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Green Streeters - and Portland Bike Commuter Meetup members - John Brooking and Ian Riddell pause in downtown Portland, all lit up for the holidays
So here’s the crazy thing – Green Streets Day this December falls on Christmas Day – next Friday the 25th – and people keep asking if we’re still planning on doing it. The answer is you bet! And not just because some of us are celebrating Solstice or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or another lovely holiday besides Christmas in this season of light amidst dark.
But because even if it’s Christmas at your house – or maybe even especially BECAUSE it’s Christmas – what a wonderful time to take it slow and walk or bike or carpool or use public transit (except local buses that aren’t running that day ).
So no matter what you’re up to next Friday on the 25th – even if it’s just enjoying a day at home without having to get out at all – please sign in now (click here) if you won’t be getting into a car by yourself that day. And being on vacation and/or traveling still counts, too!
Give the gift of open space! Check out the Portland Trails website for: something fun for your loved one from their online store, a donation to the annual appeal made in your loved one’s name, or give him or her a Portland Trails membership!
Purchase a 10 Ride Ticket or Monthly Bus Pass for your loved one from the Greater Portland METRO Bus (Portland, Westbrook, Falmouth, & South Portland) – Bus passes (and schedules) are available at:
Portland and Westbrook City Hall
Shaw’s Supermarkets (on METRO routes only)
Hannaford Supermarkets (on METRO routes only)
Casco Bay Ferry Terminal
Downtown Transportation Center (PULSE) at the Elm Street Garage
METRO office at 114 Valley Street in Portland
Buy a 10 Ride Ticket for your loved one for use on the South Portland Bus Service – 10-Ride Tickets are available for purchase at South Portland City Hall, Shaw’s Mill Creek, Hannaford at Mill Creek, Hannaford at Maine Mall, and the METRO Office at 115 Valley Street in Portland.
Purchase a 10 Ride Ticket for the Shuttlebus (Portland, South Portland, Old Orchard Beach, Saco, Biddeford)
College 6TIX are a great gift for the hard-to-buy for college students on your list. Get six trips on the Downeaster for just $76. With up to 50% off regular fares, it’s a no-brainer.
Amtrak gift certificates make a great stocking stuffer. They can be purchased from any staffed Amtrak station and are valid for travel in various denominations.
Amtrak Downeaster merchandise is perfect for anyone on your list. Click here to purchase hats and t-shirts.
For a fun winter excursion, purchase round-trip tickets (good for 60 days) for your loved one(s) on Casco Bay Lines!
Give your loved one a gift membership to U Car Share! To purchase a U Car membership for your loved one for only $5 (a $20 savings) use the promotion code: PME2009
Give yourself the gift of signing up with the newly updated GoMaine Commuter Database – and encourage your loved ones to do so as well!
One of the big benefits of registering with GO MAINE is the Emergency Ride Home Guarantee. If you have a workday emergency, GO MAINE will provide you with a free (or reimbursed) taxi ride or rental car to get you home. It could be for an illness, family emergency, unscheduled overtime, or other unforeseen workday emergency, Think of it as ”commuter insurance,” a little piece of mind for you. Another good reason to be a part of the GO MAINE Nation. Check out the Emergency Ride Home Guarantee video on YouTube.
METRO (Greater Portland Transit District) and South Portland City Bus will celebrate the holiday season by offering free bus rides on Friday, December 18 and Saturday, December 19. Listed below is the holiday schedule for METRO and the South Portland City Bus:
Friday, December 18 & Saturday, December 19:
FREE bus rides on METRO Bus and South Portland City Bus.
Thursday, December 24: Limited service on Christmas Eve.
METRO: No outbound buses will leave Elm Street after 7 p.m. The last Maine Mall pickup time for METRO will be 6:40 p.m.
South Portland City Bus: The last Rte 4 bus departing Portland is 5:50 p.m. Last Rte 4 departing the Maine Mall is 6:30 p.m. Last Rte 1 bus departing Portland is 7:10 p.m.
Friday, December 25: Christmas Day – No Bus Service.
Thursday, December 31: New Year’s Eve – Regular Service
Friday, January 1, 2010: New Year’s Day – No Bus Service.
METRO provides bus service to Portland, Westbrook, Falmouth and the Maine Mall area of South Portland. South Portland City Bus provides service throughout South Portland, including the Maine Mall, Target and WalMart (in Scarborough) and between South Portland and downtown Portland.
Guest article by Gary Higginbottom, Maine Rail Transit Coalition
More alternatives to autos may become possible for Greater Portland – if residents want to push for sustainable rail transit.
“Commuter” rail transit in and out of Portland is suddenly “on the table” and a possibility for funding, so people who want to wean the city from cars should consider supporting rail toward it’s most efficient ($ and resources) role in transporting Greater Portland’s people.
Current rail “action” includes the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT)State Rail Plan and MDOT’s Portland North analysis of commuter transit alternatives to the communities north of Portland. Both projects are scheduled for completion soon with possible major impacts on the future of Greater Portland’s regional transportation scene.
What’s driving this sudden attention to rail? Possible funding is coming to state governments for rail projects as new faces in Washington see rail corridors and technologies as a way to reduce oil consumption and the air and landscape pollution from automobiles, and at the same time Maine realizes that its huge road network is increasingly unaffordable.
Within the Greater Portland region there are lots of reasons to care about this rediscovery of rail – not the least of which is urban livability.
Also, as we move into the future…
People simply have to be transported with less economy-draining energy and less climate-changing carbon.
Family dependence on 2 or 3 cars for life’s necessities is an expense that increasingly leaves many Mainer’s in the economic dust.
Cars make the urban and near-urban landscapes ugly and expensive to maintain.
We can read and work and meet new people on public rail transit instead of cursing them at highway intersections.
Channeling lots of people through compact, unpaved rail corridors may be far better on the landscape and on taxpayer pocketbooks than creating paved space for more highway vehicles and filling up our communities with a 2-ton container for virtually every metro-area commuter.
So what rail action is happening in and about our fair city?
Sensing that money might flow to governments for rail facilities, MDOT is preparing the Maine State Rail Plan to set statewide priorities for investment in rail. MDOT is also looking at specific public transit alternatives to move people between Portland and communities to the north — Yarmouth, Auburn, Lewiston, Freeport and Brunswick.
MDOT’s Maine State Rail Plan process was originally focused on freight rail and the DownEaster. Then some outspoken Portland people – including the Maine Rail Transit Coalition – made it clear that regional transit of people in and out of Portland – “commuter” transit – must be part of any State Rail Plan. So Greater Portland “commuter” rail is being examined – at least for some communities.
What rail projects are being considered that affect this area?
Better freight rail – much of which comes through Portland – is recognized by the State Rail Plan process as key to Maine’s future economy, and significant improvements to Maine rail freight service are bubbling up in the MDOT planning process. Extension of DownEaster service to Brunswick and Downeaster upgrades for faster passenger rail service to Boston are also big items in the evolving plan.
But in addition, the rail planning conversation is increasingly including rail as a way to relieve Portland area people from our car burdens – burdens that we’ve lived with for so long that many residents under age 65 have lost sight of the fact that there actually are better alternatives.
Portland is blessed with many rail corridors that most local residents are hardly aware of. Train service can be established, upgraded or made more appropriate to our needs in some of these corridors. Most of us know the PanAm (and DownEaster) rail corridor and passenger (not commuter) service to Saco and beyond. There are also two excellent rail corridors to Yarmouth and Auburn – one of them goes all the way to Montreal with pretty good track quality. Another line makes a straight shot to Westbrook and on to Windham and Standish, then to Fryeburg and Conway, NH. Then there are corridors for the hoped-for DownEaster service to Freeport and Brunswick – and possible commuter service to those towns as well.
What services can we develop with this great resource of rail transit corridors?
Significant replacement of the automobile is the overall objective – to halt the increasing car domination of our downtown areas and to reduce the true cost of transportation for residents throughout the Greater Portland region. More specifics of potential rail service options can be presented in future articles, but think of hopping onto a train in Westbrook, going into Portland for the evening or for work, no need to find parking in-town, and no concern for an OUI stop on the way home. Or what about hopping on a train at the Maine State Pier and going to Montreal for the weekend?
Much is possible if the U.S. decides to allocate its public resources in a more constructive fashion than current priorities – and if Portland-area people get engaged in imaginative process of visioning a rail transit future.
How to engage in the rail visioning process?
1) Track the Maine State Rail Plan at http://www.maine.gov/mdot/railplan/index.htm. Contribute your opinions and comments at that website. The MDOT planners are paying close attention to the large volume of comments. They expect to complete the plan in January, so time is of the essence.
2) Contact the Portland Area Comprehensive Transit System at the Greater Portland Council of Governments www.pactsplan.org and give them your opinions regarding the value of specific rail services for Greater Portland.
3) Contact your City or town council, town/city planner or selectmen and urge them to push the State and PACTS rail planning toward your community’s sustainable transit interests.
4) Help us build rail awareness and conversation by becoming a member of the Maine Rail Transit Coalition – and add your thoughts to the Maine rail conversation at http://mainerailtransit.blogspot.com/
5) Contact Tony Donovan firstname.lastname@example.org or Gary Higginbottom email@example.com to get more information and discuss specific opportunities for involvement in rail scenario thinking for Greater Portland’s future.
6) Write letters to the editor citing your interest in rail and how you would use rail transit between the major communities of Greater Portland.
By December 31 – Offer Bike-Ped-Transit Project Suggestions for PACTS Earmark Request
PACTS (Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System, www.pactsplan.org) is organizing to submit a request(s) for an FY 2011 Congressional Earmark. Proposals should be for projects that are regionally significant and would cost no more than $1,000,000. Eligible projects include design and/or construction of highway, transit and bike/ped projects that are eligible for federal funding. A 20% local match will be required. This is the first annual appropriations earmark funded after four PACTS attempts. Next steps: 1. Receive members’ and staff suggestions. 2. Share those suggestions with the Executive Committee on January 5th. 3. Seek Policy Committee endorsement of an earmark application( s) on January 21st. 4. Staff submits application( s) to the Congressional Delegation. Contact John W. Duncan, PACTS Director, 207-774-9891, firstname.lastname@example.org with suggestions by Dec 31.
By January 4 – Your Advice Needed – How to Make U.S. Roads Safer for Bicyclists & Pedestrians
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) wants your opinion on how it can make roadway travel in the US safer for all road users – drivers, passengers, motorcyclists, pedestrians, and bicyclists! NHTSA is currently in the process of preparing a strategic plan that will guide its safety efforts for the next 5 years and beyond. The agency is seeking suggestions, ideas, and comments from you on what it can do to reduce the number of people killed or injured each year on our Nation’s roadways. Please be sure to visit www.regulations.gov and answer the questions posed under docket number NHTSA-2009-0171. To learn more about NHTSA, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov. Speak up! Help save lives! And, remember to always buckle up on every trip. Every time!
January 9 – Portland Bike Forum
On Saturday, January 9th, the City of Portland will be holding a bicycle planning forum to brainstorm recommendations for making Portland an even friendlier city for biking. The morning will start with a couple of presentations and then divide into groups focused on areas of concern. Then all attendees will come back together to decide on a 2010 strategy. Location will be City Hall - room to be assigned based on # of attendees; 9:00 am -12:00 pm
Portland Bike Lanes and New Signage – What Do You Think?
Weekly Bike Maintenance Classes from Gorham Bike & Back Bay Bicycle
Every Thursday there are bike maintenance & mechanic classes at Gorham Bike & Ski (flat tire workshop) and Back Bay Bicycle (flat tire workshop alternating with drive train maintenance). Check their sites for class time and other info.
Discounted Bike Racks for Your Location from GO MAINE
Check out GO MAINE superstars and their stories. These are videos of Maine commuters and their experiences on the road to work, in carpools, vanpools, the bus, and on bike and foot. View them now! Plus, find GO MAINE on Facebook and share your commuting stories…
AMTRAK Downeaster Specials
Early risers are rewarded on Saturdays and Sundays the month of December. Pay just $24 round-trip when traveling on train 690, 697, or 699. Tickets must be puchased at least three days in advance of travel. Reference promotion code v175.
College 6Tix – Going home for the holidays? Purchase a College 6TIX pass and get six one-way trips on the Amtrak Downeaster for just $76. Advanced reservations are not required with the 6TIX pass. Just show up when convenient and ride.
The Downeaster is currently offering 50% off the price of any Downeaster ticket for senior citizens (62+) and folks with disabilities. The discount can be used any day of the week and on any Downeaster train. To take advantage of this discount, travelers must use discount code V543 and must reserve their tickets at least three days in advance. Seniors will need to show proof of age; disabled folks will need to show a Medicare card or other proof of disability status. Disabled individuals can book tickets over the phone or at a staffed ticket window, due to a limitation in Amtrak’s web site - for contact and station information click here. All in all, this is a fabulous discount and a great way for seniors and disabled folks to get out, enjoy the summer, and leave the car at home!
Bring a U Car Vehicle to Munjoy Hill!
Car Sharing is a wonderful way to save money (get rid of your other car!) while having the convenience of a car when you need it – and you only pay for the time you’re actually using it. U Car Share (run by U Haul) pays EVERYTHING, including gas, maintenance, and insurance. Rate for a Chrysler PT Cruiser is $9.50 per hour, or $66 per day. It’s wonderful service! If you live on the East End in Portland get your membership application fee waived for a limited time. Log in at www.ucarshare.com to sign up anduse this promotional code: MUNJOYHILL. If enough East Enders join, the company will locate a car close by. For more information, contact Peter Alexander at 773-4606.