Bicycle Pedestrian Committee Public Comment on Shelter TDM

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Zack Barowitz

Aug 17, 2021, 10:40:49 PM8/17/21
to Planning Board, Portland Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee

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August 17, 2021

Honorable Members of the Portland Planning Board,

The Portland Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee (PBPAC) has several transportation-related comments and concerns regarding the proposed Riverside St. 200-bed homeless services center. 

Because this is a facility intended primarily for non-auto users, proposed to be located in a location with auto-centric design parameters, it is critical that a comprehensive Transportation Demand Management plan be developed that incorporates all modes of transportation and clearly indicates how trip generation will be managed as a condition of approval. A TDM would be an opportunity for a more comprehensive set of action steps around facility transportation needs. 

Our requests are in Bold font:

  • Up-front details surrounding the shuttle van service including operating hours, route map, on-demand availability, and funding.  Being that a shuttle service of this type is sensitive to annual City Council budget processes, it is necessary to ensure that this service be maintained.


  • Given that Portland already has at least car-camp where people live in their vehicles, an effort should be made to understand how many shelter and day-services guests may be utilizing automobiles . This may be challenging as the rigorous asset screening of shelter guests  may make them reluctant to admit they have access to a car if it hurts their shelter eligibility. Nevertheless, given that the proposal is for a large shelter & service center on the City's periphery that is most easily accessed via automobile, one should expect the facility to generate more traffic  (whether it be their own vehicle or via drop-off) than would be expected from a downtown location.

  • The Management Plan included with the proposal does not include sufficient detail regarding pedestrian access to the facility. While it notes that a sidewalk is in place between the proposed location and the nearest METRO bus stop, the proposal does not indicate the adequacy of this sidewalk. Nor does it address the adequacy of the pedestrian conditions beyond this single street segment, which will undoubtedly be in much greater use if the facility is located at this location. Nor is there any indication of the presence of any bicycle infrastructure on surrounding streets or an assessment of cycling conditions, or compliance with the City’s Complete Streets guidelines. Therefore, we recommend the Planning Board request a pedestrian and bicycle network adequacy assessment for all arterial street segments within one mile of network distance of the proposed facility location. Any deficiencies, such as non-ADA compliant sidewalks, lack of safe pedestrian crossing, and lack of safe bicycle routes or facilities on high speed roads should be required to be corrected as a permitting condition.

  • While it is laudable to promote transit use, and essential that a shuttle service to the proposed facility be provided, it cannot be assumed that all users will have access or feel comfortable using METRO bus services to reach the facility (for whatever reasons). PBPAC therefore requests a full assessment of Forest Avenue between downtown Portland and the intersection with Riverside Street for full ADA level of service. If any sections are found deficient, they should be required to be funded for rebuild as a permitting condition.

  • Many users of the proposed facility will likely make extensive use of the routes outside the traditional street network. Therefore, a full assessment of the trail and railroad network and how these routes are utilized and accessed should be provided. [See attached trail map detail, Exhibit A]

  • Regarding winter maintenance: The City should be required to make the entire length of Forest Avenue a high-priority City-cleared sidewalk notably the gap between I-295 and Morrills Corner.



  • It must be noted that there have been recent Portland fatalities along busy byways poorly designed for pedestrian use. Edward Blumenthal (age 57) died along the stretch of Congress Street that crosses the Fore River sometime in September 2017. Robert Belanger (age 58), struck by a city truck hauling snow, died along outer Congress Street in March 2018.  In both cases, the circumstances surrounding these pedestrian deaths remained mostly unexplained to the public although inadequate accommodations for safe walking (especially after dark and during poor weather) may have played a significant factor in each death.  The members of the Planning Board should recognize the similarities between these deaths (and others like them) and the possible implications for the hundreds of shelter guests each month that will be traveling to and from the new Riverside facility in the years ahead.

To be clear, our concerns are purely transportation-related, and our membership has diverse opinions about the merits of this proposal. However, we feel about the proposal or city homeless services policies, we stand united in believing that these transportation concerns should be addressed.



Zachary Barowitz, Chair

The Portland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee is an ad-hoc group of Portland-area residents working to make the city and region a better place to walk, bicycle, and wheel chair. We advocate and educate on bicycle, transit, and pedestrian issues, including handicap accessibility, with support from the city’s Healthy Portland office, and in collaboration with other offices and organizations including the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, Portland Trails, PACTS, the Department of Public Services and the Planning Department.


Map/image courtesy of Jaime Parker


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pbpac comments regarding proposed riverside st homeless services center.docx.pdf

John Brooking

Aug 22, 2021, 3:31:46 PM8/22/21
Very good letter, Zack!

(I'm just getting caught up from being on vacation.)

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Zack Barowitz

Aug 22, 2021, 4:00:51 PM8/22/21
to Portland Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee
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