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

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.


John in NH said...

Note sent! As a frequent tourist of Portland from the Boston area this is a great proposal and would likely be used by myself when coming to visit. thanks for raising awareness!

C Neal said...

Excellent! Thanks John in NH.