Looking to own one less car? Dealing with parking issues at your business or organization? Wondering how to get started (or get your employees started) walking, biking, carpooling, or taking public transit?
Or is your firm interested in collaborating on a bicycle, pedestrian, or transportation demand management project or program?
Owned and operated by Sarah Cushman – a transportation planner, educator, consultant and former ASE Master-Certified auto technician – Cushman Transportation Consulting, LLC serves as a source of solid information and help with planning, promotion, and making transportation choices and changes.
- Exploration of individual and organizational transportation needs and financial impacts
- Training and consultations for using – and planning for and encouraging the use of – alternate transportation (biking, carpooling, taking public transit, walking, telecommuting, etc.)
- Environmentally-responsible and financially savvy car maintenance and driver education
- Bicycle, pedestrian, and Transportation Demand Management project and program assistance
The bad news we all know: fuel costs are rising, an average of 19% of individual income goes to own just one vehicle, heavy financial burdens are being put on businesses and tax-payers for roads and parking, obesity rates are soaring, and 40% of local air pollution and climate-changing carbon emissions comes from transportation sources.
But the good news is that organizations and individuals have practical transportation alternatives – that save money and improve public and environmental health.
Anthony Foxx, the Secretary of the US Department of Transportation, reported he was hit by a car while jogging through an intersection a while back. Some say that’s part of why he announced a special bicycle and pedestrian safety initiative last September to do, among other things, road safety assessments in every state.
In early April, after much planning, a number of local and regional transportation and mobility experts conducted the state’s first ever Bicycle and Pedestrian Road Safety Audits (RSAs) – these ones along the Route 1 Corridor between Tukey’s Bridge in Portland and the intersection with Route 88 in Falmouth.
The corridor was chosen because of its importance linking communities and also because of several dicey bicycle and pedestrian segments. These include:
- Tukey’s Bridge bike-pedestrian limitations and connectivity concerns
- the Veranda Street and Washington Avenue intersection
- the I-295 on and off ramps in East Deering onto Veranda Street
- integration of the existing Martin’s Point Bridge multi-use path with facilities on either end of the bridge
- confusion and conflicts at the Route 88 intersection.
The process was convened by Wayne Emington, a thoughtful transportation engineer with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) here in Maine and was led by Bill DeSantis, a bicycle & pedestrian engineering specialist at VHB – a firm I work with as on-call bike-pedestrian consultants to the Portland Comprehensive Transportation System (PACTS – ah, the acronym soup). Bill helped created the federal Bicycle Road Safety Audit guide and has assisted other communities with conducting RSAs.
I led one of the Pedestrian Audit walkabout groups from Tukey’s Bridge to the Martin’s Point Bridge, which included Veranda Street and, among other things, Safe Routes to School concerns for the Presumpscot School. We had a great team consisting of Jill Johanning, an ADA and mobility expert from Alpha One/Access Design; Meredith Graham from VHB, a traffic engineer with special expertise in signage and traffic signals (great for the Veranda Street and Washington Avenue intersection); Sue Moreau, the the Director of Multimodal Planning with MaineDOT, and Paul Legozzo from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Patrick Adams, the MaineDOT Bicycle & Pedestrian Program Manager led the other pedestrian group to assess the north end of the section we were looking at, from Martin’s Point Bridge to the Route 88 intersection. And Nancy Grant of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine led the Bicycle Audit group along the entire length of the corridor.
It was a cold morning, although we were grateful the snow was mostly gone – and in the process we came up with a detailed list of needed improvements and also some targeted suggestions. PACTS is working on a Martin’s Point Shared Use Path Feasibility Study which this work will inform as well. It was also a great chance to build relationships with new folks and hear different perspectives (which is also part of the USDOT’s intention in conducting these RSAs). You can see FHWA’s initial summary, details on who else participated, and more photos here.
So many of us ask, “Where can we possibly find money for the _____ we need??” (Insert your bicycle or pedestrian project here: sidewalk, bicycle lane, streetscape beautification, off-road path, etc.) For the past several years the City of Portland has been developing new sources of revenue on this front – specifically a Sustainable Transportation Fund and Transit Oriented Development Tax Increment Finance (TIF) Districts.
Portland’s Sustainable Transportation Fund (also known as Fee in Lieu of Parking) was established in 2010 to improve transportation choice, reduce the footprint of development that needs to be taken up by parking, and reduce the number of single-occupancy vehicle trips on the Portland peninsula (Bayside, West End, East End and Downtown neighborhoods).
It offers an option to developers to build fewer parking spaces for residential or commercial projects if they pay a fee to the city per required parking space – at least $5,000 per spot (fee is adjusted annually) – where the case can be made that the particular uses will have less off-street parking demand.
Historically, in the case of residential property development, the city required developers to build two parking spaces per residential unit (this has since been reduced to 1 space for some zoning districts). Car ownership data indicated this was more parking than necessary, devoted valuable real estate to parking, and added big costs to the price tag of each project (a major issue in a city facing tremendous affordable housing issues). And conversely, the availability of two spaces then encouraged more vehicle ownership and single occupancy vehicle trips.
The city recently received its first payment into the Sustainable Transportation Fund; $83,700 bonded and available to pay for upcoming bicycle and pedestrian and other projects on the peninsula. The funds must be used within 10 years or they will be refunded. (They can also be used to pay for transit improvements, streetscape upgrades, bicycle and shared-use parking, and the city’s Transportation Demand Management Program.)
The key project that has contributed to this amount is AVESTA Housing’s soon-to-open 409 Cumberland Avenue project. The complex includes fifty-seven affordable and market-rate apartments and a “healthy living center” with a community demonstration kitchen, health and wellness programming, and a rooftop garden and greenhouse – all located in walkable and bikeable downtown Portland. 409 Cumberland is also a TIF District (see more on TIFs below).
More funds will be coming soon – AVESTA is planning another housing development on the East End of Portland at 134 Washington Avenue, and this, too, will result in a contribution to the Sustainable Transportation Fund due to the reduction in on-site parking that will be provided. “We need to get the approval of the Transportation, Sustainability & Energy Committee first,” shared Bruce Hyman, the city’s new Transportation Program Manager (formerly the city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Coordinator) “but we have some great ideas for the use of these funds for projects that have been identified by the community as high priorities to correct existing pedestrian safety concerns.”
The other tool Portland is using more is the Tax Increment Finance District (TIF). TIFs allow communities to capture incremental growth in property tax revenue from new commercial or residential investment, over a period of time (up to 30 years), for reinvestment within the community. TIF is an economic development program authorized under Maine state law and allows municipalities to use that captured revenue to provide financial assistance to local economic development projects and programs – from infrastructure, municipal economic development programs and staff, to business expansions. “Infrastructure” is defined, but not limited to: traffic upgrades, public parking facilities, roadway improvements, lighting, sidewalks, water and sewer utilities, storm water management improvements and placing above ground overhead electric and telecommunications lines underground.
For those interested in more nit-gritty: TIFs allow municipalities to shelter the new value resulting from this private investment in their community – from what the state calculates the community should receive for education aid and revenue sharing and what it has to spend on county taxes. In other words, for the term of the TIF, the municipality experiences no reduction in state aid for education or municipal revenue sharing and no increase in county taxes. As the Portland Economic Development Department shared in its 2014 annual TIF report, “This amount of “savings” is significant and one of the most important benefits of establishing TIF districts.”
In the case of Portland, there are a number of older project-specific TIF districts (like the Bayside student housing and Intermed buildings on Marginal Way, also visible from I-295). More recently, the city has been moving to prioritize TIF district locations, explore more Affordable Housing TIFs, and consolidate to area-wide TIF districts. It has also created a Downtown and a Transit Oriented Development TIF District (both of which are exempt from limitations on acreage and property value under state TIF law). Specifically, the Thompson Point Transit Oriented Development TIF provides support for new or expanded transit services and improved transit and bike-pedestrian connections between the Portland Transportation Center, Jetport and Downtown.
Bottom line, the Economic Development Committee reports in 2014 alone, the city created $3.5 million in revenue from the captured value of its collective TIFs – a portion of which can be used for bicycle and pedestrian and other infrastructure projects. As Hyman noted, “The Sustainable Transportation Fund, the Thompson’s Point Transit TIF, the new Downtown TIF and the reconfigured Bayside TIF will be important tools for the city to diversify funding sources over the coming years to create more viable transportation choices in Portland.”
According to the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, hundreds of Maine communities have TIF districts – from Caribou to Biddeford, Rumford to Machias. However, not all of these are designed to provide funding for infrastructure projects. Ask your town administrator, public works director, or road commissioner whether your municipality has a TIF district and if so, whether the funds can be utilized to make bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure improvements. Learn more about Maine’s TIF Program here.
One last note: Portland’s Sustainable Transportation Fund and the TIF districts are in addition to the usual suspects you may have heard of or utilized already to fund bicycle and pedestrian projects in your community – for example, your municipality’s Capital Improvements budget, Community Development Block Grants, and MaineDOT’s Transportation Alternatives Program (formerly Transportation Enhancements and Safe Routes to School, a.k.a. the Quality Community Program). You may also be aware that municipalities that are part of Metropolitan Planning Organizations – those in the Portland, Bangor, Lewiston-Auburn, and Kittery regions – can apply for additional planning and construction funding.
While all funding is tight and sources are competitive, communities find ways every year to pay for bike-pedestrian improvements they need. So look into all of these and keep the faith for your own local efforts!
Written for the Maine Walking School Bus Program.
Last Friday, the East End Community School’s (EECS) Walking School Bus Program teamed up with the Portland Children’s Film Festival for a showing of one of their films, On the Way to School – which tracks four groups of children in four far-flung locations as they each set off on impossibly long, arduous and sometimes life threatening journeys to attend class in distant schoolhouses.
The Walking School Bus (WSB) students were responsible for introducing On the Way to School and started by sharing a short volunteer-created film of their own on-the-way-to school experience via the Walking School Bus. What a great piece that really captures the program!
To get to the event, volunteers walked with the WSB students from school to the library downtown. In addition to introducing the films, WSB students thanked program funders (Center for Disease Control, Bicycle Coalition of Maine, Maine Department of Transportation) and others (volunteers who share the walk with the students each day, the filmmaker (Terrence Wolfe) etc.) publicly. A number of volunteer Walk Leaders were in the audience and the WSB students had them stand for applause, then invited participating students and Terry the filmmaker to stand as well.
The Portland Children’s Film Festival also showed the Walking School Bus video at the Young Filmmaker’s Contest Red Carpet event on Thursday night and then at the Nickelodeon Cinema on Sunday – even though it wasn’t an official entry because it was not specifically student-led/driven. So it was a wonderful surprise to see it up on the big screens as well!
A couple of years ago we were visiting our friends the Stoltzfuses, an Amish family living in Lancaster County, and I was delighted to see that the kids were starting to wear high visibility reflective vests when riding their scooters to school and around town.
(In their particular Old Order Amish church district they’re not permitted to ride pedal bikes, so they ride fairly big, efficient push scooters instead. Local Old Order Mennonites can ride bikes.)
It turns out Kay Moyer – a local “English” woman who works for the Pennsylvania State Extension (similar to Maine’s Cooperative Extension program) as a farm safety educator – is especially concerned with getting vests on every Old Order Amish and Mennonite student in the area. (It’s particularly important for the Amish because of the dark clothes they generally wear.)
Initially she helped local Amish and Mennonite families get the materials to make the vests – and now the program is also distributing ready-made versions. Through her puppet and toy presentations, she also ensures that students learn proper road traffic safety skills – in addition to farm equipment safety.
We just made our annual visit a couple weeks ago and I got permission to photograph a few of our Stoltzfus friends riding to school with their vests (first photo above). I was encouraged to see more adults wearing vests on scooters and bikes as well.
And there’s a photo of our daughter Cedar (sans vest because of her bright pink coat) riding off to school with her friend Kathleen on a different morning, too.
Thanks much to Steve Fuller at the Ellsworth American for his great article capturing both the details and spirit of the new Walking School Bus initiative that’s starting there!
Here’s a photo from our Community Workshop in Ellsworth and you can read more here about the two new communities (Ellsworth and Norway) awarded funding and technical assistance through the Maine Walking School Bus Program.
The Scofflaw Biking Survey from the University of Colorado Denver – on the patterns and experiences of bicyclists and motorists on the road – has been making the rounds for a while. And I just finally took it myself (it took 11 minutes).
The survey is part of a larger study intending to better understand our transportation system and what factors might correlate with different behavior patterns. It’s clearly worthy research and helpful for you to take part in, whether or not your are a bicycle rider.
So take a break, make yourself a cup of coffee or tea and dedicate a few minutes of your time to the greater good – thanks! (And if you’ve already taken it – kudos!)
The ACT Patriot Chapter Conference is the leading transportation demand management conference in New England. It attracts informative speakers, industry experts, and emerging professionals to share their stories of success, experiences, and ideas for the future.
The Association for Commuter Transportation (ACT) supports mobility management professionals across the country from private companies, metropolitan planning organizations, regional Transit authorities, universities, state & local governments, and transportation management associations in their efforts to promote transportation options, reduce traffic congestion, conserve energy and improve air quality.
The chapter is developing the conference website – so for now you can find the Call for Presentations here. After reviewing it, please contact Patrick Sullivan, President of the ACT Patriot Chapter, with any questions: 781-890-0093 X5 or email@example.com
Hope New England and other folks come – and please submit presentation ideas from your good work!
3/22/15 Update: Sessions, timing, and conference registration info can be found here. Hope to see you there!