Monday, October 16, 2017

Edgewater District Zone Clean-Up Meeting on the 18th

Zoning proposal for close-in West Salem
After months of seeming quiet, the West Salem Business District planning process has published a proposal for re-zoning for the most close-in parts of the flats on and around Edgewater.
The West Salem Zone Code Clean-up intends to streamline zoning regulations in certain areas along Edgewater Street NW, 2nd Street NW, and Wallace Road NW by removing overlay zones and creating single zones that contain more flexibility for commercial and mixed-use development. The project seeks to implement the recommendations from the West Salem Business District Action Plan, consistent with earlier studies of the area.
The draft proposal is here.

Detail on the proposed "business district" zone
(Comments in red added)
The proposed "Craft Industrial" corridor and extension of the existing "Edgewater/2nd Street Mixed-use" corridor look relatively straight-forward. Maybe you will see something worth more comment. From here the most interesting part seemed to be the "Central Business District" concept.

Parts of it worth noting (quoted from the draft):

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Understanding Safety: Crash Rates vs Counts on State Street

One of the claims here is that making distracted driving our primary safety focus is a kind of error.

It attacks a secondary problem or phenomenon or factor rather than the primary one. It's not an error in the sense of something false, but is an error in the sense of something misguided or inefficient.

The new cellphone law
Behind that focus on distraction is an analytical preference for rate statistics rather than counting statistics, it seems to me.

When we focus mainly on distracted driving, we say we will keep the rate and amount of driving more or less the same, and we are going to try to squeeze out incremental improvements in our rates of safer driving. It's really a kind of qualitative improvement: We're going to try to drive better.

In and of itself that is not an error of course. We should always try better! Distracted driving is a problem, and we should want to make inroads on that.

But that may not be the best approach to have as the primary focus.

A different approach would be to say that humans are fallible creatures and that since driving a vehicle weighing thousands of pounds at lethal speeds is inherently dangerous, it is more prudent and more effective to drive less distance, drive less often, and drive more slowly. Even if our rate of crashes remains the same, because we are driving fewer miles and making fewer trips and driving more slowly there will be fewer crashes and fewer deaths. This is mostly a quantitative argument.

A table of modeled crash rates on State - the dead are erased
(Tier 2 Evaluation of the Street Design Alternatives)

And a similar table for Statewide targets
(at SKATS last month)
Because at the end of the day, at the end of the month, at the end of the year, it is the number of dead people that matter. It's the count that matters. It's mourning 17 dead instead of 24. It's binary: dead, not-dead.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Draft State Street Plan Disappoints

Yesterday the City published the full draft State Street Corridor Plan as well as an abbreviated brochure.

Broadly speaking it disappoints and fails to express a thorough 21st century rethink on the corridor.

Incoherence and timidity is very clear in the brochure.

A chapter heading image shows a road diet
In a bit of a bait-and-switch they show a road diet on one of the images at the head of a "chapter."

Since the recommendation is not for a road diet (except the four blocks between 13th and 17th), a more representative image would have been a photo version of the four through-lane section, which is the majority of the corridor. It would be stroady, of course, and almost certainly not show a vibrant urban streetscape, but that's where the recommendation goes.

In the brochure they also discuss "Elements of Strong Street Design," at least implicitly pointing to the disjunction.

The elements of strong street design
The recommended "hybrid alternative" lacks many elements of a strong street design. (They could point this out more strongly, of course.)

The hybrid recommendation lacks
elements of strong street design
Our addiction to hydraulic autoism and a misguided attachment to "levels of service" analysis for 2035 has watered down and neutered the plan.

Friday, October 6, 2017

City Council, Monday October 9th - To Catch a TIGER

Council meets on Monday and while garbage rates will probably get most of the attention, two sets of transportation funding applications are also worth notice.

After some real uncertainty, the Feds just reauthorized the TIGER program for another round of funding. Salem has been planning on an application for a large project, so this is good news.

The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program
stems from the program funded and implemented pursuant to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (the ‘‘Recovery Act’’) known as the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or ‘‘TIGER Discretionary Grants,’’ program. Because of the program’s similarity in structure and widespread name recognition, DOT will continue to refer to the program as "TIGER Discretionary Grants' "....

The FY 2017 TIGER program will give special consideration to projects which emphasize improved access to reliable, safe, and affordable transportation for communities in rural areas, such as projects that improve infrastructure condition, address public health and safety, promote regional connectivity, or facilitate economic growth or competitiveness. For this round of TIGER Discretionary Grants, the maximum grant award is $25 million, and no more than $50 million can be awarded to a single State....

This includes, but is not limited to, capital projects in areas which repair bridges or improve infrastructure to a state of good repair; projects that implement safety improvements to reduce fatalities and serious injuries, including improving grade crossings or providing shorter or more direct access to critical health services; projects that connect communities and people to jobs, services, and education; and, projects that anchor economic revitalization and job growth in communities, and specifically those that help bring manufacturing and other jobs.
Salem wants to use one for a complete redesign and rebuild of McGilchrist between 12th and 25th. Earlier I had been thinking the McGilchrist project might not be so competitive. Previous awards had seemed to go to projects that were more innovative, sustainable, and multi-modal. Even though the McGilchrist project would come with bike lanes and sidewalks, it seemed to represent a standard 1980s-style "urban upgrade," and did not meet the standard for innovation in the 21st century.

With the final criteria published, and less stress it seems on innovation, the McGilchrist project appears to hit the marks solidly and prospects seem good for it to score highly:
  • Safety improvements for people on foot, by bike, or by bus
  • Improving the at-grade rail crossing
  • Improving access to critical health services, especially the Veterans and Social Security offices
  • Connecting to jobs and services, with a lot of industry and manufacturing
And now there's the nascent brewery sector.

McGilchrist at the SSA Office:
40mph, no sidewalks - but watch out for pedestrians!
So it no longer seems fanciful to think that Salem would secure a grant. It's a $23 million project, with lot of drainage and stormwater extra requirements. (But with a $50 million cap per state, it'll be interesting to learn of other Oregon applications.)

It's time to modernize McGilchrist, and this year's TIGER might be a good match.


Also the City proposes to apply for Federal funding to replace two of our urban bridges, Liberty over Mill Creek (the angled section of Liberty between Boon's and the new Police Station) and Airport Road over Shelton Ditch (between State Street and Mission).
The Liberty Street NE Bridge over Mill Creek was built in 1913 and has the worst sufficiency rating on the Salem eligibility list due to structural deficiencies. This bridge is located just north of the new police facility site and is weight restricted for large trucks due to the structural deficiencies.

The Airport Road SE Bridge over Shelton Ditch was constructed in 1954 and has scour deficiencies that have exposed the bridge footings and abutments. In addition, this bridge is too narrow for the existing minor arterial street classification as it lacks sidewalks and bike lanes. This bridge has the third worst sufficiency rating on the Salem eligibility list.
(Interestingly ODOT's "Oregon's Historic Bridge Field Guide" from 2013 does not list the Liberty St Bridge. Is it really that old? See here for more on that.)

Other bridges that score higher on the sufficiency rating, for which the City is not at the moment making application for funding, but which yet remain vulnerable to earthquake are:
  • High Street SE over Pringle Creek
  • Mission Street SE over Pringle Creek
  • Chemeketa Street NE over Mill Creek
  • State Street over Mill Creek
  • 13th Street SE over Shelton Ditch
Even if by "regular" standards they merely have a few deficiencies, they still need seismic retrofits and we will need to factor these into our disaster prep and future maintenance/replacement obligations if only for seismic alone. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Wah Wah Music Fest Site of Schreiber Building of 1902

Masonic building (1912)
with Schreiber building on left (1902)
Oregon Electric tracks and wires on High St
University of Oregon
As you consider your plans for the weekend, the Wah Wah Music Fest on Saturday the 7th is looking pretty great!
Salem, we love you and want to throw you one super groovy party full of food, drinks, fun and a KILLER lineup of bands. Come join us for the first annual and we know you'll be back year after year.

Now for the lineup...

3:00pm The Redlight District
4:30pm Sallie Ford
6:00pm Redray Frazier
7:30pm Swatkins and The Positive Agenda

And the best part? It is FREE and ALL AGES!

Located downtown in the beautiful, tree filled lot between Willamette Valley Bank and Ritter's.

Made possible with the support of the Salem Main Street Association, The Kitchen on Court St., The Bike Peddler, Salem Summit Company, The Governor's Cup Coffee Roasters, Sky Window Clean and Huggin's Insurance we were able to put our dream into a sweet, sweet reality.
But in addition to the pleasures of music and the outdoor festival, give a moment of thought to the "beautiful, tree filled lot."

It's a parking lot
The Schreiber block of 1902 used to be there. It burned down in 1966, according to the library's photos. It has never been replaced, and now it's a City parking lot. As we think about "main streets," we should also think about filling in the urban voids and the commerce and sidewalk life a continuous row of storefronts creates.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Demand Management Report Shows Disconnect with Public Works

Demand Management siloed from Public Works
(In Salem, Cherriots does TDM, not the City)
TransitCenter and Alta Planning recently released a report on individual marketing programs. "Measures for Success" is about things like the Connecting Salem "individual marketing" project from a couple of years ago. (Before and after notes).

Present Incoherence in Policy

The specific recommendations for Individual marketing programs themselves are not of general interest here. But the final recommendation is more generally interesting and points to a major problem:
5. Integrate Demand Management into Local Transportation Departments' Vision, Goals, and Processes

In many places, TDM staff have little interaction with the professionals who manage street design, public transit, and parking policy, even though those departments play an enormous role in travel behavior. This puts TDM professionals in a position where they are charged with increasing use of sustainable transportation even as the broader policy environment makes this difficult (i.e. because transit is being cut, roads are being widened, or abundant free parking is provided). Often, the only funding is grant-based, making it difficult to undertake longer-term or more complex projects. To truly transform how people move in cities requires different aspects of the system working in concert: policy, planning, engineering, maintenance, monitoring; parking management, zoning and development code, street design, and growth plans; vehicle, freight, transit, shared mobility and active modes. All of these approaches must be aligned to bring about meaningful change. [italics added]
If you are feeling very optimistic, that phrase in italics points to a tension between what we say we're going to do and what we actually fund and execute in our budgets.

If you are feeling more pessimistic, that phrase indicates an outright structural contradiction and total incoherence in our approach to transportation and sustainability.

$10 million in widening for a near-highway interchange
Even though we say we want to "decrease reliance on the SOV," our biggest projects are all about hydraulic autoism and flow. We supply more auto capacity. By a huge margin.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

City Honors Advocate Angela Obery with Salem Spirit Award

Councilor Cook and Angela Obery
via Facebook
Last night at the Volunteer Recognition, the City honored bike advocate Angela Obery with this year's Salem Spirit Award:
Angela has been an inspirational leader in the community for several years, coordinating revitalization activities around Broadway area local businesses, the Winter/Maple Family Bikeway, as well as walking and biking education. She provides encouragement and passionate support to all with whom she is involved. The recent Open Streets Salem event is an example of her deeply held belief in community, and her desire to promote a culture of healthy, active living. While the event was sponsored by the City of Salem and several other local partners, Angela played a key role in coordinating the successful event, which attracted hundreds of people.

Her exuberant personality, coupled with her unwavering belief in fostering civic pride by highlighting and engaging Salem’s neighborhoods, have brought many unconventional partners to the table, including businesses, neighborhood associations, and educational representatives together to make creative choices with the belief they can make their community a better place for all. Diverse partnerships are key to Sally, and as a direct result of her efforts, more people are walking and biking in Salem.

Angela’s positive approach has resulted in strengthened community partnerships as well as created more transportation options for the community. Her leadership is inspirational to those of us who know her personally, and because of her strongly held beliefs and commitment, has translated into some pretty impressive and positive environmental impacts. Salem could use some more resident “doers” like her!

City Councilor Sally Cook, Ward 7, presented the award.
Friends of Two Bridges also won an At Your Service Award for their work supporting the Minto Bridge.

A full photo gallery and description of all the awards is over on the City's facebook page.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Rediscovered Shrine Underscores Cycles of Erasure

Did you see yesterday's front page article on the prospect of rediscovering a shrine or altar in an historic Chinese quarter of the Pioneer Cemetery?

That's really something.

It will be very interesting to see what information and history emerges. How good will the sources be? If there are no extant first-person accounts from actual users, accounts that may not be in English, it will be difficult to say very much about it. Retrieving the history from anglo sources is tricky, or even impossible. At best we will have a dim, second-order approximation; at worst, an anglo fabrication or stereotype.

Lee Way, May 9th, 1913
Here's a discussion of it or something like it filtered through the anglo editorial process. It's not possible to say for sure that this refers to the structure discussed in the paper, but this is likely a similar structure and set of burial rites:
Lee Way, Chinese, was buried in Odd Fellows cemetery yesterday afternoon. Incense was burned and fireworks displayed, following the usual Chinese custom. Lee died in poverty and a collection was taken to give him the proper burial. His little effects were placed in the cemetery furnace and burned, after the burial services.
In addition to the lack of real detail, note also the tone. It is detached amusement about a strange foreigner who does not have to be taken very seriously or with close attention, and who is not regarded as very important.

Apparently knowledge of the shrine was lost for a couple of generations, then "rediscovered" in 1953 and 1963, and lost again. Now another two generations later, there is a third or four round of rediscovery.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Outside the Park, the Minto Bridge Struggles to be Visible

(Not once, but twice!)
Truly it is nice to see praise for the Minto Bridge. Last week the City announced that
The American Public Works Association (APWA) Oregon Chapter recently selected Salem's Peter Courtney Minto Island Bridge for the 2017 Project of the Year in the Structures Category for $5 - $25 million projects.
It would be interesting to learn more about the competitors this year in the category. On the surface the award looks more like guild back-patting than a real honor against worthy peers. In 2014 it looks like a retaining wall won the award! (The chapter's public records aren't very thorough or organized.) Maybe that's wrong or cynical.

The focus on the announcement, though, seems more to be on the effort to brand the bridge as "iconic" than to advertise the substantive grounds for having won the award.

At this point it seems easier to say the bridge is more famous as "taco" than icon. The half-modern dome of the Capitol and its Golden Man are icons. The Minto Bridge? Not yet. Some things are instantly iconic, but others take time to win that status.

Maybe the bridge never will. Another hallmark of the Capitol, like that of many other icons, is that it is visible from other places in town.

The Minto Bridge has limited visibility from points outside of the park system.

Minto Bridge from the Conference Center,
inside on the southwest corner of the second floor.
You may recall that one of the questions about the "flatiron" Park Front building going up on the northwest corner of the Boise parcel was whether its height would interfere with views of the Minto Bridge from the Conference Center.