Posts filed under ‘Uncategorized’

Maine Monitor Article on Reducing the Number of Vehicle Miles We Travel

I had the pleasure of talking with Marina Schauffler of Natural Choices, LLC for a couple of climate-related transportation articles this month. I’ve always admired her in-depth journalism and Sea Change column in The Maine Monitor. It’s a joy to speak with someone who already knows so much about the issues and at the same time is open to and actively seeking additional perspectives.

Here’s the Sea Change column she just wrote on Maine’s need to reduce vehicle miles traveled, within the state’s rural and also pandemic contexts: “Driving seemed inescapable until it wasn’t.”

October 26, 2020 at 1:04 pm 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

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.

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

Bike Technical Committee of the MUTCD Comes to Portland

MUTCD coverAh, the great MUTCD! Full name being the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices the standard reference for all road signs and pavement symbols used on roads in the United States.

Normally I don’t get too excited about this particular and exhaustive resource, but last week a number of us who are local bike advocates got to experience a little taste of the work of the National Commitee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (NCUTCD) – the national group of private and public sector experts that helps the Federal Highway Administration maintain and update the MUTCD.  They meet twice yearly to conduct business related to the manual – with quite a bit of work on details in between – and their Summer 2013 meeting happened to be held in our beloved Portland.

(As an aside, I chuckled when some committee representatives from the other Portland introduced themselves simply as “from the City of Portland”, apparently feeling no need to tack on “Oregon” even though they were sitting in the heart of the city of Portland, Maine.  One of our local transportation planners introduced himself as being from “the original Portland”, which was fabulous.:)

Photo by James D. Schwartz - Creative Commons

Photo by James D. Schwartz – Creative Commons

What most claimed the attention of those of us into bicycling was the chance to attend the meetings of the Bicycle Technical Committee (BTC) – which considers and makes recommendations on bike-related MUTCD infrastructure.  The folks in the room clearly had great experience and a vast working knowledge of transportation research, standards and practices.

For this go-round the BTC was looking at proposals regarding items (some of them controversial), such as:

  • signage to accommodate cyclists through road construction projects
  • bicycle-specific traffic signals (which they’ve had for years in California and Oregon but for various reasons have yet to be formally adopted by the MUTCD)
  • bike boxes to bring bicyclists to the front of the cue at intersections (same situation as previous bullet)
  • alternate bike lane ends/bikes merging signage

NCUTCD Vets BridgePlus we got to take a bike facilities tour of Portland and share some meals with members of the Bike Technical Committee – lots of fun and you can see more photos from various members of the group in this Facebook album posted by John Brooking, local Bicycle Coalition of Maine board member and Cycling Savvy educator.  One of the few female members of the BTC, Michelle DeRobertis of Oakland, CA even invited us out for Bike Karaoke – you have to check out her great lyrics and parodies of songs, all having to do with walking and biking!  [Note: Joe Stafford, another BTC member has since shared “Shift, Shift“, an original re-write performed only once at the 2001 Thunderhead Alliance Retreat in Leavenworth, WA.  What folks come up with – it’s great!] 

Most encouraging was how diverse the group was in its consideration of bike facilities – i.e., they didn’t want to adopt just anything.  A number of the members of the committee have specific concerns about the safety and proper construction of “good” bicycle infrastructure (e.g., that doesn’t set up bicyclists to be doored or to get right-hooked by cars turning at intersections).  And all seemed able to reach consensus or vote their consciences.

BTC Meeting roomOf course that same thoughtful and lengthy consideration and descent into minutiae is likely to drive both committee members and the general public a little crazy.  As a transportation planner and a Quaker, I generally hold with the idea that we need to ”go slow to go fast” – but I could tell there were plenty of folks in the room who would like to see the process move a lot faster.

Regardless, it was a real education.  Many thanks to the NCUTCD Bike Technical Committee for the camaraderie and the chance to participate!

July 1, 2013 at 7:15 pm Leave a comment

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94 Beckett Street, 2nd Floor Portland, ME 04101
Machigonne, Abénaki Territory (207) 200-1910 sarah@sarahcushman.com

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