2013.12 December meeting notes

PBPAC Meeting Minutes December 9, 2013


Attendees:  Ben Lake, Jennifer Claster, Damon Yakovleff, Steven Scharff, Rick Harbison, Abby King, Michael Belleau, Kurt Steiner 


Item 1:  In response to the high vote number for bus stop improvements at the first planning meeting, Damon invited a guest to update the committee on the status of bus stop improvements in the region and in Portland.  Ben Lake (GPCOG transit planner/data analyst) gave an update on a project he's been working on for the last two years.  The Regional Bus Sign and Shelter Project report was recently completed as a joint project between GPCOG, PACTS, and the seven transit providers in the region, in response to a regional need to increase the number of bus shelters and bus signs.  PACTS STP funding will be used to install shelters and purchase signs.  Ben brought a copy of the report, which he passed around the table.  


100 sites were identified as future shelter locations as part of the study, but the funding only exists to install 20 new shelters. region-wide.  Transit providers will need to individually apply for funding, and the shelters will probably be purchased in bulk to obtain better pricing.   It is hoped that implementation will occur next summer, but that will vary by provider, since all providers are responsible for obtaining their own permits and applying for funding.


The bus priority corridor on Congress Street had 5 high priority bus shelter locations identified in the study.  Portland has match money for the new shelters and signs.  A wrinkle to be worked through is how to accommodate requirements regarding historic preservation where the shelter would be installed next to an historic property, such as City Hall.


Signage would include timetables and also bus stop signs without timetables. A regional branding and marketing program to combine all seven transit providers under one brand is underway.   The signs will not be finalized and installed until the branding program has been completed.   Some bus services may be consolidated under the SMART Initiative in southern Maine.


Ben indicated it could be challenging to include timetables at every stop because they would all need to be updated whenever a route is changed.   QR codes are on the current METRO signs, but they had to get covered up because of a problem with the website.  Time notification is being tested for METRO, the Casco Bay ferry, and the South Portland buses now, and it will probably become available next spring or summer. A company has ben hired to work out how to notify riders via their smartphones or a computer as to when the next bus will be arriving.   There may be electronic message boards or TV screens with bus schedule and arrival information placed in six or seven high demand locations.


All the new bus shelters installed will be compatible with advertising, which may now be legally installed in transit locations, and the revenues may be used to support the provision of transit services.


The New Freedom grant was a temporary program last year.  Accessibility improvements at Monument Square, and Center Street bust stops last year were funded through that grant program.  It can be difficult to make minor accessibility improvements to bus stop locations, because once any part of the location is upgraded, the entire thing must be brought into compliance with ADA. 


Other funding opportunities for transit improvements include the PACTS surface transportation program fund.  RFPs went out in November and applications are due February 7th.  Jennifer said she would check in with Bruce to see about the City's plans for this round.   CIP money could be another source of funds.  It's being used to implement the bus priority corridor on Congress Ave. 


There will be a second phase of the Regional Bus Sign and Shelter Project with a portion of funding going to bus stop improvements, but there will not be enough funding to address every need in the region.  GPCOG would like to inventory every stop and prioritize every need.  


Adopt a Stop is a volunteer bus stop maintenance program run by Robert Wagner.  Participants agree to shovel out a stop in return for Portland Hour Exchange hours.  Steven and Ben can be contacted for more information, or search the web for adopt a stop.  It is not clear whether municipalities or transit providers are responsible for maintaining the stops, and this is one solution that is trying to address the gap. 


Item 2:  Abby passed out some materials about registering as an Active Community Environment (ACE) Team.  Registering seems to have few down sides, with the exception that we may become to "Official",  but we already have City staff (Bruce Hyman and Tim Fuller) who attend our meetings and even more who are on our listserv.  The upside is that we could potentially qualify for public health grants for improvements to the bike and pedestrian environment if we register.  Attendees discussed sending information out to the listserv and potentially voting on applying to become an ACE team at the next meeting.  It was felt more investigation was needed into the application and what is required.  Jennifer agreed to take a look at the application, send a note to Bruce, and put some information on the listserv in preparation for taking this item up at the January meeting.   If registering will not change what we do and will not make us too government top-heavy, then this may be worth doing. 

Item 3:   Jennifer reviewed the results of the fall planning process.   Steven noted that the Bayside traffic study ten years ago looked at improving circulation in Deering Oaks Park, and suggested that State Street could become more of a driveway into the park and less of a thoroughfare.  He asked whether PBPAC has ever voted on one-way traffic through the park?  How to best tackle improvements in the Park may be through participation in upcoming planning processes looking at 2 way State and High and circulation in Bayside. 


Kurt mentioned that one way to calm traffic on Casco Bay Bridge could be to buffer the existing bike lanes with striping or flexible pylons.    The State would need to be convinced that it would be worthwhile and coordination r.e. maintenance would come into play if pylons were used.  Jennifer mentioned a gap in the Jersey barriers at the ramp shortcut would make it easier for cyclists who are trying to get to and from Knightville.


Jennifer agreed to send an email to the listserv asking for volunteers to sign up to work for the top priorities as identified through the planning process.


Item 4 - Brief Updates:   PACTS North Portland planning:  The next meeting to present the final draft results was rescheduled to Tuesday, December 17th, at the Log Cabin on Main Street in Yarmouth.  


PACTS regional bike rack program will probably be accepting applications for new racks in the future. 


The first car-free First Friday Art Walk was a success and Jennifer will be attending a meeting with creative Portland, the PDD, and BCM in January to talk about next steps.   Damon mentioned that Councilor Donoghue is interested in PBPAC leading a councilors' bike ride on the first Sundays on the Boulevard day (Baxter Blvd.), which seems do-able.


PACTS will be hiring a consultant to help wit expansion of Portland's bike network and will want participation from PBPAC members to help select routes and possibly also design the facilities.     


Healthy Portland will be looking for participation from PBPAC in 2014 to assist with Rural Active Living Assessments in Portland.  Stay tuned.    


Some brief updates that came in via e-mail from Bruce:


Congress Square: A preferred consultant has been identified for the plaza - not sure when finalized/under contract; RFP for the State-High traffic study to follow soon hopefully so the efforts to be coordinated.


Ramp Removal in Libbytown: Uphill battle with MaineDOT/FHWA - not a short-term item (next 5 yrs quite unlikely); money for starting shorter term actions is in the CIP for 2105/2016


Re-Striping St John:  St. John will be 4 lanes, no bike lane, with SLM's.  (We are not sure why)


Oxford St Crossing: No initiative will be undertaken independent of Franklin Ph II


Bike Network Expansion Subcommittee:  Will begin in February, probably.


Franklin St Study:  Alternatives analysis in Jan/Feb/Mar - future conditions report being prepared with baseline traffic forecasts/LOS, etc.


Complete Streets Working Group:  Will be sending out materials for review 12/13 that are updates to prior materials, plus hopefully 1st rough draft of Planning & Design Process Chapter/Principles; next full CSWG meeting Jan 21st.


Other items:

Steven suggested that a positive outcome of DHS moving to South Portland is that it is  bringing attention to the fact that more and better bus routes are needed.  He thought that PBPAC should have written something in response to recent news coverage of the long, 40-stop ride to the proposed DHS site from the Portland peninsula.  Steven is interested in using this as an incentive or catalyst  to push for a bus route from Westbrook to the mall and Jetport to Portland. The current transit system is a spoke system and  reflects old patterns of people coming into the City for work that no longer hold true. 


Steven also mentioned that PBPAC should support the Federated proposal for Bayside, since the group has advocated something like it for several years.