Local Motion staff worked with our partner organizations at Transportation for Vermonters to make progress on several key legislative issues.
Read on to find out what was achieved in 2023, and what we're thinking about for next year!
Each year, the legislature passes a “Transportation Bill” which includes approval of the state’s transportation budget, changes to transportation-related statutes, and other initiatives. The legislation discussed here is contained in 2023’s Transportation Bill (Act 62).
Vermont led the nation with the e-bike subsidy program created in 2021 and launched in 2022. The rebates were so popular that they were gone within two months!
This year, we advocated for $500k in funding for e-bike rebates. We didn't get that much, but the legislature ultimately approved $100k for e-bike incentives in the budget adjustment act, and another $50k in the Transportation Bill, for a total of $150k in rebates. While this is less than we wanted, it is a significant increase over the past two years ($50k was allocated in 2021 and then again in 2022).
These rebates are now available. Check out all the details about how to access rebates here.
Additionally, municipalities and businesses will be eligible for a new, yet-to-be-launched electrify your fleet program, which incentivizes them to transition to electric fleet vehicles, including e-bikes and e-cargo bikes.
Vermont State Design Standards Update
Vermont’s State Design Standards play a key role in determining how our streets and roads are built. This document, which is central to how VTrans and municipalities lay out roadways, was written in 1997. It’s past due for an overhaul. Last year, we successfully advocated for requiring VTrans to begin work on an update. That update is now underway, and we are following it closely. The Transportation bill contains language requiring VTrans to report on progress on the update in February 2024.
Photo: Local Motion Executive Direction Christina Erickson and Complete Streets Program Manager Jonathon Weber testified before the House Transportation committee during the 2023 session. Credit: Transportation for Vermonters
Public Transit Funding
Convenient public transit is essential to an equitable and sustainable transportation system. Vermont's transit providers face many challenges—one of which is finding sufficient local/state funding to use as the match needed for federal support. The Transportation Bill requires VTrans, the Vermont Public Transportation Association, and the Vermont League of Cities and Towns to provide a recommendation to address this funding gap. We hope that this will generate a larger discussion about structural issues in transportation funding in Vermont.
While we are disappointed to see that fares will be reinstated on urban Green Mountain Transit routes in 2024, this approach was supported by our transit partners. The reinstitution of fares will include implementation of a tiered-fare system, in which low-income riders will be able to ride at free or reduced rates.
Our partners at AARP led an effort to update the state’s complete streets legislation. The statute was strengthened in several ways:
- It now states that VTrans-funded/designed projects shall seek to increase pedestrian, bicycle, and transit trips, and ties this imperative to goals in the Comprehensive Energy Plan and Climate Action Plan.
- Declares that it is the policy of the state and municipalities to incorporate complete streets principles that serve users of all ages and abilities, and follow state-of-the-art design practice.
- Increased transparency around projects which do not incorporate complete streets, and the documentation explaining why.
- Requires that VTrans provide training to municipalities on complete streets.
Priorities for next year
We’re starting to work with partners and legislators to identify priorities for next year. Let us know what you think we should focus on by taking this survey!
Here's what you can advocate for right now:
- Take a survey to give input on VTrans' Carbon Reduction Strategy, which could fund bike and pedestrian infrastructure and transit improvements.
- Push NHTSA to incorporate pedestrian safety into its vehicle safety ratings. Pedestrian deaths are at a forty-year high in the United States and larger, unsafe cars and trucks contribute significantly to this crisis.
- Take action to support requirements for life-saving truck underride guards. Crashes between large trucks and people biking are some of the most serious. Simple safety equipment called underride guards could make these crashes less deadly.