So it seems appropriate in a way that the two most important moments in 2017 here involved civic/political institutions and the law they generated.
|LUBA decision on the SRC|
|Mid-November update to SKATS|
|Omnibus Transportation House Bill 2017|
I can't decide which of these was bigger. For me it hinges on the future trajectory of the SRC. If in the next year or two the SRC can finally be killed or totally redirected, then the LUBA decision and those who filed it will be the biggest story. If the SRC remains more of a zombie, then the transportation bill and expansion of Cherriots service will be the biggest.
For the moment, they seem to me tied as the year's biggest transportation stories.
Fun Things & Connections
the best, most wonderful event in public this year?!
Even with all the expectation for the Minto Bridge (just below on that!), the Eclipse was more purely amazing.
Two public works projects were of special significance. After more than a generation of talk, the Minto Bridge finally came to be. Even once the novelty wore off, a few thousand people a day used it. It's a real asset.
|Minto Bridge and Dedication Plaque - City of Salem|
With Arches, a new site for the Union Gospel Mission, and the new Police Station (more at bottom on that) all within a couple of blocks of the bridge, it will require attention to ensure that there is not a monoculture here of people in crisis. This potential concentration and even warehousing may sap the district of vitality and ward off other uses and activities.
|Aerial composite of Geer Park Pump Track - via SATA|
The role of the work party has been interesting to watch, also. Trail building and trail maintenance can be done by volunteers, and this engagement gives people a chance to "do something" and see a very tangible, direct result. Real chunks of meaningful work can also be done by increments of $10k in grant money. Sidewalks and bike lanes on urban streets cost at least an order of magnitude more, with a basic increment of $100k or more it seems. There is no equivalent mechanism for volunteer "bike lane striping" or "sidewalk pouring" parties on urban streets. The different role of volunteerism and cost differentials are together important factors making for more advocacy energy on off-road trails than on our streets at this moment in Salem.
Other Things Seem Stalled or Tepid
So there remains this hump we don't seem to be able to get over.
Dan Burden's visit in May disappeared into the mists with crickets, and there was little talk the rest of the year about progress on the Winter-Maple Bicycle Boulevard project. (But see update below!) In the transition from summer to fall, Sunday Streets was revived on Saturday as Open Streets Salem, but most of the activity seemed to be of the "stand-and-watch" sort at the activity hubs rather than walking and biking and exploring along the routes. The published estimate of 1000 participants seemed awfully high in comparison with photos from the event.
|Lessons on Induced Demand aren't yet fully absorbed|
The City's planning studies also seem a little stalled or timid. The State Street Corridor Study was too timid and refused to embrace a full 4/3 safety conversion. Neighbors also created static on proposed building heights. A Pedestrian Safety Study called for a revival of jaywalking laws and totally ignored speed as a factor in deaths and crashes. (In general, during the whole year there was also too much talk about distracted driving and a new distracted driving law, and not enough about the basic lethality of lawful speeds.) The City Strategic Plan seemed too broadly agreeable to help Council discern and make the hard decisions. Some are more optimistic about parts of it, like its call for an Environmental/Climate Action Plan, for example. Much will be in the hands of Council - whether they lean into a strong/active interpretation of it or are happy with a weak/passive one. Finally, the Downtown Streetscape Study kicked off (it'll be more of a 2018 thing, than one for 2017 anyway), but it already limited itself to decorative elements and shuffling around the sidewalk furniture rather than contemplating structural changes to the street system.
Mixed-bag Items: Shiny, but maybe not so Great
The Mayor's big transportation priority was to alter the taxi regulations to support ride-hailing software. Regulations for Transportation Network Companies were duly amended. There has been no formal public City follow-up on numbers of new TNC rides, on actual impacts to Taxi companies, on impacts to total mileage and trips in the city (affect on VMT), and on impacts to bar and restaurant business. It's not yet known how significant a change this has been - crucially, whether the City and its citizens have really benefited from the change.
|One of several new warehouses at Mill Creek Corporate Center|
Isolated from most everything - via the SJ
And a few Footnotes towards 2018
After a decade or more of one-at-a-time projects like Waterplace, Broadway Commons, the clinic in West Salem, and South Block on the Boise parcel, this past year and for the next year or two, CB|Two is really making a mark with a cluster of significant projects. Especially with the Police Station, and the way it does or does not honor, and even reshape, the sidewalks and other public space, CB|Two has a chance to make a real statement about our urban fabric. Will they build on the success of Broadway Commons and take the next step?
- 245 Court Street (which is already in construction!)
- Riverfront Park Pavilion
- Police Station
- 260 Liberty remodel
- The Nursing Home at Boise
Fans of a Third Bridge formed an autoist advocacy group. Their first act was a hostile takeover of the West Salem Neighborhood Association. It will be interesting to see if this has any strategic value, or if it was a tactical win only. 2018 may bring more bikelash. "You want to force us all to ride bikes!" is a frequent deflection and strawman that has seemed to resonate with some people.
Between the Council Task Force on bridgehead congestion, the prospect of an actual property sale and movement on redeveloping the North Campus of the State Hospital, and a citywide project to update the Comprehensive Plan, Salem may have several openings to talk in more detail about links in land use and transportation. There will be opportunities, but they must be seized.
The Safe Routes to School Partnership should also announce the hire of an advocate in Eugene and Salem, and this will institutionalize a role that has been loose, fragmented, and mostly volunteer. Maybe this will also spur more decisive action by the City and other agencies. Details, and then the vote, on the schools bond will be interesting, but at the moment it does not seem very promising for enhanced bike parking or other walk and bike facilities.
One of these years, surely, we'll finally get over the hump and make real change. Maybe 2018 will be the year. (And statewide, maybe it'll be the year for a "Cap & Invest" Clean Energy Jobs Act at the Legislature.)
And was there a different transportation-related story in 2017, not mentioned here, that seemed especially important to you?
See previous installments of the "Year in Review" here.
Update, December 18th
Look, it's a final draft of the Winter-Maple Bikeway Plan! A full review later this week or next. (Update 2 - Review here, "Final Winter-Maple Bikeway Plan Envisions Sluggish Implementation," so really another instance of the stall/timid theme.)
|final draft of Winter Maple Bikeway Plan|