Blurt: Seven Days Staff Blog

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29 posts categorized "Travel" Feed

July 13, 2011

Meters Coming to Burlington Cabs in 2012

Taximeter Come next summer, all Burlington taxi cabs will be required to have meters. But for the next 12 months, figuring out what your cab ride should cost — and whether you're getting ripped off — could be more confusing than ever.

On Monday, July 11, the Burlington City Council passed new taxi regulations. Among other things, the new rules will replace the city's "zone" pricing system with taximeters like you see in New York City cabs (and which all cabs servicing Burlington International Airport are already required to use). The overhaul was a response to chronic complaints that the zone system was ignored, unenforced and hard for passengers to understand. For example, the same ride could end up costing different amounts, depending on the driver.

The ordinance the council passed on Monday — City Councilor Paul Decelles, R-Ward 7, was the lone 'no' vote — requires all Burlington cabs to switch to taximeters by August 1, 2012. At that time, the city will set standard meter rates, i.e. $X.XX for the first mile, plus $Y.YY for each additional quarter mile.

In the meantime, cabbies can continue to use zone pricing, or switch to taximeters using rates based on the zone rates. Here's how City Councilor Joan Shannon (D-Ward 5), who helped draft the new rules, explains this transition period:

There are no "meter rates" as of right now for around the City. What Green Cab has done, and what others would be permitted to do, is to have a meter rate calibrated based on the zone rate. It would have to be "worst case scenario" for the cabs meaning that they cannot exceed the zone rate. The meter rate would only achieve the zone rate at the far end of the zone. It would cost less at the close end of the zone.

If you find this formula confusing now, just imagine trying to remember all that when you're half in the bag after a boozy night out with the ladies on Church Street. You might as well wear a sign on your back that says, "Charge me whatever you want, Mr. Cabbie Man. Just take me home!"

Continue reading "Meters Coming to Burlington Cabs in 2012" »

July 05, 2011

Bike Maps Are So Hot

Cover What's hotter than West Texas pavement in late July?  How about the new Burlington bike map. Oh, yes. This smoking hot ticket dropped about two weeks ago and can be yours for free. That's right — free.

The new map, which features bike routes in Burlington, South Burlington and parts of Winooski and Colchester, is a revamped version of a previous map. This newest iteration features information about mass transit, recreational areas, environmental sites and other "points of interest," such as my bedroom. I kid. But it is a pretty jazzy work of cartographic excellence.

I promise you if you pick one up, unless you're a Burlington-area geography junkie, you'll find something you never knew about this place. Like the fact that Rock Point is home to a geologic feature called the Champlain Thrust  or that there's a biological waste water facility called the Living Machine in South Burlington. Learning new things — what fun!

On the map, you'll also learn tips for riding in traffic, how to use hand signals and where all the designated bike routes and lanes in the area are, as well as heavily trafficked roads, which you should avoid unless your idea of a good time is losing half of your adult teeth in some SUV's grill. Also included on the map are nifty diagrams on how to navigate various intersections, like the rotary at Shelburne and Ledge roads, and the nightmare that is the intersection at East Avenue, Spear Street and Main Street (Williston Road). 

The map is the work of the Burlington Walk/Bike Council in partnership with the Burlington Department of Public Works. It will be available at the DPW on Pine and Lakeside streets, as well as Local Motion's Trailside Center, tourist kiosks and the local bike shops, among other places. Pick one up. Wear a helmet. Buy some bike lights (they're the law in Burlington for night cycling). And get your hot fanny pedaling. 



Alice Eats: I Love Barbecue Festival

IMG_2491 Another summer, another chapter in my never-ending story of barbecue highs and lows. Saturday, July 2, I made the trek to Lake Placid for its annual I Love Barbecue Festival.

I wasn't the only Vermonter there. John Delpha of the Belted Cow Bistro was representing his team, I Que. Chittenden County teams Green Mountain Smokeshack and Sweet Breathe BBQ were also competing. Unfortunately, the guys were all taking it easy before competition heated up that evening and none were vending their wares to the public.

Substantially smaller than the Harpoon Championships of New England Barbecue that takes place in Windsor each year at the end of July, only a few teams were selling food in Lake Placid.

Continue reading "Alice Eats: I Love Barbecue Festival" »

June 20, 2011

Stupid Flooding Puts Kibosh on Bike Ferry

Causeway-Flooding-5-7-11-500x253 This just in from the flooding damage desk: No bike ferry this season. Boo. 

Apparently, the damage wrought by Mother Nature during the spring flooding was so severe that both the northern and southern sections of the causeway were largely wiped out. Bitch.

The erosion damage will not be repaired in time for the ferry to begin running, so cross that off your list of summer things you want to do. Also strike from your list sitting on the causeway stone piles and throwing trash at the Québecois McYachts as they motor through the cut. 

The bike ferry, which connects the Island Line Trail in Colchester with its sister trail in South Hero, has been running as a demonstration for the past nine years in some form or another thanks to the efforts of cycling advocacy organization, Local Motion and other partners such as VBT Bicycling & Walking Adventures. But not this year. And that's a huge shame. The volunteer-run service was one of the real joys of a northern Vermont summer. 

Continue reading "Stupid Flooding Puts Kibosh on Bike Ferry" »

May 19, 2011

James Lantz Takes "The Bus" to Kickstarter ... and Topeka

TheBusThePlayPromo A few weeks ago I wrote a "State of the Arts" story about Burlington playwright James Lantz being invited to take his play, The Bus, to an off-Broadway venue called 59E59 Theaters. In the piece, I mentioned that Lantz would be fundraising to make that happen. He was a little vague at the time about how that was going to work; he was still brainstorming on it, Lantz told me.

This week, he announced his plan, and it has a surprising twist. More on that in a sec.

The unsurprising part is that Lantz decided to use Kickstarter, a web funding platform that helps people who have a creative idea, but no money, to raise some. Actually, the site helps people help themselves by describing their project/need and inviting other people to send them pledges. And despite all the scams and evil in the world, loads of generous folks are indeed sending in bucks to support ideas they like.

Of course, now that CNN's Anderson Cooper (among others) has done a piece on New York City-based Kickstarter, every person in the entire world who believes he or she has an idea worth funding will be using it. But good for Kickstarter; it's a great idea that saves the unmonied from the humiliation of begging bankers (or mom and dad) for loans, not to mention the huge bummer of being rejected. Those who don't present good ideas on Kickstarter, though, may be surprised to find that altruism only goes so far.

Anyway, Lantz has a good enough reason to solicit money: getting his small indie play from Vermont to a NYC stage would be pretty cool. But he's not relying on good will alone. Lantz's twist relies on rousing the power of hatred. Let me explain.

Continue reading "James Lantz Takes "The Bus" to Kickstarter ... and Topeka" »

March 22, 2011

Operation Snow Removal: Montréal Edition

Snowremoval On a recent trip to Montréal, I was reminded of some of the many reasons our neighbors to the north are far supérieur to our sorry selves here in Canada Minor. For one, they know their way around a pastry like nobody's biz. I could eat my way through the city's many boulangeries and die happy, not to mention 800 pounds overweight. 

For two, they know how to get rid of snow. And not the way we get rid of snow here — by pushing it into some guy's driveway. They literally pick up the snow using special Québecois snow fairies and take it to some secret lair where little hobbits filter out the dog pee and cigarette butts and brew it into delicious alcoholic beverages.

But really, the Montréal snow-removal machine is a thing of beauty, and something to see if you ever get the chance. The city is world famous for this winter ritual. About five times a year, depending on the snowfall, each of the city's 19 boroughs conduct massive, days-long snow-removal operations involving 2200 vehicles and 3000 city personnel. The snow doesn't just get plowed there — it gets picked up and carted away so that it looks as if it never snows there at all.

To see photos of this spectacle, check out the "Montréal Snow Removal" Flickr results here.

Continue reading "Operation Snow Removal: Montréal Edition" »

March 09, 2011

Mystery Solved: Vermont's Gov Was in Caribbean

Dominica A tanned and rested Gov. Peter Shumlin today answered the question that had been plaguing politicos for nearly a week: He was vacationing in Dominica.

The reason he kept it a secret — even from staffers such as Secretary of Administration Jeb Spaulding — and asked his staff to keep it a secret until he returned is because he didn't take his two-person security detail with him.

In fact, he drove himself to and from the airport to his Montpelier home, Shumlin revealed.

"If I had told people ahead of time where I was  going, that would have defeated the purpose," said Shumlin. "There's no reason to hide it now."

Last week, top aides to Gov. Shumlin refused to reveal his vacation spot out of concern for the governor's privacy. In truth, Shumlin said, it had more to do with security.

Only telling some of his staff, though, left the impression that some top officials didn't know where the governor was holed up.

Shumlin said he was surprised there was so much prurient interest in his vacay location.

"If this is the biggest ta-do, then we're doing good, team," he said to his staffers during a press conference. "I understand this is a departure [from the practice of past governors], I understand that."

Continue reading "Mystery Solved: Vermont's Gov Was in Caribbean" »

October 29, 2010

The Unluckiest Drunk Driver Ever (Not Tom Salmon)

Road Worriers Vermont Auditor Tom Salmon is getting all the headlines for his drunk-driving cruiser-cam video, just ordered released by a Superior Court judge in Montpelier.

But an even unluckier drunk driver emerges in the pages of a Vermont Superme Court decision released today.

According to the ruling, Jason Young left Barre in his pickup truck shortly after 10 p.m. on a midsummer's eve in 2009. He was headed home to Marshfield. Young was out with friends after work and "had a couple of drinks."

On the way home, driving along Plainfield Brook Road, he noticed a vehicle approaching from behind. Hoping to lose the car, Young turned right onto Cassie Street "assuming the vehicle would continue straight past."

To Young's dismay, the vehicle followed him. So he turned right again, at the next opportunity, this time onto Valley View Circle. Again, the car followed Young.

So Young looked for a driveway to turn around in. He found one and pulled in "assum[ing] the vehicle behind [him] would continue past," the court decision says.

It did not. Young thought that, "coincidentally," the person in the car must live there. He was right. The person did live there. And that person was an off-duty cop.

Continue reading "The Unluckiest Drunk Driver Ever (Not Tom Salmon)" »

Regional Chamber Chief Says U.S. Chamber Ads in "Bad Taste"

Logo Across the country, regional chambers of commerce are distancing themselves from the role being played in the national elections by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

A report on the alt-news website AlterNet found that a number of local chapters have publically disavowed the national chamber's tactics and its heavy-handed support for Republicans. Especially in states where the chamber is advertising, such as neighborhing New Hampshire and upstate New York.

The U.S. Chamber is not advertising in Vermont, but the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce has received a number of questions and concerns from its 2500 members about its affiliation with the national group. In response, executive director Tom Torti issued a letter to its members (see below).

"We have heard from members that are unhappy with the positions taken by the U.S. Chamber. Our perspective is that they have a right to weigh in as their organization sees fit based on their process for deciding those things," Torti told Seven Days. "It's important to note that we do not always agree with the U.S. Chamber's views; however, we do remain members in order to access research and publications. We also receive regular updates on what is happening in Washington. The updates are fairly nonpartisan and fact based."

Continue reading "Regional Chamber Chief Says U.S. Chamber Ads in "Bad Taste"" »

August 06, 2010

Combo Platter: Pastry & Politics, Deck Dining, Easy Being Green

Mike_cosmic Pastry & Politics

Many Franklin County residents know Mike McCarthy as co-owner of Cosmic Bakery & Café in St. Albans. Fans of his coffee, sandwiches and cupcakes have been surprised in recent weeks to see him stop at their doors without a baked good in sight. The 26-year-old is seeking supporters in his bid for a seat in the Vermont State Senate.

McCarthy says that his role in the food industry makes him uniquely qualified to address farm-to-table issues should he become a rep for Franklin County and Alburgh. If he's elected, the Democrat says he hopes to show "the connection between the agricultural and food service to building a new autonomy in Vermont."

McCarthy kicked off his campaign with an apple pie party, at which he gave away slices at the bakery and announced his intention to run. "Lots of people made contributions to the campaign that day," he says. Many of those unable to give dough have found themselves surrounded by it — as they volunteer to makes calls from McCarthy's campaign headquarters within the bakery. "There’s great food and atmosphere and there’s always coffee to make sure we’re fueled," says McCarthy. "There have been a lot of late nights of strategizing and getting volunteers organized."

Continue reading "Combo Platter: Pastry & Politics, Deck Dining, Easy Being Green" »

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