Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Urban Renewal Considers Funds for 440 State Street and Food Hall

An earlier round of work at 440 State Street
(via On the Way, 2012)
Downtown's urban renewal board, the Downtown Advisory Board, meets tomorrow, Thursday the 22nd, and they look to support more work on the 440 State Street Building.

You might remember back in 2012 an earlier round of work on the building. Apparently the "face lift" by itself was not enough, and there's a new project there.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Age-friendly City Project to Meet on Housing Wednesday

Tomorrow, Wednesday the 21st, the age-friendly city initiative meets again, this time on "housing."

From the blurb:
On Wednesday, March 21, from 2–4 p.m. at Center 50+, the City will host a panel discussion on Housing issues for Salem's older adults. This will be the fourth in a series of meetings discussing livability in Salem as part of Salem's Age-Friendly Initiative. Community members are encouraged to attend and participate.

The event will kick off with an overview of Housing in Age-Friendly Communities from Bandana Shrestha, Community Engagement Director for AARP Oregon. Panel presenters will include Breezy Aguirre, Community Resource Program Coordinator for ARCHES, Cassandra Hutchinson, Lead ADRC Specialist at Northwest Senior and Disability Services, and Bryan Colbourne, Planner in the City of Salem Community Development Department. A community conversation to share experiences and ideas will follow the panel discussion.

How do we meet housing needs as Salem's population ages? Join the conversation as we discuss the many ways accessible and affordable housing can contribute to making Salem a livable community for all ages.
More specifically, the meeting announcement calls out the following topics:
  • Affordability
  • Essential services
  • Design
  • Modifications
  • Maintenance
  • Access to services
  • Community and family connections
  • Housing options
  • Living environment
Several of these directly and indirectly imply transportation: "Essential services," "access to services," "community and family connections," and "living environment."

Monday, March 19, 2018

Robot Cars Should not Tempt us to Try to Criminalize Improper Walking

By now you've probably heard about the robot car that killed a person walking in Tempe, Arizona. It's a milestone of the wrong kind, but an historic milestone nonetheless.

via the ABC affiliate
According to the Arizona Republic (not the USA Today story the SJ is using),
a 49-year-old woman was hit and killed by a self-driving Volvo operated by Uber while crossing a street in Tempe on Sunday night.

The woman was walking a bike across Mill Avenue outside the crosswalk near the Marquee Theatre at about 10 p.m. when she was hit, police said.

Sgt. Ronald Elcock, a Tempe police spokesman, said the car was on autonomous mode with a driver behind the wheel when it hit the pedestrian. [and driving 40mph]

The woman, identified as Elaine Herzberg, of Mesa, died at a hospital.
Note the story's underlining that the person was walking a bike outside the crosswalk. Some accounts suggest that this is a wide stroad with many lanes and infrequent crosswalks. The speed of 40mph is consistent with that.
BikePortland has a note on Portland's approach to testing and certification. Probably what happens in Portland will have a great influence on the rest of the state, though manufacturers will surely look to have national standards rather than state or city ones.

What seems most relevant here in Salem is the way that calls to revive jaywalking laws dovetail with efforts to displace liability from autos, their manufacturers, and their drivers and onto people walking. One way that robot car interests will seek to manage liability, and to reduce the complexity of software engineering, is to externalize that liability and to criminalize improper walking in the wrong time, manner, or place.

Parents Driving Transfer Students Ingredient in Congestion

16 percent! According to the paper, that's 6,750 students for whom the regular yellow bus system does not function.
Bus transportation is not provided for students who transfer within the district and there is an appeals process if the parents disagree with the decision.

"We know we cannot possibly offer the entire breadth of programs to our students at one school," said Kelly Carlisle, Salem-Keizer's assistant superintendent.
That's a lot of induced driving, mostly parents doing chauffeur duty.

Certainly for older students, that's a strong argument for Cherriots to have a free or heavily discounted youth bus pass program.

Here's another area where the City's Public Transit Committee should have an interest and work to coordinate efforts by the School District, Cherriots, and the City.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Demolition Party Cues up the next Open House for the new Police Station

I know it's orchestrated PR, but it's still pretty great to see the Chief of Police tear into the old building and to have something of a demolition party for the new Police Station.

It's relief to have the decision made and to be able to move on with making the project as fine as it can be.

One element to consider is how the street front along Division might be improved. The construction cam the City's set up will give an excellent view on the corner of Division and Commercial and a half-block section of Division to the alley.

This morning's view, with no parked cars at all, shows starkly how inert this area is at the moment.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Active Transportation Summit, School Bond Measure - Newsbits

For a variety of reasons, the City of Salem hasn't had much of a presence at the annual Active Transportation Summits. Summit organizers usually have had a strong focus on Portland and its metro area, even when the summit took place in other cities, and the City of Salem itself has not been as committed to walking and biking as it might. There might be other reasons as well, and it's not important to try to identify them all.

Julie Warncke (center) on Panel at Active Transportation Summit
yesterday, via Twitter

This year, in addition to Salem-based ODOT and other State staffers who regularly attend, the City's own Julie Warncke was attending and sat on a panel discussion about funding.
Show Me The Money: Funding Walking and Biking Improvements

Panel: Wendy Johnson, League of Oregon Cities; Susan Peithman, Oregon Department of Transportation; Julie Warncke, City of Salem; Evan Manvel, Oregon Transportation and Growth Management Program

All too often, community visions for a better place to walk and bike get stuck behind a mantra: there’s no money. This shouldn’t end the conversation. There are over 30 sources of money, from the federal government to local measures, private foundations to ODOT funds.

This session features three people with experience finding funds to get things built. After panelists provide an overview of funds and experience of looking for funds at both the local and state/federal level, they will take questions. Attendees will be provided dot votes to choose the top five of the 30 sources to pursue in their community. The session will conclude with panelists providing suggestions on how best to get funds from those five sources.
It's true, the City has been pretty good about winning grants! Once the City puts together a project and works seriously on it, it has a very good rate of success.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Stream of Mystery and too much Open Space: Shelton Ditch and Pringle Creek Paths

As of last weekend, the Cherries at the Capitol hadn't started to open. Some earlier ornamental varieties were in perfect bloom elsewhere around the city, including Mill Race Park by Pringle Plaza, but not the ones at the Capitol.

This weekend they'll probably be opening, and in the gaps between any rains, be sure to enjoy them!

Incidental to the interpretive panel on the Winter Street Bridge was a reminder of the plaque for the Shelton Creek Bridge of more than a generation ago.

Shelton Creek Bridge and Dedication Plaque, 1984

Minto Bridge and Dedication Plaque, 2017 - City of Salem
And that brought to mind the installation this past year of the dedication plaque for the Minto Bridge.

There's no sustained comparison here at the moment, but it's interesting to remember and consider how shiny, new, exciting things fade into the background to become mere furniture we take for granted.

The walk was also a chance to consider in more detail some of the locations and concepts for the "Arts and Parks Corridor" some have discussed.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Special West Salem Meeting on SRC, SCAN talks Housing - In the Neighborhoods

The West Salem Neighborhood Association meets Monday night for a special, even "emergency," meeting.

At the center of the agenda is:
[4] Presentations: Salem Bridge Solutions – Salem Emergency Management Plan (SEMP) – “West Salem, you’re on your own!”
[5] New Business: Discussion of presentation regarding deficiencies of SEMP and demand for immediate action
So there will be loud and determined voices probably.

But of course lots of areas will be on their own. It's not yet clear that we have an adequate plan for the small bridges that surround the Hospital, our own Civic Center, and even State offices on the Mall.

Downtown bridges over Pringle Creek and Shelton Ditch
The owners and residents of unreinforced masonry buildings are also "on their own" right now. (See the 2012 Restore Oregon report, and Steve Duin's recent column.)

And apart from a one-time natural disaster, we have an ongoing distaster in everyday living: Certainly our de facto housing policy is "you're on you're own." We are struggling to help an additional 100 people with housing, and the need is at least an entire order of magnitude more.

If we suddenly came into a lottery ticket for hundreds of millions, should be be spending hundreds of millions for drive-alone trips to West Salem? Or should we allocate those resources towards more affordable housing? What is the best use of limited resources?

(Ian Lockwood, via Public Square)
There's just no sense of trade-offs and of citywide priorities here on the SRC.

The West Salem Neighborhood Association meets tonight, Monday the 12th, at 7:00 P.M. in Roth’s West, Mezzanine (1130 Wallace Rd NW).


The Bush Park neighborhood association, SCAN, meets on Wednesday, and they'll be talking about the City's Housing Needs Analysis.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Acquaint Yourself with the TDM Element of the TSP

One of the helpful things to come out of the survey for the Congestion Relief Task Force is the way it has spurred conversation and even investigation. Lots of people have privately circulated comments or draft comments, and this allows people to repeat themes in the survey, hopefully to build up some force and consistency behind them and to ensure they won't be swept under the rug. The persistent attention and debate also might also generate new ideas that might never have been tried before.

While the Task Force is performing their own "document review," citizens too are looking through existing City documents, and some that have been essentially orphaned are getting a new look.

TSP cover and Table of Contents
Our Transportation System Plan is vast and unwieldy, so big that parts of it are routinely ignored or given the most cursory of attention. But if we took it more seriously, many parts of it would already give us meaningful policy direction.

Structurally, the chapters in the TSP are very awkwardly called "elements." (There are 19 sections!) This has seemed like an indirect and dressed-up claim they constituted some kind of atomic structure and contributed to a kind of scientific basis for the TSP. I have wondered if this is an artifact of the pseudo-science of traffic engineering. But the TSP is a policy document, and while policies should have a basis in empirically verified fact, they are arrived at by politics and debate, are informed by non-scientific values, and are not themselves scientific. Too much of the TSP's rhetoric uses the insider lexicon of traffic engineering and transportation wonkery, as if it were somehow more objective than it really is. Too often it avoids the plain language that people seeking to move about the city actually employ. All of this is a real barrier to making it an effective document for policy.

The City should give serious thought to making the TSP more legible, intelligible, and inviting, to making it more of a living document than a shelf study. Maybe it needs to be shorter. We could, for example, prune out sections that we aren't actually going to take seriously. Nobody wants to read it as it is!*

In any case, one of the most neglected chapters is called "Transportation Demand Management." (In many places this concept is institutionalized with something more colloquial like "trip choices" or "smart options" or some label other than TDM, which is off-putting.)

The concepts themselves aren't so very obscure, and the chapter is very short. Let's read some of it:

Friday, March 9, 2018

City Council, March 12th - State Street Study

Council meets on Monday, and they look to initiate adopting the State Street Corridor Study and its recommendations. At present, the City's approach to transportation remains compromised, maybe even just plain broken. The City is not yet willing to question its primary commitment to facilitating drive-alone trips. We see this clearly on the Salem River Crossing, where the Congestion Relief Task Force is still charged with facilitating capacity for drive-alone trips, and not with rethinking cross-river mobility and actually reducing drive-alone trips. Notwithstanding policies in the Comprehensive Plan to "reduce reliance" on drive-alone trips, our de facto approach and prevailing culture across multiple transportation planning projects is to maintain and expand autoist levels of service and induce additional drive-alone trips - with the harm to safety, pollution, and livability this entails.

Here on the State Street Study, instead of advocating for a 4/3 safety conversion the full length from 12th to 25th, the recommendation is for a 4/3 safety conversion for only 4 blocks, from 13th to 17th.

4 blocks of new bike lane
doesn't much solve gap on State Street corridor
(Salem area bike map)
Narrowly, from the perspective of a person bicycling, this is not very helpful, and is just one more instance of piecemeal approaches that leave gaps and incomplete corridors.

via Twitter
More generally, the approach prioritizes auto speed and auto capacity at the expense of safety for all road users, especially on the eastern segment between 17th and 25th. Compared to "no-build" or the "improved four lane" configurations, under the preferred "hybrid" some intersections are predicted for a "slight improvement" and at others crashes are expected to "increase slightly." This nets a wash, well within any margin of error for the analysis. The end result is inertia for the status quo and forgoes a meaningful improvement to safety.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

New Historic Interpretive Panel at Winter Street Bridge is Misleading

You might remember that one of the conditions for demolishing the old bridge on Winter Street across Shelton Ditch was to install some interpretive signage about the history and significance of the bridge.

New interpretive signage on corner of Winter and Trade
The panel was silently installed - this winter, perhaps? - and it merits some comment. It's very strange, more than a little misleading. It's not that it is factually wrong; the information on it is quite good!

From here the problem seems to be several mismatches between the reader implied by the text as written and the actual, likely audience as intended. The facts don't line up with the right things for readers who cannot supply additional context. In language and in design the rhetoric is a little sideways, leading to disconnects on time and place.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Camp under Center St Bridge Shows Problems with Ramp Spaghetti

The ramp spiral under the Center Street Bridge
On Facebook there's a post about the camp on the spiral ramp under the east side of the Center Street Bridge in Riverfront Park. In less than 24 hours, it's gained quite a bit of traction, even gone fully viral. It successfully cranked up the outrage machine.

But the camp's been around for a while, and under the canopy of the bridge deck the area's always been attractive for camping.

The camp in early December 2017
The poster on Facebook says sarcastically, "thanks for letting them take over a pedestrian and bicycle path."

I'm not sure this criticism is offered in good faith. (Have they ever criticized any other blockage by cars of bike lanes or other problems with sidewalks and walking paths? It seems more likely that the blockage is merely a stick for beating on the campers. It's not important, however, to speculate more on the motives of this particular person or their criticism.)

City Scores Own Goal with Goodwill Driveways off Second St NW

On Wednesday the 7th, the West Salem urban renewal board, WSRAB, meets, and in the meeting packet is an interesting letter from Goodwill regarding the prospect of a grade separated crossing of Wallace Road along Second Street. It is especially interesting because as written the letter is silent on known City intentions back in 2015, deciding for whatever reason not to reference them, and by design or by accident suggesting it may not have know about them. It also does not endorse those intentions today, more-or-less concern-trolling them.

February letter on undercrossing
The letter and the current conversation it references is especially interesting because when the project was at the planning commission in 2015, the difficulties were foreseeable (and earlier here and here):
As you know, the West Salem Business District Action Plan is proposing a below-grade undercrossing here. But since it is not yet official in any adopted plan, the approval conditions for the Goodwill have to proceed behind a veil of ignorance. So we are likely to find ourselves in the absurd position of having required Goodwill to build at significant cost an at-grade roadbed and access point on Wallace only to find the City tearing it out after a decade or less.

I don't know what the legal and administrative answer is here, but from an ordinary citizen's perspective, this is stupid.

If we think we're going to build an undercrossing here, any work that is required of the Goodwill development should be useful in the future and be oriented towards that project - not something to be wasted by built-in obsolescence and planned demolition.

Or, if the redevelopment project with the Goodwill promises to render the undercrossing impossible, then we should give up that project immediately.
 Driveway locations on Second Street NW
(not part of letter or packet, but from 2015 Staff Report)
Goodwill indeed built the project for a particular kind of freight access off of Second: "We cannot overstate the importance of truck access from 2nd Street to our loading docks. The entire facility was built with this access in mind..."

Friday, March 2, 2018

Oregonians Propose Volunteer Auto Militia in 1918 to Thwart Invasion

Salem in 1918 was a strange and anxious place. There's a real turn from previous years in the emotional texture and weight of news. World War I and the Russian Revolution dominate the front-page headlines, unsurprisingly. But local news shows narrowed horizons, fear of non-conformists and strangers, and a kind of idolatrous patriotism.

Automobile militia
February 20th, 1918
Fearing coastal invasion in the west, on February 20th, they announced a special volunteer militia "automobile corps." It's like Boy Scouts with Cars for adults!
C. W. Niemeyer, Veteran of the Canadian Contingent, Will Head Movement

The first organized Automobile Corps in existence will be recruited in this state and paraded before a high official of the U. S. war office in Portland on April 20. Authority was granted today by the adjutant general's department for the organization of the corps....[something garbled] As there will be a decidede [sic] element of sport and patriotism in the applicatiin [sic] of the corps, motorists hail with delight the introduction of a military unit whereby they might still further display their love for one's country. All a car owner has to do is to offer his car (any make) and services when required for the conveying of troops rapidly to any point tho military authorities may desire. Acting Adjutant General John M, Williams states that such an organization would be of the utmost value to the state of Oregon, owing to its great strategical value.

The review on April 20th will be followed by a "raid by large enemy forces" somewhere on the Columbia, 'which it will be the duty of the corps to repel. As mobility is the primary motive of the corps efforts are being made to have the speed limits shot to the winds during such times as the corps is "in action." Similar schemes will be held at intervals in conjunction with existing military bodies.

The organization will be known as the State of Oregon Volunteer Automobile Corps, each member of which will be entitled to fly from his car a specially designed flag. The corps will consist of four squadrons of four trains. Each train will be composed of 27 cars, or a total of 435 cars, including three staff cars. One motor truck for the carrying of supplies in the way of oil, gasoline, food, etc., will be attached to each train. Fourteen motor cyclists, equipped with signalling apparatus would serve as scouts, vanguard and rearguard. A section of mechanics would also accompany each train equipped with repair accessories and minor repair parts. The complete establishment or strength of the corps would be 1725 officers, n. c. os. and men and 465 vehicles. The commanding officer would be appointed by the state militia authorities, but all other officers and n. c. os. would be appointed by the members....
February 4th, 1918
But it wasn't just fun and games with speeding and pageantry. Earlier in the month  male "alien enemies" 14 or older had been required to register at the Police Station or Post Office.
Detailed information including personal habits, and business relations of every German together with his photograph and finger prints will be taken by the department or justice in a national registration week beginning today.

A certified card, showing that he has been registered must be carried at all times on the person of German aliens and he may not change his place of residence without first notifying and obtaining the permission of the police or postmaster of the town or city in which he lives....
Later that year the registration was extended to women.