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.
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.”
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.
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.
“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!
- Choose one from the list of stops on the Adopt-a-Stop website.
- Or contact Robert Wagner to sign up as a Back-Up Volunteer, to fill in when requested (and when it works for you).
- Or, if neither of those work for you, adopt a stop somewhere near you and let Adopt-a-Stop know.
- 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:
- Spread the word about Adopt-a-Stop to your friends, family, co-workers, faith community, etc. Feel free to pass on this post.
- 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.
- Be in touch with Robert Wagner about other ways you can assist with the effort.
What Works – Advice from Current Adopt-a-Stop Volunteers:
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Enjoy: Getting Outside, the Mini Workout, and Feeling Part of this Community Effort