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

Monday, September 28, 2015

UCarShare is growing and Portland's parking reforms are working

It's hard to believe, but UhaulCarShare has been operating in Portland for over six years now.

They started with four cars parked near Monument Square and the ferry terminal. Here's a screenshot of their website in 2009:

As of this fall, they've doubled the local fleet to 8 cars and expanded into South Portland with a car parked at the Southern Maine Community College campus. Here's their new coverage map:

A lot of UhaulCarShare's success here comes from a helpful new reform of parking rules in the city's zoning requirements. For the last few years now, city planners have allowed a reduction in developers' expensive parking-construction mandates if the developers agree to sponsor a carsharing vehicle on-site.

Several new apartment buildings have taken advantage of this incentive, most recently Avesta Housing's 409 Cumberland Avenue apartment block, which built only 18 basement parking spaces for its 57 new apartment units and sponsored a new UhaulCarShare vehicle to be parked on-site. This arrangement benefits everyone: reduced construction costs for the developers, reduced housing costs and more mobility options for residents, and a more convenient carsharing network for neighbors.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Portland Street pilot bike lane

The city has repaved Portland Street and re-striped its wide expanse of pavement to give us a short stretch of bike lanes between Deering Oaks and Preble Street:

(an aside: have you ever noticed the terminating vista of the City Hall clocktower at the end of this street? Too bad the Libra Foundation's huge white elephant parking garage squats in front of it to block most of the view. Also too bad the public market that that garage was supposed to support failed after just a few years in business – probably unrelated to the massive, expensive garage it was hitched to, right?)

At a recent meeting, I heard that these bike lanes are being tested on an interim basis while the city gears up for a more complete reconstruction of Portland Street in the next couple of years. So, if you like what you see here, consider sending a message of thanks to your local city councilor and the city manager.

And also consider asking the city to go even further with traffic-calming on Portland Street. Removing some of the street's excessive pavement now could pay off with thousands of dollars' worth in annual maintenance savings in the years to come:

  • Reducing the street width and adding trees at intersections with landscaped curb extensions
  • Replacing a handful of parking spaces with stormwater treatment infrastructure (the 'pilot' layout increases on-street parking significantly with angled parking near Preble Street, so some spots could be removed in other locations and still maintain a net gain for automobiles)
  • Narrowing the street and widening sidewalks between Brattle Street and High Street, where Portland Street had formerly ballooned to a four-lane roadway