Friday, December 19, 2014

Chinook Wind or Pineapple Express? You Might not Guess a Link to Bicycling!

Bemer S. Pague
"Chinook Wind" or "Pineapple Express"?

Neither term seems completely innocent.

Chinook comes from the fur trapper and settlement era, and at least hints as a reminder of dispossession and our ignoble origins.

Pineapple express is to my ear a flip off-rhyme with "Banana Republic," and also might say something about dispossession.

"Pineapple express" only dates from around 1990 it seems
Google Ngram viewer
Both terms seem to locate the storm pattern, a frequent source of flood and catastrophe, elsewhere. In these seemingly foreign origins, both terms encode at least a little hint of nativism. Both make me wary.

Your mileage may vary.

I think I prefer "Chinook," though, because of its association with the jargon and the creative seam where different cultures met, traded, and generated new ideas. It's older and seems to have a much deeper established usage. There's also more "there" there in Chinook than in the pineapple - at least for around here.

Weather Forecasting and Weather Types
on the North Pacific Slope
Bemer S. Pague (et. al.), 1897
It turns out that one of the important explainers and popularizers of the term "Chinook wind" was also an important bicycle advocate in the late 19th century.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Ladies-only Cleaning and Maintenance Class on Saturday

Hey, this looks pretty great!

On Saturday the 20th, folks associated with The Bike Peddler will be hosting a ladies-only cleaning and maintenance class, "Clean Your Dir-tay Girl":
We are bada** and ride regardless of weather. Mud and slime? Heck that’s a badge of honor. While we’re hardcore, our bikes would like some spa treatment every so often.

Join the Selle Salem team (aka Michelle and Robyn) on December 20 to learn how to give your bike the pampering she longs for. During our one-hour session, we’ll take you through our deep cleaning process one-step at a time until your bike glimmers and performs like the super model that she is.

What Next? Bring your bike and smile. We’ll bring the cleaning supplies, tools, and drinks.
It'll be at the Bike Peddler, 174 Commercial St NE, on Saturday the 20th, starting at 4pm.

Sounds like a fun time - and no pesky boys!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

More on the Commercial Vista Corridor Study Issues and Opportunities

The Commercial Vista Corridor "Transportation Conditions Booklet" is posted to the website now, so let's take another pass at it.

The project team has also announced a workshop:
A public workshop will be held on Thursday, January 15, 2015 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at South Salem High School (1910 Church Street SE) in the North Library.
In the inventory of existing conditions, most of the analysis doesn't do much with the dimension of time; and it treats space as grid or empty container with things deployed in it, as a set of present or absent facilities (or kinds of facilities). But the inventory doesn't much look at how people move in space and in time. The only movements that are enumerated are turning movements by people in cars at intersections.

Mid-morning on Wednesday: Commercial only pulses with cars
The slack moments show there's tons of excess car capacity
Sidewalks are also empty
City of Salem Traffic Camera
We look at 24-hour traffic counts, but we don't look enough at how it bunches and how much capacity is wasted because we are always planning roadspace and carspace for those two hours of "peak" traffic each day.

Speeding is a problem here
Do we really 14 foot travel lanes?
Presentation Slides, Dec 11th
On this particular part of Commercial at Fairview and the Y with Liberty, there are sidewalks and bike lanes. But few use them. Why is that? Doesn't the existence of a facility guarantee its sufficiency? (Regular readers will know the answer!) But of course there's no crosswalk at the bus stop in the lower left. You will see people jaywalk here because the alternative is a three-legged crosswalk crossing. And it's ugly, even with a lawn and bark mulch. There is no element of interest or delight for the person on foot. Car speed is often high.

In order for the study to be a meaningful success it is going to have to dig deeper and propose real changes.

Let's look at a couple of ways it could go awry.

So far in the issues and opportunities identified in the Commercial Vista Study Corridor, there are a number of things that we really ought to be able to just assume, and should not require a study's analysis to "disclose."

Principally, there are a number of missing sidewalks, bike lanes, and lighting deficiencies. Can't we just assume it's obvious we're going to abate them? Do we have to fold a bunch of legacy remediation into this new study? I thought the study was going to identify ways we might go above and beyond current standards. Instead, a regrettable amount of study time and labor has already been spent identifying things that are obviously deficient.

Additionally - and this is perhaps looking more towards next year's State Street study - maybe the first act needs not to be engaging the consultant team for an inventory of existing conditions, but instead the first thing should be engaging a stakeholder advisory committee to walk the entire study area.

I wonder if these things are driven too much from the top, from the consultants and what planners "already know" about industry standards and even "best practices." Instead, maybe what is most needed is the "ground truth" from actual feet on the ground, especially the feet of those who ordinarily are driving in and around the study area. This will help better identify user issues as well as sensitize people to problems other kinds of users face and perhaps built more enduring political support for the eventual recommendations.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

CAN-DO Meets, Moots Parking; Oregon Bike Plan Advisory Committee also Meets

The downtown neighborhood association, CAN-DO, meets tonight and on the agenda is downtown parking.

Downtown Surface Parking Lots in Red
Parking Garages in Solid Brick Red
On-street parking stalls not included
click to enlarge (1 mb total, 1874 x 1114 px)
From the agenda:
Factors the City, residents and businesses should take into account in developing long-term solutions for downtown Salem's "parking problems" -- Jim Vu
CAN-DO meets Tuesday the 16th, at 6:00 p.m. at First Christian Church on 685 Marion Street NE.

(For all notes on downtown parking, see here.)

The Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan Policy Advisory Committee also meets today (agenda here).

The minutes from the last meeting are somewhat interesting. You can see the hints of some debate and resistance - no "mandates," freight is uncomfortable with non-auto mobility and general human capacity.  One promising sign? Maintenance and facility lifecycle issues are getting some discussion. You know how 1970s sidepaths from the first flush of the bike bill suffer from neglect now, or how "thin skin" pavement overlays don't always reach the shoulder or do create dangerous seams on the shoulder? That kind of thing. It's not clear how much the end product will be merely "advisory" and "aspirational" and how much it will effectively fund policy decisions enacted in concrete and asphalt.

This comment from the Portland area MPO, METRO, perhaps sums up the uncertainty best:
Consider updating strategy A.1.a from the 1995 Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan ("integrate bicycle and pedestrian facility needs into all planning, design, construction and maintenance activities of ODOT and local governments") with specific tools to achieve this strategy.
As in 1995, so today - is it walk or just talk?

Here's the start of some draft policy language.

(And here's more from the kick-off a year ago.)

The committee meets Tuesday, December 16th from 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM - Chemeketa Center for Business and Industry, 626 High St, Rm 115.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

State Bike Advisory Committee gets Update on Least Cost Planning

The Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee meets tomorrow, Monday the 15th, and on the agenda is an update to hear the latest on "Least Cost Planning."

Somebody has a sense of humor!
Willamette Queen in Least Cost Transportation Planning
You may recall that back in 2009 as part of the omnibus transportation package, Legislators asked ODOT to develop a new planning approach, "Least Cost Planning," to find out how to meet mobility needs in a more mode-neutral and cost-effective fashion:
Least cost planning was defined by the 2009 Oregon Legislature in the Jobs and Transportation Act (House Bill 2001):

"Least-cost planning means a process of comparing direct and indirect costs of demand and supply options to meet transportation goals, policies or both, where the intent of the process is to identify the most cost-effective mix of options."
At least theoretically, the idea is that if you can meet mobility needs with better transit, bike, walking facilities, why build a big new highway that's going to be a lot more expensive?

It always seemed like our own Third Bridge process was a terrific candidate for this "least cost planning" approach, since it didn't seem all that difficult to imagine a suite of transit, bike, walking, and land-use approaches for $50 or $100 million that would do a whole heck of a lot more than a giant bridge and highway for $500 million or more.

Least Cost Planning has now morphed into "MOSAIC", and it has its own website.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

City Council, December 15th - the Courtney Bridge and a Mysterious $2M


At the head of Council's agenda for Monday is a fitting tribute to a long-time Salem politician.

The City proposes to name the Minto bridge after Peter Courtney, who was on City Council in 1975 when the bridge idea first hatched and the first Riverfront Downtown Urban Renewal Plan adopted. Since 1980, at the Legislature he's done a bunch of other stuff. You may recall that he was involved in the $1.6 million in STIP funding that was the final piece for the project. He also runs and bikes a good bit for recreation and exercise, participating in the Monster Cookie, for example.

Seems like a pretty fair idea, don't you think?

There's also an interesting agreement on the Pacwest development out on Kuebler Road. The City says the total cost of the Kuebler widening is going to be about $5 million, and the fair share for Pacwest would be $3 million. So far so good. But then the City proposes to give back $2 million in System Development Charges:
Developer shall pay to the City the sum of $3 million, which the parties acknowledge is a reasonable estimate of developer's cost to provide the Kuebler Boulevard SE improvement, and other associated Qualified Public Improvements (Required Improvements)....

The parties agree that upon completion of the Qualified Public Improvements developer will be entitled to $2 million in SDC credits that may be used to offset SDC charges for the property and related development owned by the developer.
Maybe there's a good reason for this, but it sure looks a little funny! If the fair estimate is $3 million, then why is it going to become an effective sum of $1 million?

This development has also been the subject of some debate in no small part, as I understand it, because the City has granted it a driveway off of Kuebler, and as a parkway, a kind of urban highway, Kuebler is generally not supposed to have driveway connections in order to facilitate the free-flow of traffic (that hydraulic autoism). It seems like there might be multiple layers of developer subsidy here - but at least in Urban Renewal and Enterprise Zones, municipal subsidies are rather more direct and are called out and enumerated. Public benefits are easier to assesses - from here, for example, a $2M subsidy on Riverfront Park and Boise is much easier to justify than $2M on a Kuebler strip mall. Or why not $2M for the vacant Rose Gardens/Epping property on Portland Road? The comparative benefit here looks off.

Anyway, this complicated, others will know the history better, and perhaps they will find the matter worth more conversation, even debate, than a silent Council action among the consent items.

Update, Sunday

Revisiting the Staff Report yields this, which I think is the center of the matter:
The Kuebler Boulevard SE improvement, as well as the other Qualified Public Improvements, will provide more capacity than the traffic impact of the development. SRC Chapter 41 provides that the developer will be entitled to SDC credits upon completion of those improvements, and can use those credits to offset SDC payments the developer will be required to make for development of the property.
So basically the City's taking a loan to complete the Kuebler work, and then paying back the money via SDC credits.

The real problem here, then, is maybe not so much that there's a
reduction in the total amount the developer is "paying" in SDCs ($3 million payment - $2 million in SDC credits), but that the SDC charges, which might go to a variety of different infrastructure elements, are all concentrated on overbuilding Kuebler. And overall the SDCs are probably too small.

This may be less a case of funny accounting and sweetheart dealing than it is a case of misplaced priorities, insufficiently small SDCs, and out-of-date notions and analysis of "traffic impact."


Other Things

There's an information report on "Council accomplishments," but some of them are of the paper sort rather than concrete and asphalt. The list is maybe padded out with adopted plans rather than completed projects from those plans. Your mileage may vary, but I wished I had seen more vision and a larger proportion of grander things. Still, it is interesting to read the list for the City's own synoptic view of things.

There's an adjustment on the food cart ordinances to accommodate special events and events in the streets or alleys.

Finally, there will be an appointment to the Planning Commission, but the Staff Report doesn't share a recommendation.

Friday, December 12, 2014

An Early Fail on Commercial Vista Corridor Study?

There's a couple of neat pamphlets out from the Thursday Commercial Vista Corridor Study, but neither of them are posted to the project website yet. We'll update the post here when they are published.

In the meantime, already there's a small moment for that queasy, sinking feeling.

From the "Draft Transportation Issues Booklet"
and the "opportunities" map
In the "Draft Transportation Issues Booklet," number 1 on the "opportunities" map is an
option to avoid the split [at Liberty and Commercial] by directing [south-bound] bicyclists onto Liberty Rd S until Vista Ave SE where bicyclists can connect back onto Commercial St SE
But we already did this!!!

Left turn signed at Liberty and Vista, 2009
People on bike are directed to continue right on Liberty and at Vista there's additional signage to turn left on Vista, with a strong bias towards using the Crosswalk.

The only problem? This is totally non-intuitive and very few people do it this way.