Regional Transit for Southern Maine – What’s Next?

Transit-related Tax-Increment Finance (TIF) legislation in Maine has enabled several innovative transit projects that would not otherwise have been possible. Going forward, many more of these could emerge and provide a substantial driver for regional economic development – but can we do even better? Efforts in the last few years in Dallas, Atlanta suggest that a coordinated, regional approach to transit TIFs is possible and may provide significant benefits. But given other recent transportation-related legislative activity in Maine, Mainers are likely to forge their own path. What will that be?

This session explored possible steps for establishing a policy environment supportive of regional transit improvements for Southern Maine. After an overview of two transit TIF projects from the region and an update from related activity in the 126th Maine Legislature, candidate next steps will be presented and discussion groups will evaluate their strengths and weaknesses.

The speakers were:

  • Sam Merrill – Director of the New England Enviromental Finace Center at USM
  • Tex Haeuser – Planning Director of South Portland
  • Greg Mitchell – Economic Development Director of Portland
  • Nancy Smith – Executive Director of GrowSmart Maine
  • Carl Eppich – Transportation Planner for PACTS
  • Shana Mueller – Lawyer from Bernstein Shur
  • Bryan  Hill – Community Planning and Development graduate student at the Muskie School

 

A written Summary of this session can be found here.

 

Sam Merrill opened the session and gave a brief overview of the topics that would be discussed.

 

Tex Haeuser talked about his efforts to pass the transit orientated development TIF legislation and he experiences with enacting a TOD TIF in South Portland.

 

Greg Mitchell spoke about the City of Portland’s TOD TIF covering the Thompson’s Point development.

 

Nancy Smith reviewed the transportation related bills that faced the Maine State Legislator in the first half of 2013. Her slides can be seen here.

 

Carl Eppich discussed the opportunity for regional transit in Southern Maine reviewing past transit systems and looking at modern versions undertaken in other parts of the country.

 

Shana Mueller reviewed the legal foundation for TIFs and covered some of the ways in which a regional transit system could legally be funded by local level dollars.

 

Bryan Hill discussed his work to create an index of accessibility to transit for the greater Portland region and its implications for low income populations.

 

At this point the attendees of the session were asked to split into three break out groups to discuss their thoughts on the issues presented.  At the end of the session the groups reconvened and reported these thoughts to the larger group.