Friday, May 20, 2022

City Council, May 23rd - Next Steps on Bond

Council meets on Monday, and final adoption of Our Salem will be the big thing. At this point it will be a done deal, and there may not be very much to say. So that will be in a second post this weekend.

Most interesting is the next steps on the proposed Bond. The Staff Report has a troubling approach, proposing to diminish valuable projects and using the old "divide and conquer" strategy. It is interesting to see what is considered untouchable, and what is very much touchable.

In response to the overwhelming popularity of the the protected bike lane proposal (which is great to see), the City tries to say "look at what we are already doing!" and also says we have to wait on the meat of the bike lane proposal.

The Steering Committee recommendation [already] includes two total miles and approximately $10.9 million of protected, off-street, or buffered bike lanes, including missing links in the currently planned network. These links include the Pringle Creek Trail Connection, a multi-use path connecting Marine Drive and Wallace Marine Park, and bike lane facilities as part of the McGilchrist and State Street projects. Areas proposed for protected or buffered bike facilities not included in the Transportation System Plan (TSP) require a TSP amendment and a public outreach process as additional lane width may impact other policy decisions relating to street tree canopy, planter strips, on-street parking, and right-of-way acquisition from private property. Salem’s TSP is set to be updated with public outreach and engagement beginning in July 2022.

Perhaps the most salient fact on the protected bike lane proposal is that it is for busy streets rich with commercial destinations and for straight-line connections between commercial districts. But that's not what the City is talking about here as they deflect to projects currently proposed for the bond. The Pringle Creek Trails is a meandering parks trail. Marine Drive is an alternative to Wallace Road, and few non-park destinations will be on it initially. State Street is a short segment of four blocks only. It is an urban upgrade, a 4/3 safety conversion, not a bike lane project (remember, $14 million for four blocks). The current design for McGilchrist is the only one here that really meets the spirit of the protected bike lane proposal for a functional network. This answer by City Staff is only partially responsive to the underlying problem.

After the Work Session, a knowledgeable advocate wrote to Council with related concerns:

I found myself discouraged this evening when listening to the presentation related to “Upgrades to Existing Roads” as related to bicycle facilities.

Bike lanes “that meet the current standard” are not helpful in a city hoping to encourage more residents to choose active transportation. Using the “current standard” so as to avoid additional costs and efforts is not helpful for a city seeking to offer safe and comfortable transportation options to people who want to ride their bicycles. The “brave and the strong” are on the road and will stay there, but we “interested and concerned” ask you to not be fooled by paint and “current standards.” In this case, “current” means that they are in Salem’s Transportation System Plan. In this case, “current” does NOT mean a standard that is modern, popular, leading-edge, or even up-to-date.

In the Staff Report, the City also proposes to reduce funding for crosswalks and sidewalks.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Cordon-Kuebler Corridor Study Already Hinders Climate Goals

The City's teased the first Open House on the Cordon-Kuebler Corridor Study, which will start on the 23rd.

The study area in teal

The whole is classified a "parkway" and currently intended for four auto travel lanes and high speed as a near-highway. This study is very likely merely to refine that and also to green it with a multimodal wash. At the moment, it does not appear consistent with our climate goals.

Current City of Salem Parkway standard in TSP

The "parkway" classification calls for
four auto lanes and highway auto speeds
(photo from project site, comments added)

The City frames it up as "planning for future growth" and improving "current conditions, safety, and capacity concerns." The post is very popular with lots of sharing and comment. The algorithm selects "Cordon road need to be a 4 lane road with middle turn lanes and not reducing the speed limit" and puts this comment at the top. At a glance, all but one comment share this basic frame. A need to widen Cordon is an article of faith for many.

via FB

However, now that we know the proportion of emissions from driving, and we know we need not just to electrify the fleet but also to reduce total auto miles driven, it makes no sense to plan for this large capacity increase with the old assumptions.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

New State Climate Rules on Transportation and Land Use look for Adoption this Week

Over at our Strong Towns group, they've posted a note about what could be the final adoption of new rules on climate, transportation, and land use.

We are "dramatically off-track" - DLCD summary

The focus here is on the City and MPO, and so it was good to be reminded of state-level action.

The Department of Land Conservation and Development has been working on new climate rules for planning in the "Climate-Friendly and Equitable Communities Rulemaking" project.

On Thursday the parent board for DLCD, LCDC, meets and looks to adopt the final version.

Sightline yesterday published an article about the subset of rules on parking, "Oregon Has a Chance to Sharply Cut Urban Parking Mandates."

Parking mandates aren’t the main reason we have parking lots, of course. We have parking lots because cars are useful and, in many cases, necessary. And Oregon isn’t considering a ban on parking lots, new or old.

But the effect of mandatory parking lots is to keep cars necessary. By forcing buildings apart and driving up the cost of adding homes, shops, and offices to walkable areas, parking mandates make it illegal for cities to ever voluntarily evolve away from auto dependence.

Parking mandates ban new Main Streets by requiring each new 2,000-square-foot cafe to be surrounded by 5,000 square feet of parking lot. They keep buildings vacant. They drive up the rent in new apartments by hundreds of dollars a month and kill the incentive of landlords and employers to save everyone money by coordinating shared cars or discounted transit passes. They induce deadly heat islands and, by forcing new buildings to be spread out, literally cast modern auto dependence into stone.

Since Council just adopted some parking reform already, I am not sure how much more these new rules will change things right here. That will become clear soon enough. And even if we successfully anticipated most of these state-level changes (and we may not have done so), that's not a reason to oppose them statewide. They will be helpful regardless of how much additional compliance Salem will need to add.

In their most recent comment, the City of Salem only asked for more time to complete a task they would be assigned, and did not seem to criticize the new rules otherwise.

City of Salem: More time for Scenario Planning

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Reassessing Asahel Bush and the 1922 Election: Our Problematic Legacies

The front page column today in the Sunday paper could not be more timely, unfortunately.

Front page today

Given his role in Salem history, only a little less mythic than Jason Lee but so much more definite in the prelude to Statehood and then in the second half of the 19th century, Asahel Bush has to be better understood as a real person with real power and wealth and with real bias. His personal sentiments were not merely privately held, but could be made public and structural. They had real effects on the lives of Salemites.

It's a great piece and should be widely read and discussed. (It's paywalled now, and hopefully they will find ways to circulate it more widely.)

Another legacy that the paper should give more attention to is our 1922 election and its immediate aftermath.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Travel Salem on the Move Again

Travel Salem is on the move again. The City's published a Notice for a change in use on the old bank building on Center Street at Church Street.

Travel Salem moving to old bank on Center at Church

Notice for "change in use"

They've had a peripatetic existence. They had been in the Livesley Tower until a recent move to temporary space in the Grand Hotel lobby, and had before that been in the Central Stage Terminal and Hotel annex to the Grand Theater. Now they look to be moving again. Maybe this will be more permanent.

As a tourist agency, they are in a position to promote walking and biking, and their location will affect how well they are able to do that.

Though this new building might lack a bit in ambience, especially as it is sundered from the Historic District downtown as well as the hotels, there are several ways this might be an improvement on their previous sites. On a good bike lane on Church Street and just a block from the lower-traffic route on Chemeketa Street, this location of Travel Salem is the best for any bicycling. When they were on High Street, there was no bike lane, and the site on State and Liberty as well as the Grand Hotel site are not bike-friendly at all. They'll also be adding new bike racks right at the main entry of this new building. Even though this is not at the center of downtown, it is very near the transit mall. If the rental bike system gets back up, this is an easy bike ride from the Amtrak depot with docking stations at each end. And it will have its own parking lot for the reality of driving visitors. Given the current state and constraints of Salem transportation, this seems like a better location for modal flexibility and pointing out choices. Though, again, it's not exactly at the center of things. Hopefully it will lure people to walk through downtown from the hotels, and not seem too distant from them.

But in the Notice, there is some absurdity, as it includes

one adjustment to retain the existing number of parking spaces on site, resulting in a 31% reduction in required parking spaces...

Shouldn't maintaining or decreasing parking stalls be the default, and the adjustment instead be to increase them? Having the maintain/decrease be the exception means our default framework still is to increase parking. In the next round of parking reform we should think more about what we consider default or by-right change, and what conditions and change truly should be the exception and require process.

In absolute terms where Travel Salem is located is not that big a deal, but it has been interesting to note how they do and do not effectively promote non-auto tourism. Hopefully this move onto a good city bike lane will prompt more. (See previous notes on the Travel Salem bike routes and maps from 2016: here, here, and here.)

A Week Ago Driver Struck and Killed Person on Lancaster Drive

A person driving on Lancaster Drive stuck and killed a person on foot last week.

This release is a week old, and I missed it at first. There has been no follow-up releases, and it does not now seem likely there will be one. 

There has emerged a pattern of people difficult to identify or people who, once identified, do not receive the same regard and follow-up as others killed. This often has meant they were low-status and camping, wandering, or otherwise without permanent housing. The circumstances here suggest this may be another instance in that pattern.

5 auto lanes, posted for 35mph
600 block of Lancaster between Auburn and Center

From the Marion County Sheriff:

On May 6, 2022 around 10:25 PM, deputies and emergency personnel responded to a single vehicle crash involving a pedestrian in the 600 block of Lancaster Drive NE in the unincorporated area of East Salem. Arriving responders located the pedestrian who was pronounced deceased at the scene.

This area of Lancaster Drive NE was closed for about three hours while members of the Marion County Sheriff's Office CRASH Team conducted an investigation. Investigators determined a 2012 Kia Sorento was travelling northbound when the pedestrian was struck in the roadway. Investigators do not believe speed was a contributing factor in the crash. The 50 year old male driver remained on scene and was cooperative with investigators. No citations or arrests have been made at this time.

The identity of the pedestrian, a 34 year old male, is not being released at this time pending notification of next of kin.

Investigators are asking anyone who may have information about the crash to call our non-emergency number at 503-588-5032.

As always, it is wrong to say "speed was [not] a contributing factor." Of course it was. Impact at lawful speed of 35mph on a person walking is often lethal. A crash at 20mph is infrequently lethal. What they mean is ticketable "speeding" more than 10mph above the posted speed was likely not a factor.

Maybe there will be more to say later, but at this point there may not be any more information published.

Friday, May 13, 2022

City Council, May 16th - Bond Work Session

Council meets on Monday for a formal Work Session on the proposed bond concept and project list. They could move forward and proceed to place it on the November ballot, or they could ask for further revision.

Streets and sidewalks categories
(revised from City numbers)

As we noted last week, from here the streets and sidewalks portion is not persuasive, hardly responsive to climate and our need to reduce miles traveled by car.

The Pringle Creek path really should be under parks

There is a fake "bike/ped" category in it whose projects fit much better in other categories. State Street should be an urban upgrade rather than "bike/ped" project. The path project belongs in the parks portion with other paths, and does not fit as a "street" or a "sidewalk." The bridge railings does seem to have been reassigned. Between a new street and those "urban upgrades," there is too much capacity increase, about 2/3 of the subtotal. The City could also make better use of urban renewal funding for the McGilchrist project instead of using bond proceeds. Altogether the current proposal does not make significant progress on reducing driving and making walking, biking, and busing, or other non-auto travel easy and attractive. It's improvement on the edges only, not yet structural and anything to meet our climate needs.

Why isn't there better alignment on climate?

There are other reasons to question the whole, not just streets and sidewalks: