Friday, April 25, 2014

Friday Follies: Of Moguls and Parking Spots…and the BDC

Downtown Moguls: 


In November last we posted twice about the ‘improvements’ made to Maine Street in the name of pedestrian friendliness and ‘traffic calming.’  Here are the links:


noun: a bump or mound of hard snow on a ski slope.


We were referring, of course, to the ‘raised crosswalks’ or ‘speed bumps’ or whatever else you want to call them. 

Mogul, as it turns out, has another meaning appropriate to our circumstances:


noun:  3. an important, powerful, or influential person

That’s because the moguls that brought us the moguls on Maine Street, which have just been re-striped, are proposing to bring us another such improvement – this time on Pleasant Street, to handle the pedestrian crossing between the Post Office and the Library. 


We see this as a perfect way to slow you down so you can drink in the Village Review Board approved historic character of the rebuilt UU Church at the same junction.

Now all we need is for the moguls to add one more mogul on Maine Street south of Pleasant, and you won’t be able to enter the center of down-town without the the thrill of being calmed, which to us, is something like this:

Margo Knight, in a recently published commentary, assures us that the parking spots lost in the process of the improvements have been made up for, and that we will all become accustomed to the wake-up jolts.

Those who’ve lived in the area for a while know that there are any number of ways to bypass the downtown bottle-neck, and many of us have been doing so since well before the new enhancements were installed.  There’s  Jordan Avenue, Federal Street, McKeen Street, Stanwood to Mill Street, Union Street, and others as well.

An article published on April 11th about the ‘bumps’ offered some local views:

Mention the two sets of raised crosswalks that span Maine Street to a business owner or even a town councilor, and chances are good you’ll be met with an eyeroll or a snicker.

Meant to slow traffic across the four-lane wide Maine Street and make it safer for people to cross the road, the raised crossings have become a source of complaint and consternation of many who frequent and work in the downtown area.

“It’s a waste of $70,000,” said Jenny Station owner Jerry Bernier at his store on Thursday, which is near one of the bumps. “They don’t slow anybody down, except for fire trucks and ambulances.”

“I don’t know anyone who likes them,” said Brunswick Town Councilor Jane Millett, who now sits on the Master Plan Implementation Committee, in an interview on Wednesday.

Among the complaints she’s heard about the raised crossings is that they’re painful on the back, as well as vehicles backing up onto them when attempting to pull out of the diagonal spaces.

“At night you can’t tell that they’re there,” Millett said.

“Everybody complains about them,” said Bernier. “All the plows bottom out on these. I think they should just scoop them up and leave Maine Street alone.”

…..pedestrian safety is often in the hands of the pedestrians themselves. “It annoys me to no end when people jaywalk.”

Given the bypass options, and the fact that ‘calming traffic’ has the effect of restricting Maine Street traffic capacity, reducing the daily ‘throughput’ or potential customer flow, we think it’s time for some serious analysis of what effect the ‘improvements’ are having on activity directly through downtown and on the various bypass routes.

We inquired as to whether such traffic flow data might be available as a matter of course, and it appears that it’s not.  So other means will have to be used to measure the benefits.

Maybe the BDA would like to sample their downtown membership and get some data from where the rubber meets the road and the dollars meet the merchant.  They can ask those who define ‘downtown’ how much more ‘help’ they’d like from the moguls in charge of the moguls.

Downtown Parking Situation:


28 Federal Street

In the same commentary, Ms. Knight discusses the changes to downtown parking accommodations associated with the raised crosswalks.  She claims that more parking is now available downtown, especially considering “the soon to be vacant Town Hall.”  Apparently she hasn’t heard that CEI plans to build an office building on the former municipal campus on Federal Street, and that the office will house 60 employees.  Since the move from 28 Federal to The McLellan involved 25 municipal employees, we fail to see what the bright side of the parking situation is.  Surely there’s a pony in this story somewhere, but we haven’t found it.

Departure Center Operation and the BDC:

Wouldn’t you know it; after just posting about the new firm in town, Construction Fiasco, Inc, and their request for a $600,000 grant from the BDC, the town steps up and muscles their way to the head of the gravy train line.

We just read that our Interim Mr. Manager, John Eldridge, is asking for $225,000 from the BDC, presumably as a full grant, to pay for a five year lease for the Departure Center at Maine Street Station.  “The train station is not a money maker,” according to Eldridge, adding “Somebody will need to subsidize that; the town will have to find a source of money.”

If, by chance, you are wondering who ‘somebody’ might be, we suggest you look in your mirror the next time you’re near it.

You can add this expense to the budgeted figure for Downeaster platform maintenance and snow removal, which when we checked a year or so ago, was $50,000.

In case you’re wondering what the town’s obligations are in this regard, you can read the details in the agreement between the town, Amtrak, NNEPRA, and JHR development:

You’d think with the huge economic benefit the Downeaster brings to town, the various businesses reaping the incoming dollars would be picking up the tab for both, to ensure the golden goose keeps dropping off revenue eggs on a daily basis. 

The same article that reports on the town’s request points out that the BDC is running out of free money.  As we see it, that’s nothing that can’t be fixed with an appropriation or issuing of bonds by the town.  It’s only money, after all, and the town ALWAYS knows where to look for more.


  1. I wonder how fast you have to go to catch air on those raised crosswalks. A lot of people look upon traffic calming as a driving challenge. They put some posts that required drivers to zig zag on Capisic street in Portland as a "calming" device - they were all mowed down within a few months.
    Apparently, when anything is done in Brunswick, it's done in the dumbest and most expensive way possible.

  2. The other day I watched a Topsham Fire Department ladder truck heading down Maine Street back to Topsham. He had to weave hard left from the right lane into the left lane just before coming to the speed bump, then cut it hard right into the right lane again so as to cross as close as possible to the perpendicular. He then immediately repeated the process for the second speed bump. It was not pretty at all to watch, and it's a good thing no pedestrians had to use the crossing when he was attempting these maneuvers. The other motorists seemed to grant him a wide berth, once it was apparent what his intentions were. Downright dangerous as far as I'm concerned!