New Partners and the Vermont Telecommuting Guide

One significant impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is the sheer number of people now working from home. Though telework is now normal for many, we are still trying to find the answers to many questions. How can collaboration occur without shared space? How can employers be sure their employees are actually working? What are the implications for health and wellness? If your office is your home, can you ever leave the office?

Vital Communities and the Chittenden Area Transportation Management Association (CATMA) are answering these questions with a statewide telecommuting guide. The guide, now in development, will provide resources for both employers and employees to make sure that a shift to working from home isn’t accompanied by a loss of structure and support. 

The collaboration is a new type of partnership between our organizations. We haven’t collaborated before on a project like this,” says Vital Communities Transportation Manager Bethany Fleishman, “but it’s something we both need. We thought, ‘This is so obvious. We should be doing this together.’ It’s nice to know that we’re producing something that will be useful, not just for the Upper Valley, but for people all over the state.”

On Tuesday, Twitter announced that its employees will be allowed to work from home “forever.” It’s a signal that telecommuting isn’t just relevant in a pandemic. There are permanent advantages, from reducing fossil fuels, to reducing barriers for those who live in rural areas as well as folks who have disabilities or illnesses that make it hard to leave the home. Hopefully this upcoming guide, as well as the new partnership formed in its creation, will have an impact that lasts beyond our current situation. Stay tuned!

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Image (“Working vs Chores”) by Charles Deluvio

Celebrating our Volunteer of the Year

Ed. note: Vital Communities Executive Director Tom Roberts made the following remarks to honor 2019 Volunteer of the Year Bill Geraghty at our Open House on December 6.

We are delighted to celebrate Bill Geraghty as our Volunteer of the Year.

It is fitting that we honor Bill as we are celebrating our 25th.  As with many of the previous volunteers we’ve honored, their service to Vital Communities and the Upper Valley spans many years.

Bill has served on our board of directors for 11 of the last 13 years, coming back to serve again after his carefully laid out leadership succession plan fell apart due to a job change out across the country.

Bill has served twice as chair of the board, running prompt, efficient meetings and ably standing as our volunteer leader in the Upper Valley.

Jenny Levy, our outgoing board chair and VP of People, Community and the Environment at Hypertherm, said of Bill:

Bill’s calm, insightful, witty and wise character is a bedrock for the Vital Communities board. Like any real bedrock, it sticks around and allows others to grow around it – that’s Bill. He knows the history, knows the trials and errors and the successes, yet is eager for new ideas and to work with everyone. Like bedrock, you can always trust and count on Bill. He always does what he says he’s going to do, and signs up for way more than his fair share of work on behalf of our community.

Bill first got involved with Vital Communities 18 years ago when he was serving as the Vice President of Human Resources at Dartmouth-Hitchcock and joined our Upper Valley Transportation Management Association (TMA) as D-H’s representative. He was active in looking at alternatives to building more parking garages by improving transportation and housing options for D-H employees.

Over the years, Bill has served on nearly every committee we have here – with substantial service on our finance and nominating committees.

Because of his HR expertise, he was a key part of the search committee that hired both me and my predecessor, Mary Margaret Sloan; he was called upon for invaluable HR advice by both of us and has presented a set of trainings for the staff on HR matters.

Mary Margaret had this to say about Bill:

Bill was a lifeline for me. Often executive directors are isolated, but Bill wasn’t just the board chair, he was a true partner. If I needed advice — he was there. If I needed someone to share worries with — he was there. He is brilliant and kind, but my favorite thing about Bill is his sense of humor. We’d talk about something serious, and then he’d get a twinkle, and make me laugh. … Vital Communities… has been extraordinarily lucky to enjoy his leadership.

And Bill was on and chaired the Leadership Upper Valley Board of Governors and a key member of the Heroes & Leaders dinner planning committee, including serving as master of ceremonies for the event. Stacey Glazer, who ran LUV for many years used these words to describe Bill: “direct, super-helpful, wise, honest, caring, civic-minded, supportive and steady presence.” She summed it up well: “Bill was always there for Vital Communities when we needed him.”

And Bill did all this for Vital Communities while also serving as a member of the Hanover Selectboard, as well as being on other nonprofit boards.

I can echo Jenny’s, Mary Margaret’s, and Stacey’s sentiments and express my personal deep appreciation for Bill’s thoughtful, caring, and patient approach.

I am delighted to present Bill Geraghty our Volunteer of the Year Award for 2019.

Vital Communities on NHPR’s “The Exchange”

GoingLocal_1Did you catch us recently on New Hampshire Public Radio’s weekday call-in show “The Exchange“? Their ‘Going Local‘ series explores the different regions of the state, and in early August they focused on the Dartmouth/Lake Sunapee region (the New Hampshire side of the Upper Valley!).

Vital Communities was honored to have Energy Program Manager Sarah Brock join as a panelist, along with Hanover Town Manager Julia Griffin, Lebanon Planning and Zoning Director David Brooks, and Valley News Reporter Tim Camerato. They talked about everything from traffic congestion on Route 120 to a bi-state parade from Orford to Fairlee—give it a listen!

Spring Into Bike Riding Season…

…with practical skills training to get you riding more!

What is Everyday Bicycling?

It’s using your bike for those everyday trips that we all make — grocery shopping, getting to work, or even picking up the kids from school. It’s about making the choice to leave your car behind when you can, in favor of getting outside, exercising, and saving gas!

How can I get involved?

Vital Communities offers a range of bike skills trainings for groups of adults (and mature teens). We can hold one workshop or a whole series at your workplace, community center, or town park.

What kinds of workshops are offered?Pumping tire

Basic Everyday Bicycling (practical tips on everyday bicycling) 60 minutes long (indoors)
On-Street Bike Skills (build your street riding skills) 60-90 minutes long (outside, with your bike!)
Basic Maintenance (tire change, basic adjustments and troubleshooting) 60-90 minutes long (inside or outside, with your bike!)

What does a workshop provide?

• Practical tips from experienced Everyday Bicyclists on incorporating bike travel into any lifestyle
• Expert advice and guidance
• Low-cost gear: bells, lights, helmets, reflective vests, and more!
• Free informational resources

tom-bikeWhat is the time investment?

• We strive to make hosting a workshop very easy for you.
• We offer highly flexible scheduling.
• We provide all of the marketing and promotional materials that you need.

How much does it cost?

• FREE for Upper Valley Transportation Management Association (UVTMA) members. (If you’re not a UVTMA member, give us a call!)

• FREE for Vermont communities and workplaces, thanks to support from Local Motion and Go! Vermont.

How do I get started?

Contact Bethany Fleishman at 802.291.9100 x111 or Bethany@VitalCommunities.Org

Planning the Parking Future of White River Junction

Hartford Awards Contract for White River Junction Parking and Transportation Plan; Vital Communities and RSG to Lead Project

Vital Communities and neighbor RSG have been selected by the Town of Hartford to develop a Downtown White River Junction Parking Management Plan. Using a combination of Town funds and a Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development Municipal Planning Grant, the study will examine ways to improve current parking conditions and to manage future demands for parking in the historic downtown.

Over the past 15 years, downtown White River Junction has experienced a significant economic revival and now finds itself a vibrant arts and business center. With the downtown’s resurgence, there is concern that the existing supply of public and private parking could eventually hinder revitalization efforts or result in demolition of historic buildings to increase the supply of parking. In response to this concern, Hartford’s parking plan will evaluate ways to maximize existing parking resources, make parking more user-friendly, and encourage the use of non-personal vehicle travel to the downtown.

“We are excited to take on this project and develop long-term solutions to the parking and transportation challenges facing the village where we work. It’s a great opportunity to combine the expertise of Vital Communities and RSG with our daily experience using parking and transportation options in White River Junction,” said Aaron Brown, transportation program manager. The project will analyze current town regulations and actual parking use, but will also rely heavily on input from local businesses and residents in crafting solutions for White River Junction’s needs.

“We take pride in researching and designing transportation plans to support vibrant downtowns across the US,” said RSG’s Dr. Erica Wygonik, Senior Engineer. “However, this project is particularly important to us because our headquarters are located in downtown White River Junction. We are honored to contribute to the planning process.”

The White River Junction-based nonprofit Vital Communities, which focuses on catalyzing solutions to regional issues, has advocated for sustainable transportation options since 2002. RSG has specialized in the planning, analysis, and design of transportation systems since its founding in 1986.

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

Office Bike Share

When Vital Communities staff expressed interest in cutting down on car trips to meetings, Transportation Program Manager Aaron Brown found a way to help. He donated an old bike that was taking up space at home and set up an office bike share.

We added rear baskets large enough to fit a laptop and other supplies. Staff can reserve the bike through an online calendar and leave their cars parked for local trips.

Interested in setting up your own workplace bike share? Contact us to learn more.

And the Winners Are…

Caption: Paul Coats, director of Recreation and Parks for the City of Lebanon, discusses the Mascoma River Greenway at the TMA 13th Annual Meeting.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock, Resource Systems Group, Advance Transit, and a Hartland bicycle commuter were honored at the 13th annual meeting of the Upper Valley Transportation Management Association (TMA), a program of Vital Communities. The annual awards recognize organizations and individuals making it easier to bike, walk, carpool, and ride the bus in the Upper Valley.

“This year’s award winners demonstrate our region’s commitment to healthy, affordable, and sustainable transportation options,” said Aaron Brown, Vital Communities’ transportation program manager. “Though we live in a rural region, the Upper Valley serves as a model for providing access to good transportation in small-town America.”

The TMA honored one individual and three organizations:

  • Commuter of the Year: Bicycle commuter Jesse Hills of Hartland was honored for his commitment to biking year-round to his job at Mt. Ascutney Hospital.
  • Large Workplace of the Year: Dartmouth-Hitchcock was recognized for its years of support for public transit and its new sustainability council, which features a transportation team.
  • Small Workplace of the Year: Resource Systems Group was honored for innovative programs including co-locating near transit and offering subsidies to employees who purchase homes close to the workplace.
  • Project of the Year: Advance Transit’s Green Route expansion, which improved service to every 30 minutes and increased the route’s ridership 50 percent.

Keynote speaker Paul Coats, director of Recreation and Parks for the City of Lebanon, discussed the unique fundraising success that will make the Mascoma River Greenway a reality in the coming years.

The Upper Valley TMA is a program of Vital Communities that works to reduce reliance on driving alone. The TMA’s members include local municipalities, transit agencies, major employers, and three regional planning commissions.