Oct. 22 – ‘SHIFT: A Different Way to Think About Decision-Making and Planning Our Future’

- A PS21 event featuring PLAN NH
- Portsmouth Middle School Auditorium
– 6:30-9 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 22

Community planning and decision-making has become more than just about growth and development. Our economic, social and environmental structures have changed dramatically in the past two decades, and more change is on the way — in demographics, climate, the economy, energy and more.

PS21 is sponsoring a workshop by the statewide nonprofit Plan NH that aims to address change and “shift” ways of thinking about our community, our roles in it, and what considerations will lead to a healthy and vibrant future.

The workshop will be held Wednesday, October 22nd from 7 to 9 p.m. in the new Portsmouth Middle School auditorium. Registration opens at 6:30, the workshop starts promptly at 7.

In this fun and eye-opening workshop led by Robin LeBlanc of Plan NH, participants will learn to think about planning for the future and the decisions we make about where we live, work and play from a different vantage point.

The workshop consists of an hour-long, whole-group discussion followed by small-group discussions and then a wrap-up with the whole group.

Topics include:

  • Assumptions, conversations and questions that affect our community decisions and planning
  • Doing a 180 in how we tackle issues
  • How values influence planning and decision-making
  • The four infrastructures that are the foundation of a community
  • Forces of change that are having an impact.

Pre-registration is not required for the free event, but an RSVP will help with planning. Send email to portsmouthsmart21@gmail.com.

About Plan NH: Plan NH’s mission is to encourage good planning and design and development because, we believe, what we build, where we build and how we build has a significant impact on the health and vitality of a community. The workshop leader, Robin LeBlanc, has a background of leadership including program development and project management, marketing and business development and has lived in Portsmouth with her family for 30 years. www.plannh.org

About PS21: Portsmouth SmartGrowth 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 a nonprofit group of residents and business people supporting and presenting informational events as a basis for discussing development in Portsmouth, with the goal of establishing a long-term vision for the city.


Rescheduled to Nov. 8: North End Walking Tour. Get to know the North End in advance of the Portsmouth’s November charrette on “character-based” zoning. PS21 will lead an informal walking tour of the neighborhood. View properties, projects and potential development sites on Vaughn, Deer, Bridge and other streets in the area. Details to be announced.



Portsmouth Lagging on Traffic Enforcement

Concern about speeding in Portsmouth is on the rise, according city officials and a recent Portsmouth Herald article on the possible use of police cameras.

Police cameras, however, are against state law in New Hampshire. So how are Portsmouth police doing with the traditional, labor-intensive approach of controlling speeding — making traffic stops and issuing warnings and summonses? A comparison with Dover and Concord suggests that traffic enforcement has been a lower priority in Portsmouth.

In 2013, Dover police issued 659 written warning and summonses per patrol officer. Concord, meanwhile, issued around 390, according to the departments. During the same period, Portsmouth patrol officers issued 68 tickets and written warnings per officer .

Traffic enforcement comparison Continue reading

Bike-Ped Plan Adopted; Projects in the Pipeline

Portsmouth’s Planning Board has adopted a voluminous and detailed master plan for the city’s bicycle and pedestrian future. The long-term goal is to create a largely unbroken network of safe and useful bike paths and pedestrian walkways throughout the city.

The plan includes programs to be initiated (such as for bike safety), and more than 200 specific infrastructure changes (large PDF). Changes include revamped intersections, new bike paths, updated sidewalks and more.

Juliet Walker, city transportation planner, described some the first projects that will be undertaken.

Continue reading

Open Streets Portsmouth Sept. 14

A mile of neighborhood streets in Portsmouth will be transformed into a public park for people to walk, bike, stroll, skip — whatever — from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday,  Sept. 14.

Vehicle traffic will be restricted along Willard, Park, Lincoln, Elwyn  and Clough streets, and Seacoast residents will be invited to use the street as they please. Bike activities are planned for youngsters.  there may be yoga, BBQs and more.

The project is an effort of Portsmouth resident Peter Newbury and the SABR, the Seacoast cycling group. Volunteer help is being sought. Sign up on the event website, www.OpenStreetsPortsmouth.org

“There is no start, finish, or preferred direction.  Join us anywhere you can,” according to the organizers.



City Expands Parking Shuttle Service

Portsmouth’s downtown parking shuttle , which has operated Friday thru Sunday since May, has been enough of success so that the city is expanding its  hours of operation.

Beginning Aug. 7, the shuttle will operate on Thursdays, from 4 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. It will also starting operation earlier on Fridays, at noon on Friday instead of 4 p.m. The shuttle picks up passengers every 10 minutes at the Connect Community Church off Market Street near Exit 7 on I-95 and drops them off the the parking garage on Hanover Street.

According to a press release, during the 13 weeks of operation, the shuttle’s total daily ridership has increased from an average of 45 riders per day to just over 190 riders per day. The city attributes the increase to growing awareness of the shuttle service as well as increased demand with the arrival of the peak summer tourism season.

The shuttle will operate until Sunday, Aug. 31. For complete information, see the shuttle website at www.portsmouthparkingshuttle.com.

Bike-Ped Plan Envisions a Car-Free Market Street

Map showing Market Street
Downtown Changes: The thick green line indicates bike-ped only; green lines indicates a shared street; purple lines show widened sidewalks; orange circles with black lines indicate new geometry for an intersection.

A draft version of Portsmouth’s Bike-Pedestrian Master Plan presented to the Planning Board Thursday, July 17, envisions making a portion of Market Street — between Bow Street and Market Square — for bikes and pedestrians only.

The plan from Toole Design Group (which did Boston’s bike-ped plan) and city staff also recommends dozens of intersection changes and:

  • Wider sidewalks and parallel parking (instead of angled parking)  around Market Square
  • A “contraflow” bike lane and one lane for motor vehicles for a short section of State Street
  • A bike-ped system including a long path parallel to Islington Street, along the railroad tracks

The suggested changes can most-easily be seen on a wikimap, which allows comment but requires registration.

The Planning Board is entertaining public comment on the plan, including on the wikimap, through the end of July. The master plan will be considered for adoption in August.


Maplewood Avenue Changes?

Significant changes could be in the offing for Maplewood Avenue, in part because the resolution of issues involving the final phase of the Portwalk development.

Portwalk’s developers admitted earlier this year to making numerous unauthorized changes to Phase 3 of the Portwalk plan, which had been approved by the Planning Board and Historic District Commission.  As part of the approval of their resubmitted site plan, in June the developers agreed to put $250,000 into an account toward Maplewood Avenue improvements.

These could include the widening of sidewalks, landscaping and more. Deputy City Manager Dave Allen also revealed that the city has a conceptual plan that would convert Maplewood Avenue to three lanes. Allen said three lanes, wider sidewalks, and trees could make the street more hospitable to pedestrians despite the relative size of Portwalk III.

During the discussion, Allen and Planning Board Chair John Ricci both commented that their views on ‘walkability’ and building design have changed in recent months, with Allen citing PS21’s events and Complete Streets presentations as contributing factors. Continue reading

A Website for Car-Free Portsmouth

Like many younger people, Sean Moundas doesn’t have a car. He walks, bikes and takes public transportation, including to his job in Durham. It’s possible to get around the Seacoast that way, but not easy.

So, to publicize and promote transportation options for car-less (or car-free) people like himself,  Sean has started a website: Car-Free Portsmouth. The site features transportation alternatives, news and resources.

If that interests you, Sean (who led the Portsmouth library’s own discussion of Walkable City) is looking for people who to contribute or help out with the site. Email him at seanmoundas@yahoo.com.






Six Quotes from Jan Gehl

Jan Gehl
Jan Gehl

Cities for People, the 2010 book by Danish architect and urban planning consultant Jan Gehl, is full of insights into what makes successful city life.

Many of his observations at first seem startling, but somehow later seem like common sense.  Here are a half-dozen quotes from Cities for People.


  • “In every case, attempts to relieve traffic pressure by building more roads and parking garages have generated more traffic and congestion. The volume of traffic almost everywhere is more or less arbitrary, depending on the available transportation infrastructure.”
  • “More roads invite more traffic [and] better conditions for bicyclists invite more people to ride bikes, but by improving the conditions for pedestrians, we not only strengthen pedestrian traffic, we also — and most importantly — strengthen city life.”
  • “There is so much more to walking than walking! “
  • “A lifeless street is like an empty theater: Something must be wrong with the production since there is no audience.”
  • “Above the fifth floor, offices and housing should logically be the province of the air-traffic authorities. At any rate, they no longer belong in the city.”
  • “It is widely believed that the lively city needs high building density and large concentrations of dwellings and workplaces. But what the lively city really needs is a combination of good inviting city space and a certain critical mass of people who want to use it.”

Cities for People is available at the Portsmouth Public Library or from Riverrun Bookstore.