PBOT launches ‘Street Seats’ program

PBOT launches ‘Street Seats’ program

Screen grab from PBOT website.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) has launched a pilot program that will allow business owners to convert on-street parking spots into seating areas. The program, dubbed “Street Seats”, is PBOT’s spin on the idea of converting parking spots to mini-parks a.k.a. parklets. Parklets roared to popularity when they were first introduced by the City of San Francisco in February 2010. By August of that same year, a grassroots efforts bloomed to bring them to Portland, but the City never gave them the official stamp of approval until now.

PBOT has not made an official announcement (I heard about it via the Portland Transport blog and its publisher Chris Smith found about it via a Tweet from Sustainability at Work), but they have published a page on their website about it.

PBOT bills the program as “A pilot program to bring more outdoor seating to Portland streets.” Here’s more on their thinking behind Street Seats:

What is ‘Street Seats?’

Street Seats is a pilot program that allows the Portland Bureau of Transportation to permit businesses to build a temporary platform in the on-street parking lane. The platform is the same height as the curb and extends the sidewalk space in order to add additional outdoor seating along the street.

Similar programs in San Francisco and New York City have proven successful and gotten Portlanders asking whether the same success can happen here. This summer, the pilot program will work with local restaurants to try our own version, which will be called “Street Seats.”

In launching this program, PBOT states on their website that the public right-of-way isn’t just about moving people and goods, but that it’s “a public space for gathering and meeting”.

If a business is interested in the program, they can apply via the online application form. PBOT will award 15 locations during the pilot program, which will end on December 31, 2012. During this trial period, applicants will be asked pay for all the materials and costs associated with construction of the seating area platform. They will also need to pay for a $459 encroachment permit, which might come with additional costs such as compensation for lost parking meter revenue, street sign changes, and so on (each location will be different).

Street Seats platform requires a $459 encroachment permit and may include additional costs, such as compensation for lost parking meter revenue, a Café Seating permit and charges for street sign changes. Contact transportation staff for more accurate cost estimates based on a specific location. (PBOT points out that after the pilot period, the costs are likely to change.)

Interestingly, PBOT has launched this program without any formal public announcement. PBOT spokesman Dan Anderson, who I contacted via email this morning, said they made the website live on Friday. “No formal announcement. Similar programs have been popular in other dynamic cities, and Portlanders have asked us to permit street seats here. So we’re running the pilot program to see if it’s a success.”

Learn more about the program at the Street Seats website.

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