|Detail of Regional Commute Shed; red note on Dallas added|
|The latest study is for regional transit|
You may remember the first part of the service analysis when it was released during the summer of 2014. It was about urban service inside the Urban Growth Boundary, It didn't talk very much about the bridges or the Salem River Crossing, and that seemed like a huge, huge lacuna.
So here we are in its complement, a Regional Transit Plan for interurban transit outside of Salem's Urban Growth Boundary; and between Cherriots and the Consultants, the Salem River Crossing is not seen again to merit any discussion.
|Two generations ago we were talking about the bridge...|
The Cherriots studies are short- and medium-term things, and the most substantial piece is a set of recommendations for immediate implementation.
So sure, that's a mismatch in planning horizons, and maybe you will say that it's wholly proper to ignore the long-term implications of a river crossing that remains quite hypothetical at the moment. You can't discuss everything, of course. A timely note on Walker's own blog addresses this. Though it was occasioned by a recent announcement in Brooklyn, it is relevant for most any plan.
We planners spend a lot of time trying to figure out exactly what to be specific about, and what can be left vague for now. Not out of any desire to mislead, but because it’s impossible to talk about all the details at once, and far too expensive to study them all at an early stage. We rely instead on our professional instincts: Which details are most likely to erupt into a problem — technical or political — down the line? Which other details can be noted and honored but left to a later phase to refine? These are some of the hardest calls that planners make.The primary structural elements the study here did engage seem to be two-fold:
- Tension in purpose between providing social services and commuting. CARTS arose in the 1980s as "a transportation service for elderly and disabled people," but now Cherriots operates it as a transit system and "There is a conflict between this social purpose of transit and the potential to maximize ridership on transit." The funding streams are also implicated in this conflict.
- Tension in governance. "the [Cherriots] Board, which is the decision-making body for this network, is elected from districts entirely within the Salem-Keizer urban area."
At the very least, it is tacit approval that should be made explicit. Even when we silently assume that a bridge will be built, that is a policy choice and direction. More broadly, if the transit agency is at all serious about reducing drive-alone trips, it should discuss in more detail how its activities fit or do not fit with the larger regional goal for the Salem River Crossing. It should at least be referenced.
|One Year: Whole bus system less than bridge debt service|
from the Audit
The Salem River Crossing dwarfs Cherriots! It's a big deal.
So whether we are talking magnitude of total budget, or climate change, or local transportation and land-use planning - from whatever angle you please, it seems like a giant mistake to be silent the Salem River Crossing. I just don't understand how it is possible to avoid it while making serious analytical statements about other things. That is an analytical renunciation that makes no sense and harms strategic planning in the Salem-Keizer area.
Bridge Crossings from the West Side outside of Salem
So, back to the particulars of the study. It turns out that a substantial chunk of bridge traffic originates in the area around Dallas (diagram at top).
Without drilling very far at all into the analysis, Dallas apparently presents some real problems, and service to Dallas represents a big trade-off in the proposed network:
[I]f someday the transfer at Rickreall can be made comfortable and reliable, or if 2X buses can turn off of Highway 22 safely, Dallas could have much more service to Salem than it does under this recommendationFrom the final network recommendations:
Thus the final [recommended] network does not include this type of connection [requiring a transfer in Rickreall] between Dallas and Salem (and did not make use of the existing investment in 2X service).So it's important to recognize that it does not seem possible to "flip a switch" and improve service to Dallas in a simple way. There is little or no low-hanging fruit here. (Monmouth-Independence appears to get a small uptick from either five to six, or six to seven trips a day. It looked like maybe an inconsistency, but it's not important to straighten that out at the moment.)
Unfortunately, this means that Dallas has only two direct trips a day to its biggest destination (Salem-Keizer) and six trips a day to a less-important destination (Monmouth-Independence).
But what is missing is how this level of service, or any changes to it, fits into a larger regional strategy of mobility that includes planning for (or trying to avoid) a very costly giant bridge and highway.
Salem River Crossing Alternate Modes Study.
Presumably the consultants here are only doing what Cherriots asks them to do. So as long as Cherriots insists on supporting the insanity of the giant bridge and highway, they are going to entrench path dependence on an eventual bridge: The more we starve transit to Dallas today, the more a "need" for the bridge will seem natural and inevitable in the future.
Even if under current funding it is not possible to expand service to Dallas, bridge crossing is a huge context for this analysis and it should have a place. We should be making decisions today with explicit reference to the prospect of a bridge - either to forestall or eliminate it, on the one hand, or to support it outright on the other.
Of course there is much more in the study, and the criticism here is an instance of cherry-picking. It may be that in every other way the study is wonderful. (Regional transit is not at all the focus here, so I am agnostic about the rest. I just want to pick at this one detail, it's true. But it's a big detail!)
Between Jarrett Walker & Associates and Cherriots, our local transit agency has failed us badly. Not to include analysis of the Salem River Crossing as part of the context is an implied endorsement and choice for the Salem River Crossing. Both regional climate change goals and regional funding environments require that we look for more effective alternatives and less costly alternatives. So of course the belief here is that we should seek ways to forestall or eliminate the "need" for a giant bridge and highway. Even if an analytical piece including the Salem River Crossing makes no actual difference in the concrete short-term recommendations for service realignment, it should totally inform and shape medium- and longer-term recommendations and strategy.
It's just depressing and frustrating to see our transit agency so in thrall to autoism and the Salem River Crossing.
The free pilot period for the West Salem Connector on-demand service ended last year, and with fares in place since December 1st, ridership has gone down from the peak in early fall.
|Since Nov, it's below goal of 45 boardings/day|
The Salem Area Mass Transit District Board of Directors meets Thursday, February 25th, at 6:30pm, in Courthouse Square, the Senator Hearing Room, 555 Court St NE.
* In the prior Existing Conditions Report, there is only one mention of the bridge, and it seems to suppose the Salem River Crossing doesn't exist:
Marion and Polk transit networks are naturally separable because they meet only at the Salem Transit Center, and they are unlikely to ever meet elsewhere because there is only one bridge that transit routes between the counties would take. This makes it easy for both counties’ networks to meet at one point without having any need for greater geographical entanglement. It is not clear that any network coherence would be lost if the two parts of the network were governed separately.