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Updated: February 28, 2022

Greater Portland council eyes inclusion in shaping future transportation network

2 buses File photo A new program aims to bring diverse voices to a discussion about the future of Greater Portland’s transportation network.

A new program aims to bring previously unheard voices to a discussion of the future of Greater Portland’s transportation network.

“As an immigrant, you can use your voice and bring change to the transportation system," said Guy Mpoyi, who helps run the Greater Portland Council of Governments’ Bus Ambassadors program. "The Community Transportation Leaders program gave me the opportunity to speak to who is in charge and tell them what the problems are and share our ideas on how to make it better.”

Mpoyi helped initiate the Community Transportation Leaders program, a training program that aims to advance the inclusion of underrepresented communities in transportation planning. That includes people with disabilities, older adults, younger adults, people of color and people with lower incomes. 

Twelve community leaders involved in the program are working with the Greater Portland Council of Governments to take action on behalf of themselves and members of their communities, with the goal of shaping the future of the region's transportation network.

On Tuesday, they will speak with the regional transportation advisory committee of the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System.

The system is a federal metropolitan planning organization that’s part of the Greater Portland Council of Governments and coordinates transportation planning. 

The system directs the spending of more than $25 million in transportation funding each year, according to its website.

Kat Violette and Marcel Ntagora of the council’s outreach team are working with the Community Transportation Leaders program to discuss the issues, with the goal of gaining new perspectives that had previously been absent from discussions about funding and priorities.

Better access and information

At an initial meeting held Feb. 22, discussion areas included improving para transit and on-demand services, increasing safety concerning buses, improving and increasing information access, and changing or extending bus routes across the Greater Portland region.

Concerns and suggestions raised so far include:

• Most immigrants and asylum seekers do not have access to a vehicle when they arrive, and the bus system is their primary mode of transportation. 

• Their access to transportation-related information is limited, and they rely on other community members to learn the system, in which often inaccurate information is shared. 

• New immigrants lack the knowledge of rules of conduct on the bus and sometimes social norms. 

• Lack of information on the bus stop signs. The signs explain which bus number stops there but include no explanation of the bus route.

• Immigrants don't want other newcomers to experience the transportation challenges they faced when they got here.

• The region's paratransit services need to be improved.

• Some of the bus routes need to be changed.

• It would help if bus agencies installed graphic-based signs on the bus about rules on the bus, including wear a mask, don’t talk on the phone, don’t speak to the driver when driving, etc. Install signs that can be understood without language. 

• Provide a screen or device on the bus that describes where the bus is and the upcoming bus stops.

• Provide a light or some kind of device to signal when the bus will stop, or start moving. 

• Provide more information on the bus stop signs.

Specific barriers facing individuals were identified as underlying the broader issues.

The Community Transportation Leaders program is structured to allow participants to collaborate with fellow members and work on issues that affect them personally.

"I joined the program because I am a newcomer to Maine working to support blind and visually impaired adults to have greater access to employment," said Marisol Carmona, a member of the current class. "I'm excited to be a part of this group of like-minded individuals and to incorporate access models from other cities to bring about positive change to the Portland area.”

After the members present their issues to the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System boards, in the upcoming weeks, they will have six months of further coaching from the council’s staff and former participants to help them conduct additional extensive research and achieve goals outlined in their presentation.

They will graduate from the program in August with the ability to continue their transportation advocacy alongside the council and with the possibility of joining various transportation committees.

Patchwork system

The program began with funding from Transit Planning 4 All and is now supported through regional Federal Transit Administration funding. Transit Planning 4 All is a transportation planning project that helps communities across the country design and implement transportation solutions in partnership with people with disabilities and older adults

Transportation officials throughout the Portland region unveiled a first-ever strategic plan to expand and enhance its public transit system a year ago.

The public transportation system in the Portland area is currently a patchwork of local and express bus services, as well as the Casco Bay Lines ferry service and Amtrak Downeaster train service.

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February 28, 2022

Interestingly GPCOG continues to prevent a new mode of transit from getting well-deserved publicity.
Do you want transit that costs taxpayers an ever increasing subsidy from your pockets? Despite lacking ridership, COG and the METRO have schemed to stick you with buses while you stand in the snow and mud waiting for the busses that never run on time. Heaven only knows what diseases are living and growing in those incubators.

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