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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 TransitCenterThe 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.

nov-2015-kids-at-stop-at-duskThis 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. June 2017: Students from both schools will present project outcomes and recommendations to the district school committee and the METRO board.
  4. 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.

phit-logoThe 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.

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January 5, 2017 at 1:43 pm Leave a comment

Year-End Successes of the Portland Walking School Bus Program

Walking in the snow - vol in frontSee photos, stats and stories from the 2013-2014 pilot Portland Walking School Bus Program here!

[Article written for Maine Cyclist.]

June 28, 2014 at 9:19 pm Leave a comment

Safety Infrastructure for Communities – MaineDOT Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon (RRFB) Program – Available For a Limited Time!

Municipalities across the state should definitely take advantage of this opportunity (reprinted from the Maine Safe Routes to School Newsletter).  There’s always a need for these mid-block crossing safety amenities somewhere in town and the vehicle compliance rate (i.e. percentage of time vehicles stop for pedestrians) is very high compared to other similar flashing pedestrian lights (91%):

RRFB in RichmondMaineDOT is pleased to announce a partnership opportunity with municipalities in the acquisition and installation of solar-powered pedestrian crossing safety devices at approved locations for this construction season!

Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFBs) are solar-powered flashing lights that drastically improve motor vehicle compliance rates of stopping for pedestrians in crosswalks at unsignalized locations (like this one in Richmond at right and in Portland below).   They capture the driver’s attention, making a particular crossing much more visible and safer for pedestrians. They really make a difference in creating a walkable environment!

MaineDOT’s program can provide these RRFB’s to municipalities at no cost!  All that is needed is for municipalities to install (no wiring required) and maintain them.  MaineDOT will help determine whether a crosswalk location is a good fit for an RRFB.  So call soon, as the program will operate on a first come, first serve basis.

Tukey St. RRFBThis is a great partnering opportunity and if your community wants to request an RRFB, please contact Stephen Landry at 624-3632 or email him at stephen.landry@maine.gov as soon as possible to discuss the potential location.

June 13, 2014 at 8:14 am Leave a comment

Take a Holiday Season Bus Ride to the Lakes Region for Free!

LakesRegionbus mapWho’s up for trying out the new Lakes Region Bus Service?  I am!  After a number of months of hard work and preparation by RTP (Regional Transportation Program) and local advocates, the service starts on Monday, November 25. I’m thinking of throwing our bikes on the bus and taking a family bus ride out there – maybe after the Thanksgiving holiday (no service on Thanksgiving, the Friday after Turkey Day, or Christmas).

Service runs Monday through Friday between Naples and Portland, 4 times a day in both directions – with free transfers to both METRO and South Portland Bus Service.  The buses have a bike rack (likely for two bikes), are ADA-accessible, and have WiFi.  See here for the route map, stops information, time schedule, and more general info on the service.  

Rides through the end of 2013 are free – a great way to get folks to test drive the system.  (After that, all trips will be $3, which is a bargain and similar to Shuttlebus/ZOOM rates between Portland and Saco/Biddeford.)

If and when you try out the service, definitely let us know what you think in the comment section below.  And for any questions or feedback, contact Dan Goodman at RTP, formerly of GoMaine fame.  I’ll post an update and photos when I get a chance to check it out myself.

November 21, 2013 at 3:45 pm Leave a comment

How Important is Public Transit to You?

Get on the Bus - mother & daughterHow important is public transit to you?  For myself and many folks I know it’s a critical component to reducing household vehicle costs (one less car) and offering reliable transportation to work.

It’s also misunderstood by many. (Why can’t we have more frequent service?  Why doesn’t the bus go where I want it to go? Why can’t rider fares pay for the service – why does the bus have to be subsidized?) Simplified answers: Funding, Funding, and Funding (well, and all transportation is subsidized, including the car I drive.)

MaineDOT is conducting a statewide effort to gather information on the wants, needs and willingness of the general public to pay for public transit in Maine.

They are using the following methods to do so:

  • A  phone survey to derive some statistically significant information
  • Soliciting feedback through via email at transit.mainedot@maine.gov
  • Holding the following public transit summits (one of which has already occurred):
    • Region 1 – November 7th – 1:00 pm to 3:30 pm – UMPI, St John Room, 181 Main St., Presque Isle
    • Region 2 – December 3rd – 1:00 pm to 3:30 pm – Ellsworth City Hall – Auditorium, 1 City Hall Plaza
    • Region 3 – November 12th – 1:00 pm to 3:30 pm – Bangor Parks & Rec, 647 Main St.
    • Region 4  – October 17th – 9:00 am to 11:30 am – Waterville Armory, 74 Drummond Ave.
    • Region 5 – October 31st – 1:00 pm to 3:30 pm – UMaine Hutchinson Ctr, 80 Belmont Ave., Belfast
    • Region 6 – November 14th – 3:30 pm – 6pm – Portland Public Library, 5 Monument Square
    • Region 7 – December 10th – 3:30 – 6pm – Auburn Public Library, 49 Spring Street
    • Region 8 – November 13th – 1:00 pm to 3:30 pm – Trafton Center, 19 Elm Street, Sanford

Hope some of us can make it to these.  And if not, please weigh-in to the DOT via e-mail and definitely answer the phone if they call.

Editor’s update from 11/14/13: I arrived at the Summit in Portland at a little after 3:30 today to discover the meeting was just ending and that it had actually been scheduled from 1-3:30pm – agggh.  I just checked and the e-mail I got from a State Rep had the time listed as I had listed it above.  There were other folks arriving, too.  So sorry it was wrong – how frustrating for all of us! 

I’m going to e-mail the DOT contact for more information and any additional way for us to give input.  I’ll also check on the rest of the dates while I’m at it. Shoot me an e-mail if you’d like a copy of anything that they may pass on and I’ll send it your way.

October 23, 2013 at 3:25 pm Leave a comment

Registered Your Bike with the Police Yet?

ampezzan2I was biking over to pick up my daughter from her first day at East End Community School last week and was greeted by Officer Tony Ampezzan at the bike rack, asking if I had registered my bike with the police and whether I would like to do so.  (I realized I had registered a previous beater bike, but not the one I purchased a couple years ago for our big family bike journey.)

For the past several years, the Portland Police Department has had an online registration for bikes – so that if, heaven forbid, your bike is stolen, you can report it and they have key information to go on.  Pawn shops and others are supposed to check the registry before selling a bike, and the police use the registry themselves when they recover bikes and before they sell any at auction.

Officer Tony, who is our local Senior Lead Officer and also a bike patrol officer, proceeded to ask me a few simple questions, helped me flip my bike over to find the serial number, and scribbled some notes on his pad.  He then asked other parents and kids who showed up for their bikes.  I thought it was a friendly way for our local police to reach out and welcome folks back to school.

Bike registration serial numberOne of the key bits of info to capture (besides make, model, color, and any distinguishing characteristics of your bike) is the serial number of your bike. This is often found pressed into or otherwise marked on the underside of the pedal crank hub on most bikes.  For that and other possible serial number locations, see this lovely diagram from our friends at the University of Austin (well, really I’ve never been there, but I liked the graphic).

Officer Tony said they’ve had a rash of bike thefts this past year, to the point that they’ve actually set out some sting bikes to try to catch who’s picking them up.  I asked if my thick cable lock is too wimpy – i.e., that I really should be using a U-Lock.  But his response was that a good number of the thefts reported are for unlocked bikes, so any lock is better than none.

Either way, if you live in Portland, register your bike today to greatly increase the likelihood that it is returned to you if it’s stolen!

And anyone should comment below if you know bike registration is possible through Falmouth, South Portland, Westbrook or other local police departments.

September 9, 2013 at 12:17 pm Leave a comment

Crowd-sourcing for Bike Parking – Where Do You Need It?

Lollypop-bike-stand-2Ever had trouble finding a place to park your bike somewhere in Portland?  I always feel that way when I visit the Rite Aid on Congress across from the old Cathedral School (can’t fit my cable lock around those huge shopping center columns).  Or when I attend an event at the Abromson Center at USM and there’s only a utility sign post to hook up to out front (from my understanding of it, the University powers-that-be were unwilling to sacrifice a parking garage spot for bike parking – although the official story is that it’s because of liability concerns.)

So here’s your chance to let the City know where you need bicycle parking! The Bike Parking Subcommittee of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee has set up a Google Map page to “crowd-source” locations where bike parking is needed. It does require a (free) Google account, but they decided it’s probably the best way to go, given simplicity and ease of use.

Here’s the link to go to work.  Just drop a pin at locations where you think bike parking is needed or should be increased.  Bruce Hyman, the City Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator, says that the city is looking to install new racks this fall based on all of our recommendations.

So just think back on any frustrations looking for bike parking in the past year and make sure to post your suggestions!

August 29, 2013 at 9:33 am Leave a comment

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