Burlington neighborhoods contend with a flood of cars as commuters access our downtown and “Hill” institutions. Left unregulated, the resulting traffic congestion and noise degrades property values and puts residents at risk. In response, neighbors demanded and the City created a parking-by-permit system which residents can initiate on their streets by application. https://www.burlingtonvt.gov/Police/Residential-Parking. The Weinberger administration sought to change this system by establishing a norm of 85% curb occupancy in protected streets, selling parking permits at-large up to that limit. In NPAs and other public forums in Wards 5 and 6, residents rejected this initiative. I worked closely with Hill neighbors through the NPA and with the Coalition for a Livable City to roll back this dangerous proposal. Because Ward 5 is without a public park, our children play on sidewalks and set up basketball hoops on cul-de-sacs. We didn’t want these areas turned into a commercial parking lot. And we won. We forced the City to back down, at least temporarily. Representing you in Council, I will continue to be a voice protecting the safety and ambience or our residential streets.
Resident-only parking on neighborhood streets is only one element in an effective solution to parking needs. The Chittenden Area Transportation Management Association, CATMA, has made strides in reducing single-occupant vehicle traffic to our Hill institutions and has expanded to include businesses. CATMA is to be applauded. It includes some peripheral parking components–as at Lakeside–but needs additional structured parking on the edges of our city–the former K-Mart plaza is an obvious site for structured parking. We need the Lakeside lots for small business starts and a rehabilitation of the Englesby Brook estuary, not for car storage. An effective traffic and parking solution includes electrically-powered buses, pollution free and recharged through our municipal electric department. As our residential population grows downtown, parking needs there will expand unless we create such an electric bus/trolley system linking Shelburne Road to North Avenue and Battery Street to Williston Road. With this in place, auto traffic will decrease and parking pressures lessen. Then we can consider expanding our downtown pedestrian street into a grid where walkers and cyclers take precedence and restaurants and retail flourish. A bigger Church Street!
Mass transit won’t eliminate all car traffic. But sacrificing our quiet and safe neighborhood streets was no solution. In fact it was a cost-shift, relieving downtown businesses and Hill institutions of some of their traffic-related responsibilities. They need to do more to finance adequate and appropriately-located garages, an effective electric bus system, and a more pedestrian-friendly city overall.