Thursday, October 30, 2014

The New Deal in Salem Still has a Meaningful Legacy

It was interesting to see a headline about the end of a stimulus campaign. (It's still odd to read the paper and see a bunch of USA Today branded stuff.)

The stock market might be up - though it's had some turbulence of late - but the job market and the economy as it affects real people still doesn't seem so great. Lousy, in fact.

So has that stimulus really made so much of a difference? At the least, "quantitative easing" is too hidden, too much an obscure mystery only the true adepts can grasp.

So now's maybe a good time to revisit the New Deal, and lucky for us, there are many tangible - literally concrete! - things from it that are still with us and are easy to grasp.

Two images from the design competition
(75th anniversary site)
Berkeley has a funny, probably somewhat neglected website called the "Living New Deal." It lists projects in Salem funded by the New Deal:
To this list we could add:
Do you know of other buildings or infrastructure funded by New Deal programs?*

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The New Bark Mulch Setback and the Old High Street Bypass

Things are a little slow at the moment, and there seems to be less of immediate interest to talk about or comment on. Here's a couple of odd - and a little spleeny - bits that don't really fit into any larger discussion right now.

The High Street Bypass

One thing that has been of a long but slow interest is the way we treat High Street just south of downtown.

High Street Bypass says it's for "local traffic only"
How many people register the sign at the intersection of Mission and High?

Local traffic only - Through traffic use Commercial Street.

If they do register it, it is routinely ignored. In the afternoon, High Street sees a steady stream of drivers using it as a bypass out of downtown. They turn at Rural or Hoyt, using the light there as a way to get back onto Commercial going south.

The problem of through-traffic is acute enough that on the crest of Fry Hill, where the sightlines are reduced, both crosswalks are closed and auto traffic given full priority. Kids, too, sometimes drive too fast there in order to hop the crest and catch some air.

Sidewalks closed on High and Oak by Library
The six lanes of the Liberty/Commercial couplet are just one block away, however, so there is no need for a parallel throughway, and yet we also treat High Street as a throughway here.

One of the things that came out of Bike and Walk Salem is that people on bike prefer a Church Street alignment for north-south travel. So this is not an urgent problem. But if we took literally the "local traffic only" for High Street, we could install one or more traffic diverters or other traffic calming in between Mission and Rural, as well as open the crosswalks on High and Oak, and really make High Street a pleasant byway and adjunct to the park for walking and biking

Why isn't non-auto traffic prioritized here?

Bark Mulch Setbacks


Bark landscaping and doorless faces make this a Potemkin Village!
I think this is in the County, not City, Off Munkers

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Cranksgiving is Back, November 22nd

After a three-year hiatus, the Cranksgiving alleycat is back!

Built at the end of the Streetcar Era:
Home of Northwest Hub and Evergreen Presbyterian
Its organizers have been working on the Northwest Hub, and before that were away from Salem. We weren't sure if it would ever be back.

A restorative draught after
the 2010 Cranksgiving
Worry no more! A few days ago they announced the alleycat would return for a second run after its 2010 debut.

Items will be donated to Marion-Polk Food Share:
[P]articipants are given a shopping list of 10 food and household items to be purchased from 10 different locations. The locations aren't predetermined, buy them where you can find them and then return to the start once you've completed your shopping. Keep all receipts, they will be required to prove you followed the rules. The first to return "wins". It's an urban scramble meant to be fun and noncompetitive. All participants will participate solo, unless paired on a tandem bicycle, which of course we'll allow. Bring your bike, a bag, helmet, lock and cash/card. The shopping should cost no more than $20 if you're thrifty. If you're in a hurry it could cost you more. All items will go to the Marion-Polk Food Share.
The event commences at 10am on Saturday, November 22nd, at the Broadway Coffeehouse.

Broadway Commons: Also Streetcar Scaled
It was great also to see the smoothie blender bikes at the Urban Agfest earlier this month had been built by Hub!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

City Council, October 27th - Work Sessions

Maybe the most interesting items on the Council agenda for Monday aren't actually on the agenda itself. Before the meeting is a Council work session on transit, and for the week after they've announced another one for the Third Bridge.

We need to talk more about the ways
transit and the bridge are related
in the total mobility equation

Work sessions

Joint Work Session with Salem Keizer Transit ~ Monday, Council Chambers, 5:30 p.m.

Discussion of Oversight Committee’s Third River Crossing ~ Monday, November 3, 5:30 p.m.

The matters will be kept separate for the moment, but maybe at some point they will cross and start to be more integrated as we talk about increasing human capacity in mobility instead of treating mobility as solely hydraulic autoism. In any case, maybe the third bridge session will have more realism about funding and about seismic retrofits. Maybe. Hopefully.


Buried in an update on Council Goals is this spin on the failed TGM grant application for the bridghead districts:
The City applied for funds through the Transportation and Growth Management Program to undertake refinement planning in the vicinity of the bridgeheads. While this request did not receive funding in the 2014 round, a future request should be more competitive as the region moves forward with the required land use approvals for the preferred alternative. Furthermore, the need for this refinement planning will likelv be included as a mitigation action in the Final EIS.
Is this just completely delusional, or does the City know something about the land use approvals that we do not?

Other Items

A couple of fee related things

The bulk of public comment is associated with the proposed new fee schedule for "utility service rates (water, wastewater, and stormwater)." One person writes: "You are raising water costs to the point where people will stop watering their plants/lawns. "

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Fairview West Addition Looks Pretty Good

In my bikey Utopian fantasy, there might be things to criticize in the Refinement Plan proposed for the Eric Olsen development at Fairview.

Seriously, can new construction be any more adorable?
Edwards Addition, Monmouth
Eric Olsen Development
But since we live in Salem, it's difficult to find fault with the plan. It will be very interesting to learn if representatives from Pringle Creek Community, Sustainable Fairview Associates, Simpson Hills, or the Morningside Neighborhood Association find much substantive to critique. There are a number of technical details on the way the jigsaw puzzle fits together at the seams between different developments, and these seem like the most likely place for revisions.

Overall, though, from here it looks like a realistically optimistic and progressive plan that yet doesn't get too far out on front of the actual market in Salem. It's hard to see a reason this wouldn't speed through the approvals process. (Do you see something?)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

DAB Looks to end Downtown Parking Garage Subsidy; EOA-HNA Draft Reports Out

Tomorrow in the municipal acronymic pile-up, DAB and EOA-HNA meet!

(click to enlarge)

(click to enlarge)
You can't really see them at this size, but clips from the September minutes of the Downtown Advisory Board have some interesting tidbits:
  • Starting in 2017-18 the Board recommends that there be no more subsidy for capital expenses on the parking garages downtown. The subsidy will taper, and the allocation for 2016-17 will be less than half of the usual amount. This is likely to hasten a longer-term solution to the problem of funding downtown parking.
  • In addition to the light and other improvements at Union and Commercial, the DAB is recommending work, principally striping bike lanes, on the High/Church couplet  as well as eliminating several sets of dual-turn lanes. (Though the notes say "Union Street Family-Friendly Bikeway" and "High/Church One-Way/Two-Way Conversion" both labels are a bit misleading. The preliminary steps would involve paint and striping only, and still leave the real family-friendly and two-way conversions for later. See here for more on the Union Street details.)
  • There's also a cryptic allocation for a "Riverfront commercial facility." It's from the Downtown Strategic Action Plan and is still more general concept than detailed proposal or plan.
Here's the "short-term" chart from the final and adopted mobility study recommendations. With this funding plan, more than half of the "short-term" recommendations would be funded, leaving only work on Winter and Cottage Streets.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Is Alternative 2A really that much better than the Salem Alternative/4D?

Over at N3B, advocates are talking up Alternative 2A, which widens the existing Center and Marion Street Bridges, as a "compromise."

Alternative 2A, widening the existing bridges, from the air
from Task Force presentation, April 2012
The one clear advantage of it, is that if adopted, it would be easier to modify or dial-back in ten or twenty years as conditions change. It is much more revocable than the others!

But is it truly better?

Here are some of the real trade-offs for people who are not driving cars.

from Chapter 2 of Draft Environmental Impact Statement
(comments in black added)
Maybe the biggest one is the loss of the path along the Center Street Bridge. This would shunt all people who are walking and biking across the river to the Union Street Railroad Bridge. If you are coming from Edgewater, or if you are a speedy, confident cyclist, this removes the most direct route and imposes a good bit of out-of-direction travel.

The out-of-direction travel is even more aggravating for people on foot, for whom the deflections add several additional "block equivalents" to travel time.