A blog for better streets and public spaces in Portland, Maine.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Announcement: Peninsula Transit Study Public Forum

For the past couple of months, I've been working on Portland's Peninsula Transit Study citizens' advisory committee as a representative of the Portland Bike/Ped Advisory Committee and as a resident of the West End.

The draft study is now almost ready for public review, and I'm pretty excited by it. If implemented, the study's recommendations would put Portland at the leading edge of transportation demand management.

I've long argued that we generally take for granted a socialist system when it comes to car parking: the cost of storing your privately-owned vehicle on publicly-owned streets and parking lots is zero or close to zero. It's basically a Zapatista coup for cars and traffic congestion.

The study now underway is proposing to reform that system by setting a price on most parking on the city, offering ways around or doing away with mandatory parking quotas demanded of developers, and investing the revenues gained in better transit service and investments in walkable/bikeable streets.

Besides generating new funds for transit, these ideas would also put a clear price signal on parking throughout the city. Instead of maintaining parking lots because zoning says we need to (urban blight by city fiat), property owners will maintain parking based on the market's demand. Once they have to start paying to park, more drivers will choose transit, bikes, or walking instead. And as fewer parking spaces are required, then more land on the peninsula will become available for redevelopment as housing, offices, and civic buildings.

Just imagine how many thousands of suburban exiles the vast parking lots in Bayside and the Old Port might be able to house if they were transformed into neighborhoods. But we're getting ahead of ourselves: first, the City Council will need to approve the Transit Study's recommendations. Come to tomorrow's public forum and shout out your support!

When: Wednesday, July 9, 6:30 to 8 PM
Where:: Merrill Auditorium Rehearsal Hall (behind City Hall, entrance on Myrtle Street near Cumberland Avenue, 2 blocks east of the METRO Elm Street Pulse transit center).

More information, including the study's draft recommendations [pdf file], are available from the City's website.

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