Sunday, November 30, 2008

How the Rivercrossing Project fails Transit

Transit is sick in Salem. We all know the Cherriots levy failed. But over the last year the Rivercrossing project has also gone down a path that denies the value of transit.

A recent memo from this past summer makes clear what many of us have supposed:
the Salem River Crossing project Build alternatives are designed to improve single occupant vehicle travel time…
There is no serious attempt to improve the movement of people and goods across the river in a way that is efficient, cost-effective, and anticipates both climate change and peak oil. The project is wholly business-as-usual.

Bicycle advocates have argued that the Governor’s climate change initiative, House Bill 3543, requires looking at ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Building a bridge for single-occupant vehicles will only increase greenhouse gas emissions. The plan to build this bridge is patently inconsistent with the need to reduce emissions.

Bridge boosters claim that they have investigated the alternatives, and that the alternatives are woefully inadequate, offering small incremental improvements at best.

When we look at the analysis, however, it appears that boosters have stacked the deck against other modes and created something of a straw man argument.

First let’s look at congestion pricing and tolling. From the August 15, 2007 TSM/TDM (Transit and Roadway Efficiency) Concept - Analysis and Results memo (tsm/tdm = transportation system management and transportation demand management):
For modeling purposes, parking fees in downtown Salem were used as a one possible example of user fees that could be adjusted to influence travel demand. (2)
Even if we suppose that the model is perfect, the analysis didn’t try tolling or congestion pricing. It adjusted parking pricing only, and limited that adjustment to the downtown area only, penalizing those who wished to patronize downtown merchants, whose patrons currently enjoy free parking, and didn’t impose any additional costs on those who might be shopping on Lancaster or taking trips elsewhere in the city. Although the modelers don’t discuss this explicitly in the memo, it’s likely that the parking fees didn’t reduce trip demand so much as shift discretionary trips from downtown to elsewhere. The minimal reduction is probably also an admission that many of the trips don't end or begin in downtown.

They conclude saying,
The results show that increasing the area where parking charges are applied in the downtown area and tripling the average amount charged could reduce auto trips by 10% (from 86.6% of trips to 76.2% of trips). (3)
Now let’s look at transit. Here the assumptions are even more narrow.
The transit element consists of the operation of two new routes, one on Highway 22 and one on Wallace Road, each serving downtown (and possibly other employment destinations in the city)…. Stops were also minimized or limited to the park and ride lots provided. (4)
The model added only two new stops, at the park and ride lots! The model did not add a robust level of enhanced transit service with a network of stops near the front doors of residents. The transit service is minimal and inconvenient, and makes people get in their cars – why would they get out of their cars to stop at a park and ride lot for a short trip into downtown? This is a fatal simplification.

Moreover, the analysis only looks at getting people from the park and ride lots to downtown. It supposes they don’t have to transfer to get elsewhere in the city. Eliminating transfers is second fatal simplification in the model.

If you want people to use transit, it should be direct, frequent, and easy to use. The level of transit service used in the model fails two of the three.

Nevertheless, the analysts believe otherwise:
The level of new transit service assumed in the model is a high level of service for the routes and geographies served. However, as shown above, this level of service does not produce a significant shift in total trips across the bridge. The bridge users in the peak hour have trip origins and destinations that extend well beyond the area served by the two new transit lines. (6)
Note that they understand the problem of transfers, and yet insist on ignoring it.

Not surprisingly the analysis concludes:
This level of additional transit service would result in only very small daily changes in transit ridership compared to increasing the parking charges....the model shows that adding the increased transit service does not result in additional reductions in vehicle trips across the existing bridges.(5-6)
In order to knock down the extent to which virtually any TSM/TDM option, like congestion pricing, tolling, or transit might relieve congestion in a no-build or low-build option, analysts used two poor straw men, that of parking pricing and inconvenient transit, to argue that the whole suite of TSM/TDM strategies cannot succeed.

This is confirmed in the July 21, 2008 memo on the TSM/TDM/Transit Expanded Subcommittee:
Analysis to date has shown that providing transit system and operations improvements in the absence of user fees (tolls or parking charges) to discourage auto trips results in small reductions in demand. (1-2)
As was demonstrated in the study of a stand-alone TSM/TDM alternative (see “TSM/TDM (Transit and Roadway Efficiency) Concept – Analysis and Results” memo, dated 8/15/07), improvements to the transit system such as more buses and improved headways still leave the transit system at a significant disadvantage compared to single occupant vehicles with respect to trip time across the river and individuals’ understood time value of money. Consequently, such improvements to the transit system will have relatively little effect on peak hour demand on the existing bridges until or unless there is a significant increase in travel time (e.g., significant congestion for single occupant vehicles but not for transit) or the cost of driving (e.g., tolls, congestion pricing, parking pricing, fuel prices) for single occupant vehicles. Because the Salem River Crossing project Build alternatives are designed to improve single occupant vehicle travel time over the future No Build condition and do not propose differential user fees (e.g., congestion pricing), a significant time vs. money disadvantage for transit trips would be maintained, even with significantly improved bus headways. (2-3)
Unfortunately, it appears the analysis was not designed really to challenge or even seriously to investigate the assumption that TSM/TDM options are powerless to reduce congestion and improve the movement of people, goods, and services across the river. It was inadequate and served only to confirm the prevailing assumptions about the values of single-occupant vehicles and their easy movement.

Other project documents are available on the Rivercrossing library page.

Important ones include:
The 1999 Oregon Highway Plan Policy Element, which includes the "mobility standard"
Traffic Modeling information from SKAT/MWVCOG
River Crossing Purpose and Need statement
Threshold Memo
Evaluation Framework Memo
Alternative Methodology Report
Alternative Evaluation Results Memo

Monday, November 24, 2008

Cherriots Survey on Service Cuts

As you know, Salem-area voters defeated a transit levy. Cherriots has posted an online survey to gather community opinion and thought about how to cut services with the least harm. If you use transit or know someone who does, please take a few moments to complete the survey. Click through here to take the survey.

Holiday Schedule - Friday, Dec 12

After much discussion we decided not to hold B on B the days after Thanksgiving and Christmas or to try to move them up a week. Instead, we will hold Breakfast on Bikes on Friday, December 12, between 7am and 9am.

As we were in June, on the 12th we'll be on Water Street across from the A.C. Gilbert House, right where the bike path off-ramp from the Center Street Bridge merges with Water Street and Riverfront Park.

For your holiday needs, please remember our generous donors, Cascade Baking Company, the Coffee House Cafe, and LifeSource Natural Foods.

View Larger Map

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Governor K's Two Cents

On Monday Governor Kulongoski released the first public draft of his Jobs and Transportation Act 2009.* The document is 23 pages - though the last third is appendices. The word bicycle (including bike, biking, and bicycling) appears only once, on page 6.

This is very disappointing. This alone suggests the plan is not very serious about its stated goals to: "Meet Oregon’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Goals" and "Account for Carbon in Transportation Planning."

The headlines of course are about the 2 cent increase in the gasoline tax and some associated motor vehicle fees. These too do nothing to reduce greenhouse gases.

It's possible to write a more detailed critique (and here) of the plan, but for the moment all bicyclists need to know is that the Governor's two cents on bikes is one tiny mention.

*The document's been circulating online, but it's not posted to the Governor's website yet. When it is posted, we'll link to it!
[update] It's now linked!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

State Committees Focus on Bicycling

Two State committees have issued reports that show an increased interest bicycling as a priority for the State.

The less interesting one is the ostensibly obvious one. The Transportation Vision Committee Related to the Environment and Transportation Choices recently released to the Governor a set of recommendations, the Transportation Vison Committee Report to Governor Ted Kulongoski. On Monday, the Governor will reveal which of these recommendations he has chosen to incorporate in his own transportation agenda for the 2009 legislature.

You’d think that the Transportation Committee would have lots of thoughts on bicycles! Update: I was reading a precis of the recommendations; in the full report I note both Scott Bricker & Karl Rohde of the BTA were on the Committee. Drilling into the report, I noticed some BTA language!

They do in fact recommend that the 1971 Bicycle Bill be amended to “increase the required minimum spending level for bicycle and pedestrian improvements within highway rights of way from 1.0 percent to 1.5 percent.” They also have a cluster of recommendations around land use planning, rail, public transit, parking, congestion pricing, and a more sophisticated analysis of car and truck traffic that includes “social and economic costs.”

Alas, bicycling lurks implicitly on the penumbral edges of these. Though bicycling will certainly be involved in these conversations, the report does not name bicycling as central to them. I fear they regard bicycling still as not quite a “serious” transportation option.

Closer to being central is bicycling in the “Strategic Plan to Slow the rate of Diabetes in Oregon,” a Report to the 2009 Oregon Legislature from the HB 3486 Advisory Committee, and published by DHS: Public Health Division.

The report says, “the 2007 Oregon Legislature approved and Governor Kulongoski signed House Bill 3486, which declared an emergency related to diabetes and obesity. The bill directed the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) to develop by 2009 a strategic plan to start to slow the rate of diabetes caused by obesity and other environmental factors by 2010.”

For the 2009 Legislature, the report recommends this statutory change (among others):
Participate in legislative discussions regarding transportation priorities and funding, and advocate that health issues including bike and pedestrian facilities be considered.
Looking towards the 2011 Legislature, the report urges that governmental partners,
Establish health as a priority in land-use planning and transportation decisions and possible legislation in 2011, including but not limited to, policies and funding for bike/pedestrian facilities on all appropriate streets statewide, adding health as a consideration in land-use planning policies and decisions; and

Introduce a “Healthy Schools Act” in 2011, including but not limited to, requiring that school siting decisions facilitate biking and walking, allowing inclusion of school costs in system development charges paid by developers, banning advertising, offering physical education, and conducting health screenings.
Together, these point to bicycling as an integral part of a healthy lifestyle, for individuals and for communities, not merely for recreation or for commuting, but as a key part of the way we think of community creation, community maintenance, and mobility.

I am encouraged by the diabetes recommendations, and I hope that there will be multiple conversations in the 2009 Legislature about the different ways bicycling is a good thing.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Two Saturday Bike Events

Wow. What an historic night. Of all the things I've read, a piece by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and Director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, struck me as the finest set of reflections on this moment.

Certainly less historic, but of great consequence for us moving forward, will be a more rational transportation policy that accounts for peak oil and climate change. Locally, it's terribly disappointing the Cherriots levy seems to be failing. Good cities need transportation alternatives, and Salem is failing the test. Hopefully the road bond will yield strong pedestrian & bicycle improvements. Nationally, perhaps a bicycle advocate like Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) or Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-MN) will be named Secretary of Transportation.

There are a couple of bicycle events on Saturday. If you don't need a break from politics, Greenpeace has a bicycle rally scheduled for Saturday. If you do need a break, there's a day of racing at Battlecreek. Either way, in addition to whatever riding you do, get out and show your support for bicycling!

Greenpeace Organizer Sofia Gidlund sends this item:
We're organizing a bike rally together with Willamette students on Saturday, November 8th, at 2pm.

We will meet outside of the student dorm Terra, just off 12th St. in the student parking area (in between State St and Mission St), to depart on a bike ride through Salem downtown and pose for a photo in front of the capitol building. You don’t have to have a bike to participate, we will have other activities going on too and you can still pose for the photo.

The purpose is to send a message to our new Congress representative [Kurt Schrader] that we are fully expecting him to be a leader in the fight against global warming. Hope you can come!

Cyclecross in Salem:
The site of the former Battlecreek Golf Course in southeast Salem will host a cyclocross event Saturday.

There will be seven races, beginning at 10 a.m. Registration opens at 8 a.m. and runs until 15 minutes before each race. There is no pre-registration. Race costs vary from $5 for juniors to $20 for all other events and $10 for a second event.

The event is sanctioned by the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association and an OBRA license is required. A one-day license costs $5. An annual license is $10. Helmets are required.

For information, call Jeff McNamee at (503) 857-5733.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

BTA 2009 Legislative Agenda

With the Election coming up, thoughts turn to the 75th Legislature, what it will look like, and what it will accomplish. Here’s a sketch of the 2009 plan, courtesy of Doug Parrow. Two proposals are definite, and several others are still being mooted. For a longer discussion, see Jonathan Maus’ article on bikeportland.

Legislative proposals:

Vehicular Homicide – Make it a Class C Felony to kill someone while driving with a Drivers’ License Suspended in Oregon or any other state, impaired as a result of the use of alcohol, drugs or other factors, or driving without current Automobile Liability Insurance.

Drivers Education – Require behind the wheel training by a certified trainer and an increase in the number of questions on the drivers licensing test with a corresponding increase in the number of questions pertaining to interaction with bicyclists. At renewal, drivers would be required to complete a take home test in order to refresh their understanding of existing laws and inform them of changes to the law.

Other proposals under consideration:

Safe Routes to Schools – Require increased consideration of transportation in school siting or allow/require schools to use transportation funds or energy conservation funds to improve safety for students walking or bicycling.

Clarification of Crash Reporting Requirements - Collecting adequate crash data is a major component of implementing effective countermeasures in locations with real safety problems. Currently, the law and administrative procedures are unclear regarding when crashes involving bicyclists and pedestrians must be reported. We may be able to address these issues administratively.

Funding for Non-motorized Transportation Corridors - Separate non-motorized transportation corridors make [part] of the backbone of a complete system. Funding for the development of these corridors would increase cycling and reduce congestion and air pollution. Maus explains:
[Karl] Rohde says the BTA will seek to pass a resolution that recognizes funding for non-motorized projects as an essential part of a complete transportation system. According to Rohde, he wants bikes and peds to be thought of as “non-motorized transportation” and bike and ped facilities not be considered “trails” (a common wording that makes them seem like a frivolous expenditure in hard times) but rather as “non-motorized transportation corridors”.

Rohde says the idea is not to simply have lawmakers use different language, but to drive home the idea that, when drafting any transportation funding, lawmakers look for ways to fund bike and ped projects “every step of the way”.

As the session gets closer, we'll have more details and more on what you can do to advance the agenda. The January Breakfast will be on the Capitol steps, and we hope to have a good turn-out with bikey legislators.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween Breakfast Report

After a week of sunny weather, Friday morning turned ghoulish on us! Rain and more rain. We saw fewer riders and the rain also dissuaded some from trying to ride in a costume. Props to those who did costume up! Thanks to the Coffee House Cafe for the warming Joe and to Cascade Baking for the pastries. (Be sure to think of them for your Holiday breads, cakes, and pastries!)

But the rain didn't scare everyone! The Wicked Witch of the West here wins an honorable mention for a costume that withstands the elements. If you look carefully, you can see the voodoo-sized Dorothy doll on trapped on the handlebars. Next to her is the skull on the Rolling Recumbent of Perpetual Repose. The skull's eye sockets blazed with infernal fire. Harley better watch out!

Another honorable mention goes to the Hunter, a cruiser adorned with a moose trophy. The squirrels out on the road should be very, very wary...

Our flasher here, showing off her Beta Carotene Bliss, wins the tune-up from Santiam Bicycle!

We talked about the November and December schedule some. The last Fridays fall on the days after Thanksgiving and Christmas. Some suggested we take the months off, others suggested we move to the third Friday. If you have a strong opinion, leave it here or email it please!