Friday, January 30, 2015

Now-and-Then Photos Show Public Space Turned into Car Space

While these aren't local, and show much larger cities than Salem, the side-by-side imagery is very striking.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Like Weather Forecasting, our Traffic Forecasting Needs Error Bars

If the weather forecasters with all their supercomputing power can't get it right 12 hours in advance, how is it we are so confident in our 20 year transportation forecasting?

You probably went to bed on the 26th hearing that New York City was going to get buried in snow.

You probably woke up on the 27th and learned that it was Boston and New England east of New York that got buried.

One problem is that forecasters went with what they were comfortable with rather than what was most probable. 
Additionally, lots of computing power goes into weather forecasting, and even 24- and 12-hours in advance of events, there are still very meaningful error bars on predictions. Uncertainty
has been a problem for media forecasters who have historically been too confident in predicting precipitation events. A study of TV meteorologists in Kansas City found that when they predicted with 100 percent certainty that it would rain, it didn’t one-third of the time. Forecasters typically communicate margin of error by giving a range of outcomes (10 to 12 inches of snow, for example). In this instance, I don’t think the range adequately showed the disagreement among the models. Perhaps a probabilistic forecast is better.
We have our own local problem with forecasting. And here too forecasters are riding what's comfortable rather than what's probable.

Have we exaggerated likely traffic in 2031?
Our traffic forecasting, whether for the Salem Rivercrossing or for things like the Regional Transportation System Plan, generally assumes a linear growth rate based on the 1980s and 1990s. But that model broke down in the 2000s, and virtually no one has adopted a revised model. The model also spits out a single forecasted value.

Planners, policy makers, and electeds are all making decisions on a single traffic forecast pushed very far out into the future. We should know more about how reliable it is likely to be.

Minto Bridge Contract Awarded, Work to Start in April

You'll have already seen this, but since it's straight-up good news, it's worth repeating just in case you hadn't.
According to the City:
Jeff Howell, president of Stayton-based Legacy Contracting, said site preparation for the project will likely start in April. By June, the company will begin work in the river, he said.
The project is expected to be complete in 2016.


In other related good news, you might not have noticed that the Chair of Friends of Two Bridges, Hazel Patton, is also being honored as the 2014 "First Citizen" by the Chamber of Commerce.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Road Funding, Project Lists, and Road Fatalities at the MPO Yesterday

I missed the announcement of yesterday's meeting of our local Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Salem Keizer Area Transportation Study.

Nothing that needed close attention happened to be on the agenda (agenda and full meeting packet here - it's big), but there were some interesting tidbits.

The last RTSP during adoption
The new draft Regional Transportation System Plan (2015) is being discussed, and this time draft chapters four and five were on the agenda.

Chapter Four is on finance, and if you want to understand all the different ways we fund roads, that chapter dives right in. (Here's the adopted chapter from the 2011 RTSP with substantially the same material.)

All the different pots of money! Yellow are those for bikes.
(the pdf was scanned as an image, I think,
and it is not very clear throughout)
There's a nice chart that shows what the different funding programs can be used for. Many funding streams have restrictions.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Salem Bike Boulevard Advocates Organize

A group of neighbors in the Grant and Highland areas are organizing a campaign for family-friendly bikeways in Salem.

Connect with other advocates!
You might recall the talk at the Grant Neighborhood Association meeting. It looks like they plan to present at all 18 of Salem's neighborhood associations. That's an important piece of the puzzle, and is something that we all didn't do very well with the effort for Bike and Walk Salem earlier in the decade.

(It's no guarantee of success, of course. The neighborhood associations overwhelmingly supported a "no build" option for the Third Bridge, and we all know how far that got.)

Salem has no plan right now to implement a full family-friendly bikeway, and it is necessary to generate a more visible demand for one. (And then two and three and..!)

In any case, it's important not just to "like" on the facebook, but to write, call, lobby, and persuade others, especially electeds. Preaching to the choir isn't going to do it.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Queen of the LA Bus System Laments Loss of Free Range Kids

Did you see the opinion piece yesterday about "free range kids"?

I wonder, though, if it might have been pitched too much in the direction of exceptional people rather than ordinary people. That is to say, does the decision for free-range kids require too much of an individual, even seemingly heroic, gesture?

Not in the way of "when we were young we used to walk uphill in the snow barefoot for 20 miles both ways" type tales.

But Warren Binford's appeal to her own conditions and adventures in childhood suggests she and her family may have been exceptional, an outlier. A 21 mile solo ride to the beach is a terrific anecdote - but also a non-trivial feat!

And so I wondered if the piece still stressed too much the individual decisions of parents and kids to go against prevailing norms, and maybe didn't give enough attention to the way the built environment actively makes it more difficult for parents to give their kids more slack in transportation and play, to swim against the current. In addition to the act of will by parents and children, there is the matter of context in infrastructure.

Instead of making "free-range" the easy decision, our built environment makes it the difficult decision. We have a larger, interlocking set of policy decisions, ones local, state, and federal, that implicitly makes things difficult.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

City Council, January 26th - Downtown Parking and Uber

Now that the new Councilors are sworn in and there's no competing football game, Monday's Council agenda offers a busy agenda - but not perhaps super meaty.

The lead item, of course, will be an extension of the three-hour parking limit downtown.

Transportation Matters

Staff recommends extending the current downtown parking arrangements out one year, to February 2016, to get through another Holiday season and to give time to negotiate a real solution to the ongoing capital deficits on the parking district and parking garages. (I don't know if there's anything new to say on this, however.)

Nyet: Uber needs Licenses
There's also an update on Uber and the new ride-hailing services. (There is news on this!) The deal had been that as long as Uber wasn't charging for rides, the City wasn't going to penalize them. But early in December the City obtained evidence that Uber had started charging fees and so the City initiated enforcement actions.