Monday, July 25, 2016

More on Henningsen and the Enterprise Zone

Over on Facebook there's more discussion of the Enterprise Zone tax abatement incentive program.

Councilor Bennett says
there's no cost to the taxpayer when nothing is built. It's a huge benefit when something is....

The 5 year tax abatement has no impact on anyone when you realize that no taxes will be collected if nothing is built. In five years the building goes on the tax roles. Recall it also is the first of three phases. In earlier work at another site this company promised 29 jobs and delivered over 40. This also is a major addition to the infrastructure serving our food processing industry and the jobs it will create and buildings it will build as a result of this project. [italics added]
The argument here is that there's a basic mistake or omission in the dimension of time. Here's the Strong Towns critique (written by an civil engineer, by the way):
the local unit of government benefits from the enhanced revenues associated with new growth. But it also typically assumes the long-term liability for maintaining the new infrastructure. This exchange — a near-term cash advantage for a long-term financial obligation — is one element of a Ponzi scheme.

The other is the realization that the revenue collected does not come near to covering the costs of maintaining the infrastructure. In America, we have a ticking time bomb of unfunded liability for infrastructure maintenance. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) estimates the cost at $5 trillion — but that's just for major infrastructure, not the minor streets, curbs, walks, and pipes that serve our homes.
This is the nut of the matter.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

City Council, July 25th - Governor Geer says Yes to Bike Park

Gov. T.T. Geer
(1899-1903)
Council meets on Monday and while it is not the most important thing, the proposal to move forward formally with a bike park and pump track at Geer Park is the most interesting thing.

It's just not possible to get tired of talking about Governor Geer and bikes. (If you are tired, skip ahead!)

He rode a bike and he signed Oregon's first bike path law in 1899. The law wasn't very successful, but it happened, and it happened before automobiles were significant.

You can read more about it here and here.

The upshot of it all is that Geer Park is a perfect place for a bike park.

More formally, the City determined that an amendment to the park master plan is a necessary step at the moment:
A bicycle pump track will be a major amenity to Geer Park and construction could be initiated in late 2016. However, a bicycle track is not identified in the 2003 master plan and conducting a full master planning process for Geer Park will not take place until sometime after 2020. Therefore, staff recommends Council approve the addition of a bicycle pump track as an amendment to the 2003 Geer Park Master Plan. Note that a playground and a picnic shelter are standard features of a community park per the Comprehensive Park System Master Plan Update (adopted 2013). When the master planning process is next conducted for Geer Park, a new location for these facilities will be identified.
We held a seance Friday night, by the way, and we are happy to report that Governor Geer enthusiastically supports the proposal. "Knock three times if you like the idea" and you should have heard the resounding, bam! bam! bam! The intensity was a little startling, actually, and we had to take a break for a moment to calm and recompose ourselves.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

100 Years ago The Birth of a Nation "took Salem by Storm"

100 years ago this month The Birth of a Nation played at the Grand Opera House. It had played Portland in August 1915, but didn't come to Salem until July 1916.

Salemites loved it.

Three years later, in 1919 George Putnam bought the Capital Journal, and with strong editorial leadership, he changed the narrative in the paper and partially changed it in Oregon politics more widely.

Over at Mission Mill they're starting a "History in the News" series. This month they'll be talking about the Conventions.
This year’s national party conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia promise to provoke lively debates and counter-protests, but what do they have to do with Oregon? How might Oregonians influence the direction of national politics now, and how have they done so in the past? From Tom McCall’s and Mark Hatfield’s moderating influence on the Republican Party to Jeff Merkley’s early endorsement of Bernie Sanders, Oregonians have often played important roles in pushing both parties in new directions. The Willamette Heritage Center’s inaugural History in the News program will examine the relationship between Oregonians and the national political parties, focusing on how the state’s citizens and politicians have shifted the tone, content, and course of American politics.
The series has great promise and will be very interesting to watch. It looks like this installment will focus on fairly recent history of the late 20th and early 21st century.

There are other periods they could have chosen also. A great subtext of this election cycle - as has perhaps become a commonplace now, one of the nominees strengths is turning subtext into text - is a politics of white nationalism. That was a message that resonated 100 years ago this month. Within a few years, things at least partially changed. A man who became a Salemite then played an important role in checking one strand of popular white nationalism in the early 1920s.

Half-page ad, July 22nd, 1916
For about a week half-page ads ran, some horizontal, some vertical. You can see the proportion of space devoted to other films and theaters.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Oregon Transportation Commission to Discuss Safety Plan Thursday

Jenna Berman
via Bicycle Colorado
Readers of BikePortland - as well as ODOT insiders of course - will know that they've been hiring some new "Active Transportation Liasons" for each formal Region.

Portland's Region 1 has had the services of Jessica Horning for a few years now.

Last week ODOT announced that Jenna Berman is the new Liason for us in Region 2 - a large and mixed area with the south half of the Willamatte Valley and coast: Marion, Linn, Lane, Benton, Lincoln, Polk, Yamhill, Tillamook, Clatsop, and a couple others. (Her start date was June 20th, so the announcement is a little delayed.)

Hopefully her work and attention will give more visibility and effort to greater numbers and higher quality of complete street projects for all road users and help to curb the entrenched autoism that dominates systems thinking and strategy at ODOT.

And that's a fine lead to tomorrow's OTC meeting.

On Thursday the Oregon Transportation Commission meets and one of the central items on the agenda is the Transportation Safety Action Plan. That has seemed already compromised, weak, and autoist, garnished with tepid language about "vision zero," but with little actual commitment to it. It's nice green parsley, but it's not a meal.

Will the OTC be able to see this?
via Facebook

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Cherriots West Salem Connector and the Elephant: One Year In

On a day when Portland's launching their newest transit initiative, the BIKETOWN bikeshare system, let's look at Salem's own transit pilot program.

Last month Cherriots published the first year's report on the flexible transit "West Salem Connector" service. Detailed transit analysis isn't the thing here, so maybe you will have more to say. But there are several interesting bits in it - including the SRC elephant.

A Year in Review
(slides throughout from it)
Cherriots has not always seemed very self-aware or self-critical, and so it was great to see some frank statements about failure in the report. Here, for example, is the conclusion that the attempt to be thrifty by reusing old, retired paratransit vehicles was actually more costly.

Without drilling too deeply into it, on the surface it seemed like a credible self-assessment. That was nice to see.

The biggest complaint about it is that Cherriots continues to ignore the way service levels fit into the context of cross-river mobility. Cherriots is not analytically self-aware here, alas. The Salem River Crossing continues to be a giant lacuna, the proverbial "elephant in the room." It's not a factor in the analysis at all. In this Cherriots limits themselves to a tactical discussion about West Salem service, and avoids questions about larger strategy and priorities. This may be practical, sure, but it is also a huge evasion and renunciation, and ensures that much of West Salem will continue to be difficult to serve. It perpetuates, instead of ameliorates, conditions that we already know are problematic.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Long Register-Guard Article on Passenger Rail worth a Read

The Register-Guard has a nice longer piece on the prospects for improved passenger rail in the valley.

Several bits were interesting. One in particular was Congressman DeFazio going on the record with criticism of ODOT:
But the ­congressman said that Oregon has only itself to blame for the oft-clogged, single track rail line that ­carries both freight and passengers the length of the Willamette Valley.

In early 1990s, DeFazio said, Congress designated the valley for a high-speed rail route. Since then, ODOT officials have been mulling the issue, he said.

The Oregon Department of Transportation is a “turgid, dysfunctional” bureaucracy, DeFazio said, pointing to recent multimillion dollar contracting missteps. “They’ve got one person who does rail,” DeFazio said. “That’s not much of a focus.”
Later there's some on funding and our priorities:
Money to improve the tracks or add trains or any of the train-speeding strategies proposed by the rail leadership council will be a hard sell.

The federal government periodically doles out rail money, but it requires local areas to come up with a 20 percent match.

“There really isn’t money available to do the matches,” [ODOT project manager for the Oregon ­Passenger Rail Project Jim] Cox said.

There’s “no clear path” to state money to spend on rail track upgrades, Beyer said.

By comparison, the state has hundreds of millions of dollars, mostly from gas taxes, to pay for highway upgrades.

[Director of the Association of Oregon Rail and Transit Advocates, and Cherriots Board member Bob] Krebs said the state spent $750 million to add eight miles of a single freeway lane to I-5 at Salem. “For that you could almost double track all of the Willamette Valley,” he said.
The whole thing is worth a read.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

In the Neighborhood Associations this Week - Lots of Downtown News

A couple of notes about neighborhood association meetings this week.

CANDO

There are several interesting things to note in the minutes from CANDO last month (and a few other related notes).

Bike Boulevard Update

In the context of an update on the Winter-Maple bike boulevard, the City introduced the new transportation planner who took over for Judith Johnduff, who had been working on the Commercial-Vista Corridor Study and other projects, including several with key biking and walking components.
Julie Warncke introduced her colleague Anthony Gamallo, who will be working on the Maple-Winter Street Family Friendly Bikeway, which is now in the planning phase. She informed the board that the consultant had been hired, and, despite the traffic counter being stolen, Public Works had gathered the data they needed (time-of-day volumes and intersection activity while school was in session) for the consultant. They are at this point just waiting for the notice to proceed. As a side note, Julie said that a bike-pedestrian counter placed mid-May in the middle of the Union Street pedestrian bridge appears to have recorded upwards of 2500 crossings per day, with a significant spike likely caused by the first On Your Feet Friday of the season.
The counts on the Union Street Railroad Bridge are interesting, and confirms that 1400 foot crossings and 500 bike crossings is an undercount. (Significantly, we plan streets for future peak rush hour car capacity, so to be consistent we need to do the same for those traveling on foot and on bike!)

Downtown Repair Stations

Tools missing, August 2015
The station in Riverfront Park has been missing tools since last summer, and it looks like they may be replaced.
Erma Hoffman commented that she had met with Toni Whitler (Public Works, Parks) to discuss additional matching grant opportunities relating to CANDO’s Pringle Park project and that the City was probably going to replace the two tools stolen from the bike -repair station at Riverfront Park . She also suggested that the board might want to consider applying for a grant to install a bike repair station at Minto-Brown Island Park .
Cherriots has added a repair station and pump - via Facebook
Cherriots you may have noticed has also installed one of the repair stations in the courtyard at High and Court. They are doing some interesting things right now. Quickly they jumped on the Pokemon fad and are leveraging it in general Cherriots marketing and as a perk and draw for public space. That's a nice embrace of pop culture, especially for a public agency! (For more discussion, see the local subreddit.)