Mainely Planning

Why plan for an uncertain future? Our world is changing in ways that we can hardly comprehend. The planning we have been engaged in over the last 100 years, is geared to a world with abundant energy, a stable climate, and a dwindling natural resource endowment that is reliant on cheap energy for extraction. That world is quickly becoming a thing of the past.

Oil price spikes due to supply/demand and geopolitical concerns, water shortages (Google Lake Mead, Central Valley, CA or the Ogallala Aquifer for details), and soil depletion are just a few of the problems we face. As we move forward, the notion that we can continue with business as usual (BAU) is not going to sustain us.

Thinking creatively and making difficult decisions will test our abilities, push our cultural boundaries and hopefully shape a world where these uncomfortable realities can be dealt with in an equitable and meaningful manner. I write about things I see, think, and work on as I transition from being a planning student into the world of planning. I am neither a technological optimist, thinking we can invent our way out of all our problems, nor a doomer, believing in returning to a world much like pre-industrial times. I believe that our creativity combined with the lessons from the past will be instrumental tools for laying the foundation for the path forward. Some of my ideas may seem radical, others are just based on common sense and keen observations.

Links of Note

Mainely Rural
The Old Pine Tree
Strong Towns
Project For Public Spaces
Streets Blog
Cap'n Transit Rides Again
Human Transit
Pedestrian Observations
The Broken Sidewalk
Maine Architecture
The Vigorous North
Depot Redux
Reason and Rail
Car Free Maine
Walk Around Portland

Transportation for America State Fact Sheets

A Reason to Plan

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Posts tagged "Connectivity"

Misplaced investments abound anywhere you look. Investments whether public or private need to have a purpose and provide some sort of return. The place that I talking about today is in Portland, ME and is located just 1/2 a block north of the Amtrak/Concord Coach Station. The sidewalk is a private investment that facilitates travel between the parking lot of the Clarion Hotel and the hotel itself. Below is a handy Google Map of the site.

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What we see is a sidewalk that runs horizontally through the parking lot and abruptly stops nearly 5-6 feet from the public sidewalk leading to the train/bus station. Here are a photo looking out from the private sidewalk to the public sidewalk.

Notice that the fence isn’t there for security, but it does block passage through the majority of the parking area to the train station. I wonder if they thought a partial fence would be enough to keep hoodlums and vandals at bay, believing them to only put forth the effort if the fence prevented them from accessing 1/2 the parking area?

I am not sure why I am writing about this. People could in fact just walk around and through the roadway and enter the lot the way cars do. They could trample through the bushes or the hotel could have saved a couple hundred bucks in fence and spent it on completing the sidewalk. Now they have a fence that really doesn’t do anything, and an incomplete sidewalk that doesn’t facilitate travel to the train and bus station from their establishment.

I am not even sure I would have picked this up as a planner reviewing the site plan. It just seems that creating connections in logical places only improves a transportation system.

* It is noted that the private hotel owned sidewalk was built before the public sidewalk, which is the “only” way to get to the train station if one is on foot, unless you trespass on private property or walk in the roadway. Regardless, the investment should have been made by the city to link the two amenities up. The cost would have been negligible considering the entire cost of the project and reflects a serious lack of concern for how functional networks operate. It could be argued that the hotel wouldn’t want the sidewalk to be linked, which may be the case and that is their prerogative, but if an effort wasn’t made……

Portland, ME has been making huge strides to improve bicycle and pedestrian connectivity throughout the city. Here is an abandon rail line that has been converted to a paved multi-use pathway (MUP). It runs from Elm Street behind the Eastern Mountain Sports/Trader Joe’s Store to the east end of the peninsula where it meets with other trails. The photo below was taken from the vantage point of Elm Street looking northeast. 

Just to the left of the trail is the commercial area with TJs and EMS, but as you can see, there is no connection between the trail and the commercial area. You must go around the block.

Here is another view that displays the abandoned rail with some existing track infrastructure.

In talking to the manager of one of the stores in the plaza, I asked them about the missed opportunity. They indicated that the owner of the plaza property was angry at the city about the trail and felt that it was a taking that negatively affected him. I don’t know what exactly happened, but I am fairly certain that the abandoned rail right of way of the rail line is not the plaza owners property. He constructed the fence as a reaction to deny access from his property to the trail.

This is all hearsay of course and am not going to speculate on what really happened. Regardless it really represents a missed opportunity for increasing connections and promoting bicycling and walking as a mode of transportation to two places that seem to attract people interested in using those modes. Below is another picture of the route one must take around the block to access the plaza.