Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Transit will not go gently into that good Pike...

The letter I'd written last week to the legislature's transportation committee received a somewhat overwhelming response. At the same time, other transportation and neighborhood activists in Portland have written to the committee to register their displeasure with the Turnpike Authority's "pave first, ask questions later" attitude.

All in all, the response has given me confidence that the Turnpike Authority faces a losing fight if it tries to ignore the National Environmental Policy Act and the state Sensible Transportation Policy Act - and any proposal to widen the Turnpike without improving the regional transit system would necessarily have had to ignore those laws.

One idea that's emerged is to have the Turnpike Authority pay for the budget shortfall in the state's Downeaster train service, as well as expansion of that service to Brunswick.

I myself am fond of the idea of letting the Turnpike expand, but dedicating the two new lanes to toll-free High Occupancy Vehicles (carpools, commuter vans, busses, and any other vehicle that moves more than one or two people).

We could also spend the Turnpike's money on Bus Rapid Transit service out to Windham and Standish on the state-owned Mountain Division line. Or new ZOOM commuter express bus routes (which could be wired for onboard internet access) north to Lewiston, west to Buxton, and east to Bath.

Ultimately, the Turnpike Authority's money is our money: we spent our tolls on the Turnpike because the Turnpike owns an effective monopoly on regional transportation.

So, how do you think the Turnpike Authority should spend your money? By strengthening its monopoly with an old-fashioned, SoCal-style widening project? Or is there a better use for transportation funds? Post your ideas in the comments, and next week I'll get to work on putting together a map of all your regional transit suggestions.


Anonymous said...

Don't forget bike/ped trails. How about a path like Brunswick's? It could go right next to the turnpike, from the Maine Mall to Portland and West Falmouth. Or all the way to Biddeford.

Ali said...

Let's not forget adding Park 'n Ride lots (& increasing parking in existing) along the entire stretch of turnpike AND 295 and 95. How about toll discounts for commuters with EZpass?

I'm not sure we have enough traffic yet to make the HOV lanes work, especially north of Portland, but there must be commuters, as the Gardiner lots are frequently close to full.