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

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Portland's Transit Study recommendations already being implemented...

... but not at City Hall.

This week's Forecaster breaks the story of Maine Medical Center's adoption of several Portland Peninsula Transit Study recommendations. Maine Med had an official representative on the citizens' advisory committee for the study, and two additional staff members were present at nearly every meeting.

They were also some of the most enthusiastic supporters for the ideas that consultants Nelson/Nygaard brought to Portland. The hospital recently spent tens of millions of dollars on a huge new parking garage, and people are already fighting over the new spaces. MMC's parking staff came to our meetings eager for new solutions to their parking problems.

So while the local daily has been pillorying the study's recommendations, the city's biggest local employer has been implementing them on their own - even before City Hall has had a chance to take the lead. From Kate Bucklin's report:

Carpoolers are being offered "preferred parking" at the Bramhall Campus.

"Most of our staff parks offsite and is shuttled in," said Ryan. "Carpoolers get onsite parking."

Employees who decide to take the bus to work - either Metro or the Biddeford to Portland Zoom bus, are being offered bus ticket subsidies in exchange for committing themselves to taking the bus during a certain time period.

For workers living closer to campus, Maine Med is encouraging walking to work. People that sign on to walk are offered a gift certificate to Olympia Sports as well as 20 percent off purchases at the store. Ryan said the hospital plans to give umbrellas to employees who choose to go to work on foot.

Biking is a popular way of getting to work at Maine Med, according to Ryan. He said there is a self-organized bike commuter group that is working to add bike racks at the Bramhall Campus, and the hospital plans to purchase bike lockers. Cyclists are also organizing a bike repair network with tools available at the hospital as well as a list of places to get bikes repaired.

As of July 18, 460 employees had signed up for the Get on Board program, with 248 enrolled in ride-share, 50 in walking, 88 on bikes and 74 taking mass transit.
A natural question might be to ask how MMC is paying for bike racks, walkers' gift certificates, and bus tickets. The truth is, they're making money from these programs, because every walker, cyclist, and transit user represents one more parking space that MMC doesn't have to rent or maintain in off-site satellite lots.

The average Portland parking space takes up about as much real estate as a studio apartment. So every parking space that MMC doesn't need to rent or build is worth thousands of dollars to the hospital annually.

Besides, isn't it about time a hospital began encouraging healthy behavior among its staff? Nice work, Maine Med.

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