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.

Postscript

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:

Friday, November 3, 2017

Old Leslie Junior High Possibly at Risk in Proposed Bond

Leslie Junior High School, 1927 - 1937 (2014)
The future of the old Leslie Junior High School building looks to be more than a little uncertain just now.

The charter school will be moving out, and South Salem High School will expand into it the following year, but more change might be on the horizon.

A reader who attended one of the meetings about the May 2018 proposed bond measure reports that its demolition and replacement with new construction might be on the menu.

Plan to demolish "oldest section" and swimming pool
Long Range Facilities Plan, bond support materials
The District's published materials are less specific and a little vague. In the section on South Salem High School, they discuss "demolition and replacement of the oldest section of the facility," which offers a little wiggle room, but seems to point to the old Leslie complex.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Eugene Releases Draft Vision Zero Action Plan, Salem a Walking Study

If you happen to be down in Eugene today, Thursday the 2nd, the City of Eugene will be having an Open House to present the draft of a Vision Zero Action Plan.

Salem has also released a summary on a new Pedestrian Safety Study.

The Eugene Open House is in the Atrium Building Lobby in downtown Eugene (99 W. 10th Ave.) between 3:30-6:30pm.

You can also download the plan from the Vision Zero project page.

Scattered throughout are memorials to people killed on Eugene roads. They aren't just abstract numbers.

One important set of recommendations is to lower speeds, both posted speeds and design speeds.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

"Truck hits bicycle path" - Where's the Driver?

"Truck hits bicycle path" (Were people involved?)
You've seen the headlines and stories already. While the lede is ok, "A terrorist in a rented pickup truck plowed through a busy bicycle path," the subhed is silly: "Truck hits bicycle path."

You might recall the last time this happened.

How it appeared in the Statesman, via USA Today
Some of the circumstances are different, but in both cases drivers used cars as lethal weapons. People, not cars, were in control and held the moral and effective agency in the resulting acts. People used the armor and horsepower of cars to hurt vulnerable bystanders. It is about power, lethal power.