STREET SMARTS: Managing Traffic, Parking & the Pedestrian Experience in Portsmouth

Street Design Expert & Portsmouth Resident Rick Chellman to Speak Tuesday, April 28 at 7 PM on “Rethinking Portsmouth’s Streets” at Portsmouth Public Library, Levenson Room

Rick Chellman
Rick Chellman

Few people know Portsmouth’s streets in the way Rick Chellman does. When he’s at home in Portsmouth, he may walk five miles daily around the downtown area. That’s not a surprising habit for someone who is a national and international consultant on street design and New Urbanism.

On Tuesday, April 28th at 7 PM, Chellman will discuss converting downtown streets from one to two-way, finding more on-street parking and the pedestrian experience in Portsmouth, at the Levenson Room of Portsmouth Public Library. His presentation will include slides and video of the downtown.

The event is the third in a series of PS21-sponsored presentations this spring featuring planning experts on downtown planning and transportation. In January, urban planner Jeff Speck addressed how to make Portsmouth more ‘walkable.’ In April, parking expert and Cornell University professor Michael Manville spoke about parking and downtown vitality in April.

Chellman has more than 30 years experience in traffic engineering and street design. When Lowell, Mass. considered converting some streets from one- to two-way in 2014, Chellman analyzed the plan’s feasibility on behalf of the city. His recent work also has included projects around the United States — in Nantucket, Mass., Albuquerque, N.M., Santa Monica, Calif, and Kingston, R.I. — as well as internationally in China, Qatar, Guatemala and Russia.

He was the technical consultant for the NACTO Urban Street Design Guide, a national standard that cities can use “to make streets safer, more livable, and more economically vibrant.”

During planner Jeff Speck’s appearance in Portsmouth, Speck said that Chellman was one of the first engineers in the country to understand the impact of traffic on communities and to try to manage it through street design.

In the 1980s, in a study of downtown Portsmouth, Chellman found that people drove just one-third the amount predicted by national engineering standards. He determined that, because of the downtown’s network of streets, Portsmouth was a “park once” environment and did not require the wide streets national engineering standards thought were necessary.

Chellman also has worked extensively on the engineering and traffic engineering aspects of Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND), a basis for the New Urbanism movement, and he was a founding member of the Congress of New Urbanism.

The April 28 presentation is being sponsored in part by the Coruway Film Institute, with Seacoast Media Group as a media sponsor.

The event is free and all are welcome. Please register to help ensure sufficient seating.


ABOUT PS21: Portsmouth Smart Growth for the 21st Century (PS21) aims to present ideas and encourage discussion and policy development around planning issues in Portsmouth, N.H. Our goal is to support the creation of a vibrant, sustainable, livable, and walkable community compatible with the principles of Smart Development, the historic nature of Portsmouth, and the context of the 21st century.

PS21 is an ad hoc group of residents and business people who support and present informational events as a basis for discussing development in Portsmouth and a long-term vision for the city. Past events have included: a public talk and workshop on “Walkable Cities” with author and planner Jeff Speck; a presentation by parking expert Michael Manville; a walking tour of the city’s developing North End; a workshop with Plan NH to discuss how to lead Portsmouth to a healthy and vibrant future; a book discussion; and a film screening of the architectural film “The Human Scale.”

Parking Policies for a Successful Downtown

What’s the first thing a city should do if it has a parking shortage?

At a PS21 event on April 2, Michael Manville said the city should “play with the prices” to get people to change when and where they park.

“It’s probably the first ten things you try,” he told an audience of about 100 at 3S Artspace in Portsmouth. “If you’re still not getting the return you want, you would think about adding supply.”

The question was one of many parking policy questions Manville, assistant professor of City & Regional Planning at Cornell University,  addressed during a presentation “Parking and Downtown Vitality” at 3S Artspace. Manville studies studies  the relationships between transportation and land use, and local public finance, with a particular emphasis on urban parking.

The presentation was funded in part by the Geoffrey E. Clark and Martha Fuller Clark Donor Fund of the NH Charitable Foundation.

Over the course of an hour, Manville built the case that properly priced parking is crucial to the success of downtowns.

He began by reminding the audience of the purpose of parking — simply put, to assure drivers they will find a parking spot. That’s why cities aim for 85 percent parking occupancy, rather than 100 percent. With examples and evidence ranging from Tulsa to California to Portsmouth, Manville explored the relationship between parking and downtown economies and how cities try to strike a balance between parking that is easy to find, cheap, and a reliable source of revenue. (Hint: you can’t have all three).


The event was the first in a PS21 series this spring that will look at what other communities have learned about transportation solutions for now and for the future.

The Coruway Film Institute, a series sponsor, recorded the presentation April 2 and Seacoast Media Group was media sponsor.

(SAVE THE DATE: Tuesday, April 28. Rick Chellman, who consults nationally and internationally about street design, and lives in downtown Portsmouth, will discuss two-way streets, on-street parking and the pedestrian experience in Portsmouth. )

Islington Street Corridor Plan Debuts After Citizen Input

After several days of discussions with residents and official, Town Planning & Urban Design Collaborative unveiled conceptual plan for the future of the West End/Islington Street Corridor (Feb. 23).

The plan looks far into the future and envisions a different, more cohesive and developed area. TPUDC will go away to polish the plan and then develop zoning guidelines down to the level of individual buildings. The new “character-based” zoning plan needs to be approved by the City Council before it can go into effect.

PS21 Hosts Virtual Walking Tour of Islington Corridor

More than 50 residents braved snow drifts and narrowed streets Tuesday evening (Feb. 10) for PS21’s ‘virtual walking tour’ of the Islington Street-West End neighborhood.

aerial view
Islingon Street Corridor

The photo tour, narrated by Joe Calderola, included aerial and street views, photos of historic homes, plans for the Islington Street Corridor, upcoming development, illustrations of the area’s character, and opportunities for the future.

The discussion afterward continued for an hour with participation from Portsmouth Planning Director Rick Taintor and  City Councilors Esther Kennedy and Stefany Shaheen. Karen Marzloff of PS21 moderated.

The tour presentation provided an overview of the area, which will be the subject of  a 4-day public workshop on ‘character-based’ zoning Friday thru Monday, Feb. 20-23.

The workshop will be at the Frank Jones Center, 400 Route One Bypass, Portsmouth, except the final, Monday, which is at City Hall.

During the ‘charrette,’ or design workshop, the public will be able to drop in at any time from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday through Sunday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday. Citizens can view maps and materials, talk with zoning consultants,  and leave comments.

In addition, a number of specific sessions are scheduled:

  • Friday, Feb. 20 – Introduction to the Process, 6 p.m.
  • Saturday, Feb. 21 – Roundtable Discussions
    10:00 a.m. – Business, Landowners and Developers
    12:30 p.m. – Building Scale & Design
    2:00 p.m. – Public Realm & Civic Spaces
    (The public is invited to all roundtables, including “Business, Landowners and Developers.”)
  • Sunday, Feb. 22 – Interim Conclusions Plus Review, 5 p.m.
  • Monday, Feb. 23 – Closing Presentation, 6 p.m., City Hall.

For additional details about the design charrette, visit the City of Portsmouth web page about the character-based zoning.

Jeff Speck suggests ways to a more walkable Portsmouth

Jeff Speck Portsmouth NH
Walking Congress Street with Jeff Speck

Renowned urban planner Jeff Speck gave a provocative, idea-filled (and often funny) presentation and workshop in Portsmouth Jan. 22 and Jan. 23. Around 200 people came to the presentation 60 to the workshop. Speck talked about how cities work   and suggested ways  that Portsmouth can become more liveable and successful  through ‘walkability.’

Watch on YouTube:

Read about Jeff Speck’s ideas in The Sound.

Portsmouth Herald: ‘Councilors intrigued by planner’s vision for the city

Before a full house at Seacoast Repertory Theatre on Thursday, Jan. 22


Did you attend? Fill out our 3-question survey.

Primary funding for this event was provided by the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation and the City of Portsmouth, with additional support from Esther’s Marina, Piscataqua Savings Bank,  and

Seacoast Local featured the event as a partner in their “Making the Connection” speaker series. Seacoast Media Group was media sponsor.  Many local businesses and individuals also contributed.

How Do We Keep Portsmouth Walkable?

Walkable City by Jeff SpeckMeet Jeff Speck, one of the
nation’s foremost urban planners and experts on walkable cities.

Find out why keeping Portsmouth walkable is so important — for economic success, livability and sustainability — and how we can make the Port City more walkable as it grows.


Presentation followed by Q&A
Seacoast Repertory Theatre
15 Bow Street, Portsmouth

After the presentation and Q&A, around 8:30 p.m., Speck will sign copies of his best-selling design book, Walkable City . Reserve a copy  when you RSVP.

  • 6 p.m. – Doors open at Seacoast Repertory Theatre, 15 Bow St., Portsmouth. The bar in the lobby will be open for purchasing drinks and snacks.
  • 7 p.m. – Jeff Speck presentation: ‘Towards a More Walkable Portsmouth’
  • 8 p.m. – Question and answer session
  • 8:30 – Book signing: Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time

FRIDAY, JANUARY 23rd • 11 AM – 1 PM

Portsmouth City Hall
1 Junkins Ave., Portsmouth

This in-depth workshop on walkability targets land-use board members, developers, design professionals, city staff & interested members of the public. 

Primary funding for this event is being provided by the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation and the City of Portsmouth, with additional support from Esther’s Marina, Piscataqua Savings Bank,  and

Seacoast Local will feature the event as a partner in their “Making the Connection” speaker series. Seacoast Media Group is media sponsor. Individual contributors include Judy and Jerry Zelin, and Karin and Stephen Barndollar.

  • 10 a.m. – Coffee and get-acquainted hour
  • 11 a.m. – Workshop: ‘How – A Walkability Workshop’
  • 1 p.m. – Close

Both events are free and open to the public. Please RSVP.


Jeff SpeckJeff Speck has dedicated his career to determining what makes cities thrive.

He served as director of design at the National Endowment for the Arts from 2003 through 2007 where he oversaw the Mayors’ Institute on City Design and created the Governors’ Institute on Community Design, a federal program that helps states fight suburban sprawl. He previously spent 10 years as director of town planning at Duany Plater-Zyberk and Co., a leading practitioner of the New Urbanism, where he led or managed more than 40 projects, and he co-wrote the influential and best-selling books Suburban Nation and The Smart Growth Manual.

Speck recently relocated his design company, Speck & Associates, from Washington, D.C., to the Boston area.


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Portsmouth SmartGrowth 21st Century1PS21 (PORTSMOUTH SMART GROWTH FOR THE 21ST CENTURY) is a nonprofit group that aims to present ideas and encourage discussion and policy development around planning issues in Portsmouth. Our goal is to support the creation of a vibrant, sustainable, livable, and
walkable community, compatible with the principles of Smart Development, the historic nature of Portsmouth and the context of the 21st century.

North End Walk Draws 50; Charrette Begins

North End Walk
Around 50 people turned out in chill weather for a citizen-led walking tour of the North End hosted by PS21  (Portsmouth Smart 21st Century) on Saturday. Above, PS21’s Karen Marzloff addresses the crowd.

Participants discussed current and potential development in the neighborhood, and the character of the North End in anticipation of the City of Portsmouth’s Nov. 10-13 charrette on ‘character-based’ zoning.

The charrette begins with a public presentation and hands-on workshop at 6 p.m. Monday in the former Portsmouth Herald building on Maplewood Avenue.  Above, Karen Marzloff of PS21 addresses participants. For more information on the charrette, see

North End charrette schedule announced

A four-day visioning and design charrette (workshop) on  ‘character-based’ zoning for the North End will begin with a public presentation and hands-on workshop at 6 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 10 in the former Portsmouth Herald building on Maplewood Avenue.

The charrette will include organized discussions, but the public  can drop in to view maps, comment and contribute ideas during an open studio from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day at 111 Maplewood Ave.

The opening session, beginning at 6 p.m. Monday, will include a presentation and hands-on exercise for participants.

The second day, Tuesday, Nov. 11, will feature three roundtable discussions: business, landowners and developers (10 a.m.); building scale and design issues (1 p.m.); and public streets, infrastructure and civic spaces.

The third day, Wednesday, Nov. 12, will include a public pin-up and review session (6 p.m.) where the consultants present ideas and alternatives and receive feedback.

The final day of the charrette, Thursday. Nov. 13, will include a work-in-progress presentation (6 p.m.) at City Hall. This session will describe the preliminary vision for the area, explain the elements of the plan, and present other findings and work products developed during the charrette. The public also will have another opportunity to provide feedback.

Following the charrette, Town Planning will prepare a draft of amendments to Portsmouth’s Character-Based Zoning Ordinance. The draft ordinance be reviewed by the Planning Board and will need the approval of the City Council.

For more information, see the city web page


North End walk set for Nov. 8

In anticipation of the City of Portsmouth’s sessions on  ‘character-based’ zoning for the North End, PS21 will host a citizen-led walking tour of the neighborhood beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 8.

The walk of approximately one mile will give residents an in-person, up-close view of buildings, projects and developable lots.

What: North End Walk
When: 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 8 (approx. 1 hour, rain or shine)
Where: Meet at 9:45 a.m. on Maplewood Avenue by Cindy Ann Cleaners (203 Maplewood Ave.)

The North End was dramatically altered by urban renewal actions in the 1960s, and it is once again undergoing major changes.  After the walk, residents should be able to more easily visualize the North End neighborhood during the Nov.  10-13 design workshop, or charrette, on the new zoning.

See “City kicks of discussions about character-based zoning.”

PS21 will supply a map of the North End along with short descriptions of properties, conservation areas, and current or proposed projects.

Document quantities, however, will be limited. To be guaranteed of receiving a copy, RSVP to

(The walk, hardy New Englanders, will rain or shine. If it’s really dismal, we’ll post the documents on the website.)


Notes on Oct. 22 Workshop with Plan NH

More than 30 people attended a PS21 event on Oct. 22, a workhop with the statewide nonprofit Plan New Hampshire. Plan NH’s Robin LeBlanc says the workshop aims to “shift” thinking about the future by examining assumptions about life here, conversations that are going on, and questions people have or might ask about the coming decades.

Below are notes on the wide-ranging discussion as recorded by PS21’s Jerry Zelin.

Robin LeBlanc leads Plan NH workshop with PS21A Workshop, “SHIFT,” led by Robin LeBlanc of Plan NH
7-9 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 22
Portsmouth Middle School Auditorium

Notes by Jerry Zelin

Doug Roberts: Announces a North End walk scheduled for 10-11 a.m. Nov. 8, 2014, 10 A.M., starting at on Maplewood AvenueCindy Ann Cleaners, to discuss possibilities for each lot in the North End.

Robin LeBlanc: She has lived in New Hampshire for 30 years, currently Exec. Dir. of Plan New Hampshire.

Audience: Attendees introduce themselves. Most live in Portsmouth. Some live in Eliot, Durham, etc.

Robin: Plan NH develops workshops like this, to trigger shifts in thinking about the future of towns and cities. Not Portsmouth-specific but for any community …

Audience at Plan NH workshop
Why did people move here?

Vibrant downtown
Near ocean
Historic character
Creative community
Socio-economic diversity when moved here

Robin: Those are our values. How would a real estate broker describe Portsmouth?
Continue reading Notes on Oct. 22 Workshop with Plan NH