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

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

City-owned garages ask Portland taxpayers for a $865,000 subsidy

The city has just posted the city manager's proposed capital improvements program for 2016 and beyond.

This is the budget document that typically allocates local funds for traffic calming and bike/ped infrastructure – but there's not much of that in this year's proposal.

The one line-item for bike or pedestrian infrastructure is $500,000 for basic sidewalk maintenance and repair – which is in line with what's been spent in recent years.

Why should Portland taxpayers pay for Falmouth's motor vehicle storage?

However, the rough draft of the budget does include $865,000 just for parking garage maintenance and equipment.

So, in a city that proclaims that it supports cleaner air, safer streets, and progressive causes, we've got a budget that proposes to spend more money on taxpayer-subsidized parking than on bike, pedestrian, and transit infrastructure combined.

Now, other, privately-owned parking garages manage to cover their maintenance and equipment costs without taxpayer bailouts. Furthermore, I see quite a few expensive late-model cars going into and coming out of our city-owned garages. It seems to me that the city's parking division ought to get its own customers to pay the costs of the parking that they use, instead of asking Portland taxpayers to pay for wealthy motorists' parking spots.

A safer Franklin Street – in 2024

Also take a look at page 29 of the document, where you'll find the city's longer-range finance strategy for the tackling its most visionary plans:

School construction projects will monopolize most of the city's capital budget for the next few years. That means that the city's big livable streets projects are likely to be postponed far into the future due to lack of money.

Implementing the "Transforming Forest Avenue" plan might happen, finally, in 2021. The new Franklin Street will have to wait 'til fiscal year 2024. Converting State and High Streets back to 2-way traffic: 2025.

Take a look for yourself – it's a good introduction to understanding why our City Councilors are interested in increasing the city's tax base.