Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Whoo-Hoo! New Fossil Fuel!!! A New Turn Lane, and a Cancelled Crosswalk

Front Page last week
You probably saw the piece last week about the new gas station near Madrona and Commercial. Part of the traffic impact mitigation is a new northbound turn lane from the east, westbound side of Madrona onto Commercial.

New sidewalk and turn lane in progress, mid-September
That's in progress, and supposed to be done soon. But it's interesting to see that the new turn lane (between old curb and new sidewalk) may not be wide enough for later striping of a bike lane. A disconnected fragment of bike lane wouldn't make much sense here, but there are other places where we do stripe fragments, waiting to be assembled into a longer route.

The gas station did cancel a crosswalk.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Ride with the Mayor...Then What? How about Drive Less Challenge!

Maybe the centerpiece of Open Streets Salem, the Ride with the Mayor kicks off at 11am on Saturday the 22nd from Highland Elementary School.

Open Streets Salem
But what then? The "Ride with the Mayor" is a one-off, a little orphaned. What happens after the hoopla wears off?

the City as "model" and "leading example"
TDM chapter of TSP
According to the City's formally adopted Transportation System Plan,
The City of Salem shall encourage the use of alternative travel modes by serving as an institutional model...[and] leading example.
Councilor Andersen is great on this and leads by example. You can often see his bike at City Council. Earlier this summer in the midst of the cyanotoxin crisis, he biked up to our Geren Island water intake and treatment facility.

Drive Less Challenge
Is there a way to get more people in leadership positions visibly involved, so these things aren't just one-off photo ops, but knit more into habit and routine? To create more of an institutional culture at the City of visibly "modeling" ways to get around apart from our default drive-alone car trip? Maybe City leadership already does this, and if so they should share more of it publicly on social media, in interviews, and by participating in "encouragement" contests.

The Ride with the Mayor could be a pivot to the Drive Less Challenge and Walk+Roll to School Day, for example. It would be great to see daily updates from the Mayor, other Electeds, and other managers. (Remember when City Manager Steve Powers said he was going to bike and walk to City Hall?) They should really get into the challenge, even issue challenges to other municipalities! How about a West Salem focus from the Congestion Relief Task Force?!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Riverfront Park Plan Open House Tuesday the 18th

The City's published an updated concept plan for Riverfront Park, and it looks like a reasonable compromise, maybe a little dialed-back from the big ideas in the three versions we all looked at earlier this year.

So just a couple of things to note in passing.

at the south end, the new amphitheater at center #5
I was a little worried that any parking lot expansion (#12 and dashed yellow) would be way oversized, but what they have proposed looks modest and proportionate.

The path connection under the railroad and along the creek to Mirror Pond is keyed at #2, but hardly mentioned. This project needs more visibility and and a formal update from the City on the delay.

The possible bridge at #1 might be nice, but let's get the path connection first!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Congestion Task Force Reflects Ad Hoc Process, is Anti-Pedestrian, Anti-Climate

The Congestion Relief Task Force meets on Friday, and they've helpfully posted drafts of the meeting materials. So that's a nice thing to be able to report.
But the overall approach remains problematic, even a little suspect.

Much of that judgement come down to frame and expectations: What is the right frame for and expectations to have of the Task Force?

Task Force as Short-Term Consolation Prize?

To an earlier post arguing that the Task Force was fundamentally missing the big picture, a person commented
I think your criticism miss[ed] an important point. My understanding is that the Congestion Task Force is a political consolation prize for third bridge supporters and is specifically looking at short and mid-term solutions to car traffic in the downtown/river crossing area. I think the questions and issue you raise need to be addressed during the update to the comprehensive plan.
That articulates a frame and set of expectations.

So let's suppose that is the right one for the moment.

If that is the right frame and set of expectations, a useful thing would be to have a "road map" pointing outside of the Task Force and suggesting some "next steps." It wouldn't have to reference the Comprehensive Plan update specifically, and it could be more general in reference. But there would be a network of conceptual relations - bridges?! - that pointed outside of the Task Force's study limits for further consideration and actions. There would be the groundwork for a pivot to the medium- and longer-term planning. It should be more self-aware in method and in process.

But we do not see this.

Utter disconnect on climate and emissions
As it is the Conclusions lead with:
  1. The population of Salem and the region is projected to grow more than 20 percent over the next 20 years. The majority of residential growth is expected to occur west and south of downtown.
  2. Vehicle congestion in the study area is projected to increase. This will result in longer travel times and the duration of the morning and afternoon peak commutes on the two bridges.
Those are numbers one and two.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

City Council, September 10th - Plastic Bags

Council meets on Monday, and there's not much of interest here specifically.

Others will have plenty to say about the proposed ban on plastic bags.

So here's an idea for a next step: A phase-out on dirty two-stroke engines in things like leaf blowers, lawn mowers, and toy motorcycles!

via Twitter and the Wall Street Journal

Isn't this a lawn-mower engine bolted onto a bicycle? (May 2017)
There are two Council appointments to the committee for the Comprehensive Plan update. Councilor Lewis is a realtor and even if he has been championing some disagreeable policies of late, it is reasonable to want on the committee a realtor from Council. They will be shaping a new vision for development, after all. His presence alone on a committee projected to meet twice only will not tank the plan, and it could help develop greater assent, even enthusiasm, from a wider range of realtors and developers. We'll see.

The item also has the first public description of the process I have seen:
The Community Development Department is forming a stakeholder advisory committee to provide guidance and advise staff during the Comprehensive Plan update project, called Our Salem, which will help guide future growth and development in the Salem area. The need to develop a “comprehensive, long-term vision for future growth and development” was identified as a priority in the City’s adopted Salem Strategic Plan.

The stakeholder advisory committee will include City Council members, Planning Commission members, Neighborhood Association representatives, elected officials from area jurisdictions and agencies, representatives from the development and business communities, and other stakeholders. It will provide guidance throughout the Our Salem project, which will be completed in phases.

The first phase, Our Salem: Today, encompasses an analysis of the existing conditions of the city and an evaluation of how the Salem area could grow under current policies. It also includes a greenhouse gas inventory that measures the community’s impact on the environment. This first phase is expected to begin this month and take roughly nine months to complete. During that time, the committee is expected to meet two times. All advisory committee meetings will be open and available to the public.
Finally, the City wants to do more for urban forestry and trees.

There's also an information item on approval to convert a house on High Street at the base of Gaiety Hill to a short-term rental. (There might be occasion to revisit this at another time, as it is another point in favor of the thesis that Mission Street is already in transition. Some of the rhetoric against it also expressed the exclusionary sentiment for single-family housing to which we will return, especially as the Comprehensive Plan update cranks up. See here on historic districts and on deed restrictions.)

725 High Street: To be a short-term rental, back in July

Friday, September 7, 2018

Traces of Old Hotel at New Police Station Site? Archeology Day Offers Glimpse of Older Salem!

The City just announced a nice moment (and probably also calculated for good PR) at the new Police Station, a public archeology day.

Lodging House, Mill Race on corner, Corral on alley
Liberty and Division, 1895
The area for the Police Station is between centers of the earliest urban activity in old Salem: Along Mill Creek and at Boon's there was early activity in the north, and then downtown, along Pringle Creek, and at Willamette University.*

The Police Station site is sandwiched a little between them.

I don't know of any photos of the block, but by 1895 the Sanborn Fire Map shows a reasonably well developed residential area.
1895 Sanborn Fire Map
On the corner of Liberty and Division also note the "Lodging House" and in back off the alley a corral. There are also outhouses.

Running down the middle of Division is an old Mill Race we have lost track of!

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Robot Car Task Force Draft Report Looks Autoist and Thin

The Task Force on Autonomous Vehicles has published their draft Report and will present it at a meeting on September 10th.

This is not something we've been following closely here, and it will be very interesting to hear what others have to say on it. Last month the Safe Routes to School team remarked they had some concerns:
The National Partnership has been monitoring the AV Task Force activity and provided testimony during this most recent meeting. We thanked the Task Force for its leadership in this very important conversation for our state, and we also asked for them to hold an in-depth discussion on how this emerging technology could and should impact our most vulnerable and at-risk populations. We believe this conversation needs to happen sooner rather than later, to ensure we avoid furthering economic, safety and health disparities for our communities.
Earlier, AJ Zelada, former chair of the Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, shared concerns with the Task Force:
Given that the first round of Task Force Agenda and Memorandi are now appearing…there are deficiencies which show the void of not having all the important players at the table. The Pedestrian/Bicycle/Vulnerable Road user viewpoint is missing in every material packet presented on the ODOT website.
Indeed, the report seems to follow recommendations from pro-industry groups, and does not appear to have a sufficiently critical perspective. Crucially, safety for people not in cars is hardly mentioned. It looks like at least a partial instance of regulatory capture by cheerleaders for a nascent industry, and concerns raised by Safe Routes and a former Chair of OBPAC do not seem to have been addressed very robustly, if at all.

There is also reason to think Robot Cars won't reduce the amount of vehicle travel but will induce more. A recent study (here at the Washington Post and at Slate) found that drivers roaming without a fare greatly increased total travel:  "Schaller projects services like Lyft and Uber put 2.8 new vehicle miles on the road for every mile of personal car travel they remove." When we think about a personal commute, there is the drive to work, car storage time, then the drive home: An out-and-back loop. With a Robot Car, the temptation will be chauffeur to work, send the car home, hail the car, chauffeur back home. That's two loops where once there was but the one. Some may be willing to share a Robot Car with others either sequentially as a ride rental, or concurrently as a carpool, but many will want the exclusive pleasures of the solo chauffeured ride. Pricing the use of Robot Cars correctly will be important, and it's not clear incipient regulatory schemes are prepared for this.

As others publish comment on the draft report, this post may be updated.