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Portland Green Streets » 2011 » January

Archive for January, 2011

Be Inspired to Adopt a Stop!

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Adopt-a-Stop volunteer Jim Flanagan - Lincoln & BroadwayBus Stop Adopters – Why They Do It

If you ask Jim Flanagan why he clears snow at the bus stop at the corner of Lincoln and Broadway near the AutoZone in South Portland, you’ll likely hear him say, “I used to catch the bus at this stop before they changed the routes. And I still keep it up because…it’s something nice to do.” He points to the three foot cut he’s made in the snow bank that separates the road from the sidewalk and remarks that the Adopt-a-Stop program is similar to the Fire Department asking for citizens to shovel out fire hydrants. “It’s an easy thing to do to help the community,” he says.

Flanagan is an employee of the South Portland School Department, a new dad, and a three season bike commuter. He’s also one of a small group of volunteers with the Adopt-a-Stop program who help keep major stops on the Portland and South Portland bus routes accessible to riders during the winter months. And with a number of bus stops still waiting on volunteer assistance, the program needs every able-bodied person – including Green Streeters – to consider how they can help.

Adopt-a-Stop volunteer Jackie Jacobson - Brighton Ave.Everyone who volunteers  with Adopt-a-Stop mentions the impact of seeing stops that aren’t shoveled out and transit riders who must either climb over snow banks to get on the bus or stand out in traffic to wait for their rides. Jackie Jacobson is an Adopt-a-Stop volunteer who clears the bus stop a couple blocks from her home, across from the Brighton Medical Center on Brighton Avenue in Portland. “I used to live out on Route 302 and took the bus all the time -and I felt bad seeing all the people blocked from stops buried in snow. So when I heard about Adopt-a-Stop I thought, ‘I could do something for folks near where I live now.’” She usually shovels at the end of the day when she gets home from work, “It’s my big workout for the day. I was out here straight from work last week in a pencil skirt,” she mentions, “As long as I’ve got boots on, I’m all set.”

About Adopt-a-Stop

Adopt-a-Stop was started by volunteer Robert Wagner, a tireless advocate who set up the group’s website and has arranged for reflective gear and shovels for volunteers – as well as signs for each stop, with the name of the volunteer who is keeping the stop clear. You can hear more of Wagner’s story and volunteer Philip Gignac’s in this sweet WCSH story broadcast during last Friday’s storm.

Adopt-a-Stop volunteer Philip Gignac - Woodford St. Gignac meticulously maintains the sidewalks and bus stop in front of his wife’s hair salon, As You Wish (direct from The Princess Bride), on the corner of Highland and Woodford Street. He works for the City Parks and Recreation Department in the before and after school program and explains, “I was doing it already for my wife’s older clients and decided it would be good to volunteer with Adopt-a-Stop.”  The woman who works two doors down tells Gignac she can’t compete with his high standards and people have told him he should win a ‘Cleanest Sidewalk in Portland’ award. “I do a few other houses in the neighborhood, too,” he says, explaining, “ I have a dog I like to walk and if the pathways aren’t clear, well, it’s tough.”

Danny Lord is a full-time transit rider and is so committed as an Adopt-a-Stop volunteer that he shovels out four bus stops on Broadway in South Portland near his mother’s home. Just recently though he’s moved to Portland, and while he still shovels his stops, the distance makes it harder. “I guess I should be looking for a replacement now,” he smiles, “But I’d still like to do 1-2 stops near where I live in Portland.”  He especially appreciates the 10 Ride Tickets given out by the South Portland Bus Service as a benefit to volunteers. “And the sign with my name on it – that’s pretty nice, too!”

Why More Help is Needed

Of course, it’s not a perfect winter wonderland out there for pedestrians and bus riders. Last week when she went to shovel out her stop on Congress Street, Adopt-a-Stop volunteer Elizabeth Trice was disappointed to discover no pedestrian access to crosswalks from the sidewalk – which lies in front of Maine Heart Surgical Associates on Congress Street. “They cleared their sidewalk and parking entrance, but couldn’t be bothered to create access for real pedestrians needing to use the crosswalks. Which then made access to the bus stop impossible. I called their company to let them know they are responsible for this but haven’t heard anything back yet.”  Indeed, according to the City of Portland ordinance on sidewalk snow removal (Sec. 25-173), the sidewalk must be cleared to the curb ramps/intersections along a property frontage.

Adopt-a-Stop sign for Danny Lord - Broadway“I wish I were better at twisting arms,” Wagner says, noting Trice’s frustration and also the bus stop across from Jackie Jacobson’s, right in front of Brighton Medical Center – which is filled with snow. Jacobson offered to clear that stop as well but Wagner thinks that’s too much for one person to have to commit to and shares his hopes that the Medical Center itself – and other entities like it – will take responsibility for shoveling out the stop (especially considering most of the bus riders using that stop are likely visiting their facility).

So reaching out to the community here and lending a little muscle there should pay off!

What Green Streeters Can Do:

If you’re an able-bodied person – please be inspired to Adopt a Stop!

  1. Choose one from the list of stops on the Adopt-a-Stop website.
  2. Or contact Robert Wagner to sign up as a Back-Up Volunteer, to fill in when requested (and when it works for you).
  3. Or, if neither of those work for you, adopt a stop somewhere near you and let Adopt-a-Stop know.
  4. If it feels like a big commitment: find a way to share the care of your stop – talk with a friend, neighbor, or family member about acting as your back-up person.

Other ways to help:

  1. Spread the word about Adopt-a-Stop to your friends, family, co-workers, faith community, etc.  Feel free to pass on this post.
  2. Keep an eye out for major bus stops near you in front of businesses and institutions that aren’t cleared – and contact them about the Adopt-a-Stop program.  Keep it positive and share with them the benefits of getting involved.
  3. Be in touch with Robert Wagner about other ways you can assist with the effort.

What Works – Advice from Current Adopt-a-Stop Volunteers:

  1. Don’t Feel Too Much Pressure – “Robert will let you know about the big storms by e-mail, which is nice” – Philip Gignac  “I’m able to get out to shovel by the afternoon after the storm has ended – and only every once in a while someone has had to climb over the bank before I get there.” Jim Flanagan
  2. Best Time to Shovel – “Just try to shovel the stop out after the big last pass of the City plows – but before it freezes into a big mess” – Jackie Jacobson
  3. Face Traffic When You Shovel and Wear the Safety Vest – “Trucks can come by and splash you, so watch out for that, too.” – Danny Lord  “Maybe keep an eye out for the sidewalk plows, too – they can surprise you sometimes.” Jim Flanagan
  4. Enjoy: Getting Outside, the Mini Workout, and Feeling Part of this Community Effort

Happy New Year & Sign-In For Green Streets Day this Friday!

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Warm, well-lit bus on a cold winter night

Happy New Year from Portland Green Streets!  We plan to be more effective than ever this year in changing folks’ transportation behavior.  There are all kinds of ways to decrease the number of our solo car trips and travel more on foot, by bike, using public transit, carpooling, and telecommuting – so you can count on us to keep in touch!

And as always, please sign in now here if you plan to use one of those alternate modes to get around this Green Streets Day – Friday, January 28th!

Transportation News & Opportunities – Jan, Feb

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Portland Green Streets Calendar

As always, please check out the Portland Green Streets Calendar for exciting upcoming transportation-related events in Greater Portland.

General/Funding Related:

Tell Congress What’s Important to You for the Next Federal Transportation Bill

Congress is looking for input for the next Transportation Bill.   Here is an opportunity to speak up about the importance of pedestrian, bicycle, and public transportation!

Go Maine’s Commuter Champion Award – Nominate Yourself or Someone You Know!

GO MAINE has started a new Commuter Champion Award  to recognize individuals in Maine who model smart commuting choices. Every month a new Commuter Champion will be chosen from peer nominations and honored with a $50 gift card.  The nominator will also receive a $50 gift card.  We’ll feature the Commuter Champion in a story on the GO MAINE website, in the GO MAINE Newsletter, and on the GO MAINE Facebook page.  We’d like people to nominate their friends, family, or co-workers that they believe are great commuters.  We want to recognize and honor the folks that go the distance and make commuting fun and enjoyable. If you know someone who deserves to be a Commuter Champion, nominate them today!  Send nominations to gomaine@gpcog.org

Bicycle-Pedestrian Related

REGISTER NOW – Feb 19 – Snowman Adventure Race (Bike – Run – Sled!)

This unique event features one partner biking 4.5 miles around Back Cove, one partner running 2.25 miles in the East End, with both teammates sledding to the finish line, in any weather condition. Race to benefit Portland Trails. Free hot soup and coffee on site for racers. Parent/child teams welcome.  Full details available on website.

Mar 8-10 – National Bike Summit – Maine Delegation

The Bicycle Coalition of Maine is organizing a delegation to the League of American Bicyclists’ National Bike Summit on March 8-10 in Washington, D.C.  You’ll get a national overview of bicycling issues and a chance to network with other advocates.  The summit will include a talk by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a true champion of bicycling and Complete Streets.  That alone is worth the price of admission!

If you register for the summit by February 3, you will get the early-bird special rate.  Please notify Cecilia Garton at the coalition office if you are going so that you can join the delegation that will meet with Maine’s congressional representatives.  BCM expects to drive the coalition’s big yellow “Share the Road” van to the summit and will provide rides to members as space allows.

Plan Now for Valentine’s Day for Your Bike Sweetie

Valentine’s Day is around the corner, and here’s a gift idea that’s more creative than chocolate:  Buy your sweetheart a ticket in the Bicycle Coalition of Maine’s 2011 Super Raffle.  The winner will travel to Tuscany, Italy to join a VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations bike tour.  For every $50 ticket purchased, the coalition will send one of their new T-shirts, so you’ll have a gift to wrap up in red paper on February 14.

Bring Bicycle-Pedestrian Safety Education to Your Local School

Please encourage your local school(s) to arrange for a free presentation on bicycle and pedestrian safety by the Bicycle Coalition of Maine.  The Coalition’s trained instructors will teach students the basics of commuting to school safely by bike and foot.  For more information, please contact Jim Tasse, the coalition’s education director.

Online Bike Rental

Headed out of town? Maybe somewhere warm? We found a great resource, RentaBikeNow.com, which lets you make reservations ahead of time for bike rental at your destination. The search works just like finding airplane tickets, and it returns a map of area bike shops where you can then browse the available selection at each. There’s even a current offer for free roadside assistance with your reservation. Not traveling any time soon? Check out their great list of biking resources.

Bike Commuter Education Program on the Move

The Bike Commuter Education Program, a joint effort of GO MAINE, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine and MaineDOT, is off and running. Or should we say off and riding? And they can come to your workplace too.

The new bike commuter program is designed to assist businesses that want to promote cycling within their organization and help the cyclists who want to commute by bike, and it’s all FREE.

To support businesses, the program offers guidance on creating a bicycle friendly culture in an organization, understanding the needs of a cyclist who rides to and from work, and outlining what facilities a cyclist would typically want at the workplace. While having all the facilities like showers and lockers is nice, it’s not a deal breaker. When an organization understands the cyclist’s perspective, many different options are possible. This program offers that type of guidance to businesses.

To support the cyclist, the program offers on-site training seminars by qualified cycling instructors. These sessions are adapted to the time available to employees during the day or scheduled after hours, at the business’ and employees’ convenience. Through these, existing or would-be cyclists can learn the realities of cycling to and from work and the hard skills that go with it. Topics include setting realistic goals, managing a work out on your way to work, bikes and other equipment, riding techniques, route selection, night riding, and general traffic safety. These classes are taught by instructors who speak from experience and are trained in safe cycling practices. Classes are for novice to intermediate cyclists of all ages.

For more information about the program and to schedule a visit to your place of business, please contact Erik West at ewest@gpcog.org or at 207-774-9891.

Public Transit Related

METRO Monthly Passes Highlight Historical Photos

The 2011 METRO Monthly Passes feature historic photos from the Greater Portland area. Each month – January through December – includes an image from the Maine Historical Society’s Maine Memory Network and includes a brief description and image number. It’s easy to learn more about each photo by visiting www.mainememory.net and entering the image number. METRO Monthly Passes, which can be used for one calendar month, are sold for $40 and can be purchased at the METRO Pulse, METRO office, Shaw’s and Hannaford along bus routes and Casco Bay Ferry Terminal.

REMINDER: METRO Route & Service Updates

Specific service changes planned for January- effective January 9th – are listed below:

  • Route #2
    • No service to Pride and East Bridge Streets and Millbrook Estates:
      Mon.- Fri.: 8:05 & 10:05 a.m./4:25 & 5:45 p.m. Sat.: 9:40 & 11:40 a.m./2:40 & 7:45 p.m.
  • Route #4
    • Saco Street service expanded to include additional service to Eisenhower Drive into the Five Star Industrial Park and IDEXX.
    • Service to Route #25, New Gorham Rd. and Longfellow Street will be discontinued.
    • No Mon. – Fri. service via Forest/Woodfords. Weekend service will remain the same (except no service to Juniper Lane).
    • Mon-Fri. trips to 6:55 p.m. will service Shaw’s inbound and outbound.
  • Route #6
    • No service to Falmouth Crossing at: Mon.-Fri.: 9:10 & 11:10 a.m./2:45 & 4:45 p.m.
    • Falmouth Crossing service by request after 6:45 p.m. weekdays and Saturdays.
  • Download Service Change flier – PDF. Route maps and schedules are online at www.gpmetrobus.com. Updated Regional Transit Guides, with January service change information, will be available late December/early January on METRO buses, the METRO Pulse at Elm Street in Portland, the METRO office at 114 Valley St. in Portland and several convenient locations along bus routes.
  • Beginning Monday, November 1, 2010 METRO Lunch Hop was discontinued. METRO’s Lunch Hop had previously provided free daily bus rides from  11 a.m. to 2 p.m. between Longfellow Square and Exchange Street in Portland.
  • School Discount Program Additions: METRO welcomes Cheverus and St. Brigid Schools to our student discount program. These schools join Portland, Westbrook, Falmouth Waynflete, Cathedral, Cheverus and Friends Schools in offering METRO Student Fare Cards to their students for reduced bus fare. These cards can also be used for school field trips. For additional information on routes and student discounts, visit us online at www.gpmetrobus.com, call 774-0351 or contact us via e-mail.

Reminder: heck out the New Brunswick Explorer Bus

We’re excited about this new transportation option in Brunswick! Buses run hourly from 7:30am to 5:30 pm, Monday-Friday, from Mallard Pond passing Parkview, Bowdoin, and Hannaford and ending at Sweetser. $1 buys a one-way fare, or ride all day for only $2. Buses feature low-floor easy boarding, bike racks, and hybrid-electric design to decrease emissions. More info at www.brunswickexplorer.org.

Live in the midcoast? Check out the midcoast ride finder website to search for public transportation options, including rail, bus, and ferry.

Become of Fan of the Falmouth Flyer

For info and fun updates on METRO’s #7 bus, also known as the Falmouth Flyer, check out the “Friends of Falmouth Flyer Bus” Facebook page or contact Annie Finch: 781-8079 afinch@usm.maine.edu And be sure to post about your own rides!  Often at risk of being cut as a service route, this is an easy way you can support this important access to shops and appointments in Falmouth, school field trips, and to downtown Portland.

AMTRAK Downeaster

  • Winter Weather – The Amtrak Downeaster is the right choice in all kinds of weather. Book yourself on the train and feel secure in knowing that you will arrive safely, no matter what Mother Nature throws your way.
  • Celtics and Bruins Packages – The Amtrak Downeaster and Our Tickets and Tours have teamed up to offer special sports packages. The price includes round-trip transportation to Boston along with a game ticket. Call 207-787-3184 to reserve your seat. Celtics: February 16 vs. Nets $75 per person; March 2 vs. Suns $75 per person; March 4 vs. Warriors $75 per person.  Bruins: March 3 vs. Lightning $80 per person; March 10 vs. Sabres $80 per person; March 22 vs. Devils $80 per person

Employers – Check Out METRO’s Bus Incentive Program for Employees

The METRO Bus is introducing an incentive program that encourages Maine employees to choose transit instead of driving to work.  They are offering employers fully or partially subsidized monthly passes to their employees.   By not driving, you can save hundreds of dollars per year…extra money that you can use for mortgage payments, college tuition, vacations, or anything you want. Whether you have five employees or over 5,000 employees, it just makes good business sense to participate.  This transit benefit not only encourages employees to use public transit to commute to work, it also reduces the need for available employee parking and helps reduce traffic congestion and air pollution. Now there are incentives to make participating in METRO’s plan an even better deal for employers and their employees.

  • Tax Savings
  • Promote “Green” Transportation
  • Save $$
  • Free up valuable parking spaces

METRO will work with your business to provide a risk-free trial program that works for you and your employees. See here to learn more.