Friday, November 28, 2014

City Council, December 1st - Uber Duber Change

Maybe the most interesting item on Council's agenda for Monday is a recommendation from staff to review the regulatory scheme for taxis. You'll recognize the whole Uber thing in the background here:
Recommended Action: Direct staff to review the City's vehicle for hire regulations within Salem Revised Code (SRC) Chapter 30 for possible amendment to address newly emerging transportation network companies who utilize smart phone applications and the internet to link drivers with passengers in need of transportation, and prepare recommendations for amendments to the SRC to address issues raised by this new business model.
This is a rapidly changing environment, and last summer there was a long piece in the Washington Post about how disruptive is the class of "transportation network companies" and their "smart phone applications." More recently, the New York Times noted "The average price of an individual New York City taxi medallion fell to $872,000 in October, down 17 percent from a peak reached in the spring of 2013, according to an analysis of sales data." The disruption is happening in all cities, everywhere.

The NEN-SESNA "Looking Forward" neighborhood plan continues to move, with a future report here for a December 8th appearance at Council, and it is amusing to note that one of its pieces is called "GLUM." The "Generalized Land Use Map" is glum. That's a piquant internal note on the effect that our proliferation of "shelf studies" and largely-ignored policy language has on advocates. So here's to "GLUM," maybe the most accurate component and effect in our planning toolkit.

Other Stuff

There's not really a whole lot of substantial interest here, so mostly a list with little commentary. (There weren't enough four-letter words, like UBER and GLUM, to riff on. Maybe you'll see other four-letter words or have other thoughts?)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanksgiving Weekend in 1914 Illustrates History of Autoism

Thanksgiving in 1914 looked a lot like it does today. It had already become an opportunity for marketing and merchandising, and the advertising isn't much different from what we'd see today.

Tuesday, November 24th, 1914
One highlight of the weekend here was a "five reel feature film sensation," From Molten Steel to Automobile, a PR extravaganza from the Maxwell Motor Company, shown at the Grand Theatre.

Tuesday, November 24th, 1914
It was making the rounds in the US. An August, 1914 issue of The Horseless Age magazine talked about viewings in New York, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, and Flint.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Blind School Argument Scheduled at Land Use Board of Appeals

The Land Use Board of Appeals has published the dates for the oral arguments on the appeals on the Blind School property.

Both are scheduled for Thursday, December 4th.

Rushing v. City of Salem is at 9:00am, and South Central Association of Neighbors v. City of Salem is at 11:00am.

Recently there was an unexpected "opportunity" to contemplate the parking lot at the Hospital.

A huge proportion of the hospital campus is devoted to parking

Parking garage and lots from higher up
Aside from getting another view from inside and higher up, there wasn't much new: It was a lot of land devoted to cars and their storage. A very low form of land use, in truth, especially considering what had been there before.

Casual conversation and observation with staff was more interesting.

Commercial Vista Corridor Study kicks off Public Phase

The City just published the project site for the Commercial Vista Corridor Study.

Zoning along Commercial in study area
The study area extends along Commercial Street from about Ohmart to Madrona, and includes a significant chunk of Liberty, including the miserable dysfunction junction of Liberty and Commercial.

From the project site:
The focus of this project is to improve the visual character and functionality of the circulation system within the project area and to strengthen the district's identity, character, economic vitality, and marketability.

The goal is to identify specific project to manage traffic, enhance connectivity, and provide a welcoming environment for walkers, bicyclists, transit riders, and motorists. The general approach will be to identify short-term projects for immediate implementation as well as incremental improvements that can be constructed as funding becomes available or in conjunction with private investment actions.
List from Previous Planning Memo
The previous planning memo includes a list of "priority street improvement projects" and it is interesting to see the intersection at Ratcliff, where an elderly man was struck while attempting to cross earlier this fall. Not only because of speeds, the number of travel lanes, and a large section of missing sidewalk, but also because of the infrequency of traffic lights and marked crosswalks, this is very difficult to walk.

Ratcliff and Commercial has no marked crosswalks
and the northeast side is missing a sidewalk.
Not at all friendly for people on foot.
In the list is also the turn lane at Madrona and Commercial from the trip analysis for the Fairview development.

It seems like a goal of the study ought to be reconfiguring Commercial Street so that the widening projects are unnecessary and that additional human capacity and comfort can be developed through designs for "a welcoming environment for walkers, bicyclists, transit riders, and motorists."

But if the study does not yield a project list that will eliminate or mitigate the need for the auto widening projects, then it will be difficult to regard it as a success.

The first public meeting will be held Thursday, December 11, 2014 from 1:30 to 3 p.m. at the LifeSource Community Room, 2649 Commerical Street SE (located on the first floor of the Candalaria Terrace building, one block south of LifeSource).

(For all notes on the Commercial Vista Corridor Study, see here.)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Change at YMCA: Reminder to Support Northwest HUB!

There's always more to a story than we read or hear about. Always. Life's messy and complex.

But this sure looks strange.

The Y's new Executive Director who hasn't even started yet, comes into town from Oklahoma and "delivers layoff notices" to the man he's replacing and three others: the "Interim Executive Director...[and] communications director, campaign director and senior director of health innovations."

There's a "house-cleaning" for you. Layoffs suck, and this looks like an especially unpleasant one for the organization and for those who are losing jobs.

So why is this news here?

Because the Second Chance Recyclery, the bike program administered jointly by the YMCA and Hillcrest, was under the senior director of health innovations, and the program may be orphaned, unable to find another home in the org chart.

Collecting bikes in 2012
The "health innovations" group was also the home, I believe, for the local "Pioneering Healthier Communities" project and networked with the County Community Health Improvement Partnership.

Hillcrest Program
could see change
These kinds of system health projects don't necessarily have billable hours and easy revenue streams associated with them. Crucially, they are about costs in time and in health we have externalized and made invisible, and we don't have systems to price those costs and to capture revenue accordingly. The programs require subsidy at the moment.

But since the new Executive Director looks like he wants more of a transactional, fee-for-service, "business-oriented" approach to the non-profit, programming like this will be evaluated and could be in jeopardy.

If you want a Y engaged in the wider community, it will be time to let them know. Otherwise, we may find the Y digging into a more narrow health club and gym model.

It's also a good time to support Northwest Hub - even more, it looks like it will need to be the successor entity to the Second Chance Recyclery.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Remember Cranksgiving's Tomorrow!

Hopefully the weather's not making you to cranky - because Cranksgiving's tomorrow!

Broadway Commons and Coffeehouse - via CB|Two
The Cranksgiving alleycat commences at 10am on Saturday, November 22nd, at the Broadway Coffeehouse.

A restorative draught after
the 2010 Cranksgiving
Organized by the folks at Northwest Hub, items will be donated to Marion-Polk Food Share:
[P]articipants are given a shopping list of 10 food and household items to be purchased from 10 different locations. The locations aren't predetermined, buy them where you can find them and then return to the start once you've completed your shopping. Keep all receipts, they will be required to prove you followed the rules. The first to return "wins". It's an urban scramble meant to be fun and noncompetitive. All participants will participate solo, unless paired on a tandem bicycle, which of course we'll allow. Bring your bike, a bag, helmet, lock and cash/card. The shopping should cost no more than $20 if you're thrifty. If you're in a hurry it could cost you more. All items will go to the Marion-Polk Food Share.
Here's the FB event page for any last minute updates.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Marine Drive, the Wallace Bike Park, and the Ambiguilties of Politics in Salem

As we start winding down the year and head into the next, one of the most exciting projects is the fund-raising and planning efforts by the Salem Area Trail Alliance for the proposed bike park north of the softball fields at Wallace Marine Park.

Proposed bike park with bridge alignment for comparison
It's a great project and worth tremendous community support. Go support it if you haven't already!

An exciting match for the Bike Park
But it is also very telling that perhaps for fundraising and sponsorship purposes or internal politics or whatever, the Alliance has not felt able to comment on Marine Drive and the Third Bridge.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Leaf Neckdowns show Excess Width in Travel Lanes

Light blogging this week it looks like...

As you've been riding around this fall and pre-winter maybe you've noticed places where leaf debris shows unneeded lane width in the roads.

Leaf debris on Winter Street just south of State Street
reveals excess lane width
Here's an example by Willamette University. (I'm not sure there's a term for the fall version, but the snow version's #sneckdown seems to have stuck. So this is a leaf neckdown.) Car tires sweep the leaves in the necessary and well-used space, but leave the debris intact where they do not travel.

The debris shows the road is plenty wide for an enlarged or buffered bike lane, no loss of parking, and normal auto travel lane.

Friday, November 14, 2014

City Council, November 17th - Missing Sidewalks and Busy Roads

Back in October, 16 year old Isaiah Guzman was out jogging on Swegle Road, just west of Cordon Road. There are no sidewalks here, and a person driving a car struck him. Guzman later died of injuries sustained in the crash.

It is not a simple story. A child had almost certainly chosen a poor route and time, and so the police and news narrative was about a kid out jogging and wearing black clothing on a dark and stormy night.

But no narrative energy (and likely no enforcement energy) was spent on the basic rule, ORS 811.100, which calls for "reasonable and prudent" speeds by drivers that vary with current conditions. Maybe there are no conditions on this stretch of Swegle where stopping distance is shorter than sight distance at 35mph.  This looks like rural roadway engineered for catastrophic failure at the urban boundary, especially at night in the rain.

Swegle Road just west of Cordon Road
No sidewalks or shoulder, posted for 35mph
We engineer roads to forgive driver error routinely, but we do not engineer roads to forgive errors by those walking or biking. 

Why do we accept this?

We have a system failure in education, enforcement, engineering, and budgets.

It was unwise for a teenager to go jogging after dark on a road with no sidewalks or shoulder.

But no teenager deserves to die for that particular lack of wisdom and experience.

The greater truth is a system failure here, not just a tragic error in teenage judgement.

City Staff propose three different possible sidewalk alignments
At Council on Monday there is a "call-up" and review of a Planning Commission decision to allow a developer to delete a sidewalk on a large apartment complex just off Cordon Road.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Underpasses in Salem: Why one with Cars on 2nd at Wallace Road Might be Good

Underpasses look great when you draw them on a map. Connections!

Portland Road Underpass Sidewalk:  Salem Daily Photo Diary
Icky, and a little scary, in truth.
But here in Salem we don't have very many examples of underpasses that feel safe, comfortable, and inviting. Mostly they are pedestrian displacement systems, and gather commensurate amounts of dust, trash, and even poop.

Sunnyview under I-5
I have to say, though, that the underpasses I use most often - even if I don't like them, I do use them - are those that share the way with car traffic. I prefer a bike lane next to zooming auto traffic over a too-separated path without eyeballs and ears. In this case cars seem like a smaller threat than isolated space with no ways out.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

ODOT's New Smartphone App to log Trip Data; Admiral to talk Climate Change

Early this summer you might remember news about STRAVA making heat maps of bicycling activity available.

The bike shops, Starbucks, and the Bike Club's red lot ride origin
are all popular with this subset of people who bike
ODOT purchased a round of this data, but it looks like they might have evaluated the on-going subscription cost and decided that something in-house could be cheaper and more predictable heading into the future.

via PSU College of Engineering
Last week together with PSU and a few others they announced ORcycle, a smartphone app that will log your bicycling activity and feed it to the active transportation planners who are desperately looking for data on dangerous places, raw counts of people who bike, as well as movements people actually take through intersections and other facilities.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Open Houses on Unified Development Code and West Salem Business District Wednesday - Updated

Two open houses on Wednesday the 12th are worth your consideration!

Unified Development Code

The Unified Development Code "Clean-up" project was ostensibly "policy-neutral" and introduced no changes in zoning, code, or other stuff. It was purely for efficiency, rationality, and simplicity.


They're moving on to the next phase, which does embrace policy changes.
[S]o major policy issues that fell outside the scope of the project were set aside in a "bucket list" to be reviewed later. Now that the UDC has been adopted, we are considering how to best address the outstanding policy issues....

Attached is the list of outstanding policy issues. Please review the list and pass it along to others. At the Nov. 12 open house, community members will get the opportunity to weigh in on the issues and vote for their top priorities! We will also ask the community if there are other policy issues that should be added to the list.

Your input will help City staff prioritize the policy issues and make recommendations to City Council on how to best proceed. We hope to see you at the open house.
The open house is Wednesday, Nov. 12 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Pringle Hall (606 Church Street SE).

On Veterans Day, Think about Genuine Mobility for Vets

Donnie, a vet, talks about his new bike
via Northwest Hub
In an interview for the bike coop, Northwest Hub, Donnie, a veteran, talks about difficulties making connections by bus in Salem and how helpful is a bicycle for him.

You may recall Congressman Schrader's visit to the new Social Security office and location of a new Veterans Affairs Community Based Outpatient Clinic on McGilchrist, a site poorly served by transit and difficult to reach.

A new Union Gospel Mission shelter is proposed for Division and Commercial, also a place difficult to reach on foot or on bike.

For all our rhetoric about "heroes," we don't do a very good job of actually treating veterans like heroes in their day-to-day lives. At public events we put them on a pedestal. Out on the street and away from the symbolism of public events or bumper stickers, our troop worship founders and collectively it seems like we wish they'd disappear, just be normal and invisible.

It's almost like we want to make things as difficult as possible for veterans.

There are lots of substantial and meaningful things a person might do for vets. Bikes might not be at the very head of the list, since if you don't have good enough mental and physical health to bike, you can't really use one. But for those who are able, bike repair, bike recycling, and bike barter are quite valuable, and supporting programs like the Hub's helps with this.

Also useful is asking the City to give up on giant capacity projects like Wallace and Glenn Creek, or Market and Lancaster, or epsecially the Third Bridge, and instead to focus on basic connectivity like sidewalks and bike lanes so all users of the road feel like they have options.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

City Council, November 10th - Madrona and 25th Street

New rights-of-way for the changes at 25th and Madrona lead Monday's Council agenda for us.

Parcels identified for acquisition near Madrona and 25th
The project itself is tied to the Norpac expansion. It is interesting that the Staff Report elides this fact, and instead appeals to "safety."
The project is being designed and constructed in the public interest. Traffic studies have demonstrated a public need for these improvements to provide a safe and less congested intersection for the general public.
In an earlier informal presentation to the neighborhood association, city engineering staff noted that the design speeds would be near urban highway:
45 MPH design speed for roads leading to intersection, 40 MPH design speed through intersection to minimize impact to Pringle Creek.
I'm seeing an emphasis on speed and through-put, not on safety. I'm also not sure that these really serve the "general public." They serve the truck traffic of Norpac and other industry specifically.

The City should be less bashful about saying directly, "Agricultural industry is important in Salem, and this investment benefits that sector of our economy." I think there's a good case to be made for this, but wrapping the project in language of safety is at least a little disingenuous. If safety were truly important, the overall shape of the project would be different, and it would include more on 25th itself.

Other Stuff

There's an update on fundraising by Friends of Two Bridges.
To date the Friends of Two Bridges have raised approximately $40,000. The fundraising campaign continues to solicit donations specifically for the following Minto Trail amenities:
• Engraved bricks to be located in one of the four scenic overlooks, $100 each;
• Up to three bike racks, $3,000 each;
• Up to 10 interpretive signs, $4,000 each;
• Up to 12 metal benches, $5,000 each; and
• Sponsorship for the four scenic overlooks designed along the Minto Trail are between $17,000 - $28,000 per overlook.
Not on the agenda, but interesting to note here, the Salem Area Trail Alliance just kicked off their own fund-raising project for the bike park at Wallace Marine, and they are using indiegogo and have a goal of $75,000.

Bricks or online - it seems like something of a generational shift in fundraising approaches. It will be interesting to see how each one turns out. (There will be more to day about SATA in another post.)

Just off of Eola drive there's what looks like an alley that is becoming an official street and therefore needs a name. In the olden days, the partition that is driving the process and subsequent "alley house" would not have needed a new street name! I wonder if this is an example of ways that additional red tape hinders increasing density. (But maybe emergency response hates the alley house phenomenon, I suppose. I know it sometimes foils the pizza delivery.)

Hollywood District, 1960s: It was lively!
Salem Library
There's a proposed buy-out of a limited partner on an apartment complex, whose general partner is the Salem Housing Authority. This is outside our scope here, but the details of the proposed deal are interesting in understanding elements of urban renewal and keeping a stock of safe and affordable housing fairly close-in. The complex is right at the heart of the former Hollywood neighborhood, and it adjoins one of the road spandrels and ornamental emptinesses in Salem, the expanse of bark mulch at the intersection of Capitol, Summer, and Fairgrounds Road NE. The low-density redevelopment of urban "renewal" in Hollywood here is almost certainly a significant reason there was a crime problem; and the need for this buy-out is one of the rippling consequences a generation or more later.

Also interesting, and perhaps more relevant, is a proposed extension on part of the redevelopment of the old Lindbeck orchard property. Development on the proposed nursing home has slowed down, and the initial approvals were going to expire at the end of this year. The applicant sought a two-year extension. There seems to be more going on here also, maybe there will be more to say later. The letter from the neighborhood association in curious in tone. (Do you know more about this?)

Finally, there is a non-update on the West Salem Business District Action Plan. After some delays this summer, things are picking up again, and the Stakeholder Advisory Committee met on the 5th to review some materials. The West Salem Redevelopment Advisory Board also got an update on the 5th. But the Staff Report to Council simply rehearses old matters from the spring! It is curiously empty. There will be an open house on the 12th, and new materials should be public before then - so look for another post. The project is significant because it is a plan being shaped around the footprint of the proposed Third Bridge, and it would be a shame for Edgewater and close-in Wallace to be emptied and "redeveloped" around a ghost bridge.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Shelter Dog Story Shows Power of Cargo Bikes

Nice to see the Capital Auto Group's sponsorship of a story about "two-wheeled road trip" with a Yuba Mundo rather than with a Chevy!

Maybe the best part? "Cargo bike" has entered the language and culture far enough that it didn't require additional explanation in the story:
Where’s Bixby?

She doesn’t blend in riding on the back of an orange cargo bike, so she was easy to spot Thursday in downtown Salem.
It was just a matter-of-fact detail. That's nice too.

Yuba Mundo
from Momentum Magazine
Bixby and Mike were in Portland a little over a week ago, and you can read more about the bike angle at BikePortland. They're headed to Eugene next, it seems.

Altogether they're carrying around 280 pounds of bike + cargo. That's a lot! And all with human power.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Police ask for Help to Find a Downtown Hit and Run; Separately, Cherriots offers Cake

A couple of additional bits...

Hopefully you've already seen this elsewhere, but if not: A driver hit a person on bike on the afternoon of November 4th and did not stay at the scene to render aid. Police are today asking for help.

Video capture of possible hit-and-run
From the Salem Police release:
The Salem Police Department is asking for assistance from the public in locating a vehicle and identifying a driver that was possibly involved in or witnessed a hit and run injury accident on the afternoon of November 4 near downtown Salem.

33-year old Salem resident David Diedrich reported that at approximately 4:15 pm he was riding his bicycle westbound on the south sidewalk of Court St NE and just beginning to cross Church St NE when he was struck by a vehicle that was traveling northbound on Church St. When David was struck by the vehicle, both he and his bicycle were thrown up on the hood of the vehicle, then they both fell back to the ground. The involved vehicle did not stop and turned west onto Court St and was last seen turning southbound onto Commercial St. The victim sustained non-life threatening injuries.

Salem Police Officers were able to obtain a surveillance photo of a vehicle that was possibly either involved in the incident or may have witnessed it. That vehicle is described as a red mid 1990s vintage vehicle similar to a Honda Accord or Civic with a black colored right front quarter panel and possibly deep tinted rear passenger and rear windows. The vehicle may have damage to the hood as well. The surveillance photo of that vehicle is attached to this release.

Salem Police Officers are asking anyone with information about the incident and/or the involved vehicle to contact the Salem Police non-emergency number at 503-588-6123.

Cremains Memorial called "Elegant Masterpiece" by Seattle AIA Jurors; MWACT, Minto - Bits

The Seattle Chapter of the American Institute of Architects announced that Lead Pencil Studio won the highest award, an Award of Honor, for the Cremains Memorial at the Oregon State Hospital.

From the entry package via Lead Pencil
One interesting bit that had been a mystery was the reason a Kohler Company been involved and cited in the credits plaque. (Were there artisanal faucets somewhere?)

Turns out it's a different Kohler and a substantial part of the project:
On learning that the least expensive on-line urn was $100+ and with a multiplier of 3,500, the $400,000 additional budget proved impossible. In response we applied for a residency at the Kohler Company (WI) and worked 3 months last fall in the factory making 3,500 porcelain urns with donated materials.
The architects also note that "31 urns have been claimed since the memorial opened in July."

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Prospects for State Transportation Bill in 2015 Increase with Election

League of Oregon Cities on Transportation
November 2014 Newsletter
Majorities in the State House and Senate got a tiny bit bigger in the 2014 election and that means prospects grew for a meaningful transportation package at the 2015 Legislative Session.

(It is interesting that Oregon bucked some national trends on this - but you will have your own preferred sources for commentary on the national elections and any partisan significance! In any case, our local candidate who called bike lanes "fringe things" was defeated.)

Here it's enough just to register that the party pushing the giant Columbia River Crossing is also the party likely to give us a modest increase in the gas tax. (Nothing is simple here: There are costs and there are benefits - lots of grey middle zone.)

More generally, reliable funding will be a key part of a State transportation bill, whose path will be smoothed by party alignment between House, Senate, and Governor.

And with luck, the needs of city streets rather than expansion for highways, as well as preservation and maintenance, will lead.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Library Talks feature Bikes as Thrifty Solution

As we've seen and heard about with the audiences for recent talks by Jeffrey Tumlin, Gil Penalosa, and James Sallis, advocates are doing pretty well reaching the choir, but there's great difficulty yet reaching and persuading those not already converted to the virtues of urbanism, public health, and the role of walking and biking in the mix. Mostly we're all just talking to ourselves and with a few like-minded friends. It's a different version of the echo-chamber.

So the Library's got a series of talks that comes to bicycling from a different angle: How to save money.

Maybe this will be a way to reach a different set of folks and to enlarge some of the conversation about bicycling and transportation!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Presentations on Fairview and Boise this Week

This week brings two presentations on local development and design: One is part of a Public Hearing at the Planning Commission on the Fairview Addition West by Eric Olsen; and the other, at the Grant Neighborhood Association and much less formal, is on the Boise redevelopment.

Fairview Addition West promises to look a lot like this
Edwards Addition, Monmouth
Eric Olsen Development
I thought there might be more to say on the Fairview project, but the Staff Report recommends approval with conditions on details only, and aside from a couple of local concerns by an immediately adjoining neighbor about drainage and trees, neither the neighborhood association nor the adjoining developers have identified any substantive concerns about the project as a whole.

The only item that jumped out at all to me - and I will be interested to learn if other apparently insignificant details are instead highly significant - in the Staff Report is the desire for Strong Road to be 24 feet instead of 22 feet.

City wants to amend plan from 22 feet to 24 feet wide
There really is no need for 12 foot travel lanes here.  They could be 10 foot travel lanes, even. (This long piece in The Atlantic by Jeff Speck, "Why 12 foot traffic lanes are disastrous" sums the case.) Combined with an adjacent 10-foot multi-use path, the wider section on Strong Road will tend to make it zoomy rather than calm.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Earthquake, not Congestion, is our Bridge Problem; Council Work Session Monday

Monday night the 3rd at 5:30pm in Council Chambers, Salem City Council meets for a work session on the Third Bridge.

This is what our "preparedness" looks like

We're nowhere close to being ready in any real way
As N3B points out, despite Salem's role as the capital city, and despite the very large numbers of State employees who live in West Salem and who rely on the bridges for connectivity to critical State offices, ODOT doesn't see the Marion and Center Street bridges as at all critical.

In only the most hypothetical of ways, they are being considered for a seismic retrofit in 30 or 40 years.