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

Safe Routes to School programming!
In October of 2017 they will get "involved" with programming like Safe Routes to School, and then in 2018 envision actually offering bike safety education.

This will be nice to see, as local bike safety education for kids has fallen off as the BTA exited local projects and the efforts at the Boys and Girls clubs has seemed to falter.

That's just a detail. One way in which the work plan may not actually be very strategic, and instead is a bundle of tactical moves, is that there is no linkage with the SRC and the special problem of cross-river mobility.

In some ways cross-river mobility needs to become a master narrative shaping other projects and other debates. The proposed $500 million cost of the thing dwarfs the $300,000 we are spending on Cherriots Trip Choice. That's 0.06% of the SRC! Even when you multiply it by 20 years, that's 1.2%. These magnitudes are all screwed up in misplaced priority. Many other projects ought also to be compared in magnitude with the cost of the SRC. People say "we need it," but compared to what? In a detailed comparison with costs, it always fails.

We just pretty much ignore these
In order to avoid spending on the magnitude of the bridge, we should significantly spend more on projects like Cherriots Trip Choice. It will be a much more cost-effective investment. And the Salem Area Comprehensive Plan, our highest level policy document, calls for things just like Cherriots Trip Choice.

There are other interesting things in the Trip Choice Work Plan, but as long as we devote such a small proportion of resources to them, the efforts are stuck being largely symbolic and round to zero in the total mobility of the Salem area.

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