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.

Celebrate Sustainable Transportation Week

Do you love all the great transportation options in our community? Join Vital Communities in celebrating our region as a model for sustainable rural transportation this fall. We’re hosting a week-long commuter challenge, a forum on transportation with local candidates for state office, rally-point rideshare, and an exciting bus vs. bike vs. car challenge!

October 20-24: Fall Way to Go! Challenge

Pledge to leave your car behind at least one day this week and join Vital Communities as we aim to collectively save $10,000 in fuel costs in just one week! You can participate by carpooling, biking, walking, taking a bus, or even by working from home. Sign up here.

October 20: Rally-Point Rideshare at the Windsor-Hartland Park-and-Ride

Have you ever heard of slugging, the phenomenon in some urban areas where drivers pick up passengers at designated rally points to use the carpool lanes? Ever wonder if that way of meeting carpool buddies could work in a region like ours? Well, we’re going to give it a try!

The renovations of the Hartland-Windsor park-and-ride off I-91 are nearly complete, and we’re going to celebrate the improvements by hosting rideshare meetups at 7:30 am, 8 am, and 8:30 am. Come meet your neighbors, enjoy free coffee and pastries, and form a new carpool.

Rain date: October 23

October 21: Bike, Bus, or Car: What’s the Quickest Way from Norwich to Dartmouth?

Do you commute from Norwich to Hanover each morning? Are you tired of dealing with the traffic at the Ledyard Bridge or the hassle of parking far from work? Ever wonder about the fastest, most convenient way to get to work?

We’ve asked ourselves this question and are putting it to a test. On October 21, we’ll see if it’s best to bike, bus, or drive alone to work from Norwich to Dartmouth College. Stay tuned for the results!

Rain date: October 24

October 22: Second Bi-State Candidates Forum on Transportation and Land Use

Join us at West Lebanon’s Kilton Library at 7 pm on Wednesday, October 22, for a lively conversation with local candidates for state senate and house seats. Our theme for the evening is transportation and land use, and you’ll have an opportunity to let your potential future leaders know your concerns about the topics – and they’ll have an opportunity to let you hear their potential solutions.

Transportation Program Wins Grant, Opens Second Round of Smart Commute Home Edition

Vital Communities has been awarded a $50,000, two-year grant from the High Meadows Fund to expand its transportation work with towns in Vermont through its new Smart Commute Home Edition program.

Vital Communities requests proposals from Vermont communities in our service area to participate in the second round of our Smart Commute Home Edition. This is an exciting opportunity for four communities to partner with Vital Communities and promote biking, walking, transit, carpooling, telecommuting, and high-efficiency vehicles in their communities. Smart Commute can help save residents money, reduce the environmental impact of driving, and improve the health and wellness of residents. The full request for proposals may be downloaded here.

We will host an information session for interested communities Wednesday, October 8th, from 7:00-8:00 pm on the second floor of the Upper Valley Food Co-op, 195 North Main Street, White River Junction, Vermont 05001 (map).

This work is based on our traditional and older “Smart Commute” program, which has helped 36 Upper Valley workplaces decrease their drive-alone rate from 84% to 76%, saving approximately 300,000 gallons of fuel and an estimated $1.3 million in fuel costs. We transferred our model of consulting workplaces (the “end point” of a commute) to communities (the “start point” of a commute) with four pilot communities in summer 2014. Our first four communities were Bradford, Hartford, Norwich, and Windsor, Vermont. These communities are now pursuing a wide range of activities, from promoting existing bus services to examining the feasibility of a car-share program.

Commuting by Bike

Resource Systems Group’s Eric Talbot rides his bike to work approximately 4 out of 5 days a week over the year. In the winter, when the weather is too harsh, Eric walks to work or rides the Green line on Advance Transit to White River Junction. Eric lives about a mile and a half from his office. His main motivations for riding his bike to work are that cars are expensive to own and maintain and he gets great exercise, especially going up a challenging hill on the way home.
Eric finds that most drivers are polite and accommodating to him on his commute. Even on roads without much shoulder, he has not had any problems. Eric mentioned a couple of benefits to working at RSG that help him commute to work on his bike: availability of shower on site and the ability to adjust his hours when the days get short to ride to work and home in the daylight

Town Transportation Plans

Smart Commute Home Edition is a program that Vital Communities launched this spring in partnership with the Vermont towns of Bradford, Hartford, Norwich, and Windsor. Our goal is to help residents in these towns lower their transportation costs. Modeled after our successful workplace-based program, the Smart Commute program for municipalities follows a simple three-step process: (1) survey town residents; (2) develop an outreach plan and analyze infrastructure needs; and (3) help the towns implement new projects.

One fun aspect of working with these four towns is that each has its own unique strengths and challenges.Want to see what ideas we had for the four communities? Check out our action plans for the participating towns.

Town Survey Results are In!

Smart Commute Home Edition is a program that Vital Communities launched this spring in partnership with the Vermont towns of Bradford, Hartford, Norwich, and Windsor. Our goal is to help residents in these towns lower their transportation costs. Modeled after our successful workplace-based program, Home Edition follows a simple three-step process: (1) survey town residents; (2) develop an outreach plan and analyze infrastructure needs; and (3) help the towns implement new projects.

Results from the first round of surveys are in. While each town has its own unique characteristics and needs, some general themes emerge.

(1) People in our area want to use the internet to organize a carpool, but many are unfamiliar with Go! Vermont, an easy-to-use tool for matching rides.

(2) Few people know how easy it is to map out a trip on Advance Transit using Google maps. Give it a try today!

(3) People generally support new bike paths (especially off-road ones) and sidewalks.

To see each town’s results, click on a link below. Have a project idea for one of the towns? Let us know at






Lebanon School District

In 2013, Smart Commute recognized the Lebanon School District as the small workplace of the year for its Safe Routes to School program, the use of bio-diesel in school buses, and a commuter incentive club for school staff. The district has also completed a district-wide inventory of bike amenities, installed bike racks where needed, and set up bike repair kits at major locations. High school students are now required to pay for parking as an incentive for them to find other ways to get to school.

Transportation Award Winners Announced

King Arthur Flour, Dartmouth Coach, and Hypertherm vanpool drivers Bill Goggin and Dave Churchill were honored with transportation awards at the 12th Annual Meeting of the Upper Valley Transportation Management Association (TMA) on Thursday, June 19. The annual awards recognize organizations and individuals making it easier to bike, walk, carpool, and ride the bus in the Upper Valley.

A special award was presented to David Palmer, who retired this year from Stagecoach Transportation Services after more than 30 years of service to central Vermont.

“Our annual awards are one of the most rewarding parts of my job. It’s heartening to see that our region is building a culture around efficient transportation options and making real progress toward sustainability,” said Aaron Brown, transportation program manager at Vital Communities, which oversees the TMA. “We’re especially pleased to honor David Palmer, who turned a very difficult proposition – the building of a public transportation system in rural central Vermont – into a service that has helped thousands of local residents get to work, medical appointments, and other destinations efficiently and affordably.”

King Arthur Flour was honored as Workplace of the Year for its electric vehicle charging stations, internal bike-share program, participation in the Way to Go commuter challenge, and preferential carpool parking. Dartmouth Coach was honored for Project of the Year in recognition of its new service to New York City. The Commuters of the Year are Hypertherm vanpool drivers Bill Goggin and Dave Churchill.

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.

Transportation Awards: Call for Nominations

Do you know an Upper Valley resident, group, or project worthy of recognition for their promotion of biking, walking, carpooling, or riding the bus? Vital Communities is seeking nominations for Commuter of the Year, Workplace of the Year, and Project of the Year in the Upper Valley TMA’s annual transportation awards. The deadline has been extended to June 16, so make your nominations today!

Commuter of the Year: Do you know someone who avoids driving alone and serves as a model for the community? Previous winners are Joe Broemel (transit rider, Dartmouth College) and David Conant (electric-assist bike commuter, Kendal at Hanover). Download the Commuter of the Year Nomination Form.

Workplace of the Year: Does your workplace, or one you know, do a great job supporting our local transportation system? Previous winners are Hypertherm, Dartmouth College, and the Lebanon School District. Download the Workplace of the Year Nomination Form.

Project of the Year: Was a project completed this year that will make it easier for you to leave your car at home and get around some other way? Our previous winners are the Hanover Mobility Hub and the City of Lebanon’s bicycle-pedestrian improvements. Download the Project of the Year Nomination Form.

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