Portland, Maine has begun to develop a regional bikeshare program thanks to initial technical assistance provided through the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities program.
Portland’s Planning and Urban Development Department applied for EPA’s 2013 grants under the leadership of Jeff Levine. Portland residents, Mr. Levine noticed, already had a strong interest in alternative transportation.
“There’s a big commitment in Portland toward the environment and sustainability,” said Levine. “The challenge is providing an infrastructure that can help people to meet that goal.”
Residents were interested in a bikeshare program, but Portland needed a catalytic event to kick-start the project.
EPA’s workshops and forums, conducted earlier this month, jumpstarted the city’s efforts to implement a bikeshare program. Mr. Levine believes EPA’s time in Maine brought a necessary and “strong focus on the issue”. Residents and local officials participated in the sessions strategizing how Portland can make a bikeshare program a reality. With the project underway, Portland and the project’s supporters now must develop a business plan for a bikeshare program.
The City of Portland lies on Maine’s rocky coast two hours north of Boston. Due to this proximity, many residents regularly commute by bus or train to Massachusetts. Mr. Levine and the project’s partners hope that a bikeshare will enhance northern New England’s regional transit network and connectivity. The bicycles would provide an alternative form of transit around Portland’s transportation hubs, increasing mobility for locals and visitors. “There’s a lot of work-based errands people can use the system for,” says Levine. Though in its initial stages, Portland’s bikeshare program already has demonstrated tremendous potential for the city and the region.
The Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities program provided Portland with the tools it needed to begin its specific development goals. The EPA’s program provides assistance through workshops, open forums and direct consultation with local authorities leading to strategic plans to implement the communities’ goals. The program is a part of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, a collaboration between the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department of Transportation (DOT), and the EPA. Portland was one of five communities to receive technical assistance focusing on planning bikeshare programs.