Is your firm interested in collaborating on a bicycle, pedestrian, or transportation demand management project or program?
Or are you dealing with parking issues at your business or organization? Wondering how to get started (or get your employees started) doing more walking, biking, carpooling, or taking public transit? Or just thinking about your household and owning one less car?
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 tough to manage, 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.
National Grant Award for Demonstration Bus Stops at Casco Bay & PATHS High School Campus in Portland!
I’m excited to report our Public Health in Transportation Coalition (PHiT) has received one of only 22 Every Body Walk! nationwide Microgrants. The grant supports implementation of a student-led bus stop placemaking demonstration project and development of student recommendations for region-wide transit improvements. The Every Body Walk! Microgrant Program is sponsored by America Walks and the Every Body Walk! Collaborative – and in this instance, the grant was matched (and thus doubled) by partner organization TransitCenter. The micro grant program provides funds that support grassroots efforts aimed at getting communities walking and creating more safe, accessible and enjoyable places to walk and be physically active.
As local folks know, Portland is Maine’s largest and most diverse city – home to 66,000 people including a sizeable immigrant and refugee community. In 2015, the Portland Public Schools embarked on an exciting partnership with the local transit provider, Greater Portland METRO – switching high schoolers from yellow buses to public buses. Portland high school students receive a METRO transit pass for each school year, for unlimited trips throughout the city. While the partnership was partly motivated by fiscal goals, it also represents a commitment by the District to facilitate students’ independence and cultivate a new generation of transit users. In addition, Portland has also created a great opportunity for building relationships across demographics that typically do not interface. Because of the additional fare revenue and ridership, the METRO has increased frequency and made strategic improvements to its City loop bus route that have improved service for all riders.
This project maximizes and sustains the benefits of student transit use by engaging youth as planners and construction leaders – with benefits to the whole community. The project involves students from two schools – Casco Bay High School (CBHS) and Portland Arts and Technology High School (PATHS – the regional vocational technical school) – as well as parents, staff, and the public. More than 200 students use the two stops where the demonstration project will take place, with as many as 60 students gathering at one time to wait. In addition, the stops service other METRO riders who live in the surrounding neighborhoods or work or attend programs at the school buildings. The current basic shelter can accommodate eight people comfortably, so students often wait in the rain, snow and dark (4pm in winter), simply standing at the edge of a busy arterial street.
The demonstration project uses placemaking approaches to allow students to design seating, shelter, lighting, and amenities that will make a better bus stop. Students will assess and prioritize other stops around the City and region with potential to replicate the design in those locations.
Altogether, the project involves four phases:
- April 2017: The PHiT workgroup will lead a week-long transit planning intensive for 20 CBHS students. With guidance from PHiT members and their teachers, the student group will conduct community engagement and hands-on site analysis. The week will culminate in development of a model (or charrette) and City-wide recommendations for the Greater Portland METRO Bus service.
- May 2017: Students from PATHS will implement the first phase of bus stop improvements, including landscaping, stonework and installation of rustic benches. PHiT members will work with the METRO, the School Facilities Department, and the City of Portland to finalize the practical design and confirm all permissions are in order. PHiT will also work with PATHS instructors to plan the implementation and construction of the design, engaging students in the landscaping, carpentry, construction, and welding programs.
- June 2017: Students from both schools will present project outcomes and recommendations to the district school committee and the METRO board.
- Sept 2017-June 2018: PHiT members will work with PATHS students in the construction and welding programs to build and install the final bus stop improvements.
The Public Health in Transportation (PHiT) Coalition brings together planners, public health practitioners and active transportation stakeholders in the Greater Portland region. PHiT works for public policy and investments that promote walking, bicycling and public transportation for mobility and health. As an active member, it was fun and inspiring for Cushman Transportation Consulting, LLC to assist with drafting the grant application. Other members include the Greater Portland Council of Governments (PHiT’s fiscal sponsor), Portland Trails, the City of Portland Transportation Program, the metropolitan planning organization (PACTS), the Cumberland County Soil and Water Conservation District, and both the statewide and the City bicycle-pedestrian advocacy organizations. The lead grant writer and director for the project is Zoe Miller, the Chair of PHiT and a public health practitioner with a passion for integrating health into planning and community development.
My family and I dipped our front wheels into Puget Sound at the end of our bicycle journey across the U.S., just in time for me to hop a bus from Seattle up to Vancouver for the 2016 Pro Walk Pro Bike Pro Place Conference and Placemaking Week, September 12-16. It was an incredible treat – to experience Vancouver and also to participate in these events put on by the Project for Public Spaces (PPS) and other partners!
By chance, I was able to stay with a lovely couple who are Warm Showers hosts living in the famous Woodwards Building in Gastown – a former department store that was the site of affordable housing protests against luxury redevelopment. It has been re-made into mixed income housing with incredible views of the port. In a nod toward Vancouver’s typically rainy climate (this particular week was bright and sunny the entire time) the complex also has several indoor-outdoor communal spaces, as well as a neighborhood grocery and other services on the ground floor.
The very first afternoon I was able to jump on a Seabus Ferry with other conference participants to cross the harbor and engage in a mobile workshop put on by the City of North Vancouver and consultants from Nelson/Nygaard. Called (Un)Squaring the Square, the workshop invited practitioners and local stakeholders to walk through, sit down, and re-envision two underutilized public spaces. The session was engaging and well organized and also a grounding and connecting experience for many of us just arriving in Vancouver.
Despite the tremendous beauty of the City of Glass and its surrounding mountains, I appreciated how open local conference organizers were about Vancouver’s continued affordable housing and mental health crises, as well as other serious issues. The keynote, Charles Montgomery, local to Vancouver and author of Happy City: transforming our lives through urban design, shared how important it is that we help people connect with one another through our transportation and placemaking work. That everyone belongs and should be made to feel that way. And how connecting people in public spaces and through walking, bicycling, taking transit, and carpooling is essential for our mental health and economic futures. It affirmed all of the base motivations for the work I do and I look forward to reading more of the science associated with Charles’ work.
Vancouver has a great bike share, Mobi, which partnered with PPS for various parts of the conference. For this particular week, however, I was able to throw my bike on the bus up from Seattle and use my trusty steed for transportation. As a bicycle and pedestrian professional and advocate, it was incredible to get to use Vancouver’s extensive bike and sidewalk network – much of which has been built out in the past decade. It really was a delight to walk and ride around the city – both to and from the conference location downtown and for mobile walk and bike workshops.
Local folks shared it hasn’t been an easy transition to all of the separated bike facilities that now exist for miles along major downtown streets – and are filled with bicycle commuters. There are regular reports of conflicts with motorists. And bike theft is such a crazy problem that it sounds worse than New York City. I was happy to have secure inside bike parking at night and that the conference had contracted with local non-profit Better Environmentally Sound Transporation for Valet Bike Parking during the day. B.E.S.T. told me they were asked to provide Bike Valet all summer, 7 days a week, for large employers on Granville Island – because bike theft has been so severe that folks refuse to bike there. It was a great success and bicycling employees have been sad to see the program end with the fall. Hopefully they find a way to sponsor it year-round. Side note: I love B.E.S.T. for their work and resource materials. I was using them a decade ago for car ownership financial literacy work – so it was fun to meet them in person.
The city is doing some interesting public engagement and experiments with re-use of public space, too. For example, this block in the photo at right has been closed to car traffic in a central location downtown. In addition to the usual street furniture (nice to eat my lunch there!) and food trucks, they’ve used bright temporary paint to ask people for their input, with an information kiosk and suggestion cards available nearby.
On Thursday night, I volunteered for the Waterfront Redesign site that was part of Placemaking Week’s POPCrawl. Organized by the lovely Jackie Kanyuk, a local consultant and Volunteer Manager for the conference and Placemaking Week, this was a walking tour of various public spaces, potential redevelopments and public art installations. Using old-school, simple materials, folks stopping by our site were invited to revision a proposed redevelopment of a parking lot adjacent to the port – not as luxury looming condos, but as mixed use space. A local artist/architect was on hand to quickly visualize and post people’s input in vivid drawings. Others wrote their ideas on I Would Like to See This Here stickers that were displayed in an ever-growing number on a big piece of cardboard. Each attendee carried a passport we would stamp for visiting our site and the busy sidewalk pulled in lots of local Vancouverites to participate as well. Local advocates will use this public feedback as part of their work with the city to alter the current design for the site.
All week I had the chance to meet new folks from across the U.S. and Canada and farther afield (New Zealand, Brazil, etc.) – plus see a few New England faces from back home. And I got to spend time with the fabulous Arthur Orsini of Urban Thinkers and Vancouver Coastal Health. In 2011, following the National Safe Routes to School Conference in Minneapolis, I was able to do a training with Arthur on facilitating authentic youth engagement in active transportation projects. It was just amazing and inspired me to do some youth-led projects in my Safe Routes consulting work back in Maine. He’s the real thing when it comes to not tokenizing young people and doing genuine facilitation – and it was so fun to get to hang out with him in his hometown!
The 2016 Falmouth Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan won the Plan of the Year Award from the Maine Association of Planners. This annual award goes to a “written plan that is a significant advancement to the science and art of planning.” The plan was judged on its originality, transferability, quality, comprehensiveness, public participation, and implementation. Cushman Transportation Consulting, LLC enjoyed providing technical and public outreach assistance for this project, in conjunction with Greg Bakos of VHB and the Town of Falmouth. It’s a good plan and the recommendations will do much to help guide the town’s next steps.
In addition to a very active and bike-pedestrian interested citizenry, the town is very fortunate to have Theo Holtwijk as its Director of Long Range Planning, who is the strong lead on this and many other projects. In addition, Jay Reynolds, the Public Works Director; Bob Shafto, Falmouth’s trails and land aquisitions Ombudsman; Lucky D’Ascanio, the Director of Parks and Community Programs; and Nathan Poore, the Town Manager, all contributed and offered tremendous support for the plan. The project was funded by the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System – PACTS – the local metropolitan planning organization.
We (Sarah, my husband, Rob Levin, and our nine-year-old daughter, Cedar) will be bicycling across the country – Delaware to Seattle, or as far as we get. We’ll dip our back wheels in the Atlantic Ocean at Cape Henlopen, Delaware on the morning of April 2. And if we actually make it all the way, we’ll put our front wheels in Puget Sound in Seattle, Washington some time in late September.
This has been a dream of ours for the past 10 years or so and we’re feeling incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to try it – and be re-inspired for the work that we do by experiencing our country at a 10-mile-per-hour pace. We are keeping an online journal while we’re away and here’s a link to our route. If you’d like to receive occasional e-mail updates from our trip, please feel free to sign up for those here (and no worries if you’d rather not add more to your inbox!)
Amidst the day-to-day adventure, I’ll be using this time for some enrichment: informal meetings with local pedestrian, bicycling, rideshare, and transit professionals and advocates; review of various on-the-ground transportation and land use initiatives (suggestions welcome via our online journal!); and reading more from the field.
We’re trying to be good about really being unplugged from work, so I will not be checking work e-mail or voicemail. However, I look forward to hearing about ways we can work together when I get back in the fall.
Best wishes for a lovely spring and summer in the meantime!
Come on out for an exciting new workshop on March 30th – Strengthening Towns Through Great Streets: innovative approaches for municipal leaders! You can register here now.
Cushman Transportation Consulting, LLC is a steering committee member of the Public Health in Transportation Coalition and is co-sponsoring an interactive and inspiring summit for (and featuring) local appointed and elected municipal leaders and staff – and other interested stakeholders:
This is a free event where you can share your ideas and learn from other local leaders about smart, home-grown solutions to transportation challenges.
While serving as the director of Portland Greens Streets a few years ago, I helped organize an annual community-wide Get to Worship a Greener Way Weekend and associated Blessing of the Bicycles, in conjunction with Maine’s Commute Another Way Week in May. While there is often traffic getting to the synagogue or mosque on Friday evenings, car travel is much lighter on Saturdays and Sundays – so getting to worship a greener way seemed like a strange pitch to make.
However, from my experience with folks of various faiths and practices and through my Quaker meeting, I know that people heading to services are taking stock of their lives and their actions. And a number of folks are often already carpooling because of mobility needs, too. So it’s a great time to engage folks in trying alternate ways of getting around. (Disclaimer: you don’t have to be a part of any organized religion to do the same thing. 🙂 )
This week I got to do a new little plug along the same vein, by producing and distributing a flier encouraging my home congregation, Portland Friends Meeting, to use METRO’s new Sunday service to get to worship. It’s not so new – METRO was able to start Sunday service on all it’s routes in August (previously it was only offered on a couple). As a one-car family, one of us often has to bike separately to get to an earlier meeting on Sunday morning or some other event. Biking isn’t a bad way to start the day and we’re lucky to not have mobility or other issues – except when the roads are slick in winter, rain is falling heavily, etc. Either way, Sunday service is a real boon to local congregations and folks who just would like to be out and about and getting somewhere on any given Sunday. Thanks for making it possible, METRO!
Portland is brimming with folks working on making the region sustainable and the Natural Resources Council of Maine recently produced a report on some of these efforts, titled, Portland: Connected by Nature. It looks at innovations and people connectors and includes sections on local food, waste, livable community, energy, water quality, climate change, and resources.
It was an honor to be included as a “connector” in these pages. Congratulations to everyone profiled and gratitude for the many, many others who work daily to make our little piece of the world more resilient. Sorry to miss the party while in DC at the National Walking Summit!