Getting off the Parking Garage Crutch | Conservation Law Foundation

Getting off the Parking Garage Crutch

Jane West

Photo credit: christiannealmcneil, flickr

The City of Portland just launched a new website to make it easier for developers to comply with new planning requirements that incentivize alternative commuting strategies through transportation demand management plans, or “TDMs.”  The TDM requirement evolved out of a recognition that a city full of parking garages was not the best use of prime real estate – it isn’t attractive and it only encourages continued reliance on single occupancy vehicle use.  In Maine, 80 percent of employees still drive to work alone every day.  In an effort to shift commuters over to alternatives, such as METRO bus, GoMaine car and van-pooling service, biking and walking, the City of Portland passed a mandatory TDM plan for site plan approval for new developments over 50,000 square feet and for institutions serving more than 100 employees or students. There is also a voluntary TDM plan that companies may want to utilize to help their employees save money at the pump or reduce their overall carbon footprint.

In an effort to navigate the TDM requirements, the City launched a new website, found here at: http://www.tdm2go.info/.  The site is an easy, practical guide that provides a glossary of terms and high-lights case studies.  Four businesses featured on the site include Oak Street Lofts, the Portland International Jetport, St Lawrence Arts Center and Maine Medical Center (MMC).  In the case of MMC, the busy and ever-expanding hospital saw a 15 percent reduction in single occupancy vehicle use in the one year that its “Get On Board” program was implemented.  That impressive result was reached by installing numerous bike racks throughout the MMC campus, offering 50 percent off METRO tickets and providing free parking in the Gilbert St. garage to car-poolers that also had the extra amenity of enjoying the perks of first floor parking, so no stairs, no waiting for elevators, and instant access to the first floor cafe.  Plus, bike lockers and a group tool shed were installed.  These may seem like small perks, but the results speak for themselves – employees like perks!  The efforts by MMC successfully changed the culture of commuting at this major employer and in the process of doing so, they enrolled 734 employees in the program, 221 of those don’t use any carbon emitting vehicle at all – they are biking or walking to work.

What can other employers throughout the state learn from these successes?  First, brainstorming with employees on how to maximize the best alternative transportation mode is critical.  Second, a full educational campaign that informs employees on what their options are is instrumental in making the switch to alternative modes stick.  Resources on both of these are available on the City’s new site and the GoMaine website: http://gomaine.org/.  The benefits to employee’s pocketbooks and overall morale is worth the investment of some bike racks and educational information on our region’s transit services.

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