Saturday, November 30, 2013

Two Police Stations: Eugene's Car-Dependence and the Civic Center's Desolateness - updated

One of the problems - maybe the biggest problem - in the debate over the proposed police station and civic center is that the plan that's on the table really doesn't give you that much to get excited about.

Nearly the whole Civic Center Superblock looking west
from above Waterplace
Image: CB|Two
The City and architect team might have assembled something transformative, but even if you think the current proposal is exactly what the Police need, the rest of the changes to the Civic Center (not included the seismic retrofit around which there is consensus) are still more "meh" than "wow," incremental only.

The Eugene Side - A Flawed, Car-Dependent Site

But how is the Eugene side of the argument any better?  In fact, it's much, much worse!

The Eugene model is a discount solution that likely harbors long-term operational costs in a trade for short-term capital and bond savings.  Worse, it hinders rather than boosts "neighborhoods, livability, prosperity, and citizen involvement."

Between an interstate and a highway access road (a stroad)
the Eugene station is totally car-dependent
There's no neighborhood here that the new station is supporting, the car-dependent development is not very livable or walkable, the development takes private land off the tax rolls and reduces community prosperity, and even with a bus stop the peripheral site reduces access to police services for those who do not have a car.

Friday, November 29, 2013

City Council, December 2nd - Cue up Sunday Streets 2014!

On a not-so-busy Council agenda for Monday, there's some great news. Not only does the City recommend starting to plan now for Sunday Streets 2014, there's money left over, and it wasn't as costly as some had feared (though part of this is because it was smaller than the Portland events, whose budget had provided a baseline).

Lively Sunday afternoon!


Quiet Sunday afternoon
The staff recommendation and report contains a number of items to improve for next year, chief among them better managing the north-south cross-traffic on Front, Commercial, Liberty, High, Church, and Cottage; and earlier and bigger outreach and marketing.  There are several other fine and coarse adjustments, most of them not rocket science. Staff report that adjacent businesses that were open did have a bump in sales, so that'll hopefully spur more to stay open.

The only downside? Staff is recommending one only, again in September on the 7th. MOAR SUNDAY STREETS PLEASE!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Holiday Thanks!

On Sunday out for a walk in the almost-cold late afternoon and early evening, it was great to see a decent crowd on the bridge!

Even on an almost-cold Sunday at sunset, there's still 20 people out
walking on the bridge, momentarily captivated by the passing Queen
Who's gonna use the bridge? they said.

Lots of people and in lots of different ways!

Music, July 2012
Of all the urban bits that fall within the ambit of the blog - an odd triangle at the moment of bicycling, transportation, and buildings - I keep coming back to the bridge, and it might be the thing for which I am most consistently thankful in Salem.

Flood, January 2012
Once built, the Minto bridge will similarly be loved and used.

For what other things in Salem are you thankful?  What do we get right in that polygon of walking, biking, planning, building?

Happy Thanksgiving and be safe as you travel!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Our MPO Meets Tuesday: Greenhouse Gas Modeling not Popular

On Tuesday the 26th, the Policy Committee for our area Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Salem-Keizer Area Transportation Study, meets at noon.  On the agenda are two items of interest:
  • A report on scenario planning for greenhouse gas emissions
  • Prioritizing Federal Surface Transportation Program (STP-U) funds and Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP-U) funds for the 2015-2020 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).
October CAN-DO minutes:
"The McMahan block redevelopment will be announced soon."
Hopefully soon this gravel lot will have people and a building!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Drink Local: American Beverages for an American Holiday!

It's hard to say whether this weather will hold up for the weekend, but if it does, consider our great Wine Country Thanksgiving.

Most wineries are open and there's no better way to visit than by bike! - And few better ways to work off those calories.

The south end of the Eola Hills are picturesque and offer a good number of wineries.

There's also a bunch of wineries in the Waldo Hills and out south towards Ankeny. For a short-hop, Honeywood and Willamette Valley Vineyards are probably the closest to downtown Salem.

(Most of the wineries do have a tasting fee, but often refund it with a wine purchase.)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Death on OR-22 Ramp near Edgewater Shows Problem with Marine Drive and Park

Wednesday night a person driving a car struck two people on foot and killed one in a crash near Capital Manor on the Highway 22 ramp westbound onto Edgewater.

Highway 22 and the ramp system are real barriers
and there is no place to cross safely
Asking "why were they crossing the road here?" may not be very helpful, as the primary destination across the highway are homeless camps, and it doesn't seem likely they were in a marked or unmarked crosswalk. But they might also have had a car breakdown or something. We don't know the answer, and there may not be a socially sanctioned "good" answer to the question. The question shouldn't distract us from the awful fact that a person died and another was gravely hurt.

the online news piece
So we should instead ask about the structure and design of the road - how is this structure similar to other structures or contemplated structures in Salem? If there were a sanctioned development across the highway, how would a person from the Manor or nearby neighborhood reach it?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Sidewalks Then and Now: Historic Landmarks Commission talks New Standards

Thursday night the 21st, the Historic Landmarks Commission will hear about new street standards proposed by the City.

The Steam Laundry on Liberty, just south of State Street.
Note First Methodist Steeple in back, bike parking in front;
the backside of Guardian building is on the left.
The boardwalk sits above the slope and depression on the alley.
Salem Library Historic Photos
Staff say the presentation will include a discussion of "Sidewalk width & scoring patterns; Pedestrian bulb outs at corners; Tree wells & grates; and lighting both pedestrian level and street level." Another set of details will be discussed in one or more subsequent presentations.

In the context of the HLC, modern standards must stress compatibility rather than authenticity in historic districts, so it's of limited usefulness to see "what used to be" as if that might guide us on appropriate development and standards.  The move from mud to pavement, and from boardwalk to concrete sidewalk, is progress obviously, and we'd almost never want historical accuracy on these.

In fact, "mud" was often code for a rank slurry of poop and sticky rain-moistened dirt!  When the State Highway Commission's motto was "Get Oregon out of the Mud," read accordingly - and savor the progress.  (I think we have too much pavement, of course, but I do not mind at all that modern pavement is a standard road surface!)

In other areas things are less clear. Preservationists go to great lengths to check the scourge of vinyl and aluminum windows, and yet have much less to say about car traffic and parking management.  For both 19th century and even streetcar-era development, cars are the intrusion and disruption!  Go figure.

Same location today!  It's built up a little for parking,
but the alley still dips into a bowl - and see the steeple in back.
I'm glad for concrete and asphalt over mud and boards,
but this is still pretty drab.
Anyway, here's a couple of sidewalk scenes, then and now.

In the first pair, most things have changed and the only thing really visible in both pictures is the steeple.  I love that there was covered bike parking, however.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Diverging Diamond Rejected for I-5 and Kuebler, Minto Bridge Waits at Transportation Commission

The Oregon Transportation Commission meets Wednesday the 20th at ODOT-HQ.

Gail Achterman OTC Room
Earlier in the year, it looked like "Enhance it" funds for the Minto Bridge might have been approved at this meeting, but that item doesn't appear to be on the agenda. There is an informational report on the agenda instead, and it looks like final approval will come at the January 2014 meeting.

But one item that is on the agenda is that crazy diverging diamond proposed for I-5 at Keubler.

Diverging Diamond
A developer had proposed the diverging diamond through an alternative submission process, and it looks like ODOT's not biting, preferring instead a partial cloverleaf design.

Monday, November 18, 2013

City Shops Proposed TSP Amendments at Neighborhood Associations

As a housekeeping matter Public Works is shopping a list of proposed amendments to the Transportation System Plan.

Bikes can offer mobility after disaster
Typhoon Haiyan - via the Oregonian
(AP/Aaron Favila)
The process envisions going to the Planning Commission with a Public Hearing sometime this winter and then for Council to adopt them.

Not all of the proposals have enough specificity for informed comment here, but some of them have already been seen before.  In the letter to neighborhood associations, city staff note that "these amendments have been pending for some time or have arisen from recently completed studies."

Proposed TSP Amendments
From an Oct 8th letter to Neighborhood Associations
(click to enlarge)
The Kroc Center pathway has already been discussed here several times, as have the recommendations in the Downtown Mobility Study.

The 22nd street project was briefly mentioned for the bond surplus long-list.

Others are new here:
  • The Trade/Front street ROW on the west side looks like it is for the Boise Redevelopment.
  • The Strong Road and Hilfiker look like housekeeping matters in Morningside.
  • A new local street between 25th and Airport Way, south of Shelton Ditch and north of Mission - apparently right by the post office site.  (This could be related to redevelopment of the old Capitol Auto Group lots.)
And two policy matters:
  • Adjusting the policy on vacating right-of-way
  • And maybe the most interesting - adopting new policies on "Transportation System Critical Routes," specially focused on natural hazards.  This will bear watching because as we have seen elsewhere, sometimes freight interests or those who forget that bikes are especially useful after a disaster want to use "critical" needs to push road designs inimical to non-auto users.  "Critical routes" too often become urban highways. (Or, you know:  Third Bridge.  The flip side here is an opportunity to stress seismic retrofit of our existing bridges, including one that is structurally deficient.)

From the SJ last summer
The process and hearings in general, and the critical routes in particular, could offer another opportunity to tell the City: More bike lanes, please!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

City Council, November 18th - Trumping Data by Personal Anecdote

"Don't be mislead by statistics," says the Mayor!

Income by Census Block:
Salem River Crossing
Draft Environmental Impact Statement
Chapter 3.4, Environmental Justice
From today's Paper:
The Post ranked every zip code in America based on median income and education level, measured by what percentage of adults have college degrees. West Salem falls in the 73rd percentile nationally, which means it is wealthier and better educated than 72 out of 100 zip codes in the country.

Meanwhile, downtown and North Salem are in the 17th percentile, and northeast Salem falls in the 19th percentile. They are in the bottom one-fifth of all American neighborhoods.

Salem Mayor Anna Peterson was skeptical that Salem exhibits such stark income inequality.

“(West Salem) is a microcosm of this entire community. Don’t be misled by statistics,” she said. “There are millionaires that are downtown.”
SJ graphic on income by zip code
Council meets on Monday, and there's little of interest for transportation.  So, bullets again - and a  history pendent:

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Trails Alliance Announces Draft Plans for Park and Trails

Last summer you may remember the Salem Area Trails Alliance held a brainstorming session at Wallace Park.

The pond is a logical feature and center for a park.
A trail could wrap around it.  Folks watch a blue heron in back!
It ended with tracing paper and some sketching...

Pitching ideas and features on tracing paper over the map -
for a lot more than just a pump track!
Yesterday the Alliance announced that Salem Parks and Recreation Advisory Board had reviewed and endorsed the draft plan! (There's that pond again, with trail along its circumference.)

Salem Area Trail Alliance Draft Map and Plan for Wallace Park
Thanks to
 National Parks Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance program
and Sector Environmental Design
There's much, much more to do before building, but the endorsement by the Parks Board is a big step!

Congratulations, SATA!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Vintage Mysteries of the Electro-Matic

Remember when it was sunny and beautiful???


Just a block down the street from Howard Hall and the Blind School property is an old, locked cabinet.

What do you suppose is this artifact from another era?

Why it's a vintage "Electro-Matic" control box of course!

(Love the mini-zaps emanating from the wheel running over the trigger pad.)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Weekend Fun: Cargo Bikes, Coffee, and TEDx Talks

There aren't a lot of cargo bikes in Salem, but this weekend might offer the best chance to see them all together!

Anatomy of Cargo Bikes - Momentum Magazine
Steel Bridge Coffee, Salem's coffee roaster by bike, is hosting a coffee tasting and cargo bike rally at Pringle Creek Community.  From 9am to noon on Saturday, at Painters Hall Joseph will have
Mexico "Terruño Nayarita" Washed Organic Reserva
Uganda "Bukonzo Co-op" Fair Trade, Organic
Hawaii Ka'u "Kiolaka'a Mountain Farm" micro-lot
A representative from the Nayarita importer will be on hand to talk about the coffee, fair trade, and the benefits of increasing investments on site at farms and processing stations.

So get your big bike out, pedal down to Pringle Creek Community, and taste some free coffee with fellow people on bike - it's like another Breakfast on Bikes!

(Here's the FB event listing for the Cargo rally and for the tasting.)

Transportation and Urbanism Talk at TEDx

You've been hearing all about the run-up to Salem's first TEDx at the Grand Theater on Saturday!

As part of it, Stephanie Wright of Nelson/Nygaard will give a talk titled, "Walk. Bike. Bus. How we can reshape our streets and cities."

(You may remember her colleague at Nelson/Nygaard, Jeffrey Tumlin, from a talk at the library earlier this year.  I suspect Wright's talk will draw on similar themes.)

The event looks to be sold out, but all the talks will be filmed and posted online for viewing afterwards.  It's great to see the subject go mainstream!

If you go, let us know how the talk was received!

Update

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Police and Civic Center Open Houses are Opportunity to Talk Property Tax Efficiency

The debate over the proposed police station at the Civic Center can give the City an opportunity to talk about efficiency in value and property tax generation - in generating private and public value.

But will they seize it?

(Did anyone go to the open house last night?  There's another one tonight!  Interestingly there doesn't seem to be an article in the paper about it.)

Mid-rise downtown development generates 10x
property tax/acre over suburban big box sprawl
(see bottom for notes on image credit)
The police station would be a public facility, and off the tax rolls. The police station itself won't be responsible for directly generating property taxes - unless they do some neat mixed-use project!

But if a facility is built on land that is currently on the property tax rolls, taking the land off the rolls creates an opportunity cost: What is the property tax the City will forgo if it builds on land that is currently private? (Also:  What other costs will the City incur by building on this land?)

And what is the range of property taxes that such a private development might have generated?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Our Veterans of the War of 1812 and the Costs of Auto-Dependent Enclosure

While walking through the cemetery on Veterans Day, my comrade-in-feets pointed out the one known Revolutionary War Veteran buried in Oregon.

After that war, in 1810 William Cannon got into the fur trade and was at the pivotal Champoeg meeting of 1843. He died in 1854 and is buried in St. Paul. It's not surprising that French Prairie would have the oldest Veteran in Oregon. (More here and here.)
John Pollard Gaines
1795 - 1857

So who are Salem's oldest Veterans?

The Salem Pioneer Cemetery turns up five from the War of 1812, most of whom were born in the 1790s, a generation - or maybe two - after Cannon:
One the one hand, sure, these historic facts are trivia.  But are we so numb to history that we think them trivial?  The War of 1812 was two centuries ago!  By Salem standards that's a long time.

Corvallis' Crystal Lakes Cemetery Walking Path Opening
Signage:  Dogs on Leash, Closes at Dusk
One of the real costs of our lock-down and auto-oriented approach to cemetery security is that we miss out on encouraging walks through the cemetery that will turn up wonderful facts like these. Casual visits to the cemetery have a role in civic society! Instead of promoting cemetery security through the eyes and ears of curious adults and children, we hope for security through secrecy.  This hoardery approach to cemeteries is self-defeating!  Safety and security arises through activity, not emptiness.

Our cemeteries are one of our greatest resources for connecting with local history, and the more we hew to an inflexible model of perimeter security that turns them into primarily auto-oriented destinations and discourages the casual visit, the less we will know, and the more difficult it will actually be to maintain cemetery security.

(In the cemetery there are also many Veterans of the Mexican War, the so-called "Indian Wars," and the Civil War, including at least three on the Confederate side. Plus many more in the 20th century.)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Kuebler Widening Looks to Hoover up Bond Surplus

The final recommendations for the bond surplus are out and will be decided at Wednesday 's Council Streets and Bridges Bond Subcommittee meeting.

Recommendations seem follow tactics of ad hoc dispersal rather than a strategy of concentration.

Brown Road:  No sidewalks or bike lanes
Shouldn't we be investing more in basic mobility?
Too often this is our baseline.
I have listed the total cost in order to show the larger sense of priorities, so the total is substantially larger than the expected bond surplus.  In many cases the bond surplus is being used to back-fill with completion funding or used as a local match for other funding sources.

Of course these things are political as well as strategic, so some amount of "local pork" and "retail" neighborhood projects will be sprinkled in.  But as I read the list, it is striking how little from Bike and Walk Salem is recommended for funding.  It's almost as if that project never happened.  The selection critierion is independent of Bike and Walk Salem - "provides access to schools, parks, transit." So it doesn't look like the plan is meaningfully directing future investment or strategy.  Instead, the project list looks like an ad hoc response to local politics.  On the surface, there's not much strategy here. (Maybe you see something I don't?  It's hard to see a politically realistic balance that yet advances substantially our investments in basic mobility and non-auto travel.)

Selection Criteria (click to enlarge)
In an alternate universe, it is plausible that the bond surplus would fund a large number of high-priority projects from the new biking and walking plan - maybe even a complete corridor or family-friendly bikeway. In this world we would take greenhouse gas reduction goals seriously, and show a serious commitment to mobility choice and transportation options.

Instead, one capacity expansion project gets the largest share:  Kuebler widening is assigned $3.2M out of just over $8.1M.

And, remember, Kuebler already got a big chunk of the first round of surplus!  With those savings,

Council adopt[ed] Resolution No. 2013-46 authorizing use of Streets and Bridges Bond proceeds to fund improvements at the Commercial Street SE/Kuebler Boulevard SE intersection ($2, 187,000), Fairgrounds Road NE/Hood Street NE intersection ($325,000), and 25th Street SE/Madrona Avenue SE Intersection ($5,000,000).
So that's $2.2M out of $7.5M.  Why, just why?

There might be more bikes parked at the Union Gospel Mission
than anywhere else in Salem on a daily basis.
Many of those who ride and use the Mission's services are Veterans.
Don't we owe them better support for bicycling and
a better set of transportation options?
In a world in which we don't have a complete sidewalk and bikeway system, in a world in which maintaining our bridges and fixing "structurally deficient" ones remains a fantasy, in a world in which we clearly cannot maintain the roads and bridges and sidewalks we already have, why are we expanding any road capacity for cars?

So, I guess those are leading questions.  Still, what do you think about the list?

Primary Recommendations:

CategoryLocationTotal CostPriority
Arterial SafetyBrown Road upgrade (extends existing project)$2,750,000first
Pavement RehabEola Drive pavement rehab (extends existing project)$700,000
Neighborhood bike/pedRR quiet zone crossing improvements at Woodrow and Silverton Road NE$1,750,000not listed!
Neighborhood bike/pedCourt Street wood bridge over Mill Creek$250,000not listed!
New CapacityKuebler at Commercial dual turn lanes$4,700,000this makes things worse!
BridgesScour Mitigation for 13th st bridge over Shelton Ditch$100,000
Neighborhood bike/pedNew and repair sidewalks - inner Salem neighborhoods$1,500,000unknown
New CapacityWiden Kueber, I-5 to Commercial $5,000,000this makes things worse!
Arterial SafetyBrush College (north side sidewalks)$1,435,000second
SafetyFixed-Pole Radar signs$50,000

Saturday, November 9, 2013

NEN-SESNA Neighborhood Plan Project to Look at State Street

State Street just might be the most diverse street in Salem. Is there another place in town where a Church and an Ice Cream plant practically face each other across the street?

Ice Cream Plant and Wood Church at 17th/18th
(And no bike lanes!)
On Tuesday the 12th, Looking Forward, the project with both NEN and SESNA to write a new neighborhood plan, convenes to look specifically at the State Street corridor between approximately 12th and Lancaster.
What is your vision for the corridor? How could it be improved? What type of uses and building designs are desired? Plan to participate in an interactive workshop to help shape the vision for State Street.
The raw materials are a real jumble!  The street's roots go back to the first platting and street grid, and along it you can trace out each phase of development in Salem. It's literally a road through history.

There's one of Salem's only streetcar districts that's not downtown.  This segment of State Street to 25th also lacks bike facilities and connections to downtown.

Vestigial Streetcar Commercial District:  State and 12th
Though there has been a lot of commercial redevelopment, there's still some housing stock, including a few historic gems.

Homes Zoned for Business: Vestigial Housing near 25th
Adolph House (1878) on right - notice similarity to Bush house!
on National Register of Historic Places
Past 25th, the land uses are mostly institutional, dominated by the State.

WPA-era Department of Forestry Building,
on National Register of Historic Places

Friday, November 8, 2013

Passenger Rail Open House Materials Online; SESNA on Historic Baggage Depot Thursday

There's lots of interesting train talk these days!

The Portland-Eugene Passenger Rail project has posted materials and online commenting from the Open House on Tuesday.
Detail of Salem Area Alignments
Middle Section, Albany to Wilsonville
(rotated 90 degrees)
The presentation has charts like this with the scoring against estimated costs.

Score/Dollar Ratios on Salem Area Alignments
I'm not sure they chose the best scaling on the X- and Y-axes, but the charts look like Science!

If you couldn't make it to the Open House, check it out.

SESNA talks Baggage Depot

Thursday, November 14th at 7:00 p.m. SESNA meets in the Capital Park Wesleyan Church at 410 19th St SE.

On the agenda is an update on the Baggage Depot restoration and rehab.

For some reason the old Baggage Depot's relation to the old Passenger Depot was never clear to me.  Happily, as part of the project's web page, ODOT has posted a slide deck with some images that placed side-by-side make it clear!

1905 Birdseye map, Library of Congress
Thos. Kay Woolen Mill, Depot, Yew School (L to R),
North is to the left (15th, 14th, 12th run top to bottom)
This birdseye isn't part of the presentation, but it shows how the Depot was almost a T-shape and had two rectangular volumes mashed together.  The one on the south end has endured!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Going Downhill on a Bicycle - Benjamin Britten's Bike Song

Benjamin Britten was one of Britain's greatest composers and his 100th birthday is being celebrated this month on the 22nd.

Last weekend his children's opera Noye's Fludde was performed, and this weekend one of his String Quartets will be played at the Library.

More interesting for a bike blog, he composed a bike song! Having been born in 1913, he came of age at a time and place when bicycling was important transportation, and it is not surprising he composed something when he was in his later teens. 

The song, "Going down Hill on a Bicycle" is dedicated to a fellow composition student, Remo Lauricella, who was about a year older than Britten. It is paired with a piece titled "The Moon" and together they perhaps suggest nighttime adventures. It's easy to imagine adventures by train and by bike in Britain of the 1920s and 30s!

Going down Hill on a Bicycle (1931), Benjamin Britten
Juvenilia from the Britten Thematic Catalogue
"Bicycle" nods to Henry Charles Beeching's poem of the same title (published in book in 1895, though it might have appeared earlier by itself).  In the early 20th century, the poem seems to have been anthologized fairly often, so maybe it was a favorite poem, too, for Britten:
WITH lifted feet, hands still,
I am poised, and down the hill
Dart, with heedful mind;
The air goes by in a wind.

Swifter and yet more swift,
Till the heart with a mighty lift
Makes the lungs laugh, the throat cry:--
'O bird, see; see, bird, I fly.

'Is this, is this your joy?
O bird, then I, though a boy
For a golden moment share
Your feathery life in air!'

Say, heart, is there aught like this
In a world that is full of bliss?
'Tis more than skating, bound
Steel-shod to the level ground.

Speed slackens now, I float
Awhile in my airy boat;
Till, when the wheels scarce crawl,
My feet to the treadles fall.

Alas, that the longest hill
Must end in a vale; but still,
Who climbs with toil, wheresoe'er,
Shall find wings waiting there.
League of American Wheelmen Membership, late 1890s
LAB history
The association of bikes and birds was a common trope on both sides of the Atlantic, and you can see it in the winged wheel logos for the League of American Wheelmen and the British Cyclists Touring Club.  So while it's not likely there's any great originality in the poem's imagery, the imagery was widespread and the poem did seem to be popular.

The song "Bicycle" is a student work, not formally included in Britten's adult list of compositions, and there don't seem to be any full recordings online or for sale. So it's pretty clearly a curiosity more than a fully formed work of art.  You can listen to a clip - possibly a student recording - of the first 39 seconds here.

About the Camerata Musica concert with the String Quartet...

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

In the Shadow of Cars: Millrace Park at Pringle Plaza

In a note on the Civic Center the other day a commenter observed that the space in front of Gamberetti's was a favorite public square in Salem, had the "best potential," and offered "the best outdoor dining experience in Salem."

And that got me thinking.  Did you know the space has a name?

Millrace Park at Pringle Plaza
On a sunny day, shouldn't there be more people in it?
It's Millrace Park at Pringle Plaza.

I go back and forth on it.  Sometimes I find it charming and interesting, other times all the concrete and edges are just ugly and it drives me nuts. It's that 70s Brutalism thing, again.

But more than just the design of the square itself, the important thing is how it relates to nearby spaces.

And in this I think it's a failure, even though sometimes the dining is pleasant, the space occasionally works and can be charming. (Do these successful elements tip the balance for you?  It will be interesting to learn how others feel about this space.)

On balance, I think it shows why we should not uncritically laud vintage urban renewal like the whole Pringle Creek area, and why contemporary urban renewal cannot focus atomistically on a single spot.  Unless a redevelopment at the Civic Center thinks about adjacent land uses, it will just offer more of the same.

Relationships matter.

In the Shadows

In several ways the park has a shadowy existence.  But our accommodations for cars might cast the longest shadow.  The relationship that seems to trump every other one is our relationship to the car - how we move cars, and how we store them.

Rivers for Cars:  Trade and Liberty,
stitched from google streetview;
Millrace park on the right
Even though there is interpretive signage, at least part of the City apparently doesn't think it exists! The only "Mill Race Park" is the one just south of State Street between 21st and Ferry, where Mill Creek is dammed and the Mill Race originates and then parallels Ferry Street.

This space between Liberty and High isn't on the list of parks. It's in an official shadow.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Some Pictures of the Latest "Salem Alternative" Proposed for Third Bridge - updated

The "Salem Alternative" analysis that the Oversight Team saw on October 31st doesn't much look like a "local" bridge! It seems to have grown and looks more like the giant bridge and highway of 4D again.

Salem Alternative over McLane Island, from top blue rule:
Bike lane, 3 auto travel lanes, sidewalk;
sidewalk, 3 auto travel lanes, bike lane.
(It's also possible the lane between the blue and red is a MUP,
and there is no separate sidewalk.)
The bridge would be 3 high-speed auto travel lanes in each direction. (See bottom for update.)

Clips from very large (12mb) map here.  Some additional notes here.  Just pictures for now.

The intersection of Hope and Marine Drive in the Salem Alternative
Graphic (with added notes) from
Oversight Team meeting Oct 31st, 2013

Saturday, November 2, 2013

City Council, November 4th - Brown Rd, Union St, Brush College Rd Projects

On Council agenda for Monday the lead item for us is a proposed package of five transportation projects, three of which are unambiguous good news for people who walk and bike.

From the Staff Report:
Shall Council authorize the City Manager to apply for federal funds from the Fiscal Year 2015-2020 Salem-Keizer Area Transportation Study Surface Transportation Program and Transportation Alternatives Program for the following projects, in the priority order listed?
  1. Brown Road NE Sidewalk and Bike Lanes Project
  2. Union Street NE/Commercial Street NE Intersection Improvement Project
  3. Liberty Street NE Traffic Signal Communication Project
  4. Hawthorne Avenue NE/Sunnyview Avenue NE Intersection Widening Project
  5. Brush College Road NW Sidewalk and Bike Lanes Project
The project about which I have the most reservation is the Hawthorne and Sunnyview widening. Sunnyview is the only two-lane east-west connection with bike lanes across I-5 and to Lancaster. It is far from an ideal route, but speeds are not high, and it is much lower stress than State and Center, and generally lower stress than D.

Note the red and yellow on east-west connections
I worry that an intersection widening project here - adding a right turn lane from the south side of Hawthorne onto Sunnyview - will make Sunnyview more difficult for east-west travel where barriers are already multiplied. The turn lane will also need to accommodate the existing north-south bike lane on Hawthorne.

The Liberty Signal Connection will just speed traffic north through the Grant and Highland neighborhoods to the Parkway.  It'll probably make east-west crossing a little more difficult, but if it is a mitigation measure that takes pressure off the mania for a Third Bridge, that's probably a worthwhile trade-off.

About the Union and Commercial project, see full discussion here.  This is good news.

No sidewalks or bike lanes on Brush College
The Brush College project in West Salem is one that has struggled to get funding in several previous attempts, and it's something of an orphan.  The street unquestionably should have sidewalks and bike lanes, as it is adjacent to a school.  But the land uses are low-density and dispersed, the streets are rural-ish and higher speed, and realistically the population of children who could walk or bike to school here may not be very large.  The return on this investment will almost certainly be on the low end.

All in all, especially considering the realities of Salem politics, this is a pretty good package.  It's possible to quibble with it, but it's very hard to say there are outright bad choices in it.  (And of course it's also possible to want more!) The quibbles are squarely in the realm of what reasonable people might disagree on, and therefore I think the package is a win.

(If I understand it right, it also could scratch a couple of candidate projects off the top of the bond surplus list and could allow other ones to slide in.  See after the jump for the table.)