Category Archives: urban planning

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?”

What Is Smart Growth?

One reason PS21 included “smart growth” in its name was because the term was being so loosely used that it had started to mean “growth I think is smart.”

“Smart Growth,” with capital letters, is a set of policies and approaches to development arose over the past five or six decades as a response to the negative social and environmental effects of sprawl and automobile dependency.

Parris Glendening, the former governor of Maryland, is generally credited with being the first to use the term, in 1996.

The Smart Growth Manual (2010) says,  smart growth is “the opposite of automobile-based suburban development.” The book then takes 240 pages to summarize and illustrate dozens of smart growth policies.

Meanwhile, the EPA suggests there are ten principles to Smart Growth.

For additional takes on Smart Growth, see: Smart Growth America, NOAA’s Coastal and Waterfront Smart Growth or “Smart Growth”  according to Wikipedia.

What aspects of Smart Growth apply to Portsmouth? To Portsmouth downtown? How you define “smart growth.”

 

 

Notes on ‘The Human Scale’ discussion 5/13

Notes by Jerry Zelin

Approx. 75 people attended, and there was a moderated discussion after a showing of the movie ‘The Human Scale’ at the Portsmouth Public Library.

Tom Morgan (PS21): What lessons from movie are applicable to Portsmouth?

Steve McHenry and Margaret Robidoux of McHenry Architecture make a brief presentation and lead the discussion.

Steve McHenry: The movie focused planning for big cities. In China, the pace of growth is so quick that creates sense of urgency regarding need to plan. Ditto in Portsmouth. Portsmouth has been growing over the past 20 years, but growth has exploded recently.

Not all the development has been top down. Early on, it was lots of people investing in their own homes, historic preservation. Some elements require critical mass to be successful, e.g., Portland’s Public Market project lacked critical mass of housing in city to succeed.

Portsmouth’s growth of as a center for dining and restaurants arose from individuals willing to invest and the city then reaching a critical mass as a destination.

Margaret Robidoux:  We need to consider buildings, but must also consider the streetscape and what moves through it — cars, walkers, bikes, buses. Example, recent changes in New York City, such as in Times Square and on Broadway, involved in consideration of pedestrians as well as cars.

Portsmouth’s fixation on “where will I park” should change to “how and where will I walk?” Ditto re: bikes.

Audience member: But must park car before walking. Why not establish a rent-a-bike program? Drive car to satellite parking, then rent a bike to ride to downtown.   It’s an alternative to carrying bike on the car.

Continue reading Notes on ‘The Human Scale’ discussion 5/13

What great cities need

“Good cities need infrastructure, efficiency, and economic activity, and smart cities give equally strong attention to arts and culture, social compassion, and sustainability. But great cities need more than that. They need beauty.

“They need to inspire creativity, energy and affection for the place we live in, through that beauty. They need buildings, streets and places that move us, that inspire us to be more creative and civil. They need beauty that makes us fall in love with where we live. As is true with anything we love, we’ll be unable to watch our city being treated badly.

“Does beauty mean things have to be more expensive? Not necessarily, if we’re clever (besides, it’s amazing how expensive ugly can be). Does beauty pay dividends for a smart city? Of course. The economic spinoffs in private sector re-investment and the resulting municipal tax generation are proven, and in fact beauty has a better track-record of return on investment than ugly does.

“It’s good for business, for quality of life, and for attraction of creative industries and people. Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? Absolutely, but so what? Even the discussion of what is beautiful … is worthwhile. People may not agree, and that’s the beauty of it. But we’ll be having a great conversation.”

— Brent Toderian, Toderian UrbanWORKS