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 Bike-Ped Plan Adopted; Projects in the Pipeline

Portsmouth Deputy Police Chief re: ‘Traffic Inquiry’

“Our rough numbers run today show approximately 4,680 car stops in 2013 resulting in 2,080 tickets/written warnings and 2,600 verbal warnings.  As we discussed our goal is to impact the driver’s behavior.  If we can accomplish that with just a verbal warning, we are happy with that.  I suggest our traffic enforcement should be judged based on the number of car stops we make, not tickets written.

“As promised I wanted to provide some of the reasons behind our current numbers.  In short we are in the midst of a transition brought about by years of budget cuts and reductions.  In the past few years we had to downsize, downgrade and reorganize the police department to cover the workload of over 10 staff lost (over 20,000+hrs of work annually) and that has been very challenging.  Essentially we were forced to go from a department that was extremely proactive to one that was largely reactive.  We lost not only officers on the street but also school resource officers and detectives.

“However, we are gaining more equilibrium with the implementation of each step of our short term plan.

“Downtown foot patrols are back for 16 hours a day utilizing 1 to 2 officers depending on the hour of day/day of week.

“The 2-officer traffic/back-up car, which covered a portion of 4 zones has been split.  Two 1-officer back-up cars now split the entirety of Portsmouth into North and South during the hours or 7pm and 3am.  This allows for greater officer safety and better response times to those in the community who are in need.  Additionally their patrol areas have them driving through different areas of the center of town over the course of their shifts.  This has resulted in an increased presence in the downtown, and we are getting positive feed-back on these changes.

“We revisited our school resource officers partnership with the school department. The SRO positions go a long way to combating law enforcement related juvenile issues.  It also allows us to develop positive relationships with the youth in our city, an investment that carries into adulthood.  We have restored the commitment of the middle school and elementary school SRO’s.

“We have put a strong emphasis on Community and Problem Oriented policing, but not in the traditional sense, as the old model was manpower intensive. Instead, we have designated a detective to head this initiative.  Detective Jacques will be working with all the neighborhood groups, downtown bars and restaurants, and with our own officers on community partnerships.  He will be looking at underlying issues to repetitive calls for service such as drunk and disorderly persons, graffiti, and other chronic problems. What makes these issues particularly challenging is that they are always morphing and always in flux.  The goal here is that by addressing underlying issues, we may be able to prevent the crimes from happening in the first place.

“We know our community expects its agency to assess, control and prevent crime; to this end, on the patrol side, we also needed to put new tools in the officer’s hands.   While nothing takes the place of feet on the ground, technology can assist and supplement this in truly amazing ways.  We want our officers to pair this technology with traditional policing to get the best of both worlds.  We are installing CrimeView dashboard, which will allow us to use data to drive our directed.  It puts significant data analysis at the fingertips of the officer on the street, as well as supervisors and command staff.

“2014 arrived with a significant up-tick in heroin use, overdoses and case activity.  We have focused a lot on combating this issue through specialized assignments as well as creative policing strategies like the Community Access to Recovery Day we lead in July.  We continue to be one of the communities with the highest liquor licenses per capita in the state and new bars and restaurants continue to open.

“We were just able to secure funding for a new officer from the current city council to replace one of the 10 that have been cut.  This officer will go to our patrol division, we are also currently down one officer due to a retirement.  We are in the process of screening candidates for those two positions.

“As we begin what sometimes feels like a slow journey from reactive policing back to our past of proactive policing I expect you will see the number of traffic stops increase.  Traffic enforcement is not only a key and vital role for a patrol officer to undertake, but it is also one of the leading ways of preventing crime and catching criminals.  Our officers have been recognized at the state level for “Looking Beyond the Traffic Ticket,” essentially discovering serious criminal activity during a “routine” traffic stop.  We are committed to improving our traffic enforcement and proactive efforts.”

— Portsmouth Deputy Police Chief Corey MacDonald, email of 8/25/2014 re: “Traffic Inquiry”

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 Maplewood Avenue Changes?

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.