Friday, May 1, 2015

Architecture Notes: Grant Neighborhood Houses and AIA Salem Awards

The Grant Neighborhood Association meets next week, and on the agenda is last week's publication of the Historic Houses Handbook.

Houses of Grant Neighborhood
First off, it must be noted this is a pamphlet about houses and housing types. It's not a neighborhood history or any number of other things. So to wish for more detail on other matters is in a way also to wish the pamphlet were about something else. I get that. (I want the pamphlet to be two or three times as long!)

But one of the themes to this blog is that a form of atomic analysis that breaks things down into component parts and doesn't look enough at pattern and relation and system really hinders the ways we can think about urban form. Travel by auto erases too much space and makes it difficult to think about connections between things. As a commenter pointed out the other day, talk about transportation systems also entails talk about land use. If stores, homes, and schools are too far apart, even the best bike boulevards, bike paths, and cycletracks won't attract meaningful numbers of people to use them. Here, talk about housing forms and development patterns also should entail talk about other kinds of infrastructure and system.

Some of the most interesting history is the effect our waterways have had on development. The introductory material talks about the flood of 1890 and about needing to drain marshy land in some of the Grant neighborhood in the 20th century - but then there's this interpolated section of boilerplate about the State Capitol, which isn't in the Grant neighborhood!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Maybe we need more Neon!

We used to have a lot more neon downtown. And apart from the issue of energy consumption, it's hard to say that downtown is more lively and pleasant without the lights.

Liberty Street looking south from Chemeketa Street
(via Vintagepaper1000)

Liberty Street looking north from Ferry Street
(via unknown flickr user)
Of course they're almost certainly a consequence of the liveliness rather than a cause of it - but still.

On Monday the Grand Theatre had a proposal at Council to permit a bigger sign. It was postponed for a variety of reasons that aren't important here.

But it will be interesting to read more about it as it goes before the various groups for approval. It seems like this should get strong consideration. Maybe there are problems with it, but on the surface it seems like it could be a nice decorative and advertising element.

With the transit mall and Courthouse Square as well as the Courthouse itself largely inactive in the evenings, the corner of Court and High could use another jolt of energy. In addition to whatever business goes in where Grand Vines was, a neon sign could be a real focus for it, drawing the eye as it is meant to do.

In mood, effect, and sidewalk context, it is also very different from the Ross Sign on the mall that generated criticism a couple years back. Even a big sign here could still be scaled for both walking and driving traffic. (See those postcards!) The large corner bulb-out also works in its favor.

What do you think about more neon downtown?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Beer Wars, Bikes, and Boosterism

November 28th, 1910

October 24th, 1913
Old-time "yay Salem!" and "yay Oregon!" material is pretty funny:
Every Section of the State Sends Its Brainiest and Most Energetic Hustlers to Aid in the Great Work of Developing the Oregon Empire
About a century ago, you see the word "boost" enter the newspaper regularly. It seems to have participated in the new professional cultures of self-improvement, advertising, and public relations.

The pieces are amusing to read, naive and wildly optimistic, full of faith in the power of self-determination and hustle.

If you attend to beer at all in Salem, you'll have noticed the critique of Salem beer in Willamette Week earlier this month. It was not flattering.

 "Everyone was really nice, but I would not do this again,
nor would I recommend it to others"
Willamette Week, April 8th
Over the weekend the paper's food and beverage writer published his counter.

Friday, April 24, 2015

City Council, April 27th - Bikes, Bikes, Bikes

Though there is no new bike announcement or project on the agenda for Council on Monday, by our standards there is an extraordinary density of bike-related informational stuff on the agenda. It's nice to see!

But most important is the report on Marine Drive.

Marine Drive and proposed bike park
You may recall that Councilor Lewis had asked for more information on Marine Drive. Here's some good news!
Because of the similar alignments of the proposed Marine Drive NW and the SRX [Salem River Crossing OR-22 connector], the Marine Drive project is largely on hold until the SRX public process is completed and the Record of Decision is issued. This is because any work done on Marine Drive NW that could be construed as part of the SRX project, which is done prior to the Record of Decision, could open the SRX project to a federal lawsuit for violation of the National Environmental Policy Act process.
So, that's good to know.

Interestingly - but carefully kept separate - there is also a report on a grant application for the Wallace bike park. Council will also "apply for...the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Local Government Grant for the purpose of constructing a bike park facility at Wallace Marine Park." The urban highway would skirt the park and affect access, and park advocates do themselves a disservice by omitting this fact from discussion.

There's also an intergovernmental agreement with Oregon Parks and Rec for maintenance on the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway signs.

The scenic bikeway comes up again in the brief report on bike boulevards. Staff intend to apply for a TGM grant to plan in detail a pilot bike boulevard along the Winter/Maple alignment, and the fact that the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway uses this alignment is adduced as a reason to start with this route. (But isn't the route going to get realigned after the Minto Bridge opens?) I wish the project were more comprehensive and entailed a city-wide commitment to bike boulevards rather than merely a pilot project. There's something bloodless and tentative about the report and TGM grant proposal. At this point, what is experimental about bike boulevards? Many communities have already piloted and implemented them. We should be going full speed ahead not just dipping our tippy-toes into the pool!

There's another intergovernmental agreement for the bike counters on the Union Street RR Bridge and Courtney Minto Bridge. They're packaged in a larger IT project with traffic signal controllers and ethernet switches. (See here and here for history on this.)

And a no-bid agreement with Union Pacific for two more crossings on Woodrow Street and Silverton Road for an extension of the "Quiet Zone." The crossing at Chemeketa has been less problematic than I thought it would be - but I detest the crossing at Mill Street (thoughts here and here). At many of the crossings, the addition of sharrows is helpful if you are confident in taking the lane, but if you are not a confident rider the lane narrowing seems perilous and probably pushes you onto the sidewalk. Overall, I think I am neutral on the crossings as they affect people on foot and on bike (apart from the auditory issue for neighbors). They are not as harmful as I feared, but they aren't actually all that helpful: They "help" the railroad with liability, not other road users with connectivity. More importantly, they might also represent a missed opportunity to rethink and radically reconfigure the crossings better to serve all users. In any case, they don't seem worth drilling into or dwelling on.

Looking to the future, on Tuesday, May 26th,  the Goodwill project will appear in a month for a Public Hearing: Petition to Vacate A Portion of First Street NW and Lincoln Avenue NW. (Details here and here.) On the same date before Council formally meets there will be a work session on the West Salem Business District Plan, and that will surely touch on the undercrossing proposed for Second Street at Wallace Road. (See here and here.) Together these projects could transform an area and create connections where things are currently a huge barrier for people on bike and on foot.

(How great is it to have a large section here devoted just to bikey things!)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Earth Day at Waldo Park Shows Diminished Expectations and Autoism

Couple of interesting notes in the paper today...

One was the Earth Day celebration at Waldo Park. In no small part because of the number of vacancies on City of Salem commissions and advisory boards, and the dinky way the City chooses to use many of them, by itself a brand new Sustainability Commission has not seemed like the best way to address our "Sustainability Gap." Nonetheless, in light of the way "sustainability" was dismissed at the recent goal-setting session City Council held, it is perhaps wholly emblematic that our actual Earth Day celebration was at our smallest park.

Talk about diminished expectations!

EOA-HNA draft Report - Jan 2015
(graph added from CO2 Now)
There was of course the Earth 411 thing a couple of weeks ago, so we shouldn't try to wring too much symbolism out of the diminutive nature of this event.

But still.

Monster Cookie's this Weekend, Cherriots Bike Internship this Summer

Did you see the Sangster family quilt in the paper yesterday?!

Sangster Family Quilt from Monster Cookie T-Shirts
That's a great use for old t-shirts!

The Monster Cookie is this weekend, Sunday the 26th.

Day-of-ride registration ($30) opens at 8am on the Capitol Mall Fountain.

It's a metric century - 62 miles - through the rolling hills of French Prairie out to Champoeg and back.

Remember Governor Geer, who rode his bike out to Champoeg on May 1st, 1900, to set in motion the establishment of the historical marker and now park!

DMV and Bike History

In the paper there was also a reminiscence about the Legislature's adoption of bike laws in the 1970s.
Some wacky bike law history
Biking Job at Cherriots

Cherriots is looking for a summer/fall intern to promote bike/walk/bus trips. Even more, you'll get to deliver by bike and use bike transport regularly!

(see full job description here)
For more on the previous year's projects in Ashland and Corvallis, as well as preliminary thoughts on the Salem project, see discussion here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Talks on Sweden and Commercial Vista Corridor Refinement Plan Show Contrast

Two transportation presentations on Thursday the 23rd will show a great contrast between innovation and catch-up.

Daniel Firth talk on Thursday morning
(Look at that protected bike lane!)
In the morning, Daniel Frith with talk about Swedish innovations.
Join Daniel Firth and Paul Casey for a presentation and professional exchange with Oregon planners on transportation innovations in Sweden and Oregon.

Topics:
• Congestion pricing
• Parking management
• Stockholm Urban Mobility Plan
• Mileage fees

Daniel Firth is Chief Strategy Officer at the City of Stockholm Department of Transportation. He is responsible for the development and implementation of the Stockholm Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan, including implementation of a new Bus Rapid Transit network, major expansion of the metro and light rail networks, measures for walking, and a USD200 million investment in the cycle network. Daniel is also project manager for the implementation of new congestion pricing and parking measures.
$200 million for bicycling!!!! Stockholm's a good bit larger than Salem, of course, but even proportionately that would be $34 million in Salem, or fully one-third of our $100 million 2008 Keep Salem Moving road bond. Projects like the super-sized urban highway interchange at Wallace and Glen Creek would look very different.

Would you send your child to the park on this by bike?
Note two people on bike in the crosswalk!
(Looking down Glen Creek towards Wallace Park)
The talk is Thursday April 23, 2015 10:00 am - 11:30 am in the ODOT T-Building, 355 Capitol Street NE, Room 340.

(Please RSVP by email to Laura Buhl)

Commercial Vista Corridor Study

By comparison here we are still playing catch-up, and the Commercial-Vista Corridor Refinement Plan will have an Open House later in the day.