get a couple of hours of reading in each day. I would have a hard time doing that otherwise. Also, I purchased an i-Pad and it is awesome on the bus. I have 3G coverage almost the entire ride. The money I save on riding the bus more than pays the monthly cost to have the i-Pad.”

Hypertherm pays for 50% of Kristi’s bus fare. Kristi still needs to drive 5 miles each way to the Park & Ride at exit 8, but she saves driving the 38 miles every time she takes the bus in to work.  Other Hypertherm associates also ride the bus, Tony Bertone, Barbara Churchill, Scott Hagland and Jeff Page, and  there is room for more.