Tuesday, May 23, 2017

MPO's Legislative Priorities: SRC Number 1

Our local Metropolitan Planning Organization meets today the 23rd, and they've got a letter they want to send to the Legislature on the "transportation package."
Proposed letter to Legislature
From the text of the proposed letter (italics added):
Co-Chairs Beyer and McKeown and Members of the Committee:

The Salem-Keizer Area Transportation Study (SKATS MPO) is the regional metropolitan planning organization for the Salem, Keizer, Turner and surrounding urban areas, with an area population over 250,000 residents.

In April and May, the SKATS Policy Committee discussed the subject of proposed state-MPO taxing districts that is being considered by your committee’s transportation bill. SKATS members see the potential benefits of the district concept for cost-sharing large projects, but of course, have questions about the specifics of the proposal and look forward to seeing how these districts will be defined in the state transportation bill. They also raised a concern that all the non-Metro MPOs would have difficulty in matching state funds at a 50-50 level -- especially for high-cost projects -- and request that provision remain open for a subsequent discussion and decision by the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC).

The Policy Committee also discussed major congestion and freight projects that might be funded through this proposal. The following is a list of six projects within the SKATS MPO boundary that would improve freight mobility and congestion on both the state and Salem-Keizer regional systems. Each project shows the county is it located in, along with its planning level cost estimate. The Salem River Crossing (Phase 1) bridge is our top priority along with these listed projects, all of which are significant to the sustainability of our transportation system. The remaining projects are listed in order of decreasing costs:
  • Salem River Crossing (Phase 1) [Polk County & Marion County]: $250 million
  • Chemawa Road @ I-5 Interchange Upgrades [Marion County]: $210 million
  • Salem Center Street Bridge Seismic [Polk County & Marion County]: $60 million
  • OR22 @ O51 Interchange & Frontage Roads [Polk County]: $55 million
  • Cordon Road Capacity Upgrades [Marion County]: $47 million
  • New interchange at OR22 @ Cordon Road [Polk County]: $36 million
The highest priority for the Salem is not "Salem River Crossing (Phase 1)." That project is currently being litigated at LUBA and there is considerable evidence that in its present form it is deeply, fatally flawed. There is also considerable community criticism and opposition. Even if you do not agree with that criticism, it is a fact that there is no local consensus around the SRC. In a 5-4 Council vote on an intergovernmental agreement with DLCD, the City of Salem recently sent a message in opposition to the SRC's current form. The SRC does not deserve any such "top priority." It deserves a high priority only if you already "know" it deserves a high priority. This is circular! An impartial planning process and impartial public participation process would not lead to this claim for #1 priority, and would recognize that there are important issues yet to settle.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

City Council, May 22nd - Two Downtown Murals

Council meets Monday, and finally there are some details on the murals proposed for downtown.

Just in time for thinking about the murals, Strong Towns has had a "Public Art Week."

In one of the notes, they say
What's clear to me is that public art cannot be used to cover up failures in urban design. A neglected, unproductive street with a sculpture on the corner, is still a neglected, unproductive street.
And, well, that's just exactly the problem here.

Penny's Plaza, the parking garage,
 and the alleyway are together charmless and desolate.
A woodpecker motif might add a little charm.
From the Staff Report:
In December 2016, in recognition of the value of art to the vibrancy of Salem’s downtown, the Downtown Advisory Board recommended the use of Urban Renewal Agency funding for the two mural installations. One mural is to be located on the Chemeketa Parkade’s east stairwell, the other is to be located on a short, rounded wall of the City-owned lease-able space in the alley between Liberty and Commercial, accessed from Chemeketa Street.

The proposed murals are the result of the Salem Public Art Commission’s effort to commission murals from well-regarded northwest artists, recognized for the quality of their recent public commissions. In creating the Salem Public Art Commission and the Public Art Fund, the City Council in 2010 recognized “that visual arts contribute to and provide experiences that enrich and better the social and physical environment of the community…” Beginning with more than 25 artists of interest, the Commission sought interest and availability from 10 northwest artists. Of the four submitting conceptual designs for the mural sites, the Commission selected two: Blaine Fontana and Damien Gilley. The murals will be the subject of a Salem Public Art Commission public hearing on June 8, 2017. If approved, the Damien Gilley piece will be installed before July 5, 2017 and the Blaine Fontana piece will be installed beginning July 10 through July 25.
Waldo Stewards on north side of Chemeketa,
Blaine Fontana
(You can match this to the streetview at top)
Blaine Fontana's proposal, "Waldo Stewards," is more straight-forward and if not exactly site-specific, is grounded in something of a concept about a specific Salem thing:

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Arches on the Minto Bridge are Huge!

Mostly the new Minto Bridge and path is fabulous. But one detail I keep returning to is that the arches are big and even clunky. I don't find them, or the whole of the bridge, as graceful as I hoped they would be. For me this diminishes the landscape and vista a little. I had hoped it would be a more interesting architectural grace note, complementing and complicating the view. Instead, I find that it dominates the view, and is too big and obvious for the setting. Maybe you feel otherwise, but here's why.

Minto Bridge on May 4th, via Travel Salem
Because we approach the bridge on the paths, the arches are foreshortened, and while the original bridge approvals were done using a profile view, such a profile is not the "natural" way the bridge is experienced by a person using it and viewing it. There is a procession with the connecting paths, and this procession creates the primary view and sense of the bridge as an experienced object in space. In this procession, the arches are tall and narrow, not low and wide. With the side elevations only, the action and experience of procession was absent, and an important dimension of the bridge design missing in deliberation.

Those profile views make it look low and wide. The plans called for a 50 foot peak, and it is possible that the arches are only 50 feet high. But I swear the arc shown here in the initial drawings is flatter than the arc as-built. If so, the peak may be more than 50 feet high. (There may be more to say on this later, as there are almost certainly engineering constraints driving the details, which we might instead want to consider primarily aesthetically rather than structurally.)

Original Council-approved concept drawing (2010)
The drawing showed a 50 foot peak - it looks too flat now
But even more than the curvature and height of the arches, it's the diameter of the arch tubing itself that is jarring.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Police Station Design Unlikely to look like Bond Marketing Materials

Now that we have resolution on the new Police facility, let's talk about design a little. It's not any great insight to say that the drawing the City has been using to sell the revised Police Station bond is conceptual only.

Cop shop as playground? Look at all the kids!
Corner of Division and Commercial,
from mid-block, looking NW (see image below)
Still, the image has a number of problems, and while it might be a stretch to say it's wholly "misleading," it is more than a little bit of a rainbows and unicorns interpretation of things. It's a fanciful mock-up.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Ride of Silence Tonight

This evening, May 17th, the Salem 2017 Ride of Silence will be at 6:15pm. John Henry Maurice and Joanne Heilinger of the Salem Bicycle Club will lead the ride, which departs from the "red lot" downtown. All are welcome.

Since 2003 "the mission of the world wide Ride of Silence is to honor bicyclists killed by motorists, promote sharing the road, and provide awareness of bicycling safety."

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Oregon Black Pioneers win 2017 McMath Award for Historic Preservation

Tomorrow night, Wednesday the 17th, the University of Oregon will award the 2017 George McMath Historic Preservation Award to the Oregon Black Pioneers.
Since 1993, the Oregon Black Pioneers, an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization based in Salem, has produced publications, mounted exhibitions, presented lectures, sponsored conferences, organized musical and theater productions, delivered classroom presentations and curriculum to public schools, and recognized burial sites for Black pioneers in Salem. Their dedication to shedding light on Oregon’s African American pioneers has revealed a rich history that enriches the experience of all Oregonians.
This is the first time the award has not gone to an individual or to someone principally concerned with the preservation of buildings.

Oregon Electric cars on High Street at Court, circa 1912
You might remember the exhibit "Rails through Salem: A Black History Connection" a couple years back.

Or the book, Perseverance: A History of African Americans in Oregon's Marion and Polk counties.

Or the dedication in 2007 of a monument "in remembrance of Oregon's black pioneers, named and unnamed, buried in Salem Pioneer Cemetery."

They've amassed a substantial body of work that should be noticed!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Bike More Challenge at Mid-Month: Could use more Institutional Support

Looking at the leader boards for the Bike More Challenge in Salem, it's hard not to conclude that it's not very effective at the moment. People who already bike may not find it useful or interesting, and as an incentive for new people to try out bike trips it also may not be useful or interesting.

The Challenge has been around for a while, and participation even in Portland has been flat or declining. Its peak seems to have been in 2011, so in addition to whatever trends might characterize Salem in particular, there are larger statewide trends as well.

Even so, entities that you might think would embrace the Challenge as a public symbol and statement about institutional values have generally not embraced the Challenge and have not put much institutional force or many resources behind it. For them it remains a fringe-y side show. But maybe it's time for institutions and leadership to say "this is important." It's supposed to be a fun Encouragement project, and in that way shouldn't be taken too seriously. But maybe we aren't taking it seriously enough.

Or maybe the Challenge is just tired and it's time for something new.

Either way, current levels of interest have not been encouraging.

0.7% participation at City of Salem Public Works
The City transportation group does not participate, and this is one of the surest signs that institutionally bicycling is not taken seriously enough at the City. While the City is working on things like the Union Street and Winter-Maple bikeways, most staff do not themselves seem to find bicycling a worthwhile activity to employ personally and by example to advocate. It's not that big a deal, but it's a sign and symptom.

Another group worth considering is ODOT, many of whose groups and functions are based on Salem.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

In the Neighborhoods: Bike Share and Art Downtown, Lead in West Salem

Lead abatement in West Salem and updates on Bike Share and Public Art in Downtown are at the neighborhood associations this week.

CANDO

On the agenda for the downtown neighborhood association on Tuesday the 16th are a couple of interesting items:
[3] Presentations
  • Proposed Murals under consideration by Salem Art Commission, Courtney Knox-Busch;
  • Capitol City Cycleshare, Evan Osborne;
The Murals

You may recall that two downtown murals are proposed and in process.

Penny's Plaza and the alleyway is charmless and desolate
The Downtown Advisory Board and Public Art Commission have proposed two murals on the alley between Liberty and Commercial on Chemeketa Street. One would be on the north side of the elevator shaft in the plaza between the Parkade and Penney's, the other behind the former Urban Alley Restaurant.

The last public information is from December, and the project might have evolved since then, so it will be nice to get an update. The Public Art Commission was in process of vetting artists, and one or more may have been selected.

Bike Share

The prospect for bike share here has not seemed altogether certain or clear. In theory it sounds great, but it has seemed like the actual, practical details of a sustainable business enterprise, even as a non-profit, remained difficult here. It has seemed more ornamental than functional.

Capitol City Cycleshare has posted a note about an expansion in the Corvallis system, which has seemed to be the primary model. Here's a bit from the OSU press release on the expansion:

Saturday, May 13, 2017

HIstoric Design Review for Byrd House of 1887 Elides Curb Cut and Autoism

The Byrd House of 1887 on 14th and Chemeketa, in 2013
One of Salem's gems is at the Historic Landmarks Commission next week. The Byrd House of 1887 is up for a "major historic design review" and it's worth some attention. It is interesting not because of the scope of remodeling on the house, all of which seems defensible and proportional, though at least one house detail is worth calling out, but it is interesting because of the way the proposal and City response slides right over without remark a major autoist intervention on the property.

Hearing Notice for a "major historic design review"
The Byrd House is in the Court-Chemeketa Historic District. It is not on its original site, however. According to the nomination materials:

Friday, May 12, 2017

New Cherriots Trip Choice Work Plan in Shadow of SRC and Autoist Priorities

While the Salem River Crossing Consultant Employment and Paper-generation Act continues to blow $60,000 a month (maybe more with the legal expenses for defending the City at LUBA!), Cherriots Trip Choice is currently funded with peanuts at 2.7 FTE annually.

The disparity here is a sign of institutionalized neglect. While we give lip service to reducing drive-alone trips and making it easy to move around with city in other ways, we don't actually fund programming that will enact these values with statistically significant shifts in aggregate Salem area travel. We give Cherriots duct tape and bailing wire for the Trip Choice program. We fund them to be a symbolic, feel-good side show.

One of the central claims in the appeal at LUBA on the SRC is that before highway expansion, the City and region are required to undertake less expensive transportation management practices first. These they have not done in a serious way. (See long discussions here, here, and here.)

from the Appeal at LUBA
Cherriots Trip Choice, responsible for the whole Yamhill-Polk-Marion County area, gets its funding through our MPO, and so it is a collective regional decision to leave it at 2.7 FTE (it has seemed to average around $200,000 a year, though it may be bumping up to $300,000 - that's the whole cost of the crosswalk proposed for 22nd at the City shops!) and to allocate resources to the SRC and to other highway and road expansion projects. Instead of improving mobility through increased travel choice and by taking cars off the road, our primary strategy remains to widen, to add cars to the road, and to dig in on drive-alone trips as the default, preferred choice.

By comparison, the City of Eugene's own Smart Trips program has three staff people: A Transportation Options Coordinator, Smart Trips Eugene Coordinator, Eugene Sunday Streets Coordinator. They also have two bike/ped planners. Portland's group is considerably larger, of course.

At least until Salem decides to commit to one in-house, Cherriots Trip Choice is what we got. (And this is a program that still might make more sense at the regional, MPO level rather than the level of an individual city.)

So it was interesting to see earlier this week at the MPO Technical Advisory Committee meeting an agenda item for a 2017 - 2019 work plan for Cherriots Trip Choice. You may recall they completed a strategic plan a couple years back and, in addition to changing the name from Ride Share to Trip Choice, they are in the process of implementing the plan. (The Work Plan is last in the full meeting packet - you'll have to download it.)

Intro to the work plan

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Drunk Driver Sent to Prison after Fatally Injuring Woman Getting her Mail

Here's a terrible conclusion to an already sad story from March.

2400 block of Fisher Road, looking North - no sidewalks
From the police back in mid-March:
A Salem woman is in custody following a crash where her vehicle left a roadway, struck several mailboxes and critically injured a pedestrian.*

At about 10:50 am on March 16, 72-year old Sandra Hill was walking to her mailbox in the 2400 block of Fisher Rd NE to retrieve mail that had just been delivered. As she was near her mailbox, a 2006 Hyundai Sonata that was traveling southbound on Fisher Rd struck the mailboxes and caused the injuries to Mrs. Hill.

The driver of the Hyundai, 44-year old Vanessa Marie Gienapp, left the scene of the crash, but stopped a short distance away. The Postal Service carrier who had just delivered the mail saw the victim laying in the driveway and noticed the Hyundai had stopped in the 2300 block of Fisher Rd. Suspecting that the Hyundai had been involved in some type of crash involving the victim and fearing that the Hyundai may attempt to leave, the Postal Service worker used her vehicle to block the Hyundai from leaving the scene. She remained in that position until officers arrived.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Cherriots to End West Salem Connector Project

Shoot. The special Board meeting for Cherriots on the 24th was followed closely by a regular meeting on the 27th, and it had at least one topic of real interest. But we missed it! (Full meeting agenda and packet here.)

A Year in Review
The biggest news is the cancellation later this year of the pilot project for "flexible transit" in West Salem. The Connector service never seemed to thrive (see notes on one year anniversary here), and recently a project in Kansas City, Bridj, also was cancelled (here, here, and here).

Fixed route transit has real advantages, and it remains to be seen where and when TNC-ified shuttle transit can thrive.

So Cherriots is going to go back to the drawing board and see if there is a combination of routes that makes sense in West Salem.
Staff recommends that the Board accept the results of the Connector Pilot Project and officially close the pilot project period. During the transition period, extend the operation of the West Salem Connector through the end of December 2017 to allow staff the time to further develop a fixed-route replacement, work with the community, and implement the replacement on January 2, 2018.

Even the Manliest of Men want Enhanced Crosswalks! Proposed Crossing on 22nd for City Shops

A reader who has been following the budget process more closely has found a new crosswalk project - a bit of a stealth project, actually - that hasn't been talked about in current transportation planning processes. It is a little odd in a couple of ways and deserves more comment.

from the proposed 2017-18 budget
The City is proposing $285,000 for "Design, right-of-way / easement acquisition and construction of a pedestrian crossing median on 22nd St NE [sic] at the City Shops Complex."

22nd Street SE at City Shops
That's right here or very near here. You can the diamond "walking man" sign.

Monday, May 8, 2017

First Look at State Transportation Package, Council Approves TNCs

The Legislature shared a first look at a proposed transportation package earlier this evening. Here are the first articles about it:
There's a lot of highway widening and "congestion relief" but not a lot about carbon dioxide pollution, climate change, and making it easier not to drive. We'll see. More will come out about it, and there will be more to say later.

At the Congress for New Urbanism:
TNCs add traffic, erode transit
(CNU25 in Seattle, via Twitter)
This evening Council voted to move forward with TNCs. It will be interesting to see how it turns out.

Update, Wednesday May 10th

There's a nice opinion piece from John Miller of Wildwood/Mahonia in the paper today!


Update 2, also the 10th

The Committee is again meeting this evening to discuss the concept, and in thinking about it, it seems wildly unbalanced still, with a tremendous autoist bias. Safe Routes gets $10 million annually, paths outside the right-of-way get $15 million annually, but mostly it's road expansion for about $500 million annually ($5 billion over a decade).

Collaged (with comments in red)
from the May 8th slide deck and presentation
Maybe as they flesh out more detail and even modify some of it, it will seem more balanced, but at the moment, it's table scraps still for non-auto travel.  It's also not really very coherent, and instead is an awkward political compromise: "A camel is a horse designed by committee" and all that!

And some reaction to the Wednesday meeting:

Bike Month: Bike More Challenge, Skills Fairs, Bike Boulevard Open House

Finally we are beginning to have some sunny weather, and it's time to remember that it's National Bike Month. Salem might have more going on this month than you think!

The number one reason to ride in Salem right now, has to be to check out the Minto Bridge!

via Twitter
There are lots of others of course, and you might have already checked out the bridge. But if you don't ride often, or you ride seasonally, the new bridge is almost certainly the best reason to dust off your bike, pump up the tires, check the brakes, and take it out for the inaugural ride of the year.

Bike More Challenge

Formerly known as the Bike Commute Challenge, the Bike More Challenge continues to evolve. This year, in tandem with the BTA becoming the Street Trust, there's a new set of graphics and branding. The social component of "encouragement" also is increasingly important.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

City Council, May 8th - Ride-booking Finale

Just the latest - via Twitter
On Monday Council will entertain the second reading of a ride-booking ordinance.

Council and ride-booking fans (the paper still chooses not to follow the AP stylebook, and misleadingly calls it "ride-sharing"!) have not taken seriously enough its unfortunate tendency towards undermining public transit and the extent to which ride-booking's current value to consumers is underwritten by extraordinary levels of loss-leading venture capital. Today's "good deal" can't possibly last in its current form. And we should have seen in the "Public Transit Work Group" subcommittee in the Strategic Planning process more discussion of ride-booking's impacts. The City should grapple in a forthright way with the implications for transit of their preferred ride-booking policy.

Advocating ride-booking as transit replacement
Anyway, critique of TNCs seems like a lost cause at this point, and it is possible that the total number of users in Salem will still round to a small number. But the rush to embrace them still seems rash, and the prospect of unwanted and unintended consequences seems quite likely. (See the last note with a list of criticism here, and all the notes going back to 2014 here.)

Thursday, May 4, 2017

City Council, May 6th - Strategic Planning Work Session

On Saturday City Council has a morning Work Session on the Strategic Planning Process.

Council Work Group Report on Sustainable Services
In March Council chose to divvy up important topics for subcommittees:
  • Vision for Growth and Development Council Work Group includes Councilors McCoid, Cook, Lewis, and Nanke. Lisa Anderson-Ogilvie, Interim Community Development Director, serves as the lead staff person.
  • Affordable Housing, Social Services, Homelessness Council Work Group includes Councilors McCoid, Andersen and Cook. Andy Wilch, Housing Administrator, serves as the lead staff person.
  • Economic Development and Downtown Council Work Group includes Mayor Bennett and Councilors Nanke, Hoy and Kaser. Kristin Retherford, Urban Development Department Director, serves as the lead staff person.
  • Critical Infrastructure Council Work Group includes Councilors Ausec, Lewis, Nanke and Kaser. Peter Fernandez, Public Works Director serves as the lead staff person.
  • Sustainable Service Delivery Council Work Group includes Councilors McCoid, Andersen, Ausec and Cook. Kacey Duncan, Deputy City Manager, serves as the lead staff person.
  • Public Transportation Council Work Group includes Mayor Bennett and Councilors Kaser, Lewis, Hoy. Julie Warncke, Transportation Planning Manager, serves as the lead staff person.
Now it's time for a progress report on the subcommittees, and to "seek Council consensus on the recommended goals for each of the six topics."

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Prospect of a new Casino on Portland Road

Proposed site for Casino (click to enlarge)
So the big news yesterday was the proposal for a Casino in land wedged between I-5 and Portland Road.
The Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians are revisiting plans to bring a casino to North Salem, aiming to wrest customers from the popular Ilani Casino Resort that recently opened in southern Washington....

The unnamed casino announced Tuesday is expected to open in 2021 near the intersection of Interstate 5 and Portland Road NE near exit 258. It would bring 1,500 full-time jobs to a roughly 140,000-square-foot facility within the first year of its opening. Tribal officials project the facility will cost $280 million to build.
You probably saw news about traffic and parking on Ilani's first day:
The opening of the Ilani Casino near La Center clogged northbound Interstate 5 for as far as eight miles Monday morning, and cars were turned away after the casino's parking lots reached capacity.

The Washington State Department of Transportation said the casino's lots were full, causing the backup to spill onto the highway. The casino has said it could accommodate 3,000 vehicles.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Bridges: Soft Open at Minto; at Second St and Wallace More Thought

It was nice to see the Minto Bridge on the front page over the weekend!

Have you crossed it? What did you think?

WSRAB

The West Salem Redevelopement Advisory Board meets tomorrow the 3rd, and they'll be talking about another bridge idea.

(Information on WSRAB is bifurcated right now between the old and new City websites, so it's a pain for linking. Here's the meeting packet, but it's posted to the old site. The new site says "An agenda for this meeting is not yet available," which is plainly false! Anyway, hopefully they'll get this straightened out.)

WSRAB is going to consider an
Addendum to the feasibility study to include an engineering evaluation of an overcrossing of Wallace Road NW at 2nd Street NW. The purpose will be 1) to further understand the engineering requirements; 2) evaluate bicycle and pedestrian connection to the Union Street Railroad Bridge; 3) determine vehicular accessibility and sight distance constraints to businesses on the east side of Wallace Road NW and redevelopment opportunity sites on the west side of Wallace Road NW; 4) consider the visual aesthetics of the overcrossing at the Wallace Road NW gateway to West Salem; 5) understand the connectivity to adjacent local streets.
The whole concept may be just totally going sideways now!