Posts filed under ‘Active Transportation’

Transportation Options for All

Local and state transportation options programs, such as GO MAINE, have increased their work on equity and mobility in recent years. (These programs are also known traditionally as “commuter assistance” or “Transportation Demand Management”, a.k.a., TDM.) One example is GO MAINE’s statewide multimodal Trip Planner that was first launched in March 2020 but (understandably) not promoted widely because of concerns about the safety of carpooling during the pandemic. The trip planner allows people to find various transportation options including carpools, bike and transit routes, park and ride lots, and electric vehicle charging locations. The planner also includes the ability to form carpools for “one time” rides to events or destinations, such as concerts and state parks. In addition, it enables local ride-matching for volunteer drivers with people who need rides, for example for shopping and medical trips. [Full disclosure: Cushman Transportation Consulting, LLC (CTC) has consulted with GO MAINE on special projects since 2017.]

However, the pandemic has revealed starkly how much previous transportation options efforts across North America have been geared most toward those who have easy access to private vehicles – and who are most likely to be able to work from home. At the same time, while carpooling and public transportation use have been down as much as 75-85% during Covid, more than one TDM practitioner quotes the current understanding that, “You may not depend on transit, but you probably depend on someone who does.”

Cushman Transportation Consulting, LLC as a firm carries an ongoing concern for mobility access and justice efforts. Sarah Cushman, principal at CTC, has worked over the years with projects such as the ACLU of Maryland’s cases regarding Driving While Black on I-95 and the U.S. Route 50 construction that destroyed an African American neighborhood in Salisbury, MD – as well as the Citizen’s Planning & Housing Association’s work with Baltimore’s Transit Riders League. As an auto mechanic, Sarah worked regularly with customers struggling to afford to keep their vehicles on the road and seeking other transportation choices.

More recent consulting efforts include those with MaineDOT’s Safe Routes to School Program and the Heads Up! Vulnerable Populations Pilot Project. As a volunteer consultant, CTC is also assisting Greater Portland Council of Governments staff and local transit providers with a dialogue regarding barriers to using the new Dirigo transit pass that have come to light – for people with disabilities, with fewer financial resources, and/or who are English Language Learners.

In addition, there is CTC’s work with GO MAINE to help employers and workers who are looking for ways to reduce commute costs and find other ways to get to work. CTC has also been representing GO MAINE on the Moving Maine Network – and the firm is an active participant in the Transportation & Community Network, the Southern Maine arm of Moving Maine. The Moving Maine Network works to improve access to transportation for all Mainers, with a special focus on people who experience barriers. The Network is a multi-sector, statewide collaborative that facilitates better transportation access by advancing cross-sector coordination, informing policy change, and spurring innovation.

Moving Maine is in good company with many other local and national efforts. In every conversation with colleagues working on transportation options programs in other states and regions, it’s clear they are also seeing the need to work not only with the traditional Transportation Demand Management (TDM) base of people who have the choice to drive alone to work – but also with those who really need a ride. As one program manager puts it, “It needs to be TDM-for-all.” Another practitioner shares, “Do I want to keep selling the unwanted to the unwilling? How about selling the wanted to the willing, for whom it would really make a difference?”

“We don’t have a congestion problem and parking is free pretty much everywhere. You’re setting us up for failure if you base the program’s work on congestion. Job access, mobility, and climate – those are the more sustainable and compelling paths forward.”  

Courtney Reynolds, Transit Planning Manager, VHB – former manager of ReThink Your Commute (Central Florida) and Southwest Florida Commuter Services – both funded primarily through the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program      


Understanding that the Customer is the Most Central Actor

The customer – that is, anyone who lives and/or works in the program area – is actually the central actor in any transportation options program’s efforts. This means a program must do in-depth outreach to understand the lived experience and transportation needs of one’s customers across the spectrum – also known as their “jobs-to-be-done”. And in knowing people’s jobs-to-be-done, program staff can most effectively identify and connect folks with how the program might help.

“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”

Theodore Levitt, Harvard Business School marketing professor  

“People buy [or use] products and services to get a job done.”

Competing Against Luck: the story of innovation and customer choice, Christensen, Dillon, Hall & Duncan (2016)      

The program needs to consistently consult with – and ask and enable its central actors to participate in – the design and decisions about its services and marketing strategies.

“[t]he more we share our understanding of customers with our partners, the more we can bring others to support the work of improving mobility options…Transportation is integral to almost all activities that take place within a community. The ability of people to reach needed destinations impacts the viability of businesses, health and human services, economic development, local government, and more. Being able to articulate this relationship between transportation and success in other sectors is an important step in strengthening support for community transportation options.”  

National Center for Mobility Management    


Of course, “know thy customer” is the mantra in any social marketing and behavior change effort, including transportation options programs. It’s also incredibly important to meet different customers where they are on the Stages of Change continuum in terms of adopting new ways of getting around.

Living Our Values in the Work Itself

Last but certainly not least, it’s not just what work the program does in the world, but also how it does the work. Identifying and living by the program’s core equity values fosters a more resilient working culture. That is, people are able to work together and accomplish significantly more over the long-term.

Some content recommendations for a program’s Values Statement can be found here. As always, this should be a living document that people use in their day-to-day work. These principles also serve the program to lead by example to meet a state or region’s economic development and equity goals – such as those regarding economic class, race, age diversity, physical and cognitive ability, gender, and geographic representation.

There’s plenty of work to be done on so many levels. And at the same time, there’s so much opportunity for us to improve everyone’s mobility – which makes all of our lives better and our communities stronger.

May 4, 2021 at 11:58 am Leave a comment

2020 Winner of GrowSmart Maine’s Outstanding Project Award

Congrats to Tom Watson & Port Property Management on the 2020 GrowSmart Maine Outstanding Project award for 82 Hanover Street in Portland!

As Will Savage of Acorn Engineering, Inc. shared this month, “In 2017, the City of Portland released an RFP for the redevelopment of a former Public Works maintenance building at 82 Hanover Street, a brownfield site in a state of blight and disrepair. Port Property Management devised a plan to convert the site into a vibrant, pedestrian oriented, mixed-use commercial center.

Today, the project is fully occupied with a lively variety of local food, beverage, fitness, and service businesses…and all of the new social and economic activity at 82 Hanover has helped attract other investments to the neighborhood.”

As a Transportation Demand Management practitioner, it was a good planning challenge for me as part of the larger work of the extensive site team. I was a genuine pleasure to work on this project with Tom and his capable Port Property staff, plus Will Savage and Sam Lebel at Acorn and William Bray of Traffic Solutions – and all the rest of the smart and capable folks involved:

  • Architect: Ryan Senatore, AIA LEED-AP BD+C
  • Structural: Aaron Jones
  • Environmental: Lucas J. Benedict & Mark Arienti – Acorn Environmental Services
  • Surveyor: David Titcomb
  • Select Interior Fit-up: Robert Barrett, Matthew Ahlberg
  • Attorney: Hawley Strait
  • City of Portland Planning Division: Nell Donaldson, Jodie Keene, Tuck O’Brien and Jeff Levine 

What a good crew to bring important redevelopment visions like those of Tom’s into being. I appreciate everyone’s work!

As the award description details the broader impacts, “Multiple new market-rate and affordable housing units, for rent and for sale, have recently been developed in the nearby vicinity and 200 additional units are in the planning phases for other adjacent lots. 82 Hanover is an example of how strong city leadership partnered with a visionary smart growth-oriented developer can provide the catalyst to transform a [semi] abandoned industrial block of town into a vibrant new neighborhood.”

This includes Tom’s application this fall to the City for developing housing at adjacent 52 Hanover – which I’ve enjoyed as another great opportunity for creating a robust site Transportation Demand Management Plan.

October 23, 2020 at 10:43 am Leave a comment

Co-Chairing the Transportation Working Group of the Maine Climate Council

Last September I was asked by Joyce Taylor, Chief Engineer at the Maine Department of Transportation, to join her as Co-Chair of the Transportation Working Group of the Maine Climate Council. A tremendous honor, even understanding from the beginning that we had our work cut out for us. (And while climate work is critical, I always say – only half joking – that 95% of the reason I said yes to co-chairing was to have the opportunity to work with Joyce, who’s skills and integrity I greatly admire.)

The Maine Climate Council is the state’s newly legislated and ambitious process — thanks to Gov. Janet Mills’ leadership — to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by 45% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. The initiative intends to do this while at the same time working to address mobility and equity issues in a primarily rural region.

The broader Climate Council is a diverse group consisting of 39 members drawn from a cross-section of Maine government, business, and other stakeholder groups. The Council’s work is supported by the Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future and seven subcommittees, also known as working groups. In addition to transportation, these groups are looking at everything from science and technical needs, energy production and distribution, buildings and housing, natural and working lands, coastal and marine issues, and public health and emergency management. We all have been meeting regularly since October 2019 to come up with a series of recommendations to present to the larger Climate Council membership in June of this year.

In Maine, the transportation sector contributes the greatest amount of emissions by far, at 54% of our total GHG pie. Also of significance: of these transportation-related emissions, light-duty passenger cars and trucks produce 59% — well over the majority.

We’ve known for years that transportation is perhaps the hardest nut to crack in terms of climate efforts and culture change—and in some ways, this has led decision-makers to avoid dealing with it altogether. It’s the one sector where emissions have actually increased over time, versus the significant reductions that have been made in the energy sector, for example.

I have to admit I’ve been intimidated by this monster of a process at different points, especially putting it together as we go and on such a tight timeline. Kind of like dealing with climate change itself.

Our group also presents all the challenges of moving together and wrestling with things as a whole; altogether the group includes 30 members, another 30 support staff from the Maine Department of Transportation, Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and the Governor’s Office, plus diverse and interested members of the public.

As Joyce often points out, many of us haven’t worked together before now. And while a few members have worked specifically on climate initiatives, many of us have had to get more fully up to speed on the issues.

Each working group is made up of Climate Council members and additional stakeholder representatives. For example, our Transportation Working Group has four members who are also Climate Council members: Benedict Cracolici from Sappi North America, Matt Marks from the Association of General Contractors, Lori Parham from AARP Maine, Senator Brownie Carson, and Jonathan Rubin of the University of Maine’s Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center. Additional working group members include representatives from the worlds of public transportation, business and freight, municipal and regional planning, engineering and infrastructure, the Maine legislature, and the non-profit sector.

Given our diversity, I’ve been amazed and impressed with how well folks have been willing to listen to new information and to one another during discussions. And how much work and connection has continued between meetings. Even folks with climate expertise have said how much they’ve learned during the process.

As our work has progressed, we have reviewed science and technical information and split into several sub-groups to develop specific strategies. Three of the subgroups touch on the primary users and contributors to the bulk of Maine’s transportation emissions (86% altogether): rural light duty vehicle use, urban/suburban light duty vehicles, and medium & heavy duty trucking. All of these fall under the area of mitigation in the Climate Council’s work. The fourth subgroup has been working on adaptation strategies, aiming to build community resiliency for the climate change that will occur. Additional strategies for other much smaller emissions sources—for example, from the marine sector—have been considered as well. All recommendations are shared with the entire Transportation Working Group, get vetted further, and then are passed on to the whole Council.

Now just to get it all put together as a clear set of recommendations for the Council in June! With the on-set of COVID-19 restrictions, we’ve rapidly moved all our work online and will be continuing our work together in this new format.

Note: most of this content is from contributions I made to a larger Maine Cyclist article by the Bicycle Coalition of Maine’s Assistant Director, Jim Tasse, to be put out later this spring/early summer. You should check that out for more bicycle and pedestrian perspectives!

March 30, 2020 at 6:27 pm Leave a comment

Thompson’s Point Among Only Two Maine Businesses to Earn a Spot on the Best Workplaces for Commuters’ National Recognition List! 

Cushman Transportation Consulting, LLC (CTC) is excited to share this press release from Thompson’s Point in Portland, Maine – both as consultant to the Point on its TDM efforts and also as a Partner Organization of Best Workplaces for Commuters.

Released: 02/06/2019

Canadian visitors with their bikes (2)You know the adage touted by many Mainers old and new, “You can’t get there from here”. Well, because of forward thinking Maine companies such as Thompson’s Point, that paradigm is starting to shift.

Since the project began in 2009, Thompson’s Point has evolved from a derelict 30-acre former railyard into Portland’s dynamic new mixed-use neighborhood, bringing together a wide variety of great Maine companies and family-focused entertainment along with socially and environmentally minded smart growth urban development.

IMG_1461 (2)

As part of this thoughtful approach to development, the ownership and management teams have been working towards setting themselves apart as a destination that is leading the charge in reducing drive-alone transportation methods and encouraging the use of bikes, carpooling and public transportation by constructing a well laid Transportation Demand Management Plan.

best-workplaces-2019-web-250x250Turns out, this strategy has not only led to a more thoughtful approach to traffic in Southern Maine, but has also gained the company national recognition as Best Site with Best Workplaces for Commuters. This makes it one of the top places to visit, work and live for visitors and commuters, offering exceptional transportation options and benefits that meet the National Standard of Excellence criteria. Thompson’s Point is one of only two companies in the entire state of Maine to earn such recognition.

“Since we began the project in 2009, back before Uber and Lyft were verbs, we’ve been intrigued with the transit-oriented development possibilities that Thompson’s Point presents,” said Jed Troubh, an owner and principal with Thompson’s Point.

IMG_6944 (2)“With the Portland Transportation Center, METRO, Portland Trails, the Portland International Jetport, and I-295 all literally right next door, and with the prospect of water connectivity from the Point, we have just about every mode of transit available to us and our tenants and guests,” Troubh said. “It has been an exciting process to try and continue to be innovative with respect to building partnerships with all of our stakeholders and transit providers to help reduce single occupant vehicle use while making the experience of visiting the Point enjoyable and efficient.”

file-2Chris Thompson, co-owner and fellow principal with Thompson’s Point, notes that, “Transit oriented development at a multifaceted place like Thompson’s Point is an active listening and learning process. The way we use transit and our experience navigating the worlds of work and recreation are changing all the time — it has been an enlivening challenge for us to try and continue to serve the needs of all of the various patrons, partners, and visitors who make up our neighborhood. We owe a lot to our consultant, Sarah Cushman of Cushman Transportation Consulting LLC who has constantly challenged us, as Samuel Beckett said, to ‘fail, fail again, fail better’ and keep focused on how to continually rethink and try and improve our transit efforts at the Point.”

Cushman is a local sustainable transportation consultant and her firm is also a Partner Organization of the national Best Workplaces for Commuters program. “Thompson’s Point understands that the site will work best – and be most economically viable – if there are robust ways people can reach it,” Cushman said. “That applies to folks who are visiting, working there or living in one of the proposed residences.”

IMG_0554 (3)

“I’m excited about Thompson’s Point’s ongoing work to reduce traffic congestion and support diverse transportation options, “ Cushman said. “Plus I’m thrilled about these first-ever awards for organizations in the State of Maine.”

Way2GoLogo_FnlRebecca Grover, Program Coordinator for GO MAINE, the statewide commuter assistance program shared, “Having sites with Best Workplaces for Commuters status in Maine supports the work that GO MAINE does with carpool ridematching, rewarding green commuters and our annual business-to-business challenge Way 2 GO MAINE. So we say, ‘Way 2 GO Thompson’s Point, keep up the good work!’”

About Best Workplaces for Commuters

Originally launched by the National Center for Transit Research and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Best Workplaces for Commuters is the national authority on recognizing and assisting multi-use sites and workplaces to provide exceptional transportation options and commuter benefits. More than a recognition program, Best Workplaces for Commuters program provides support needed to create and sustain a commuter benefit program, including online assessment tools, advisory services, case studies, tool-kits, web-based tools, webinars and training. Best Workplaces for Commuters represents over 200 multi-use sites and workplaces with Best Workplaces for Commuters designation representing over 734,000 employees. The Best Workplaces for Commuters program is managed by the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR)  at the University of South Florida with support from the National Center for Transit Research (NCTR) and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). For more information:

For more information on Thompson’s Point:

February 7, 2019 at 11:13 am Leave a comment

Throwing Down the Gauntlet – businesses challenge each other for Way 2 GO MAINE!

“Make your commutes count October 1st-21st!” was the rallying cry of the Way 2 GO MAINE Commuter Challenge this past month. Cushman Transportation Consulting, LLC was thrilled to co-develop and deliver Maine’s first ever business-to-business challenge with GO MAINE, the statewide commuter assistance program.

Way 2 GO MAINE was a three week, build-a-new-habit campaign – creating friendly competition between organizations across the state to see how many employees could walk, bike, take the bus or train or carpool to work. It was also a way to celebrate those activities, reward folks who are already out there doing them and inspire other Mainers to do the same!

The three week, build-a-new-habit campaign engaged team champions for each employer who offered simple encouragement to their fellow employees and posted photos and videos on social media with the hashtag Way2GOMAINE.

Participating employees logged their trips, received incentives and watched their workplace zoom up the leaderboard.

Organizations competed for:

  • most greener transportation trips recorded
  • most new GO MAINE members
  • and most team spirit!

Stalwart allies like the Bicycle Coalition of Maine started signing employees up early with campaign pledge cards and posting them at the office.

We had a great time with the kick off of the campaign at local large employer UNUM on Monday the 2nd! It was inspiring to speak with staff there – some who already bike or carpool to work and others who are curious about trying the bus or other green commutes.

We designed and distributed event materials and swag and had fun seeing some folks in action when it worked to drop them off in person.

Workplaces offered their own rewards, too. For example, the City of Portland gave out gift cards to top participating employees as part of its City Fit! program. And MEMIC offered $250 to the first 10 employees who signed up for a bus pass or carpool parking in October and gave up a drive-alone parking space – and boy did employees take them up on it.

Maybe the best part was the fun and inspiration everyone shared via photos and videos. Happy commutes all around! Here’s a sampling:

And not to be missed are these fabulous videos:

Now, for the winners! All winning organizations were awarded a donation made in their name to one of three organizations of their choice that help improve air quality: American Lung Association, Arbor Day Foundation, and the Audubon Society.

We had a great time distributing awards to the winners and Rebecca Grover of GO MAINE even presented me with a Most Awesome Consultant Award. We had a blast working together and are looking forward our next go at it.

If you participated in Way 2 GO MAINE, please complete this quick survey (takes less than 5 minutes) to help us make it even better next year!

November 10, 2017 at 2:30 pm Leave a comment

Carpool Love

A version of this column was published in the Maine Sunday Telegram’s Source section.

Most of us know the benefits of carpooling. Sharing rides cuts our household transportation costs. That’s significant when 30% of the average Maine household’s income (and about 40% for our low income households) goes to pay for the cars and trucks in our driveways. Carpooling also reduces our greenhouse gas and other vehicle emissions. However, the most important benefit may be that carpooling makes us happier: strengthening our human connections, reducing stress and building community resiliency.

My grandmother’s first cousin, Frances Burgess, passed away this summer at age 96; she had a sweet sense of humor and was one of my all-time family favorites. She also was a carpooler.

Frances and her husband raised their family in a small cape in the midst of farmland in Saco. They had one car and worked staggered shifts at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. When Frances headed to work she left her two daughters in the care of her mother and carpooled with a group of neighbors. She was tickled by the friends she made and stories she heard over the years riding together. There were more men in the carpool than women, she explained, and it was a unique opportunity for friendships in an era when time with the opposite gender was rarer.

I talked recently with Ben Connors who lives in Hampden and works in Pittsfield and carpools the hour and a half every day with his colleague Jeff (their photo at right). “We share the cost of the car – the wear and tear and gas – so that’s a direct benefit. But you also get to unwind with your co-worker at the end of the day,” Ben said. “You can talk about what you’re working on and they offer a different perspective on things. By the time you’ve gotten home you’ve gotten all that stuff off your chest.”

I connected with Ben because I met his former rideshare buddy, Rachel Porter, at a work event last fall. Rachel and Ben carpooled to work for three years before she recently moved and she shared similar thoughts about the benefits of ridesharing.

“My new commute still takes half an hour and I would definitely carpool again,” Rachel said in a recent interview. “I also miss it during bad weather – having someone else looking at everything going on around you when you’re concentrating so hard on the road in front of you.”

Carpooling like Frances did and Ben does used to be far more commonplace in Maine and around the country, when most families owned only one car or none at all. It took some Yankee ingenuity to make things work and get where you needed to go.

Maine is primarily a rural state – the most rural in the country according the 2010 U.S. Census, based on the number of communities with populations less than 2500. Many Mainers would like access to public transportation but the spread out-nature of our homes and towns decreases the viability of strong transit networks with frequent service.

Years ago, I remember a staff person from the GO MAINE statewide commuter assistance program showing a WWII era Uncle Sam carpooling propaganda poster and saying, “The best option for public transportation many of us have are the empty seats in our cars.” That’s still right.

Carpooling trends have decreased over time. Households started buying more cars in the 1950 and, by the new millenium, almost half of car-owning families had two or more vehicles and more than 90 percent of American households had at least one.

Carpooling peaked in 1980 at the end of the Middle East oil crises. At that time almost 20% of Americans shared rides to work. Now it’s a little less than 10%. About 9% of Mainers carpool. (Of note: people working in construction have some of the highest rideshare rates.)

Many of us don’t carpool because we think it won’t work for us. “I have kids to pick up, I have to run errands after work, I just want some peace and quiet, what if my aging parent suddenly needs me?” Or maybe we tried it once back in 1992 and it didn’t work for one reason or another. If either of these scenarios speak to you, I say give it a(nother) try.

It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Broach the subject with a co-worker to experiment for a couple weeks. Ask a neighbor who is going your way to try it for one or two days a week instead of every day.

gomaine-logo.jpgIf you don’t know anyone making a similar trip, do the quick sign-up and try out GO MAINE’s recently revamped and state-of-the-art ridematching service. It shows photos and profiles of people who live near you or who commute to near your destination.

“It’s like for carpoolers,” said Rebecca Grover, the Program Coordinator, during a recent conversation.

GO MAINE also offers rewards to those who log their trips walking to work, bicycling, using public transportation and carpooling. And if you use a smartphone, all this has just become easier with the new GO MAINE app.

One of the best parts of being an active GO MAINE member is the Emergency Ride Home Benefit. It’s a free taxi ride with a registered taxi company or Enterprise Rent-a-Car home in the event there’s a family crisis, you get unscheduled overtime or have another unforeseen workday emergency.

Think about rides in your personal life that you can share, too, if you don’t already. Carpooling with other people’s kids to soccer practice, sharing a ride to a community meeting or your place of worship.

If you’re hosting an event, consider using something like to enable folks to share rides. It’s a national app and online service specifically designed for one-time occasions. It’s free for an event with up to 50 participants and charges $10 for an event of up to 500 participants, with no registration or fee required for attendees. That’s an attractive and low-barrier option for people to try. Plus there’s no better ice-breaker for a conference or other occasion than for participants to have already built community before they even arrive.

Enough of the nuts and bolts though. Moral of the column: carpool and live to 96. It’s that simple.

More Suggestions

  • Dip your toe in via October’s Way 2 GO MAINE business-to-business commuter challenge! Businesses and organizations across the state are encouraged to pit their workplace against others for how many of their employees carpool, bicycle, use transit or rail, or walk to work. During this 21-day campaign participating employees log their trips, receive incentives and compete for the most green trips, most new GO MAINE members and most team spirit! Log your trips if you’re already a GO MAINE member or join at org (Full disclosure: I’ve been hired as a consultant to help with the campaign.)
  • For some fun carpool love, check out James Corden’s carpool karaoke videos from The Late Late Show. It’s hard to watch only one!

October 3, 2017 at 10:14 am Leave a comment

Speaking at the Maine Climate Conference: how preferred modes of transportation transform and sustain us

Many thanks to Anne D. Burt, the wonderful Maine climate activist from Edgecomb for inviting me to speak on the transformative aspects of using preferred modes of transportation at the 2017 Maine Climate Conference. I met Andy years ago when we were both doing environmental work through our local Quaker meetings (she’s a member of Midcoast Meeting in Damariscotta).

Put on by Sierra Club’s Maine Chapter, the conference featured fellow Quaker, George Lakey, as the keynote speaker. George is the author of the recent Viking Economics: How the Scandinavians Got It Right-and How We Can, Too. He shared a social scientist’s view of the different roles each of us play in any movement and also an intriguing historical understanding of the change that can come from periods of polarization. You can see his keynote here. (He’s both fun and funny!)

I presented along with Tony Giambro and Travis Ritchie from the Paris AutoBarn during the Putting the “Can-Do” in Transportation for Livable Communities workshop. (And how great to hear the latest from Tony and Travis about the state of electric vehicles and their cradle-to-the-grave impacts.)

I’m especially grateful to citizen activist and videographer Martha Spiess – who has done hundreds of hours of video production for environmental protection and happened to record our session. She sent me the link to my presentation – embedded here:

September 21, 2017 at 5:20 pm Leave a comment

Freedom for all to ride or walk in the great outdoors

A version of this piece was published as the monthly Treading Lightly column in the Maine Sunday Telegram’s Source section.

Max - Maine Adaptive - credit Sarah Cushman

Max Michaud takes a break from her training with Maine Adaptive Sports & Recreation at the Back Cove Trail in Portland

Walking and biking are not just for the young, fit and able-bodied. And the benefits of these activities extend far beyond merely exercise or recreation – to enhancing the connection we have with our neighbors in our communities. Fortunately, Maine is home to several organizations and programs that help seniors and people with disabilities get outside for a walk or a ride. Before I tell you about a couple of these efforts, let me start with a story that illustrates why they’re so essential.

I met Bangor resident Annie King recently when I taught a MaineDOT-sponsored class in defensive walking (think what you were taught about defensive driving; now apply that idea to walking) at Miller Square on Harlow, a facility for seniors in Bangor where she lives. Annie rolled into the room in a motorized wheelchair and joked that I’d been brought in because of “the crazy adventure” she’d recently gone on with her friends.

Annie and her friends, Diane and Marcia, decided to visit the farmers market one Sunday in June. Annie and Diane use motorized wheelchairs, and Marcia is legally blind and uses a white cane. Annie also has to carry her oxygen tank. “We went down to the market, across from the library, and cruised around,” she said.

“It was a nice day, so we said, ‘Let’s go down the next street,’ ” Annie continued. They turned down Franklin and then stopped at a little park on Kenduskeag Stream, where they sat for a few minutes so Marcia could catch her breath.

“You know, I’ve never been to that bagel place. Let’s go there,” Annie suggested to her friends. They followed the stream to Central Street and, after a snack at Bagel Central, headed home.

Norumbega Parkway-Kenduskeag Stream in Bangor - 2

Norumbega Parkway along the Kenduskeag Stream in downtown Bangor, where Annie King and her friends took a break on their adventure.

“It started to rain on our way home, and we ducked under the portico of one of the buildings while it poured,” Annie said, laughing. They had gone less than a mile.

A full, rich mile.

“It was our little adventure, just being free to get out and be with the rest of the world and not having to answer to anyone,” Annie said. “I don’t think you’re ever too old for an adventure.”

How many times have you done a simple outing like that – to a nearby park or to see a friend or to your downtown or village area to run an errand – and it turned into something that gave you such pleasure?

Which brings me to two Maine programs that help people who need assistance go on their own everyday adventures.

Two weeks ago, I stopped by the Back Cove Trail in Portland with my dog Lola to talk with some folks from Maine Adaptive Sports & Recreation, among them Leo Albert. He greeted Lola warmly.

“I’m lucky to live near the Green Belt path in South Portland,” Leo said. “I can’t use this for long periods,” he said, pointing to the four-wheeled walker he was sitting on, “but I use my motorized wheelchair, and I know every dog. Every one of them. I bring treats, and they nuzzle around my chair for them.”

Leo started working with Maine Adaptive this summer to modify the recumbent tricycle he has barely used for the past 13 years, because of a painful leg length discrepancy.

He pointed to one of the tricycles parked nearby and said he was looking forward to riding it. “Riding will make a big difference for my leg circulation and relieve the pain in my legs and back. Plus it’s something I can do anytime from where I live.”

Maxine Michaud was pedaling on the cove, training for the Great Maine Getaway MS Ride on a Maine Adaptive tricycle. Max, as she calls herself, has multiple sclerosis and limited use of one of her legs. To get around, she uses the tricycle as well as an experimental, Maine-designed Afari, which helps her walk over uneven terrain.

“There is no such thing as being unable,” she told me. “It’s being differently abled. That’s all.”

She credited her involvement with Maine Adaptive (she got involved on a dare in 2012) with keeping her in her “happy place, doing everything I do. I don’t need any pain pills, I don’t need any anti-depressants. This is it. This keeps me above the clouds looking ahead. I soar.”

Another program, Portland Wheelers, also helps people get outside and connect, in their case, people who are physically or mentally unable to bike, even with adaptive equipment. The organization offers free recreational rides to people of any age who are living with a significant disability.

Portland Wheelers - credit to Portland Wheelers

Portland Wheelers pilots pedal adaptive cycles for riders, also known as “wheelers”, along the Back Cove Trail in Portland. Photo courtesy of Portland Wheelers

I took a spin with Doug Malcolm, the group’s founder and director. I sat in the “wheeler” seat with Doug, the “pilot,” pedaling just behind me on one of the program’s tricycles, a setup that made for easy conversation. We rode along the Eastern Promenade, soaking up the view.

“We’re yakking all the time when we’re riding,” Doug said. “Wheelers and pilots both love it. As pilots, we get to hear wonderful life stories. And when we’re in a pod of two or three trikes, we’re often laughing it up, because someone always seems to be telling a joke.

“We know from Canadian research, and a study we’re involved in ourselves, that if you get people outside riding in groups on a regular basis, it can dramatically improve levels of depression, appetite, sleep patterns and a sense of connectedness,” he said.

As a sustainable transportation consultant, I’ve come across similar findings, and not surprisingly they always make me eager to get out and walk and bike more. Annie, Leo and Max offer me a glimpse of the future I can feel hopeful about stepping into.


  • If you don’t live in Greater Portland or one of the residential facilities served by Portland Wheelers, the nonprofit offers a Come to Us service. Preregister on their website,, for a Saturday ride time and get transportation to meet the group at Cyclemania in Portland.
  • Every summer, Maine Adaptive Sports & Recreation offers its bicycling program in Portland and Bethel. On Sept. 23, Maine Adaptive teams up with Slipping Gears Cycling to hold an adaptive cycling day for people with disabilities ages 4 and up. Bangor City Forest, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Cycles of all types and sizes will be available or riders can bring their own. Preregistration required, email

August 28, 2017 at 8:36 am Leave a comment

Can fees at parks and on ferries in Maine be used to encourage cyclists and pedestrians?

Originally published as monthly Treading Lightly column in the Maine Sunday Telegram’s Source section.

Our family just went to Peaks Island for a friend’s wedding. We pedaled down to the Casco Bay Ferry terminal and locked our bikes, deciding not to pay the extra $6.50 per adult bike and $3.25 per child to bring them with us. It raised the perennial questions I have about whether fees encourage or discourage efficiencies in our transportation system – efficiencies that could reduce the need for more space for cars and more and wider roads.

The ferry offers a valuable public service and every pound we add to the boat affects its fuel economy, so it makes sense to charge something for people to bring their bikes. It’s the fee ratio that seems a little off. The charge for any non-commercial vehicle under 6,000 pounds traveling to Peaks Island varies by day of the week during the summer – so I’ll use the middle-of-the-fee-structure example: $54.95 (that’s after subtracting the driver’s passenger ticket cost).

Arriving on the island, I watched a Chevy Suburban roll toward the ferry dock. A Suburban weighs 5,896 pounds. If cars were charged by weight (they aren’t), the driver would have paid less than one cent per pound to bring it to Peaks. The $6.50 adult bike fee isn’t by weight either. But if it were, my 25-pound bike – a fairly standard weight – would have cost twenty-six cents per pound. (Note: any passenger can purchase discounted weekly or monthly bike fares – and with an annual pass, the bike rides for free.)

That’s weight – what about space? For those headed to Vinalhaven on the State Ferry Service, a critical and valued link to the island with our largest year-round population, it costs $16.50 extra to bring a bike. It costs $49.50 extra for a car. The bicycle is one-third the cost of the vehicle but weighs a tiny fraction of the car and takes up only 1/10th the space.

CarBikePort Rack - Photo Credit to Cyclehoop (2)

Photo credit: Cyclehoop

Another fee structure that doesn’t encourage alternative transportation is that of our beautiful state parks. Our family is hoping to visit Crescent Beach State Park in Cape Elizabeth soon. If we bike there, we’ll pay $12. If we drive there…we’ll pay $12.

Not everyone can get somewhere like Crescent Beach without a car, but shouldn’t we encourage those who can? And for those who need to drive, couldn’t we set our fees to inspire more of us to carpool? (The state tries to make it equitable by charging every Maine resident the same price. Also, an annual Maine State Parks vehicle pass allows all the occupants of up to a 17-passenger vehicle free day-use.)

Why should we care about this? In a word: parking. In another word: money. Where there are cars, there will be demand for parking. Since on average vehicles are in use only 5 percent of the time, according to three different analyses by transportation policy advisor Paul Barter they spend the rest of their lives parked. And parking costs money – big, big money.

It’s expensive to build a parking space – even in a dirt lot – and to maintain it. Think of excavation, fill, asphalt if it’s paved, sealing, and providing lighting and any curbing and sidewalks. But maintenance, really? Yes: grading for dirt lots, resurfacing every five to ten years for paving, snow removal and sanding, sweeping, landscaping, controlling access (e.g., entrance gates), fee collection, enforcement, insurance, etc.

There are roughly 735 parking spaces at Crescent Beach State Park. The average annual cost for a space in a paved suburban surface lot on “free” land, like that owned by the citizens of Maine at Crescent Beach, is $671. That price includes amortizing the construction cost over time ($326/year), plus annual maintenance ($345/year). This according to the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, an independent research organization based in British Columbia that is dedicated to practical solutions for transportation problems. That totals $493,185 per year.

The lot was built in the 1960s, so one can question whether the initial cost has been paid off. Also, Crescent Beach’s lot isn’t plowed during the winter, and I’m not sure how often they’re able to sweep and maintain the pavement under all that sand. So let’s say it only costs us a quarter as much? That’s still $123,296. Now think of all the other lots we build and maintain across Maine.

We could price differently. I called nearby states to see what they charge for someone who gets to one of their parks on foot or by bike. Mark Steffen, Press Secretary for the Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation, seemed a little surprised by my question. “If someone accesses one of your parks as a pedestrian or bicyclist, they are charged a fee?” he asked. “That’s the not case here. We charge a day-use parking fee for vehicles. All our state parks are free for walkers or bicyclists to enter for the day.” I discovered a few more states doing the same, including Montana. Or we could be like Nevada and charge a nominal fee for walkers and bicyclists: $1.

Of course, you may ask whether price actually changes behavior. With parking, the answer is yes.

According to the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, Motorists tend to be particularly sensitive to parking price because it is such a direct charge. Compared with other out-of-pocket expenses, parking fees are found to have a greater effect on vehicle trips…For example, a $1 per trip parking charge is likely to cause the same reduction in vehicle travel as a fuel price increase averaging $1.50 to $2.00 per trip.”

None of our fees are easy to change, of course. In the case of Casco Bay Lines, “It can be done, it just requires a good bit of thoughtful public process,” General Manager Hank Berg explained in a recent call. “Then we still need to bring the results of that process to the Public Utilities Commission for vetting and permission to modify the fees.”

Here’s one timely opportunity for us to weigh in. Dwight Doughty, MaineDOT acting manager for the State Ferry Service, said in a telephone interview, “We are currently working with our Advisory Board to revamp rates for passengers, bikes, freight, etc.”


ARE THE CHARGES for bicyclists riding on Maine ferries equitable? Do the fees encourage Mainers and visitors to consider alternatives to cars? Weigh-in on the State Ferry fee structure now, while an advisory board is examining the fees. Email your input to by the end of August to have it included in the initial round of feedback.

July 31, 2017 at 10:01 am Leave a comment

Wheels in mind of new transportation columnist go ’round and ’round – usually sustainably

Originally published as monthly Treading Lightly column in the Maine Sunday Telegram’s Source section.

Denver’s 16th Street transit and pedestrian mall

“Mom, stop taking pictures of that crosswalk!” my 10-year-old daughter begs me as we ride the bus to the library. My phone overflows with photos of streets, sidewalks, trails, road signage, bus shelters and the people who use them. These shots may be embarrassing for my daughter, but they are helpful for my work as a transportation consultant to improve the quality of life for commuters and the livability of communities.

My photo archive is also confirmation of my certified Transportation Geek status – and it can drive my family a little crazy. There was the time my daughter and I visited my sisters in Colorado. When we returned to Maine, my husband asked to see photos. Oops. Instead of family pictures, or maybe mountain scenery, I had endless shots of Denver’s light rail and the city’s pedestrian mall. “Really, that was important to document!” I said in my own defense. “Can you say ‘transportation fetish?’ ” my husband retorted.

A transportation nerd conversation runs constantly in my head. For instance: I’m working on a pilot project with the Maine Department of Transportation to deliver walk safety presentations and high-visibility gear in Bangor and Brewer to especially vulnerable folks, such as seniors and people with disabilities. I am writing this from the Bangor Motel 6, in town to work on the project, and I just sprinted on foot across three lanes of busy U.S. Route 2 to the Shell station to pick up some toiletries.

Want to know what I was thinking about? “Wow, that Park & Ride lot over there is full. How great is all that carpooling! But check out this traffic. This road seems to be designed to encourage speed. Can vehicles even see me? No sidewalk and only a minimal shoulder, so I better walk facing the oncoming cars (it’s the law and statistically is the safest way to go). And could I even walk here this winter if there were snowbanks?”

More true confessions: I’m the kind of person who gets a thrill out of putting my bike on the Concord Coach bus, loaded with oversized exhibit materials, like I did last month to get from Portland to the Bangor Senior Expo. That was a treat, to catch up on email, nap and finish prepping a document while someone else drove. Then I could scoot around Bangor by bike, coming to know the city a little better by experiencing it at a slower speed – I loved the Webster Avenue walk and bike tunnel under Interstate-395!

My transportation heart and consulting work come from a melding of jobs and interests over the past 25 years. In high school, I signed up for the automotive program at the Bath Regional Vocational Center. The instructors were excellent and encouraging and, through our work on cars, physics came alive for me for the first time. My interest in people led me on to college and a degree in political science. Afterward, I spent five years as a community organizer in Maryland – amazing and intense work with groups and public planning and advocacy efforts.

When burnout hit, I pivoted to recuperate, working as an auto mechanic at a nearby garage in the heart of Baltimore. Over the next five years, as I fixed cars in Maryland and then back home in Maine, I slowly grew tired of how unprepared/unable many people are to spend the necessary money to maintain and fix vehicles and how many dirty cars I had to put back on the street – leaking fluids or exhaust or with check engine lights still on with an emissions failure. I started teaching fiscally and environmentally responsible car ownership through Portland Adult Education and encouraged my students and customers to consider how many vehicles they really needed. I asked them to explore other ways of getting around. My consulting work grew from there.

Let’s be clear, I’m no purist. My family has a car – it’s outside in the Motel 6 parking lot right now. And to be frank, if a second vehicle were available in our driveway, I’d be the first one to use it. I’m glad to be nudged – forced, really – to travel by bus, on foot, by bike, and sharing rides. Of course, we know these ways of moving around are good for us. They save us money, they’re better for the planet, they’re healthier for our overweight American bodies.

However, the things that motivate my work most are less tangible and somehow more powerful. They are the bits of Yankee ingenuity and magic involved when we walk, bike, take the bus and carpool. The world is simply more real – warts and beauty – all of it. For instance:

  • With some quick planning, you share a ride with friends to an event – catching up or maybe laughing so hard at some point that your face hurts.
  • I walk down the street headed to get groceries and smell the salty tang of fog. I smell the sewage treatment plant. I notice the first day lilies appearing in a neighbor’s yard.
  • After working inside all day, you stand at the bus stop and feel the late afternoon sun on your face for the first time. So good, that moment!
  • I jump on my bike on a cold, rainy day, moaning about how much it stinks that my husband has the car and I have to get to a meeting. And then within five minutes – I swear – I’m warmed up and grinning into the spray for the sheer joy of being outside and using my body and embracing the elements.

We are awake when these things happen. We connect – with people around us; with the tiny, unique details of the places in our community; and with the natural world that sustains our daily lives. We renew ourselves in these moments and at the same time knit our communities tighter together. That feeds me the most.

I look forward to learning and sharing more about the myriad ways we all get around. In the meantime, if you find yourself in desperate of need a photo of a Portland crosswalk, or Bangor’s bike/pedestrian tunnel, or Chicago’s bike share, you know where to find me.

July 3, 2017 at 7:14 am Leave a comment

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