Thursday, March 31, 2016

Make Sure Battle Creek Park has Good Paths

The City is close to completing a Master Plan for Fairview Park, and while it seemed like a pump track there might have been a good idea, it was not as popular as a dog park concept, and the dog park carried the day. That was just fine.

The City is now undertaking a master planning process for Battle Creek Park, and there is an important need here that people who walk and bike should insist on.

Connectivity here in this area is problematic. It is important that the park have inviting edges and a strong path system for both north-south and east-west movement.

(The problem at Fairview was less connectivity across or within the parcel than connectivity to the parcel, since most of the land is not yet developed. There are meaningfully different structural problems in play here.)

The City has a preliminary survey out, so check it out and let them know about connectivity - and whatever else strikes your fancy!

Public meetings will start in May.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Third Bridge NEPA Process has seemed Resistant to Fact

Over at N3B one of our our Electeds was cited as having recently said of the Third Bridge:
[T]he best way to have a meaningful, citywide conversation not confined to websites and private meetings is through the NEPA process. An Environmental Impact Statement will give us a common basis of facts to work with and bounce off of. I'm just not clear why that isn't the best way to resolve this. It would be a shame to try to just stop talking about it. It clearly isn't an issue that goes away. It's been around at least since the late 60's.
Since this is probably a fairly mainstream, even widely held notion, it's not important to ascribe it to anyone in particular. (And it is not interesting to speculate on motives, so here anyway let's not spend any time on identity or motives.)

Adding lanes doesn't work (CalDOT)
Alas, the notion that the NEPA process "will give us a common basis of facts" is dubious and even perhaps outright false. It's a polite fiction, really. And it has been one of the ways bridge apologists have tried to lull skeptics and reduce opposition.

Lansing-NESCA Neighborhood Plan to Kick-off April 12th

"Envision" sounds like an antidepressant or a geriatric medication. It's soporific, is what it is!

But it's also the name for the Lansing-NESCA neighborhood plan update project.

Hopefully it won't put you to sleep, because it's potentially useful and important.

One of the major issues for it will be the North State Hospital redevelopment. There's a trio of possible outcomes there:
  • low-density more-of-the-same
  • High-density, cheap cookie-cutter dullness
  • Medium or high density that is a neighborhood, streetcar-scaled mixed use project
Additionally, it is increasingly clear than an important way to reduce the cost of housing is to reduce required parking and to make sure new development is walkable and well served by transit.

If we don't have to build subsidized homes for cars, we can build more homes for people. And if because they can walk or bike or bus households can make do with n-1 cars, then it's not at all far-fetched to suggest there's an extra $5,000 or $10,000 in the annual household budget.

Even aside from environmental issues, there are important reasons to want a lower-car future.

The eastern boundaries of the two neighborhoods are weird: I-5 or Lancaster is the natural boundary, but because of the surplus of unincorporated county land at Four Corners and Hayesville, the eastern boundary of the neighborhood plan doesn't follow a natural line. This may introduce some interesting skew into things.

Transportation offers a lot of potential for remediation. North-south there is little natural connectivity through the area, and I think Hawthorne, a strange sort of frontage road, is the only one. Of course I-5 itself is also a major disruptor. East-west, several old market roads that have become stroads cut the neighborhood into sectors and offer the only connectivity to Lancaster and its commercial centers: State, Center, Market, Sunnyview, Silverton. D Street hasn't been messed with as much and may have more potential as a human-scaled whole street. And there is the abandoned Geer Line through the very southern portion. But none of these would be cheap projects to fix.

Reverting to less auto-centric forms of development on them would also help service the immediately adjoining neighborhoods with more walkable commerce.

Salem (1917) and Stayton (1925) USGS maps
Fairgrounds track at left-center
Streets show rural nature circa 1920
In the interiors of the neighborhoods, since they are outside of the original streetcar-era boundaries, the grid has broken down and the local streets aren't always as connected as much as might be most useful. There might be some interesting possibilities for mitigation there.

Anyway, the character here is different from that in Morningside or in NEN-SENSA, the locations of two most recent plan projects, and it will be interesting to follow this project. If you live or work in the neighborhoods, be sure to join in!

The first meeting will be 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 12th at Salem First Church of the Nazarene, which is located at 1550 Market Street NE.

Monday, March 28, 2016

DAB Streetscape Group Could Consider Polka Dots! Quick Build Report Shows How

People for Bikes and the Green Lane Project released a new report and recipe today, Quick Builds for Better Streets: A New Project Delivery Model for U.S. Cities.

As the Downtown Advisory Board is working on the scope for a small $1.2 million streetscape project, there might be some great ideas here for downtown!

Quick Builds for Better Streets

Polka dots pilot a curb extension, and are more pretty!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Autoist Spin: Under the Sign of Addition Commercial at Kuebler is Subtraction

Over on the Facebook, the City's been posting notes about the upcoming street and road projects.

Commercial and Kuebler (click to enlarge)
One of the big ones is at Commercial and Kuebler.

About it the City says:
The intersection at Commercial Street SE and Kuebler Boulevard SE will get improved this year! Beginning in April 2016 and extending through December 2016, the City of Salem and its contractor will be adding dual left-turn lanes on all four approaches of the Commercial Street SE and Kuebler Boulevard SE intersection. A right-turn lane will also be constructed on Commercial Street SE in the southbound direction. This will help improve capacity and minimize travel delays through the intersection.
Notice all the autoism here: "improved," "dual left-turn lanes," "improve capacity," "minimize travel delays."

For whom does this improve things? Not all road users!

Looking east along Boone Road at Commercial - via google
For people on foot and on bike, Boone Road is sometimes more pleasant than Kuebler, and it looks like what had been a frogger-style scamper may now be expressly forbidden with closed crosswalks. If so, out-of-direction travel definitely maximizes delay!

City Council, March 28th - Portland Road Action Plan

Council meets on Monday, and there's not a lot to say here about the agenda.

Probably the most interesting thing is a formal report and authorization for action on the Portland Road study, but the presentation has nothing new. (See previous discussions here.)

Still, the slides on the near-term projects are simple, clear, and hit the right notes...


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Geer Park: New Site for Pump Track offers Deep Cut of Local History

The Salem Area Trail Alliance formally announced some news and a change in plans this morning:
Many of you may have heard that the facility will not be built in Wallace Marine Park. Environmental assessments of the area found that our good friend, the Western Pond Turtle, has nesting sites in and around Wallace Marine Park. The Western Pond Turtle is a “species of concern” in the region. While mitigation measures are possible, it seemed more prudent to give this creature its needed breeding space and begin exploring other locations for the facility.
Gov. T.T. Geer
SATA’s Bike Park and Trail Facility committee has been working with the City of Salem over the past 8 months to find just the right place to locate this amazing community-focused project. We have explored many possible parks in Salem over the past several months - the committee conducted assessments of each, trying to find that right balance between access and topography – and we found it! We are excited to announce that the facility will likely be built at Geer Community Park. SATA received unanimous support from the Northeast Salem Community Association just last week. Geer Community Park has much to offer and the topography and soil type are a great fit for this project. We’ve already started developing some rough concept plans for the pumptracks, halfpipe feature and trails:
Concept sketch for pump track and bike park at Geer Park

Draft Capital Improvement Plan for 2016-2021 is Circulating

Hey look! The City has a new draft Capital Improvement Plan for Fiscal Years 2016-17 through 2020-21.

The Council Finance Subcommittee met earlier this week and the draft was a major topic. (Full meeting packet, 100+ pp. here.)

The CIP
is a five-year plan for financing major public assets based on City-adopted master plans, goals and policies. The purpose of a CIP is to match scarce financial resources with the capital needs of a growing community and to preserve or enhance existing capital assets to provide efficient city services.
The "Keep Salem Moving" bond is run through now, so our total projected transportation spending is down and the project list is smaller.

The Urban Renewal Agency and its funding is now the largest driver of transportation projects.

(By comparision, here's the same table from a few years back...the dollar amounts are a lot bigger! It's interesting that because of reduced driving and lower gas prices the 1% bikeway fund dropped from $94,000 to $70,000 in 2016-17 in the four years. The SDC dollar amount is a lot different, too, but I'm not sure that's significant.)

There was only one surprise in the list, and I will have to do some research to see if it really counts as a surprise - maybe it is just something I missed.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Salem Tomorrow 1984 had a very Different Vision for the Riverfront!

The Salem Tomorrow 1984 Plan has been fascinating to review. It's a product of the times, something very autoist. One way to read it is about parking for cars and skybridges for people on foot to keep them out of the way. That's not the only way to read it, of course, and maybe you will see a different set of themes. But it is interesting that there's not much attention to the roads themselves or to other kinds of public space. It operates with a solid baseline assumption that people travel and arrive by car and that accommodating this is paramount.*

Hotel tower, Convention Center, Parking Garage
Court Street axis, Riverfront Park (detail)
The biggest concept in it, as I read it, was for the Riverfront, and while we did redevelop the Riverfront, we did so in a way 100% opposite of the plan's vision.

We went for a park.

Salem Tomorrow 1984 went for concrete.

The Riverfront area would have been totally redeveloped as a Convention Center, hotel, and Performing Arts Center.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Committee on State Bike and Walk Plan Meets Tuesday; It still seems Weak

The Advisory Committee for the statewide Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan meets tomorrow the 22nd, and after around 200 pages of public comment on the draft plan, it's still not clear how seriously they take the project. (Here's the agenda, itself not actually interesting.)

 New draft of the statewide Bike/Ped Plan
(with help from CO2 earth.)
Personal safety, mobility choice, compulsory autoism, least-cost planning, and public health are all important lenses through which to view the plan, but from here anyway the "one lens to rule them all" is climate change.

And there's just no urgency about biking, walking, mode shift, and greenhouse gas reduction in the plan. The main discussion is on page 17 and in Goal:7 Sustainability, and they seem pretty tepid.

The totality of public comment is overwhelming, but the distillation of themes is underwhelming.

For example, comment on Safe Routes to School is summarized this way:
This plan should include more on Safe Routes to School (SRTS) infrastructure policies, not just programmatic (education) policies.
And the response with proposed changes to the plan:
An additional strategy has been added to better highlight the need for infrastructure investments around schools, not just programmatic investments. Schools were also already defined as a high-need location in the plan and a priority for investment.

In addition, other sections in the Plan were expanded (Background and Policies) to better highlight SRTS and also point to the Transportation Options Plan and Transportation Safety Action Plan which contain additional information and policies covering SRTS.
It's all a little too much of ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Well, we tried. Here are some resources if you're interested, but if you're not interested, that's ok too.

There's no sense of a set of goals and a determined and measurable set of actions to accomplish those goals. (You know, like we're serious about accomplishing something.)

ODOT cover letter to OTC about an extra $200 million
It's all too discretionary, and in stark contrast to the ways that ODOT and local transportation agencies use autoist Levels of Service and Mobility Standards for hydraulic through-put to justify multi-million dollar widening projects. There's no reason to believe the new plan would ensure a different allocation when a windfall happens.

If you read it more closely, maybe you will find more reason for optimism, but from here it still looks pretty dim and weak, not a document that is actually going to accomplish a major shift.

The committee meets Tuesday, March 22nd from 12:30 PM - 5:00 PM - Chemeketa Center for Business and Industry, 626 High St, Rm 103.


For previous notes on the plan and process, see here.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Rapid Response on Bike Lanes shows too Much Myth

Lots of interesting things in the "rapid response" speed-date style letters to the editor today.

With MassDOT Separated Bike Lane Planning Guide
But one in particular is especially dismaying.

A person who represents himself as regular cyclist says:
As a bike rider, I appreciate special lanes but as a taxpayer, it is hard to justify removing car parking and travel lanes downtown.

Downtown is not really a problem area for me as a bike rider. I bike about as fast as most cars drive downtown. I’d rather see improvements for bikes on well-traveled roads, where cars are going much faster than bikes and there currently is little road shoulder.
"Downtown is not really a problem area for me."

This is a pure expression of strong and skillful riders who seem to think that their fitness and confidence is average and normative!

If you can't keep up, stay off the road!
In the bicycle world, in fact, this is the tyranny of the 1%!

How about facilities for the other 99%? - or at least the 67% who want to be able to ride in comfort and safety at least occasionally.

This is evidence for the way that there is no such thing as "the bicycle community," that the interests and preferences of those who bike are not unitary or monolithic.

Whether by accident or intent, there is a small cadre of people who bike who apparently like downtown the perilous and exclusive way it is!

They are not representative.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Skybridges as Pedestrian Displacement Systems: Shelter, but anti-Sidewalk

Liberty and Chemeketa at dusk (City of Salem and Ron Cooper)
You probably saw the news that Starbucks abruptly closed the store at the corner of Chemeketa and Liberty.
The vacant bank across the street and the fact that Penney's lacks a corner entry are certainly ingredients in the lack of foot traffic here and exacerbate difficulties that Liberty Plaza itself has had in keeping quality tenants.

Uninviting, hard, blank wall that says
"move along, folks, nothing to do here, no reason to linger"
But another ingredient in the lack of foot traffic is the way the skybridges here suck people, energy, and life off of the street-level sidewalks and reinforce the blank walls and boxy forms of Liberty Plaza, Penny's, and the Mall - especially the blank brick of the mall walls.

The contrast with the more vital street activity at Liberty and Court is strong.

I believe our skybridges harm downtown vitality, and that we should consider getting rid of them - or at least spending more energy and resources designing our streets and sidewalks to compensate for their siphoning action.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Local MPO to get Update on Mission St/OR-22 Plan; Open House on the 30th

Next Tuesday the Policy Committee for our local Metropolitan Planning Organization meets, and there's a couple of interesting things. (Meeting packet and agenda here - 168pp.)

Most interesting is material on the OR-22/Mission Street study, which will have an Open House on the 30th.

Overall, the material shows the thinness of our imagination and the failure of our moral framework in designing and assessing roadways. Two or three generations from now, historians will look back on this stuff in amazement that we tolerated so much death and injury arising from "ordinary" and "routine" use of the public space we call a "road."

First off, in our official approach to design and assessment we're still stuck on eliminating the moral and effective agency of human drivers ostensibly in charge of a motor vehicle moving swiftly with lethal power.

Shouldn't the dead have a name and face?
Existing conditions memo with comments added
A person, a human operator, not an autonomous "passenger vehicle," ran the red light, struck, and killed Connor Jordan while Jordan made a lawful and prudent crossing in the marked crosswalk. It was human error, not robot error!

And the human error was compounded by roadway design intent. It was on a roadway posted and designed for highway speeds, speeds we know are almost certain to kill a person exposed while walking or biking. At 20mph, running the red light might have given Jordan enough time for an evasive maneuver, or let the driver brake or make a steering recovery, or mitigated the severity of the crash so at least he didn't lose his life. In every way, speed kills.
But because we insist on a system of hydraulic autoism that privileges free-flowing and fluid auto traffic, his death is just noise in the system, the speed that caused death the necessary flowing action to avoid congestion.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

OTC to Allocate nearly $200 Million Windfall - But a Missed Opportunity?

It's hard to track the OTC and other state-level things on a consistent basis, so mostly we leave that to others. The MPO is the largest unit it has been practical to follow consistently - more on them later in the week! So this is an abbreviated and incomplete note.

The Oregon Transportation Commission meets tomorrow, Thursday the 17th, and there's quite a quiet slush fund in play.

ODOT cover letter to OTC about an extra $200 million
Somehow this doesn't look quite balanced.
It seems like the priorities and proportions ought to be vetted more in public. The BTA's public advocate doesn't seem to have heard much about it.

Especially in light of the needs identified in the draft Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, the Enhance Non-Highway allocation seems mean and cheap!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Nursing Home at Boise Site to Switch Location with Office Building?

Well, this is interesting!

In an announcement in the paper this evening about the north block parcel at the Boise Redevelopment, it looks like there's a major shift in site disposition for the buildings.

The nursing home, you may recall, was sandwiched into the angle of Front/Trade and the railroad.

Now it looks like the office building will be in that wedge-shaped space.

"Flatiron" styled building for the wedge with the railroad
(AC+CO Architecture)
And on the rounded corner at Commercial, instead there will be the nursing home.

Nursing home now on the corner
plus some ground floor retail/cafe space with a plaza  (CB|Two)
These plans suggest a much more walkable plaza at the corner. It's still not great because of the zooming traffic, and I really wonder if many people will actually want to sit there and hang out, but at least as a concept elevation, it looks more promising and something that will potentially help to activate the sculpture garden kitty-corner at the Conference Center.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Road Project Stories Show Contrast Still: Friendly Leisure or Serious Work

It was nice to see a bike lane splashed across the front page the other day! The piece also seemed like a good and balanced overview.

One little bit of irony, likely unintended however, crept in.

The inset photo of the person biking shows him biking against traffic! This is at Winter and Chemeketa, looking at the State Library building. The person on bike is going east on Chemeketa in the west-bound lane, using the angled curb parking zone on the north edge of the street.

You could, I suppose, just simply choose to read that as exemplifying the "lawless cyclist" trope.

Instead, I think we should read it as evidence that downtown remains far from "bike-friendly." Chemeketa has sharrows and yet we all see plenty of people for whom going down the center of the lane at the apex of the chevrons remains a very uncomfortable experience. Striping two new bike lanes will by themselves not make High and Church Streets "bike-friendly," attracting new people to bike downtown. Instead the lanes will represent an incremental improvement that mostly serves people who already bike downtown. To say the new lanes will "give more confidence to novice cyclists" is something of an overstatement. Novices are still most likely to avoid downtown. (This is also to make cycling into a complicated skill or hobby. We don't very often say that a new lane treatment will give more confidence to novice drivers - even though it is driving, not bicycling, that usually employs lethal mass and speed!)

Earlier in the week there was something of a companion story about "congestion" and the summer's crop of widening projects. If the bike lane story used a tight close-up for imagery, the congestion story used a zoomed-out long shot.

The opening to each story also strikes different tone.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Salem 8 Year-old Struck and Killed While Crossing River Road in Keizer

An 8-year old Salem boy was struck and killed last night while crossing River Road North.

River Road is five lanes here
 From the Keizer Police statement:
On Friday, March 11, 2016 at 7:03 p.m., Keizer Police officers responded to a 9-1-1 report of an automobile vs. pedestrian traffic crash in the northbound lanes of the 3900 block of River Road North. Upon their arrival they confirmed an 8-year old boy had been struck by a motorist who was traveling northbound on River Road. Paramedics responded, administered emergency medical aid and quickly transported the young boy to the Salem Hospital for treatment of life-threatening injuries.

The driver of the involved vehicle, 31-year old William Wetzler of Salem, stopped immediately after hitting the boy. He remained on scene and has cooperated fully with the investigation. He was operating a 2006 Ford Explorer sport utility vehicle at the time of the incident.

The boy, identified as 8-year old Jaren Nash of Salem, was flown by Life Flight from the Salem Hospital to the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in Portland, but a short time after arriving he succumbed to his injuries and died.

The preliminary traffic crash investigation indicates Jaren Nash who was accompanied by his mother, Devon Rutherford of Keizer, was attempting to cross the 3900 block of River Road North from west to east when he was struck by the northbound motorist. It was dark and the roadway was wet at the time of the incident. Additionally, the portion of roadway they were attempting to cross is not a crosswalk. The investigation remains under investigation at this time.

Jaren Nash attended Schirle Elementary School in Salem, Oregon. Notifications have been made to his next of kin and to officials from the Salem-Keizer School District.

The Oregon State Police assisted the Keizer Police Department the CRASH reconstruction. Anyone having witnessed this incident is asked to contact Keizer Police Sergeant Dan Kelley at 503-390-3713 Ext. 3479.
This post may be updated.

Friday, March 11, 2016

City Council, March 14th - Hope Avenue Extension and Streaked Horned Lark

Council meets on Monday and there's quite a number of things to note. While they aren't action items mostly, they are interesting informational reports from which a number of potentially significant inferences may be drawn.

At the top of the list is a complicated squabble over an extension of Hope Avenue in West Salem. It seems like the subtexts here completely swamp the text, and it may not be possible to say what is really going on. If it weren't for the fact that the Salem Alternative requires an extension of Hope Avenue, this would be a purely local dispute, but since Hope Avenue is implicated in the biggest regional transportation proposal in a generation, it is important to notice.

Trying to summarize this seems treacherous, but here we go...
The Developer, River Valley Terrace, LLC (Rich and Stephanie Fry, members)...is the owner of real property located at 1710, 1740 and 1790 Wallace Road NW, and seeks to develop a multi-family development on the site. On July 11, 2006, the Developer was issued a Preliminary Declaration for Urban Growth Development..., [which] required the Developer to design and construct street improvements for Hope Avenue NW from Wallace Road NW to Marine Drive NW as a condition of development...

However, the Developer's property is encumbered by an access easement benefitting a neighboring property located at 1720 Wallace Road NW, owned by Gerald and Mary Johnson ("Property Owners"). The property at 1720 Wallace Road NW is east of the new Hope Avenue extension and does not abut Wallace Road.... the Developer must extinguish the portion of the access easement within the Hope Avenue Street Improvement, which is currently an encumbrance on the property.
After several rounds of negotiation to value the extinguishment of the easement, things are at an impasse.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

State Street Study Already Hamstrung by 20th Century Mobility Standards?

Last night was the first Open House for the State Street Study and at least two candidates for City Council have posted to facebook about it already (here, here). That was nice to see!

The meeting slides and boards are posted and in the second half they broke up into small groups.

The first question for the groups was, "Did we miss anything?"

And from here the biggest problem looks like our increasingly counter-productive obsession with Levels of Service for automobiles and the antiquated mobility standards that are behind it.

If there is a thing that right from the outset could tank or seriously compromise the project, this is a leading candidate.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Public Art Commission to Consider Minto Bridge; Make Music Salem on June 21st

The Public Art Commission meets tomorrow, and at the top of the agenda is a "Proposal for Tribal Art at Peter Courtney Minto Bridge, Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde."

What kind of public art will adorn the bridge?
There are a couple of reasons this seems important.

Much of our public art is wedged into "spandrels," inserted or applied as decoration into blank, slack, unused, or other space regarded as surplus in one way or another. The art is almost always a secondary consideration.
The most recent installation of "The Cube" was into a tree well, and the current project for downtown art is to use several other tree wells in corner curb extensions for sculptural installations. I find spacing between the garbage can and mast on "The Cube" rather awkward, and think that it needs a larger space to breathe.

The potential for art on the bridge, conceived in tandem with the bridge construction (though not of course even earlier at design), is at least the possibility to do something more integral. There's a chance to do more than merely layer on a decorative element or add text by an historical marker.

This seems like an especially substantial opportunity, and it will be interesting to learn more about it.

Monday, March 7, 2016

West Salem Neighborhood Association to talk Wallace Undercrossing Monday

The West Salem Neighborhood Association meets tonight, Monday the 7th, and on the agenda is more discussion of the proposed underpass along Second Street under Wallace Road.
Keith Keever Salem Parks Discussion - Mt. View Reservoir Property & How to develop a Master Plan; Wallace Rd. Underpass Feasibility Study – More options than one
It would be a little odd for Keith Keever to comment on the transportation planning, so I suspect this is actually two separate agenda items with two different speakers.

What are the "other options" for crossing Wallace Road?
Underpass concept via City of Salem FB
It is interesting that "More options than one" is specifically called out for the crossing - that will be something to watch. It had seemed that the undercrossing concept was mostly settled now. This was on the agenda last month, but maybe there is new information or they ran out of time.

There will also be discussion of a use for eminent domain:
Possible initiation of Condemnation for the Acquisition of Certain Property Rights located at 1710 Wallace Rd NW
This parcel is directly in line with Hope Avenue, and so while it may just be coincidence, it is also a little suspicious in light of the plans for the Third Bridge.

That matter will go before Council on the 14th, so this could be helpful background.

The West Salem Neighborhood Association meeting is at 7pm at Roth’s West, Mezzanine level, at 1130 Wallace Rd NW, tonight, Monday the 7th.

SCAN

Not transportation related, but a little interesting for historical reasons, at SCAN on Wednesday the 9th, they'll get a presentation on the 20th anniversary of Howard Charter School.

First Leslie Junior High School, 1937
The school's architect, Lyle Bartholomew, is responsible for several very nice brick buildings around town and doesn't get the name-recognition or attention he probably deserves.

I don't believe this building has received a seismic retrofit, so in a very general way not doing so is an example of a potential opportunity cost when we choose to super-size a police station or a giant bridge and highway. When we overbuild in places, we are less able and less willing to remedy underbuilt places.

The South Central Association of Neighbors meets Wednesday the 9th at 6:30 p.m. in the South Salem High School Library, 1910 Church St SE.

Elsewhere

The other neighborhood associations meeting this week have several little additional bits percolating that might be of interest. If you aren't already tuned in to your local neighborhood association, consider finding yours and attending. Though this is not always true - and there have been some problems with this, in fact - many times an issue will hit the neighborhood association before it goes to the Planning Commission or City Council. They're also a place to originate projects. The State Street Study, for example, originated in conversations during the NEN-SESNA neighborhood plan process.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Even the Feds are Beginning to See: Too much Subsidy for Autoism

There's a new report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office that has been making the rounds. Titled "Approaches to Making Federal Highway Spending more Productive," it leads with this:
Spending on highways does not correspond very well with how the roads are used and valued.
Over at City Observatory, economist Joe Cortright has some great commentary:
the translation is straightforward: the big cause of our transportation problems is that we’re charging road users the wrong price.

Collectively, road users are paying too little for what they use, which is why taxpayers have had to chip in more than $140 billion over the past seven years to make up shortfalls in the Highway Trust Fund....

Drivers who use lots of expensive capacity (urban roads at peak travel times) don’t pay their costs, and money gets allocated to spending that produces limited value for the nation.
There's also a nice critique of false-equivalence in discussions about autoism:
other modes, like transit or biking or walking, don’t cover their own costs with user fees, either—there’s no sidewalk maintenance toll, and nor should there be....We’re not confronting the cost of multi-billion dollar sidewalk investment projects due to peak hour congestion caused by under-priced foot traffic. Just as importantly, transit riders, bikers, and riders don’t create any, or very, very small amounts, of the major social costs of driving, from deaths and injuries in crashes to pollution.
Anyway, it's worth a read.

Over at the Economist, they also say "stop subsidizing driving."
And another set of pieces from the Washington Post have also been making the rounds.
And:
And to get out of the echo chamber with a heady dose of cranky and contrarian skepticism? Chief Autoist and everybody's favorite TransitFoe!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Wait What?! Downtown Bike Lanes for Church and High this Summer!

So this snuck up in a good way. The project for bike lanes on Church and High Streets downtown had seemed like it was a couple years off yet.*

But it turns out the project timeline has construction for this summer and there's an informational meeting later this month.

That's pretty great news.

But do we really need 15 foot travel lanes?
From the new City project site:
The City of Salem will add bike lanes to Church Street and High Street in downtown Salem. The project is scheduled for construction during summer 2016.

Informational Meeting

Thursday, March 17, 2016, 4–6 p.m.
Senator Hearing Room
Courthouse Square Transit Mall
555 Court Street NE

Stop by to learn about this upcoming project....

A vehicle travel lane will be replaced with a bicycle lane to create better bicycle connectivity to and through downtown. Parking modifications will be necessary to accommodate the lane adjustments and increased bicycle traffic.

In order to complete this project with as little disruption as possible, much of the work will take place at night. During construction, updates will be provided on this web page.
Other than cheering for this incremental improvement to downtown traffic, there is one thing to ask about.

Do we really need 15-foot travel lanes for cars?

Such wide lanes will encourage zooming, and in addition to making room for bicycling, we should give stronger consideration to 10-foot lanes for traffic calming. (Here's the case for 10-foot lanes.)

So if you go to the meeting, ask about the lane widths!

But otherwise this is a substantial, incremental improvement and worth cheering. There may also be some anxiety about the loss of a car travel lane, so showing public support will be helpful for Public Works and other staff or electeds who may receive static for the project - even though it was thoroughly vetted in the Downtown Mobility Study.

* The CIP clearly says it's budgeted for the 2015-2016 cycle, so just flat out missed it.

Criticism of Tunnel Effect at Mirror Pond Site Mistaken; Enclosure is Important

Now that we have a decision for the O'Brien site securely in place, maybe we can do some less-heated post-mortem investigation on the Civic Center discussion.

What about a Tunnel Effect?

One of the things about the now-abandoned Mirror Pond site for a Police Station that occasioned criticism was the prospect of a "tunnel effect" Commercial Street between the proposed Police Station and the South Block apartments.

Abandoned Mirror Pond Civic Center concept from June 2013
I believe this was something of a mistake and that continuing to think with this approach about the way building faces enclose a street or other public space significantly hampers our ability to plan and build useful things elsewhere.
Here is a magnificent "tunnel effect"!

Salem should be so lucky to have something like this!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Urban Renewal Boards continue Edgewater and Portland Road Projects

The West Salem Redevelopment Advisory Board met this morning, and one item is interesting to note. The North Gateway board meets tomorrow, and they have a big new draft of the Portland Road Study.

West Salem Business District Action Plan
Executive Summary, June 26th
You may recall the "districts" from the West Salem Business District Action Plan. Now that the transportation refinement plan is in motion, there's a move for some zoning updates on each of the districts.

On the agenda was discussion of a proposal for a "Business District Zoning Code Clean Up Project." It would
Review existing zoning codes for the West Salem Business District and implement changes to the code that increase the flexibility of uses and encourage development akin to the distinct main street, employment center, and town center areas of the business district; as identified and recommended by the West Salem Business District Action Plan
It is estimated to cost $100,000.

Presumably they will go forward with this, and it will be interesting to follow. There's tons of potential in this area for walkable urbanism, but they will need to steer things this way so as not to entrench excessive autoism.

NGRAB

The North Gateway Redevelopment Advisory Board meets tomorrow, Thursday the 3rd, and they have a new draft of the Portland Road Study to look at.

March 2016 draft
Skimming it, I didn't see anything new - but maybe you will know otherwise if you are following it closely?

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Interested in Leisurely Neighborly Bike Rides? Check out Slow Roll Salem!

Remember the Apple ad about Slow Roll Detroit?


Folks from the Salem Bike Boulevard Advocates are gauging interest in a Slow Roll Salem!

They've got a pretty detailed survey going. Check it out and let them know your interests.

There have been intermittent efforts to do something like this over the last few years, but the stars haven't aligned with a critical mass of people as participants and as ride leaders.
Salem Bike Boulevard Advocates is creating a bicycling group to encourage and accompany folks who are interested in bicycling but nervous about riding with traffic. We plan to go on short, slow group rides modeled after the group Slow Roll Detroit. Our rides will welcome all ages and abilities. This survey will give us information about what kinds of bicycling people are interested in, which will help us plan rides that people want to go on. Our goal is to provide education and fun and while building community and political support for bicycle transportation. Thank you for participating in our survey!
Maybe this is the year it comes together!

Check out the survey and let 'em know! It could be really, really fun.

Transportation History on the Front Page!

Just some sweet, old-timey transportation history on the front page today!

One great part of it is that it accurately handles dates.

It suggests the wagon could have served well into the 20th century, and is not merely a relic of the 19th:
“These wagons tell stories we shouldn’t overlook,” [David] Sneed said. “This is the way your relatives got around not long ago. I promise you, it was no less exciting than driving cars today. There are countless recordings of folks being killed in these vehicles … there is not a single thrill-seeking activity today that would rival the danger or excitement associated with driving them.”

Old Detroit’s wagon was made by Milburn Wagon Company in Toledo, Ohio, sometime around the turn of the last century. Milburn was one of the nation’s biggest manufacturers: in 1882, it was producing 600 wagons per week, the majority farm wagons, Sneed said.

This one could’ve been built as late as the early 1900s, but certainly not before the 1890s, he said. The clue? The hubs on the 16-spoke wheels – themselves much ballyhooed by Milburn for “having 12 more spokes than any on the market” – were patented by James Sarven in 1857 but not used on Milburn wagons until the 1890s, Sneed said....

["]These wagons were ubiquitous; they were used everywhere for everything.”

And then along came the automobile. Trucks, cars and tractors replaced the horse-drawn wagons that had dominated the scene for so long. Wagon-makers went out of business in droves as auto companies ate up market share. Surprisingly, a few held on through the 1950s, though they mainly produced wooden trailers to be pulled behind tractors, Sneed said.

Old Detroit mirrored the national trend. By the 1940s, wagons sat idle next to houses and in backyards and moldered in the woods.
Wagons in regular use on Commercial Street in 1913.
This is now the parking lot between
Bike Peddler and the Spaghetti Warehouse
There's still some of the tone of autoist triumphalism, but the piece rightly reflects that especially in more rural areas, autos and motors replaced wagons and driving stock slower than we think, and were not uncommon through the Depression. We often want to make wagons the subject of a solely antiquarian interest, but they participated in a mixed transportation ecosystem for a long time in the first half of the 20th century. And our principal metaphor of "driving" derives from driving a wagon or carriage. There is more to see in continuity than we think!

(There's also just a funny, unintended historical rhyme of course with that "other Detoit," famous for the auto industry.)

Nothing of great significance here, but a nice change-of-pace.

For more on Salem transportation history, see notes tagged "Wheeling: Old-Time Biking."