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.

Shuttle Parking Used to Max on Market Square Day

The CCC parking was full to overflowing on Market Square Day.
The CCC parking was full to overflowing on Market Square Day.

The jury may be out on the overall effectiveness of Portsmouth’s free parking shuttle, but one thing’s for sure: It can be successful for special events like Market Square Day.

On Saturday, June 14 the CCC parking lot on Market Street was full,  and additional cars were parked along access roads. The shuttle stops at the lot every 10 minutes, but some people were not waiting, deciding instead to walk the half mile to downtown.

City Gives Rationale for Bike Corral

The new, large and highly visible “bicycle corral” at the corner of Daniel and Penhallow Streets in Portsmouth has engendered a lot of comment, not all it favorable.

In a letter to Daniel Street neighbors, however, city transportation planner Juliet Walker says that bike corrals “are particularly suited for commercial areas, where sidewalks are narrow and heavily used by pedestrians and / or [there is] outdoor seating or other street furniture.”

She adds that the Daniel Street location has been frequently used for illegal parking,  which interferes with sight lines and creates unsafe conditions at the intersection for pedestrians and drivers.

Memo on Daniel Street Bicycle Corral

Progress on the Bike-Ped Master Plan

An impressively detailed draft version of Portsmouth’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan was unveiled during a session June 5 at the public library. (Watch video)

With perhaps 75 people looking on, city officials and Toole Design Group, a planning firm that specializes and bicycle and pedestrian planning (and was the consultant for Boston’s bike-pedestrian master plan) described techniques for improving walkability and bikeability and displayed about about a dozen maps on the Levenson Room’s walls. The maps showed where people walk and bike today, where there are opportunities for improvement, and where there are constraints on making improvements.  (For a short while, more public input can be added to the city’s Bike-Ped Wikimap.)

Fully implemented, the plan could result a sophisticated walk-bike network for the city. However, absent a sudden infusion of cash, bike-ped improvements will evolve slowly. City planner Juliet Walker and the Toole Design Group plan to rank potential projects by their importance for safety, availability of funding, ease of implementation, public enthusiasm and other factors.

Many of of the master plan materials are available on the the city’s PlanPortsmouth.com website.

 

 

‘Walkable City’ Discussion – June 3

After a group discussion of Jeff Speck’s Walkable City on June 3, participants at the Portsmouth Public Library (about 35) were invited to:

  • write a comment about Walkable City’s ten steps
  • write a question for Jeff Speck that Sean Moundas, who leads the Portsmouth Public Library’s nonfiction book group, might ask in an upcoming interview. (The questions for Speck often were as interesting as the comments. It will be up to Sean to choose which ones to ask.)
  • make a general comment about the meeting or PS21.

The comments and questions are below. Since participants were not asked for permission to use their names, the authors are not shown.

COMMENTS ON THE 10 STEPS TO WALKABILITY

STEP #1: PUT CARS IN THEIR PLACE

  • More free or reduced parking for residents w/in 10 min walk.”
  • “Narrow Maplewood!”
  • “Keep in mind that for many, many people, being able to walk somewhere is not just a nice-to-have, but is absolutely essential. For whatever reason, a lot of people do not drive. We have a moral obligation to support them with public transportation as well as safe places to walk. We spend a lot of money supporting cars – we need to do more (for people who don’t drive).”

STEP #2: MIX THE USES

  • Keep the West End mixed.”

STEP #3: GET THE PARKING RIGHT

  • “Bring back in lieu payments.”
  • “Have parking revenue dedicated to improvements in the neighborhood (downtown) where it is collected.”

STEP #4: LET TRANSIT WORK

  • (Traffic and parking are) not frustrating enough to gain general support for buses —“loser cruiser.”
  • “Do we need more density in neighborhood hubs/nodes to support it? (Also, vibrant retail?”)
  • “Aging demographic (makes transit important).”
  • “Regional transit for the modern commuter will cut traffic/parking problems and address non-driver population needs.”
  • “Frequent (bus schedule is important for transit success.”
  • “Appealing”
  • “Keep buses even if under-used.”

STEP #5: PROTECT THE PEDESTRIANS

  • “Lafayette/Woodbury” (can/should be improved)
  • “Not just walkability, also accessability”
  • “No bikes on sidewalks.”
  • “Brick sidewalks are dangerous.”
  • “Jay-walking: need an ordinance. Need a sign on Market Square.”
  • “‘A-Signs’ can interfere with walking on Congress.”
  • “Trees in grass strip between road and sidewalk give the motorist visual clues to slow down and make the sidewalk feel safer and more interesting.”
  • “Always plant at least a 2-foot green strip next to road with trees.”

STEP #6: WELCOME BIKES

  • “No debris in bike-way”
  • “Wider bike lanes.”
  • “Opportunity on Lafayette/Maplewood.”
  • “Shared bike and car lanes is a problem.”
  • “Problem and need (to improve) Middle Road by high school.”
  • “Education: Everyone knows what side of the road to drive on. Biking rules are much less universally known. A sign would help.”
  • “Explain bike lane laws to residents. Be a little flexible with lane if possible to provide some parking.”
  • “At the High Hanover Parking Garage, there is a highly under-utilized ground floor space that could be bike parking; near the south side entry gate.”

STEP #7: SHAPE THE SPACES

  • Refresh Market Square.”
  • “Consider a building-to-street ratio of 1:1.”

STEP #8: PLANT TREES

  • “More birch trees; (they are) known well in NH; clump the trees”
  • Maplewood and Woodbury, as well as Marcy and South St.”
  • “More birch trees in clumps.”
  • “Why do we cut down the trees when they reach a certain height?”
  • “Encourage private/public grass strip tree planting with residents!”
  • “As we plan to beautify the entrance to the city (Market Street), we should think about preserving something that is natural along the way. I am referring to the sumac (over 200 years old) on the left side (east side) of Market Street.”
  • “I wonder if the grounds of the historic houses might be made accessible to people walking in the city. These would offer beautiful comfortable places for people to visit and pause. Sitting in the gardens would be great.”

STEP #9: MAKE FRIENDLY AND UNIQUE FACES

  • “Build streetscapes for visual interest.”
  • “Not just building but also natural environment, including enhancing natural landscapes. How to harmonize our way with natural environment. Example: don’t pull out natural vegetation or sumac for park on Market Street.”: Good Example: Memorial Bridge as promenade.”

STEP #10: PICK YOUR WINNERS

  • “Area leading to high school.”
  • “West End and Islington: small blocks are good!”
  • “Parking shuttle: keep making more appealing.”
  • “Neighborhood nodes: should we aim for more mixed use?”
  • “More interesting and safe link between Atlantic Heights and Downtown. Increase interconnectivity of all neighborhoods: fix broken links.”
  • “Demand a higher aesthetic in design!”

QUESTIONS FOR JEFF SPECK

How do you facilitate “Making Friendly and Unique Faces” when it’s all privately owned and developed?

How do you get “buy-in” in a community?

What kind of transit is appropriate for a small city with a successful downtown (4-5 stories, mixed use), but surrounding neighborhoods and shopping strips with lower densities (from 10 units/acre down to 3-4 units/acre)?

How does a group interested in, say, getting a sidewalk in, overcome the “it’s too expensive” attitude of those decision makers who could care less about those who need it because they are not part of that group themselves?

In The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs wrote that towns, suburbs “or even little cities” are totally different from great cities and need to be studied and treated differently. Do you agree — does walkability, density and street design have different considerations in Portsmouth (pop. 22,000, downtown ¼-mile square) than in, say, Boston or Washington DC? If so, what is different?

GENERAL COMMENTS

“Good discussion. Well-run program.”

“Appreciate the positive/constructive tone of the presentation, of facilitators.”

“Great that this type of discussion is taking place.”

“(This  is a) beginning … Would like to understand where we go from here – who/how do we influence decision- makers, etc.? Who decides what the ‘winners’ are?”

‘Pop-Up’ Bus System Debuts in Boston

A hi-tech bus company seeking to capitalize on the demand for new and better options in transit has debuted in Boston.

Bridj will use ‘big data’ to dynamically determine routes for its chartered, upscale buses, which will cost significantly more than city buses fares or the subway, but will take riders directly where they want to go.

“Users in Brookline can take a Bridj that goes to Downtown, Kendall, Harvard, or Back Bay. On average, this saves our users about an hour each day compared with public transit,” according to the company’s website.

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