Jim Donovan: transportation planning for the active set

Jan-3-T-CP-Jim-Donovan-C-copyBy Phyl Newbeck

Jim Donovan of Charlotte was working for the Vermont branch of a national transportation consulting firm when they decided to close their smaller offices. Rather than find another employer, Donovan took the opportunity to open Broadreach Planning and Design in May of 2008. His company focuses on improving conditions for “active transportation:” bicycling and walking.

“Cycling and walking are very valid ways of getting around,” Donovan said. “It may take more time but it’s better for you.” Donovan focuses on the transportation side of those activities but is pleased when his work also creates better recreational opportunities. Most of his projects are in Vermont but he has done work in New Hampshire and Maine as well. He has also been involved in transit projects like the new commuter bus from Jeffersonville to Burlington and he has been pleased by the popularity of that line. “I really enjoy doing this work,” Donovan said. “It helps wean communities off auto travel and makes them healthier.” Donovan used to commute by bicycle from Charlotte to his Burlington office. His cycling has diminished since he began working from home, although he does make most of his daily trips to the post office by bike.

Through his wife, a landscape architect, Donovan has gotten involved with the International Cultural Tourism Committee. He sits on the International Commission on Monuments and Sites where he helps heritage sites deal with traffic issues. The committee has held community-wide planning sessions in Thailand, the Philippines, and southern France. “It’s a good way of seeing the world through the people who live there,” he said. “If you can make transportation work for the community then it will work for the site, as well.” Since joining the committee, Donovan has begun seeking out international projects. “When I started twenty years ago I was one of the few doing bike/ped work,” he said. “Now there are more and more companies here but there aren’t many who are doing it internationally.”

For over a decade, Donovan served on the Charlotte Planning Commission, but his job involves a lot of evening meetings and his attendance wasn’t as good as he would have liked. “I felt it was unfair to the other commissioners and the applicants, so I had to resign,” he said. Donovan continues to serve the community as the town’s representative to the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission (CCRPC). Although he hopes to return to the Charlotte Planning Commission when he has more time, he believes he can provide service through the CCRPC. At least twice a year he meets with the Selectboard to update them on regional issues.

Donovan was living in Connecticut with his wife when the couple realized they did not want to spend the rest of their lives in southern New England. “We spent three years deciding where we wanted to move,” he said. That was 20 years ago and Donovan continues to love everything about Charlotte. “The environment is good, the aesthetics that I live with every day are inspiring and we have a view that knocks your socks off and creates a wonderful mental state,” he said. “The people here are great. I love working with this community and I’ve enjoyed serving the community.”