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

Monday, September 29, 2014

Traffic engineers *still* want to widen Franklin Street

At left: Gorrill-Palmer Engineers' proposal for an 8-lane Franklin Street, blocking the Bayside Trail crossing between Marginal Way and Somerset Street.

This Wednesday, Oct. 1, will be the second public workshop for the Franklin Street redesign study. It starts at 5:30 p.m. in the main library's Rines Auditorium (on the basement level).

There's some good stuff being planned, but the team needs to be challenged – forcefully – on their proposal for the northernmost section near Marginal Way, pictured at left. 
Traffic engineers from Gorrill-Palmer – the same guys who proposed turning Franklin into a full-on freeway ten years ago – seem to have missed the long discussions about how this study's purpose was to make Franklin Street safer and friendlier to foot traffic. 
Instead, they've sketched out plans to widen Franklin from 6 lanes to 8 lanes north of Somerset Street. 
The proposal would make the intersection of Franklin and Marginal Way one of the most massive intersections in the greater Portland region – almost as big as the junction of Route 1 and Gorham Road at the center of sprawl-choked Scarborough.

The traffic engineers claim that extra lanes are needed to accommodate their forecast of 8% more cars by 2030. In other words, motorists will get more space to accellerate to freeway speeds, and pedestrians will get longer crosswalks and more opportunities to get maimed by motorists.

This section of Franklin would be the first section to be reconstructed (in 2016), so it's important to get it right – or at the very least, not make it any worse than it is today.

If you're coming to Wednesday's workshop, a good question to ask might be why we need 33% more lanes built in 2016 in order to accommodate science-fictional traffic that won't exist for another 15 years (if ever)?

Another good question to ask is whether the traffic engineers would be willing to film their children, or elderly parents, spend a weekday rush hour crossing this street on their own.

Monday, September 22, 2014

New St. Lawrence Theater offers to pay for better bus service

The new performance hall for the St. Lawrence Theater on the top of Munjoy Hill is going up for its planning board review this month, and the proposal includes a nice treat for Portland's bus riders: in order to entice more of its audience to ride transit to the facility (which, in an unusually progressive fashion, will be built without any on-site parking), the nonprofit is offering to pay to increase frequency and extend service hours on METRO's Route 1, which runs up and down Congress Street from one end of the peninsula to the other.

Currently, METRO's Route 1 runs roughly every half-hour from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., with a couple of additional runs until 10 p.m.

If the new St. Lawrence Arts venue is approved, the bus would run every 20 minutes, until 11 p.m., six days a week. They're also proposing to rebrand Route 1 as the "Art Line," a reference to its route through the heart of downtown's arts district.

The funding required for the additional service – $70,000 a year – would come from a surcharge in ticket fees at the new venue.  They're also planning other goodies, like abundant bike parking at the front door and discounts for cyclists. You can read the full "transportation demand management plan" here. 

Obviously, the enhanced bus service wouldn't just benefit theater patrons at St. Lawrence Arts. It would also benefit late-night hospital workers at Mercy and Maine Medical Center, on the other end of the line, plus dozens of restaurants and other arts venues downtown.

But no good idea goes unpunished: a group of wealthy neighbors calling themselves "Concerned Citizens of Munjoy Hill" is working hard to sink the proposal, or at least force St. Lawrence Arts to build an exorbitantly expensive parking garage.

So, if you'd rather see more sustainable transportation on Munjoy Hill instead of yet more parking, let the planning board know: email your comments to Nell Donaldson, HCD@portlandmaine.gov.

Monday, September 15, 2014

10 bike parking spots inside 1 former car parking spot

This is cool: Portland's first on-street bike parking corral, located in front of Crema coffee shop and Rosemont Market on Commercial Street (a location that had suffered for lack of bike racks ever since the building was renovated a few years ago). It's also conveniently close to the end of the Eastern Prom trail.

The city has funds and equipment for one more of these, but has yet to locate a spot for it. Any local businesses interested in trading attracting lots of cyclists in exchange for a single car parking spot should get in touch with Bruce Hyman, the city's bike and pedestrian planner in the city's planning office (874-8719).