Saturday, March 17, 2018

Demolition Party Cues up the next Open House for the new Police Station

I know it's orchestrated PR, but it's still pretty great to see the Chief of Police tear into the old building and to have something of a demolition party for the new Police Station.

It's relief to have the decision made and to be able to move on with making the project as fine as it can be.

One element to consider is how the street front along Division might be improved. The construction cam the City's set up will give an excellent view on the corner of Division and Commercial and a half-block section of Division to the alley.

This morning's view, with no parked cars at all, shows starkly how inert this area is at the moment.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Active Transportation Summit, School Bond Measure - Newsbits

For a variety of reasons, the City of Salem hasn't had much of a presence at the annual Active Transportation Summits. Summit organizers usually have had a strong focus on Portland and its metro area, even when the summit took place in other cities, and the City of Salem itself has not been as committed to walking and biking as it might. There might be other reasons as well, and it's not important to try to identify them all.

Julie Warncke (center) on Panel at Active Transportation Summit
yesterday, via Twitter

This year, in addition to Salem-based ODOT and other State staffers who regularly attend, the City's own Julie Warncke was attending and sat on a panel discussion about funding.
Show Me The Money: Funding Walking and Biking Improvements

Panel: Wendy Johnson, League of Oregon Cities; Susan Peithman, Oregon Department of Transportation; Julie Warncke, City of Salem; Evan Manvel, Oregon Transportation and Growth Management Program

All too often, community visions for a better place to walk and bike get stuck behind a mantra: there’s no money. This shouldn’t end the conversation. There are over 30 sources of money, from the federal government to local measures, private foundations to ODOT funds.

This session features three people with experience finding funds to get things built. After panelists provide an overview of funds and experience of looking for funds at both the local and state/federal level, they will take questions. Attendees will be provided dot votes to choose the top five of the 30 sources to pursue in their community. The session will conclude with panelists providing suggestions on how best to get funds from those five sources.
It's true, the City has been pretty good about winning grants! Once the City puts together a project and works seriously on it, it has a very good rate of success.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Stream of Mystery and too much Open Space: Shelton Ditch and Pringle Creek Paths

As of last weekend, the Cherries at the Capitol hadn't started to open. Some earlier ornamental varieties were in perfect bloom elsewhere around the city, including Mill Race Park by Pringle Plaza, but not the ones at the Capitol.

This weekend they'll probably be opening, and in the gaps between any rains, be sure to enjoy them!

Incidental to the interpretive panel on the Winter Street Bridge was a reminder of the plaque for the Shelton Creek Bridge of more than a generation ago.

Shelton Creek Bridge and Dedication Plaque, 1984

Minto Bridge and Dedication Plaque, 2017 - City of Salem
And that brought to mind the installation this past year of the dedication plaque for the Minto Bridge.

There's no sustained comparison here at the moment, but it's interesting to remember and consider how shiny, new, exciting things fade into the background to become mere furniture we take for granted.

The walk was also a chance to consider in more detail some of the locations and concepts for the "Arts and Parks Corridor" some have discussed.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Special West Salem Meeting on SRC, SCAN talks Housing - In the Neighborhoods

The West Salem Neighborhood Association meets Monday night for a special, even "emergency," meeting.

At the center of the agenda is:
[4] Presentations: Salem Bridge Solutions – Salem Emergency Management Plan (SEMP) – “West Salem, you’re on your own!”
[5] New Business: Discussion of presentation regarding deficiencies of SEMP and demand for immediate action
So there will be loud and determined voices probably.

But of course lots of areas will be on their own. It's not yet clear that we have an adequate plan for the small bridges that surround the Hospital, our own Civic Center, and even State offices on the Mall.

Downtown bridges over Pringle Creek and Shelton Ditch
The owners and residents of unreinforced masonry buildings are also "on their own" right now. (See the 2012 Restore Oregon report, and Steve Duin's recent column.)

And apart from a one-time natural disaster, we have an ongoing distaster in everyday living: Certainly our de facto housing policy is "you're on you're own." We are struggling to help an additional 100 people with housing, and the need is at least an entire order of magnitude more.

If we suddenly came into a lottery ticket for hundreds of millions, should be be spending hundreds of millions for drive-alone trips to West Salem? Or should we allocate those resources towards more affordable housing? What is the best use of limited resources?

(Ian Lockwood, via Public Square)
There's just no sense of trade-offs and of citywide priorities here on the SRC.

The West Salem Neighborhood Association meets tonight, Monday the 12th, at 7:00 P.M. in Roth’s West, Mezzanine (1130 Wallace Rd NW).


The Bush Park neighborhood association, SCAN, meets on Wednesday, and they'll be talking about the City's Housing Needs Analysis.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Acquaint Yourself with the TDM Element of the TSP

One of the helpful things to come out of the survey for the Congestion Relief Task Force is the way it has spurred conversation and even investigation. Lots of people have privately circulated comments or draft comments, and this allows people to repeat themes in the survey, hopefully to build up some force and consistency behind them and to ensure they won't be swept under the rug. The persistent attention and debate also might also generate new ideas that might never have been tried before.

While the Task Force is performing their own "document review," citizens too are looking through existing City documents, and some that have been essentially orphaned are getting a new look.

TSP cover and Table of Contents
Our Transportation System Plan is vast and unwieldy, so big that parts of it are routinely ignored or given the most cursory of attention. But if we took it more seriously, many parts of it would already give us meaningful policy direction.

Structurally, the chapters in the TSP are very awkwardly called "elements." (There are 19 sections!) This has seemed like an indirect and dressed-up claim they constituted some kind of atomic structure and contributed to a kind of scientific basis for the TSP. I have wondered if this is an artifact of the pseudo-science of traffic engineering. But the TSP is a policy document, and while policies should have a basis in empirically verified fact, they are arrived at by politics and debate, are informed by non-scientific values, and are not themselves scientific. Too much of the TSP's rhetoric uses the insider lexicon of traffic engineering and transportation wonkery, as if it were somehow more objective than it really is. Too often it avoids the plain language that people seeking to move about the city actually employ. All of this is a real barrier to making it an effective document for policy.

The City should give serious thought to making the TSP more legible, intelligible, and inviting, to making it more of a living document than a shelf study. Maybe it needs to be shorter. We could, for example, prune out sections that we aren't actually going to take seriously. Nobody wants to read it as it is!*

In any case, one of the most neglected chapters is called "Transportation Demand Management." (In many places this concept is institutionalized with something more colloquial like "trip choices" or "smart options" or some label other than TDM, which is off-putting.)

The concepts themselves aren't so very obscure, and the chapter is very short. Let's read some of it:

Friday, March 9, 2018

City Council, March 12th - State Street Study

Council meets on Monday, and they look to initiate adopting the State Street Corridor Study and its recommendations. At present, the City's approach to transportation remains compromised, maybe even just plain broken. The City is not yet willing to question its primary commitment to facilitating drive-alone trips. We see this clearly on the Salem River Crossing, where the Congestion Relief Task Force is still charged with facilitating capacity for drive-alone trips, and not with rethinking cross-river mobility and actually reducing drive-alone trips. Notwithstanding policies in the Comprehensive Plan to "reduce reliance" on drive-alone trips, our de facto approach and prevailing culture across multiple transportation planning projects is to maintain and expand autoist levels of service and induce additional drive-alone trips - with the harm to safety, pollution, and livability this entails.

Here on the State Street Study, instead of advocating for a 4/3 safety conversion the full length from 12th to 25th, the recommendation is for a 4/3 safety conversion for only 4 blocks, from 13th to 17th.

4 blocks of new bike lane
doesn't much solve gap on State Street corridor
(Salem area bike map)
Narrowly, from the perspective of a person bicycling, this is not very helpful, and is just one more instance of piecemeal approaches that leave gaps and incomplete corridors.

via Twitter
More generally, the approach prioritizes auto speed and auto capacity at the expense of safety for all road users, especially on the eastern segment between 17th and 25th. Compared to "no-build" or the "improved four lane" configurations, under the preferred "hybrid" some intersections are predicted for a "slight improvement" and at others crashes are expected to "increase slightly." This nets a wash, well within any margin of error for the analysis. The end result is inertia for the status quo and forgoes a meaningful improvement to safety.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

New Historic Interpretive Panel at Winter Street Bridge is Misleading

You might remember that one of the conditions for demolishing the old bridge on Winter Street across Shelton Ditch was to install some interpretive signage about the history and significance of the bridge.

New interpretive signage on corner of Winter and Trade
The panel was silently installed - this winter, perhaps? - and it merits some comment. It's very strange, more than a little misleading. It's not that it is factually wrong; the information on it is quite good!

From here the problem seems to be several mismatches between the reader implied by the text as written and the actual, likely audience as intended. The facts don't line up with the right things for readers who cannot supply additional context. In language and in design the rhetoric is a little sideways, leading to disconnects on time and place.