Monday, December 11, 2017

At the MPO: Technical Committee on Project Requests, Rulemaking

The Technical Advisory Committee for our Metropolitan Planning Organization meets tomorrow, Tuesday the 12th, and there are some things to note in passing. They are also meeting at Courthouse Square rather than the MPO offices.

The committee is continuing work on vetting projects for a slice of funding from the 2018-2023 cycle:
SKATS received eight applications for consideration for funding in the latest update to the FY 2018-2023 TIP with requests totaling approximately $9.3 million. Approximately $5.5 million is available, so the projects will need to be prioritized to determine which projects (or partial projects) to fund.
In the minutes from last month about some of these projects:
[On Brown Road] new federal ROW regulations are responsible for the increase in ROW costs...[which therefore] are significantly higher than originally anticipated....

[T]he Center Street project is Marion’s County’s highest priority of their projects submitted for funding. [MPO staff] asked if the Connecticut Avenue project is highly ranked as a Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS) project. [County Staff] responded that she believes the project has a pretty high SRTS ranking. Concerns related to the Connecticut Avenue project include how to address ADA (Americans with Disability Act) issues....

[T]he city of Keizer is unsure of its vision for Wheatland Road and has revised their project application. [Keizer staff] passed out a new application. The city would like to do a concept corridor plan with public outreach to determine the direction for Wheatland Road improvements.
The current agenda packet includes the first pass at scoring the projects:

First round of scoring
Completion funding for Brown Road leads the pack. In second place is the Center Street project, but the County Staff response that "she believes the project has a pretty high SRTS ranking" doesn't actually sound very confident at all. Do we actually have a SR2S plan that ranks County projects? Or is this just sales talk and BS? Additionally, there are real questions about the Center Street project's proposed design elements, which seem squarely autoist at the moment.

The bottom three look quite reasonable. Keizer is confused about Wheatland Road; it's hard to see regional significance for a Turner project; and the Orchard Heights thing is over-ambitious, a little messy, and remains a "tier 3" priority in the TSP.

Given the projects that were submitted (so, that is to say we might wish different projects were submitted, but we're looking only at what was submitted), the scoring looks like it's heading in the right direction.

Friday, December 8, 2017

City council, December 11th - Fisher Road and 85th Percentile Speed

Council meets for the last time in 2017 on Monday, and while I was expecting a sleepy agenda, it's surprisingly packed with interesting bits.

Not probably the most important, but maybe the most illuminating here, there's a discussion of Fisher Road NE. It offers a good entry into the ways that prevailing engineering standards are totally misguided.
Residents have expressed concerns about pedestrian and vehicular safety on Fisher Road NE. There was a pedestrian fatality in March 2017. Traffic volumes are increasing, and there is concern that vehicle speeds may be excessive. On August 28, 2017, Council directed staff to prepare a report on options to improve pedestrian and vehicular safety on Fisher Road NE....

The 85th-percentile speed is used to determine the speed at which a “reasonable” driver is comfortable traveling. This speed is used by the Oregon Department of Transportation for setting the speed limit of a road. A traffic speed count was conducted on Fisher Road NE south of Empress Way NE. The 85th-percentile speed in this posted 25 mph zone was 33.2 mph southbound and 33.9 mph northbound.

a. This 85th-percentile speed indicates speeding is an issue. The City could use this information to request a higher speed limit, but staff do not recommend changing the speed limit.
I just want to draw your attention to this logical chain:
  1. "speeding is an issue" (therefore)
  2. "the City could...request a higher speed limit."
That right there in a nutshell is how utterly effed up is our approach to design speed, posted speed, and 85th percentile speed.

If speeding and safety is an issue, the proper response is a suite of actions, both in posted speed and in road design and engineering, to reduce speed.

But nope. The current engineering dogma is that we should keep raising posted speed until it coincides with actual user speeds. It rewards speeding!

As a matter of philosophy and general approach, this is a very great ingredient in why we keep killing people on our roads. (And why the Pedestrian Safety Study whiffed and missed.)

Update and addendum - In a comment Jim rightly points out that the Staff Recommendation is for some mitigation:
All-way stop signs will be installed on Fisher Road NE at Beverly Avenue NE and at Devonshire Avenue NE.
Speed radar signs will be installed on Fisher Road NE, for both northbound and southbound traffic, between Beverly Avenue NE and Sunnyview Road NE.
These seemed band-aid-y and temporary, and inconsistent with the thrust of 85th percentile analysis. But as he suggests, it was misleading to omit them entirely. See the comment thread for more on that.

2017 Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan

The Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan also deserves more attention and discussion than it will likely get. It's a little buried here.

Has Crossing Commercial at Union Street got Easier?

Have you crossed Commercial Street on Union Street with the new light?

A reader reported trouble last month on Monday the 20th:
This morning east bound on Union I sat at the bike light for two full cycles on the lights at Division and Commercial and Marion and Commercial with no change in the Red east bound light on Union. There were no cars going east or west on Union and no pedestrians using the cross walk. So I on a bike had no way to activate the light. Luckily a city worker and one of the contractors were there, so I stopped to talk. I asked what it takes to activate the intersection on a bike. The city guy said it is not working yet. He said there will be a light to detect bikes and activate the system, but it won't be activated until March. So for now I'll still have to run the red light when it is safe or make my way for the pedestrian plunger confusing everyone involved at the light....The current situation feels more dangerous than no light at all. Oh and in the evening cars traveling south bound on Commercial still block the intersection.
From the dashboard, posted November 15th
to a pro-Third Bridge Page, skeptical of the light's value
Elsewhere on social media, a person posted the picture above from November 15th, and it definitely showed south-bound cars blocking the intersection. On the left-hand margin, there's a light-colored car directly in front of a bike's through-lane going east.

So that's two data-points and evidence for some difficulties here.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

SAIF Work Brings new Bike Lane on Church Street

I haven't been following the project at SAIF very closely, so it was a surprise to discover that the work included - or coincided with - an additional segment of new bike lane on Church Street between the bridge on Pringle Creek and Trade Street.

Start of a new segment of standard, door-zone bike lane
On the one hand it's great to see this as a partial connection and continuation to the buffered bike lane north of Trade Street.

But it reads a little like a perfunctory treatment consisting of a vintage 1980s standard bike lane. The designers may not have given enough thought to how it logically connects with Church Street on the south and north. So much more could have been done!

It starts, pretty much ex nihilo, just north of the bridge at the pump station on the corner of Bellevue.

There is curbside parking and it's pretty tight. If drivers don't hug the curb, they really encroach on the bike lane.

Encroaching on the bike lane
The center medians look like they are enlarged, and there's a new crosswalk.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Area Commission on Transportation and State Bike-Ped Committee Meet

Our Area Commission on Transportation as well as the State Bike-Ped Committee meet on Thursday, and there are perhaps a couple of things to note in passing.


Planning for the 2021-24 funding cycle continues and at the last Oregon Transportation Commission meeting, they appeared to be heading towards allocating a little less to "fix it first," like the Legislature said to do, and a little more to widening and "enhancement":
While public opinion and the Commission’s policies favor focusing on maintenance, increased congestion in the Portland metro region is negatively impacting freight mobility and the economy of the whole state, pushing toward additional investments in congestion relief. Due to increased congestion, the Legislature directed $672 million in HB 2017 toward specific enhance projects in the 2021-2024 STIP, and the Commission asked ODOT for options to direct additional resources to addressing congestion.

In response, ODOT unveiled a variation on a scenario called “Scenario 2+” that held maintenance funding steady while directing additional money to congestion relief—contingent on receiving federal funding above the level in ODOT’s conservative financial projection. “Scenario 2+ directs the first $40 million in additional federal funding into a Strategic Investment Program that may be used on highway enhancement opportunities chosen by the Commission,” said Travis Brouwer, ODOT’s Assistant Director. This strategy is similar to the $50 million the Commission set aside for strategic investments in the 2018-2021 STIP. The Commission can choose to use it for congestion relief projects or for federal grant leveraging opportunities.

Under Scenario 2+, Enhance Highway funding will increase from $124 million in the 2018-2021 STIP to over $700 million in the 2021-2024 STIP when HB 2017 funding is included — a nearly six-fold increase in Enhance Highway funding.
There's just a consistent belief that the only way to engage congestion is by widening and increasing capacity. It's still not sinking in that we need to think about the mobility of people who can choose - should choose sometimes - other than drive-alone trips and to reduce the total amount of driving.

California is phasing out autoist LOS analysis
for miles traveled - via Twitter and Streetsblog
California is making one important regulatory change that will help with this. It is likely that Oregon will get there also - but only after much kicking and screaming.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Downtown Parking Debate Heats up in 1917

A century ago debate heated up in downtown Salem about a formal on-street curbside parking ordinance. While the ordinance was not adopted at Council on December 3rd, 1917, it had a very serious discussion, and the matter had been percolating all summer and fall.

Back-in, angle parking on a two-way State Street at Commercial
circa 1925 (Salem Library Historic Photos)
This news piece is interesting in many ways, and worth citing nearly in full. You can see in it the lively flavor of the old newspapermen, but also the haste in writing and typesetting. The piece was not edited closely. They reported in more detail, but did not fact-check and verify as much. Contemporary journalistic standards show different trade-offs. Probably also Council meetings were more raucous and chaotic than they are today. In the story, the problem of assessments for street improvement also comes up.* Finally, note the speed limit.

We're really reading in a key period when the policy and regulatory environment for this new technology, the automobile, and a cascading set of changes it sets in motion, is being debated and shaped. Consumer behavior has got out in front of City Council, and they are having to react. Powerful interests push for a bias in one way or another. It is easy to see that different choices might have been made, and that our current patterns of and exceptions for auto use are the result of deliberate policy choices and intent - and we can change them again.

The headlines in 1917 were nuts!
City Council, WWI, Russian Revolution
From December 4th, 1917:

Assessment Against South Commercial Property Owners Objected To

The new automobile traffic ordinance and the bill calling for the assessment of abutting property to cover the cost of improvement of South Commercial street were the two chief matters of importance to receive the attention of the city council at its session last evening.

The traffic ordinance was in an extremely precarious situation for a time After its introduction Alderman Wilson proceded [sic] to go at it with long, sharp scissors and it soon became apparent that certain sections of the ordinance would receive no mercy at the hands of Mr. Wilson. Aldermen Johnson and Kigdon then came to its rescue, and the fray was soon joined by Alderman Ward. Sections were stricken out entirely, then reconsidered and reinserted. Amendments were offered pro and con, until there was some doubt in many minds as to just what was left of the ordinance. Motion was made that it be referred to the ordinance committee to be gotten into shaps [shape] for consideration at the next meeting, and Mayor Keyes voiced the sentiment of the majority of the aldermen when he stated there were parts of the ordinance he would really like to give further study.

WanderWalks for Grant-Highland Area Makes V2.0 a Vast Improvement!

The newest WanderWalks map for Grant and Highland
Last month Cherriots*, OSU Extension, and WVP Health Authority released a new WanderWalks map for the Grant and Highland neighborhoods.

The first Wander Walks map - lots of arterial walking
You might remember that the first version of WanderWalks was a collaboration with Willamette MBA students, and its routes went along many of our busiest, most unpleasant major arterial stroads. It was a great first effort, but it fell short in crucial ways.

It's hard to fault this new one in any meaningful way. It's pretty great.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Nice Profile of Chief Traffic Engineer in the Seattle Times

Today's Seattle Times Front Page
From the Seattle Times:
Seattle isn’t building many new streets these days. Chang, along with dozens of engineers and technicians, works to make the streets we have function better, rejiggering speed limits and lane lines, trying new ideas to make the streets more welcoming and more efficient.

The results, like them or not, are apparent: Seattle’s not getting easier for drivers anytime soon. But it’s one of the safest cities in the country for pedestrians. And while downtown neighborhoods have added 45,000 jobs in the last six years, the rate of drive-alone commuters has declined, and transit use has spiked....

...the Seattle Department of Transportation has changed the signal timing on dozens of traffic lights throughout the city to give pedestrians a jump start.

“It’s really about making our city more livable,” he said. “We don’t want people to get to the destination as fast as possible, we want our streets to be efficient, and sometimes efficiency is actually going slower”....

“A longstanding city traffic engineer can really be the one holding back better design for people,” said Dale Bracewell, the manager of transportation planning for Vancouver, B.C. “Dongho is really one that’s embraced the new way, that we want to be thinking about all types of transportation, a less car-centric view.”

Friday, December 1, 2017

City Council, December 4th - Lansing-NESCA Plan

Council meets on Monday, and there's not much to note here.

The apartment complex on appeal last week at Council
met Policy 3.1, but apparently that didn't matter
to the neighborhood association.
The Lansing-NESCA Neighborhood Plan is starting the process for formal approval and adoption, but it is interesting to note that the apartment complex the Lansing Neighborhood Association appealed last week at Council had already satisfied policy language in the Plan!

So the Plan isn't legally binding, and when there is new development proposed consistent with the Plan, neighbors still complain.

Why bother? What is its real, effective function?

I just can't wrap my mind around what is the real role for these neighborhood plans. They don't have any real kind of power - they have neither persuasive power to shape opinion, nor legal power to shape development and City regulation.

Between the cemetery and Madrona by Croisan Scenic
Another development will be on appeal, and one reader last month suggested that there were some real issues with slope, drainage, and excavation. This one might have more merit and deserve closer attention. The area is too hilly and remote ever to be easily bikeable and walkable for all ages, so it will be essentially car-dependent and it doesn't seem worth fussing over on that account.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

City Council, November 27th - Apartments on Silverton Road

The blog took a holiday over the long weekend, and we skipped the customary preview of transportation and related matters at Council on Monday. There wasn't much of significance to note, so it didn't seem very important.

One matter might be a little interesting to return to in passing, however.

Standard three-story walk-ups, set on a parking lot
The Lansing Neighborhood Association appealed the Planning Commission's approval of a 96 unit apartment complex on Silverton Road.

Maybe when you dig into it there are some real, substantive problems, but on the surface it looks like a pretty classic instance of NIMBY argument. The neighborhood association said "It would be preferable that this complex not be built at all." There's no grappling with our housing problem, the citywide needs for multi-family housing and for affordable housing.

Council was not persuaded by the criticism generally, and made only a minor adjustment by amendment. From the City's summary:
Council voted to amend the Planning Commission Design Review/Conditional Use/Site Plan Review/ Driveway Approach Permit. This requires the developer to build new public sidewalks near the apartments.
In the testimony from the neighborhood against the project, "livability" operates in multiple ways, not internally consistent: It is simultaneously as housing spaced far enough apart for a certain kind of privacy that requires car travel and convenient car storage, and housing deployed in ways to make it easy to walk. It is also remarkable that housing one block from an Elementary School is judged "unsafe." A block walk is great proximity to a school! But kids might get in the way of cars and their drivers. The text and its argument is not internally coherent, and the disposition of cars is an important ingredient in the stew. It shows how our notions about housing are totally contaminated now by autoism.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Downtown Streetscape Plan Kicks off with Thursday Open House - Updated

Three or maybe four distinct sidewalk zones
The public portion of the Downtown Streetscape Study kicks off on Thursday, and it will be very interesting to see where they go with it.

There is probably a conventional anatomy of a sidewalk out there somewhere (oh yeah, here's NACTO's), but when I think of the sidewalks, I think of three or four distinct zones:
  • The car zone, at and just past the curb. There is auto parking and car traffic here.
  • The furniture zone: Signs, garbage cans, trees, public art, light fixtures, bike racks.
  • The walking through-zone: The pathway for people on foot and mostly kept clear.
  • The windows, vestibules, doors and passageways of the storefronts themselves.
The most critical thing to change has always seemed to be the car zone. We need to reduce the amount of zoomy traffic downtown in order to make it more comfortable and inviting for those not in cars.

If you can stage photos like this on Liberty at State,
that's evidence we have excess road capacity!
(via Downtown Salem fansite)
There is room for this, but it has seemed politically impossible, and the Streetscape Study has specifically excluded discussion of changes to the curb-to-curb configuration in the streets.

On the other side, changes to the storefronts will involve building owners, their consent, and their funding, so big changes there seem unlikely.

So what is left? A discussion of the furniture zone and the walking through-zone.

Monday, November 27, 2017

At the MPO: Vetting Projects for $5 Million Continues

The Policy Committee for our local Metropolitan Planning Organization meets tomorrow, Tuesday the 28th, at noon, and they'll be reviewing several big items, including updates on the Public Participation Plan, the entire 2018 Work Plan, and the vetting process for the current round of project applications.

Applications for the $5 million

Earlier this month the Technical Advisory Committee began scoring the project applications, and some of the drawing details are a little interesting.

The County doesn't seem to be all that interested in making Center Street between Lancaster and 45th very inviting for non-auto travel.

The designs they are showing intend a future with five lanes of car traffic, too-wide travel lanes that encourage speeding, and an odd multi-use path instead of fully realized sidewalks and bike lanes on the north side. The project is very clearly about cars-first.

The County's Center St. Project needs more thought
In the City of Salem's application for the McGilchrist project, they are a little oblivious maybe about the attractiveness of vintage 1980s style bike lanes on a street that is expected to have lots of heavy truck traffic. These are concept renderings only, and they will be changed in the final design process, but it would be nice to see something more forward-looking at the inception of the project.

Shouldn't we be talking protected bike lanes here?
It's always a little odd to see a City of Turner project in the list. On the one hand, small cities deserve funding, but at the same time is encouraging the urbanization of Turner not just a big move in favor of autoism and car-dependency? It is a little strange to see Turner included in the MPO's boundaries. Maybe if the Mill Creek Corporate Center really becomes a big employment center this will not seem so strange.

"Like" your favorite projects and give SKATS feedback
For the whole list of projects and the opportunity to comment formally on them, see the social media style map with comment fields, and there is a previous post here with a brief description of them. The applications total about $10 million, but there is only about $5 million in funding, so by dollar anyway, half of the projects will not make the cut.

The final recommendations look to be announced in January with a formal Public Hearing and decision in February.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Thanksgiving Ad for 1917 Frets over Loss of Neighborhood Stores

November 23rd, 1917
The full-page Thanksgiving Ad from 1917 is interesting in several ways.

If 1916's was gauzy, and the year before it was grim, this year's scene is nostalgic, domestic, and cozy. (And the one in 1914.)

The text betrays anxiety, however (yes, it's in CAPS):
This is evidence for change in the neighborhood store. At least in these tiled full-page ads, it's is the first hint of national or regional chains, store consolidation, and larger auto-oriented stores with parking lots and deployed farther from the neighborhood. Previously there were ads supporting "home industry," construed as city or region, but not down to the micro-scale of "neighborhood store." I read this concern as a significant shift, the first tremor of the coming changes in retailing and suburban development.

There is also theme of war-time austerity, both voluntary and involuntary.

Marion Apartments on Commercial at Union
completed in 1916 (image via Discover Salem)
As far as the tiles themselves go, the first ad is for the Marion Apartment Grocery. That's the apartment block on the corner of Union and Commercial. Did you know it had a grocery store in it at one time? That was interesting to learn.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Union St Bridge Shows Trip Growth; Minto Settles into a Routine

Now that we are well into the rainy season, and with the new light at Union and Commercial, it seems like a good time to visit the bike traffic counts on the Union and Minto Bridges.

Bike traffic on Union Street seemed to grow, and Minto settled into a routine, dominated by walking.

From the front pager on Soft Opening in April -
Not representative traffic it turns out

Union Street

The Eclipse was popular!
Would it surprise you to know that the highest traffic on the Union Street Railroad bridge in the last two years came on August 21st of this year?

Of course not!

The daily counts show lots of variation with weather and events, and the weekly counts seem like the most stable at the moment. (It would be nice to have M-F and Sat-Sun counts broken out in more detail, but this is what we have just now. Agencies are still working on a reporting and publishing routine.) By the eyeball test, it looks like biking showed some growth on the bridge. If last year the weekly peak rarely touched 4000, this year is regularly exceeded 4000 and hit 5000 for a bit. By my reckoning that's a substantial increase, at least in the summertime.

Weekly bike traffic on the Union St RR Bridge
Bike traffic also remains a full quarter of the total traffic on the Union Street Bridge.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Cranksgiving this Saturday, Transition at OBRA: Newsbits

Looking for some bikey fun this weekend? It's Cranksgiving time, organized by the Northwest Hub.

Here's the facebook event and description:
Each year Cranksgiving is held in November as a way for messengers and other urban cyclists to socialize, compete, and enjoy themselves while also raising food for local soup kitchens or food pantries in time for the Thanksgiving holiday. It is one of the only alleycats focused on raising donations for good causes.

Where: 1230 Broadway St. NE
When: Saturday Nov. 18th
Time: 10:00 am show up, 10:30 am roll out

Bring a bike, a bag, a lock, and about $15-$20 to buy food. All of the food collected at grocery stores will benefit Marion Polk food share.

PS There will also be Coffee provided by Steel Bridge and Sweet Bread
Here's news coverage from 2015.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

12th and Mill Project a Surprise on OTC Agenda

Almost two years ago at a SESNA meeting, a major revision was proposed for the very awkward connection across Mill Street at the end of the 12th Street promenade along the railroad, an odd corner bounded by the Mill, Willamette, and the Train Depot. (Previous notes here and here.)

The concept in early 2016, a serpentine three-stage crossing
(White text, black text, black arrows added)
The Oregon Transportation Commission meets on Friday the 17th (agenda and meeting items here), and the consent calendar has an item for funding a crossing at this intersection:
Work will include:
• Install raised median and pavement marking
• Upgrade rail signal system
• Install additional flashing lights for crossing users
• Reconstruct and flatten roadway approaches to better accommodate ADA community and adherence to current design standards
• Remove existing sidewalk on the north side of Mill Street
• Extend promenade fencing to channelize crossing user
That looks more-or-less what is in the plan view just above. (Maybe it's changed, and if we can get a new plan view, we'll update this post.)

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Newsbits: Transportation at Gilbert House, Job at Safe Routes

Love the way the SJ piece on the new Gilbert House exhibit on transportation leads with Cherriots and Amtrak. Make 'em love the bus adventure early!

Class and cultural attitudes towards the bus are not fixed
In The Automobile and Urban Transit: The Formation of Public Policy in Chicago, 1900-1930 we can see how the signalling or status function of bus riding has changed over time.

Nowadays we still struggle with an image of the bus as second-class transport for those who can't afford adult transportation.

It's like yesterday's piece in The Onion on reducing bike crashes - just substitute the word "bus":
“Our data confirm that the vast majority of cyclist injuries can be avoided simply by driving an automobile instead of biking around like some weirdo,” said lead researcher Dr. Laura Gafferty....“Regular people drive cars because it’s the normal and not the abnormal thing to do. If every cyclist purchased and operated a car like you’re supposed to as an adult, bike fatalities would drop an estimated 40 percent within six months alone.”
More seriously, the Safe Routes to School partnership is looking to hire for a new position:
The Pacific Northwest Regional Policy Manager (Salem/Eugene) will build on existing work in the Pacific Northwest region, concentrating on expanding the regional network in Salem-Keizer and Central Lane areas. The primary focus of this position is to increase funding and improve policies that result in the prioritization of more infrastructure and programs to support safe walking and bicycling for children and families, especially in lower-income, underserved, and historically marginalized communities.
It will be interesting to see if the hire is based in Eugene or in Salem. On the surface, it would seem like Eugene probably was going to be the big focus area and an easier lift. But maybe the untapped potential in Salem, as well as its status as HQ for State agencies, would give it the edge. Anyway, see the full job description here, and BikePortland has a full job advertisement. This could be a very exciting development.


The City says the light at Union Street and Commercial is going live tomorrow!!!

Going to light up soon!
From the City:
​City delivers key project identified by Salem residents in 2013 Central Salem Mobility Study.

On Wednesday, November 15, 2017, the City will activate a new traffic signal at the intersection of Union Street NE and Commercial Street NE. The new signal increases safety for bicyclists and pedestrians traveling between the Union Street Railroad Bridge and downtown Salem. The City also improved lighting, added crosswalks, built curb extensions and a median island to further improve safety at the crossing.

Vehicles eastbound on Union Street NE will now be directed southbound-only onto Commercial Street NE. A blue light indicator for bicycles traveling across the intersection from west to east was also added.

The completion of this project delivers on a priority Salem residents identified in the 2013 Central Salem Mobility Study. According to project engineer Julie Titchbourne, the signal is the first step in connecting the Union Street Bridge with 12th ST as part of the Family-Friendly Bikeway. The $1.13-million intersection improvement began in June and is jointly funded by the Riverfront-Downtown Urban Renewal Area and the Salem-Keizer Area Study Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Induced Demand and Pedestrian Control in 1920s Chicago

Here's an interesting book! The Automobile and Urban Transit: The Formation of Public Policy in Chicago, 1900-1930. (Have any of you read it?)

It looks like there's an open online edition, so it may be that we'll take a little bit of a tour, since it looks like a fine-grained case study of the development of autoism a century ago.

Here's a bit on induced demand:
The Cycle of Street Improvements
Wider streets and better pavements failed to solve Chicago's traffic problems for three related reasons. First, even with the great expenditure on street improvement projects, the amount of the new street surface produced was far too little and came too slowly to keep up with the increase in automobile use. Second, improvements in and coordination of the roads surrounding the city helped to generate new traffic to and from the city and added to the demands on city streets. Finally, street improvement in the city itself attracted traffic. By the end of the 1920s Chicago was clearly in a cycle of street improvement followed by renewed congestion and the demand for further improvements. The classic pattern earlier seen in transit improvements was apparent in street improvements as well: the better the facilities, the greater the congestion.
And on the invention of jaywalking as a power move by autoists:
The Combatants
The motorized vehicle did not win control of Chicago's streets until the 1920s. Through the middle of that decade, its chief competitor for street space was the pedestrian, who had long been accustomed to using the street as an extension of the sidewalk when the latter became too congested for easy passage. The pedestrian, said the police lieutenant in charge of Loop traffic control in 1922, was the major element in downtown traffic congestion.

By early 1920s, the motorist and the pedestrian were engaged in an angry and often deadly struggle for mastery of the street. Pedestrians ducked around traffic policemen who tried to hold them back at street corners. They surged across automobile thoroughfares near beaches and mobbed Loop streets during rush hours, blocking all traffic.

Pedestrians were exceedingly difficult to control. Twelve policemen could not keep the crowds at one Loop intersection from spilling into the streets. In New York and other densely populated cities, walkers were likewise too numerous to be arrested, ticketed, or otherwise regulated. Only in relatively uncrowded Los Angeles was some measure of control achieved.

Businessmen and automobile clubs advocated anti-jaywalking ordinances as a solution "There is no more reason for the pedestrian to be permitted to run wild on that portion of the street set aside for vehicles," a Chicago Motor Club spokesman complained, "than there would be for vehicles to run wild on the sidewalks." Indeed pedestrian control was an issue of traffic segregation.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

City Council, November 13th - New Bridge Task Force

Council meets on Monday, and the most interesting item is a proposed task force to look at "improving vehicular mobility" around the Center and Marion Street Bridges.
While acknowledging the importance of improving non-vehicular modes of transportation-including pedestrian, bicycle, and public transit-and the possibility that other travel demand management measures-such as changed work hours-the work of this Task Force is to be directed primarily at identifying opportunities for improving vehicular mobility and ways to reduce vehicular congestion within the study area.
Here are two perspectives, both of them essentially true, but probably not equally true:
  • Politics is the art of the compromise. At the present moment, this may be the best we can agree on, and it's better than the stalemate on the Salem River Crossing itself.
  • This is manure! We already know what we need to do. There is no reason the City should not commit whole-heartedly to the recommendations in the Alternate Modes Study as well as the earlier Bridgehead study. Just do it! Quit screwing around with new committees.  And the way to manage congestion is not to improve "flow." We need instead to talk about total mobility and to offer other kinds of mobility so that people have realistic choices instead of drive-alone trips.
Councilor Hoy has very ably made the case for politics and for compromise:
This argument [on the SRC] has gotten us nowhere, except an atmosphere of divisiveness, hostility and differently colored t-shirts.

On this issue, and many others, I am eager to focus on areas where we can find common ground. In this debate, the common ground is this: we have a peak hour congestion problem downtown and in West Salem and we need to fix it....

I am eager to work toward real, short term, achievable solutions to this situation. We can effectively address this issue by coming together and focusing on areas of agreement and implementing real, affordable solutions. We won’t agree on everything – and that’s perfectly fine. But we can all agree that we need a solution now to our peak hour congestion problem downtown. Through several discussions, there is a vehicle to bring this effort to fruition on Monday night’s City Council agenda. I look forward to enthusiastically supporting this motion.
But the Task Force's restriction on "primarily at identifying opportunities for improving vehicular mobility and ways to reduce vehicular congestion" - and here even though bikes are generally considered vehicles, the meaning is clearly to exclude them and to construe "vehicles" as automobiles only - already rules out a number "real, affordable solutions."

There are substantive grounds here for criticism of the proposal.

Back in 1980, nearly two generations ago, we knew things, and we mostly blew them off.

  1. [There will be a need for] A substantial increase in use of transit, carpooling, bicycling and walking, and perhaps the introduction of peak-hour shuttle systems between downtown Salem and West Salem.
  2. More attractors (employment, shopping, entertainment, schools) west of the river
Getting on to twenty years ago now, the Willamette River Crossing Capacity Study recommended many of the same things. (This is from an undated brochure after 1997 but before 2004. It used to be on the MWVCOG/SKATS site, but has been scrubbed for a while now.)

Newsbits on ODOT and Autocracy

Couple of very interesting bits in the paper today.

Shortly after the election, the New York Review of Books published a piece, "Autocracy: Rules for Survival."

via Twitter
One of them was "Believe the autocrat."

Another was "Institutions will not save you...the judiciary collapsed unnoticed."

via Twitter
There's a notice in the Sunday paper for a talk by the author of those "rules" at Willamette on Thursday the 16th.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Disquiet on the Home Front, 1917

Next year will be the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day.

This year Veterans Day falls a few months after the 100th anniversary of our entry into the war.

Maj. Edward Allworth by April Waters
You might remember a story in the paper from earlier this summer about a new portrait of one of Oregon's Medal of Honor winners commissioned for the Lebanon Veterans Home.

The medal honors Edward Allworth for action on November 5th, 1918. Later he worked at Oregon Agricultural College - now OSU.

Isn't it just straight-up wonderful and beautiful, a perfect instance of public art matched to site?

As the Public Art Commission thinks about art for the new Police Station, they ought to think more about art that is immediately legible and delightful rather than art that requires a lengthy artist statement to parse and decode. Public art should not be too opaque or elusive! Sometimes it should be challenging, but its challenge should not be so difficult to grasp. Public art that is too elliptical just becomes inert.

Damien Gilley talking about "Mirror Maze," July 5th
via Twitter
The local cultural moment during World War I is weird, though.

The Establishment was crazy threatened by the Wobblies. Women had just won the vote in the state of New York, and were looking at national women's suffrage. There's a deep jumble of progressivism and counter-reaction.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Vote and Help Rank Applications for $5M for 2018-2023

"Like" your favorite projects and give SKATS feedback
Our local Metropolitan Planning Organization has a social media style map and is taking comment on applications for about $5 million in additional Federal funding.

The three in Salem are on Orchard Heights, McGilchrist, and Brown Road. Others are for Cherriots, in Keizer, Turner, and unincorporated Marion County.

(For more and a brief discussion of them, see last month's notes. If you really want to drill into detail, SKATS has posted the applications themselves here.)

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

With Call to Revive Jaywalking Laws, City Study Whiffs on Speed

Pedestrian Safety Study

They knew better
 in 1937
The City has released a "Pedestrian Safety Study," but in important ways it reverts to early 20th-century patterns of blame for people on foot and even of criminalizing walking. While the recommendation to "reconsider the lack of jaywalking laws," is not itself the central and most important recommendation, it is symptomatic and a real reflection of the study's limitations.

More than anything else, the study avoids the asymmetry in speed, power, and lethality between people in cars and people on foot.

Recommendation: Reconsider jaywalking laws
The study ends up being more about channelizing people walking into "the right place," about getting pedestrians out of the way, and about protecting drivers from unwanted crashes and messy complications, than it is about making walking in Salem a delightful, inviting, and preferred choice for short trips. It assumes a baseline of driving as the preferred and prioritized choice. In this way its orientation remains fundamentally autoist and represents a reversion to 20th century norms rather than a development that supports modern, 21st century travel choice and the increasingly exigent demands for responding to climate disruption.

Our earlier campaign to criminalize walking:
"The forgotten history of how automakers
invented the crime of 'jaywalking'"

Hopefully we are not heading towards
requirements for Pedestrian Safety Equipment
The historical perspective is not a matter of trivia. Just as we navigated a tremendous shift in the 1910s - 1930s in vehicles, road design, and planning, the transition to autonomous vehicles looms similarly large. Manufacturers and the larger auto-industrial complex, including engineers and consultants, probably would like to engineer as much predictability for pedestrians as possible, even to the point of requiring reflective gear or transponders. What if you had to have a smart phone or RFID chip to walk anywhere? Software and liability law could totally impose that requirement on people. It is important to note we are at, or approaching close to, something of an inflection point, able to choose one way or another.

Back in January 2016, City Council received a report from Public Works and the Police on people killed while walking in Salem. (Notes on the first version here, and on a slightly revised version here.) This led the City to commission a more detailed report from an outside consultant. That report has been published and the City will hold a brown bag open house on it November 13th at noon in the Library as well as present more formally the findings to Council that evening in a work session before the Council meeting proper. (See the City facebook for the event announcement.)

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Budget, Transit, Age-Friendly Committees to Meet this Week

It seems like there is an unusually high number of interesting meetings this week at the City!

Monday, Budget Committee

Now that we have a new "Strategic Plan," the annual budget process is undergoing some changes and the Budget Committee will kick off the new cycle on Monday at 6pm in City Hall. (Agenda and meeting packet here.)

Update on adopted 2018 budget
In the backwards-looking update on the adopted 2018 budget, there's a discussion of some $400,000 budgeted for an update to the Comprehensive Plan, which will include "a physical vision for where future growth will occur." There is an opportunity for better coordinating transportation planning with land use planning.

Yesterday there was news about six new spec buildings going up at the Mill Creek Corporate Center.

You already know about the Amazon warehouse there.

This part of town is utterly car-dependent.

With Kuebler/Cordon and other busy roads, as well as the straight-line distance from residential neighborhoods, walking and bike is not realistic. Bus service is infrequent.

Meanwhile, Panasonic/Sony nearby has closed.

We have plopped down this major cluster of big box development without any plan at all for connectivity other than drive-alone trips.

More generally, as we push new development to the outer edges of the city and Urban Growth Boundary, we have not seriously asked about the transportation burden on the City and on individuals. Especially when we are also handing out Enterprise Zone tax abatements.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Don't Forget about the Exclusion Laws in the Newly Restored Oregon Constitution

One of the Negro Exclusion clauses
in our original 1857 Oregon Constitution
State Archives and the Secretary of State have announced a "public unveiling of the newly restored Oregon Constitution" for Monday the 6th.

That's pretty neat and all, but at this particular moment in time, what with General Lee in the news again, it's worth remembering that Oregon, while excluding slavery positively, was also explicitly established under the desire for no people of color at all. Current residents might have been grandfathered in, but the message was clear.
No free negro or mulatto not residing in this state at the time of the adoption of this constitution, shall come, reside or be within this state or hold any real estate, or make any contracts, or maintain any suit therein; and the legislative assembly shall provide by penal laws for the removal by public officers of all such negroes and mulattoes, and for their effectual exclusion from the state, and for the punishment of persons who shall bring them into the state, or employ or harbor them.
If that's not a Constitutional provision for a system of white supremacy, just what exactly is it?

A recent essay at the Mill, "Rachel Belden Brooks and Family," shows some of the difficulty in our interpretation.
In 1844, a strong desire to avoid racial tensions led the Oregon Provisional Government to outlaw slavery in the Oregon Country. However compassionate this may sound, it was closely followed by a ban on the settling of free blacks in the region. Both laws were designed to keep the black population at a minimum and avoid conflict. Despite these decrees, many families brought slaves on their journey west and few, if any, of the slaves were set free upon entering Oregon. Rachel Belden was one of these, and is the first known black woman of Marion County....
"Avoiding racial tensions" and "avoiding conflict" are inadequate descriptions for the malignant impetus behind the Exclusion laws.

As it happens, it seems the Exclusion laws weren't enforced much, and our informal and ordinary understanding of our history is that we neglected and ignored them. It was bad law. We try to read this neglect in the most virtuous way possible.

But even unenforced, it was still more powerful as general culture than we would like to think. As a general rule, we don't take seriously enough the intent of the Exclusion clauses and the pervasiveness of the racism behind them.

Of course any history on this is difficult. Most of the sources also come from white people, white men particularly, and even when they are well-intentioned, we lose the agency of non-white people, who are not able to be in charge of the stories they tell about themselves in their own words. The "real history," such as it is, is certainly both richer and more terrible than we know. Additionally, around Statehood, Salem was a tiny community, and the stories we might wish to tell are all entangled and so very ambiguous. A Pioneer or civic hero in one context turns out compromised or even vicious in another.

America Waldo and Rachel Belden come to Salem

From Breaking Chains
In his book, Breaking Chains: Slavery on Trial in the Oregon Territory, R. Gregory Nokes writes about several Salem families: