Monday, January 23, 2017

2016 Downtown Parking Assessment Discussed on Thursday

The Downtown Advisory Board meets later this week on Thursday the 26th, and the centerpiece of the meeting will be the presentation of last year's parking study.

2016 Downtown Parking Study
It has seemed like they are usually done in even numbered years, as I have collected bits on reports from 2010, 2012, 2014 and now 2016 - though this year's report also has data from 2015. Maybe they're annual - it doesn't matter for our purposes here.

As has been the general case for a while now, the on-street supply in the "retail core" is tight and full at times. At peak it generally exceeds the industry target of 85% full.

"Retail core" on-street stalls are often full
By contrast, the off-street supply in our municipal parking garages is only about half-full at peak, with plenty of room for people and their cars.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Streets are not Just for Cars: Protest Edition

Over at SCV they have a nice series of posts on a comparison of Salem's downtown with McMinnville's (post 1, post 2, post 3, post 4). Maybe there will be more to say later on it.

For the moment, it is not surprising that two frequent objections are
  • How do we accommodate all the through-traffic?
  • What about parking? We don't have enough parking downtown
On Chemeketa - Yes, in the NY Times (via the SJ/AP)
Yesterday we saw in stunning fashion one of the important roles of streets: For freedom of assembly and of speech.

While it is true that assembling in the streets shouldn't have to be considered a primary function of streets, not anyway in a just and well-functioning city and nation, it is an important one, and sometimes may need to supersede car traffic and through-movement.

Our autoism has distorted our sense of what a street is for.

A just theory of civic street function will include many purposes beyond moving cars.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Criticism of Delay on Minto Bridge Overwrought

Yesterday the paper came out with an editorial fussing over delay on the Minto footbridge construction.

January 2017
It led with a comparison: Would you tolerate this, a year's delay, on your home or at your business?

It is not wrong, of course, to be disappointed by the delays, which have stacked a little, actually. There have been several episodes of delay, not all of them even part of construction, and I think we all would like it to be finished.

But a better field for comparison and context might be other public works projects.

And here, for all the criticism we level here towards excessive autoism in design, especially the monstrous overplanning for the Salem River Crossing, the City does a pretty good job with construction management. The City has a habit of bringing in small and medium-sized road and bridge projects on-time and on-budget.

Were there any great problems on the Winter Street Bridge replacement by the Hospital?

Demolition on Winter Street at Shelton Ditch
What about the Commercial Street Bridge replacement by City Hall?

Friday, January 20, 2017

MPO Looks to Have Project List for 2018-2023 Funding for February Release

The Policy Committee for our local Metropolitan Planning Organization meets on Tuesday the 24th, and it looks like they have a draft project list for an important 2018-2023 funding cycle. (Agenda and packet here.)

But First, at the Oregon Transportation Commission

One of the projects that was initially considered for this 2018-2023 cycle, but was later split off and instead added to the current 2015-2020 cycle as an amendment, is a study for seismic retrofitting the Center Street Bridge.

Councilor Andersen at the January OTC meeting - via N3B
Over at N3B you might have seen a terrific note about Councilor Andersen testifying before the Oregon Transportation Commission in favor of it. Formal approval for the project was on the consent calendar for the OTC, so it's not like was in danger and needed much lobbying. Instead, what Councilor Andersen did was show conviction and support from a Salem Elected - not just one of the rabble-rousers! - and give visibility to the fact that the Salem River Crossing project is in trouble and does not conform to higher-level policy goals - like "Fix it First" or reducing drive-alone trips. Hitherto communications on this topic have risen up to the OTC through the MPO and our area ACT from Mayor Peterson and Councilor Lewis, cheerleaders for the Salem River Crossing. So Councilor Andersen's comments were a strong counterpoint from within government. Thanks, Councilor Andersen!

Worth a little digression, I suppose, is that ODOT Director Garrett, shown smiling in the middle of the photo, is increasingly attracting criticism from the OTC.

The other day the Portland Tribune posted an article on the OTC and problems with its relation to the Oregon Department of Transportation, which ostensibly it supervises as its "Board of Directors."

Thursday, January 19, 2017

City Council, January 23rd - Archeology in the Right-of-Way

Council meets on Monday, and it's slim pickin's here. There's only one item of interest.

Current railroads in bold; streetcar and old railroads light
(See also the historic signage at State and Liberty)
The City and the State Historic Preservation Office have negotiated a
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the City of Salem and the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) to streamline the permitting process for transportation and infrastructure projects within the public right-of-way.
A natural question is, Why? Is there a particular "transportation and infrastructure project" the City has in mind?

You might remember N3B's note on Dr. David Lewis' testimony to Council that McLane Island hadn't been cleared as a potential site of significance for the Grand Ronde/Kalapuya people.

There remain outstanding questions about the Salem River Crossing and its archeological assessment. And it is not difficult to be a little suspicious here.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Ride-Booking Advocacy as Indentity Politics

The paper came out yesterday with an editorial in favor of loosening regulations on ride-booking companies.

It's interesting in a number of ways.

via Twitter
 It still can't quite seem to conform to the AP stylebook, which calls for "ride booking" or "ride hailing" and is clear that "sharing" is not what is going on.

Nevertheless, the editorial talks about "Salem's lack of ride sharing."

It talks about "choice" and "competition" but it doesn't recognize the ways that choice is already profoundly constrained for non-auto users and that there already is far from a level playing field. Most of our conversation and debate about ride-booking resolve questions about mobility into autoist configurations and flatten out or eliminate other kinds of mobility.

Mayor Bennett also makes a novel claim that would be interesting to learn more about:
"We have thousands of people who come in to work for the state, I believe they would stay and shop and eat if they could just grab a quick ride and go."
What is going on here? Where is the trip start and end in this concept?
  • Is Mayor Bennett suggesting that state workers should commute by ride-booking instead of their usual mode? Is the start and end at home?
  • Is he suggesting that commuters would book a ride from their workplace into downtown, and then book a ride back to their car, bus stop, or van pool for the return home?
Neither of these seem very likely. Ride-booking for commuting seems very expensive, and the Capitol Mall is not far from downtown, an easy walk. So perhaps he means something else. It's hard to see what problem ride-booking would actually solve in this scenario, and how it would in actuality deliver "thousands of people," or any meaningful subset, to downtown from State offices.

Advocacy as Identity Position

Finally the editorial mentions that "Millennials have made it their own," and perhaps here we are getting to something deeper and more interesting.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

House at Corner of D and Capitol is Story about Early Home Electrification

The symmetry, the large porch support at the corner, and most of all, the gentle swoop and curve in the roofline on the house at the corner of D Street and Capitol Street, across from the State Archives and Parrish Middle School, has made it a perennial object of curiosity. On walks and bike rides, it has always seemed like it would repay much closer study in architecture and in local history.

via the google
Over at her Discover blog Virginia Green had written a note about it, but without more details on the "features more usually found in homes of a sunnier climate," it seemed less interesting than it somehow ought to be.
William G Allen, a prominent Salem businessman who owned Allen Fruit Packing designed this house himself 1920 and had his own crew build it. It is of unusual design with features more usually found in homes of a sunnier climate. Allen and his wife owned it until 1954 when Charles and Ruth Jens bought it. She was the first female psychiatrist on this side of the Rockies and practiced in the house until 1998.
For the Sunday paper, the history column advances a very different story, and curiously has details on different set of features!
The culmination of Frank and Clara Barton’s electrical aspirations was the home they built in 1920. Their electrical dream home was built at 901 N Capitol St., now the law offices of Gerald L. Warren and Associates. It was designed and built with the express idea of demonstrating just how comfortable, convenient and economical a home outfitted with electricity and modern conveniences could be. Every door had a light switch and electrical outlet high enough that no bending over was needed to plug in the vacuum sweeper.

Housed in the basement was an electric bath heater that provided hot water for bathroom, laundry and kitchen use as well as an electric laundry with a mangle and washer. The kitchen appliances included a hermetically sealed oven with insulated walls that retained heat and an economical automatic shut-off. But probably the piece-de-resistance was the electric sideboard in the dining room with glassed-in compartments for a dozen or so small appliances known as table conveniences. A grill, toaster, percolator, teapot, egg-boiler, etc., with plug connections for four appliances at a time. Clara Barton emphatically boasted to a local reporter at the time that “with this convenience, one could sit at the table and cook a meal without ever rising from the chair!”
The story has a number of other twists and turns and is a fascinating slice of Salem history.

Just from some casual spot-checking, the Bartons do show up in the paper there in the 1920s, and so this is probably the narrative we should prefer. (Perhaps the Allen Fruit story belongs to a different house, which still sounds interesting.)

As social history the story is also interesting. It appears that Clara Barton's celebrity as a writer may have surpassed her husband's significance at times, and there are so many angles to consider: The role of credit in the early 20th century, early electrification and consumerism, marriage and domestic roles after the 19th Amendment and early feminism. In addition to their personal story, they seem emblematic of so many other larger forces that shaped the economy and culture. They and the house deserve a longer study!

The house is currently a law office, and who knows how much of the original interior remains, though. There may not be much potential for a closer investigation of its architecture and design, alas.

As you walk around on the North Capitol Mall or in the neighborhood around Grant, Parrish, and North, consider checking it out and thinking about the Bartons.