Saturday, August 1, 2015

Blue Moon and Dead Salem

Here's a couple of examples of how our land-use patterns just absolutely kill city life in Salem.
This image looks to be taken from the apartment tower at Union and Winter looking east-ish, with a little bias to the southeast. You can see the Barbara Roberts Human Services building and the Fortress of Revenue.

There's also the large parking lot. (Where right now is the Saturday Market!)

The image was taken shortly after moonrise, so let's call it about 9pm.

That's 9pm on a Friday, mid-summer night with a glorious full moon, when the temperatures finally have started to fall, and people might venture out to enjoy the evening.

But nope. Complete, utter desolate nothingness. Not a person to be seen. The parking lot's empty, the government buildings have no activity - except perhaps janitorial services. Maybe there's some activity on the sidewalks off the edges of the image, but that doesn't seem likely.

These are blocks in the heart of Salem, immediately adjacent to downtown proper, and they are a total void.

We should see or be able to see some people strolling, lovers canoodling, kids frolicking in the twilight!

Our mania for parking and parking lots and our commitment to single-use buildings carefully separated from residential districts together ensure the deadness.

Look at all the highway and empty parking lots here
For another angle on this, consider Marion Park.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Weekend Fun also Offers Chance to Examine Public Spaces

It's unfair to draw the comparison, but scheduling invites it: Saturday afternoon while the Grand Theatre's block party at High and Court is going on, the Friends of Salem Public Library are also having a party at Peace Plaza.

It has been argued several times here that Peace Plaza is a failed public space.

The dueling parties give you a direct opportunity to compare yourself how the two spaces function as public space.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Running Stores Lap the Bike Shops in Retail Growth and Participation

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article a while ago comparing running marketing to bicycling marketing, "Easy Bikes, No Spandex Required." Regular readers here won't find anything very new on the bike side, but the comparison with running as well as bike-industry self-awareness might be new:
“When you look at a marathon or half-marathon, you will see people walking, and they’re not ashamed,” says Fred Clements, executive director of the National Bicycle Dealers Association. “They’re not made to feel embarrassed. And that’s something that you won’t really see at a bicycling event. I don’t think we’re as far along as running is in making events that appeal to everyone.”
There shouldn't be any uncertainty at all about this. It's crystal clear.

Way too much bike marketing looks like this:

Typical bike and bike shop marketing shot
Here in town, we see the walking/running approach clearly in the relative successes of events like "On Your Feet Fridays," "Just Walk," "High Street Hustle," and "Salem Sunday Streets," each of which are essentially (or exclusively) oriented towards Salemites on foot, most of whom arrive and leave by car.

In them we also see the relevance of industry marketing, gender, and large corporate preferences in sponsorship.*

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Local MPO meets Today

The Policy Committee for our local Metropolitan Planning Organization meets today, Tuesday the 28th, and while there are no action items of particular interest, there are a couple of informational ones that are of interest. (Agenda and packet here.)

The one of largest and most immediate impact is probably the update on the 2018-2021 State funding program, the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program.

The Oregon Transportation Commission and staff have been working on this, and they appear to have landed on a set of buckets for funding:

This "scenario C" would devote $50 million to the highway system itself, and then make two buckets of $30 million and $6 million much more flexibly allocated with possibilities for bike-oriented projects.

Locally, in Region 2 we would be looking at a total of about $11 million.

Applications would be coordinated with the ConnectOregon VI process in hopes that funding might also be coordinated in more strategic ways.

That makes for a new application deadline in November of this year.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Narrative of Autoist Triumphalism and a Famlily History

We all have our hobby horses! And one of the main hobby horses here is highlighting and correcting the story of autoist triumphalism.

And yesterday's front page offered a good example.

For over a century, the Stevens family has taken notes at reunions!
Each entry offers a window into what American life was like at the time. The minutes for the 24th reunion in 1915 note how "almost everyone present came in automobiles instead of wagons, buggies, etc."
Having cars is by itself is a largely neutral fact, something true or false.

But it also has picked up a narrative: "As America made the switch, the family followed."

Personal narratives make for compelling stories, but they aren't always representative or the best embodiment of larger patterns of social change.

It happens that we can know that in Oregon there were 26,740 motor vehicles registered with the State in 1915. (This number probably also includes motorcycles.)
Oregon on the Move - an ODOT history
The census gives the population of Oregon in 1910 as 672,765, and in 1920 as 783,389. You can see the proportion.

We also have some data on Marion county in 1913. For a population of 39,780 in 1910, growing to 47,187 in 1920, there were 751 motor vehicles (including motorcycles).

Families getting cars in 1915 were not following.

Instead, they were still out in front.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

City Council, July 27th - State Street and State Hospital

On the Council agenda for Monday there's a lot on redevelopment studies. Much of it are updates for Council on matters already discussed at advisory board meetings or in other City public meetings, but the information on the State Street Refinement Plan is totally new here.

The old ice cream factory on State Street for sale
I have to say, I'm pretty excited by the State Street study and also the way the City has started with it here. For the first time, I think, the whole study contract is being posted as part of the Council agenda. I don't remember other recent TGM grants and other studies having the whole agreement made public. This is a new bit of transparency and is a great thing to see. (Is this an initiative of Kasey Duncan, our interim City Manager?) Or maybe it's a return to older forms of transparency. Anyway, you can read the agreement, see what the overall plan and deliverables are, and come to your own conclusions about it if you like.

State Street study area
Here's are the high-level project description and goals:
The State Street Refinement Plan Project is intended to revitalize a section of State Street in the City of Salem ("City") into a vibrant, attractive, walkable mixed-use corridor through planning for coordinated land use and transportation improvements. Zone changes, land use regulations and design standards will be developed to encourage pedestrian-friendly and mixed-use development or redevelopment. The zone changes and land use improvements can influence the creation of alternative street design cross sections within the constrained right-of-way on State Street that can accommodate facilities and amenities to make people walking and biking feel welcome and comfortable.
At this point I don't know that it's necessarily very interesting to drill into detail, but there will be opportunities to circle back to it as the study gets going.

Friday, July 24, 2015

ODOT Responds to new Dead Red Law with Detection Archeology

Getting a Green Light
ODOT pamphlet
Though we didn't dwell on it here, BikePortland readers may recall that ODOT formally testified in opposition to Senate Bill 533, which now that it's been signed into law, will permit a person on bike to proceed at a light if they wait one full cycle and the controller is broken or doesn't recognize them :
Interestingly, the Oregon Department of Transportation opposed the bill, as did the Governor’s Transportation Safety Advisory Committee. They fear the law will lead to deadly consequences for inexperienced riders who may not make good judgments on when it’s safe to proceed. Instead of a law, they would like to see a complaint-driven [process] where people could call ODOT and have signals fixed.
Now that this will be permitted by law, ODOT may be cranking up the PR machine to try to obtain the "complaint driven" process they wanted in the first place and to discourage people from using the law.

Folks from ODOT are sharing a pamphlet "Getting a Green Light" and asking folks to call ODOT to complain about apparently non-responsive lights on the ODOT system.

Which. You know. Fine. There's nothing really wrong with that.

At the same time from the standpoint of a person on bike: Too many intersections are complicated and confusing!