Sunday, May 23, 2010

City Council, May 24th - The Budget and Sustainable Cities

Council offers a classic good news/bad news scenario on Monday. The good news is a substantial prospective partnership with the University of Oregon for some very interesting studies. The bad news is the budget.

The big thing on the Council agenda is the proposed budget. This is not my area of expertise, but I note that one of the line items proposes to cancel the transit pass for City employees. Perhaps others with an interest in the budget will identify other items that represent a retreat from sustainability, and an all-too-usual trade of the short- for the long-range

Needless to say, we think that's a bad idea. City employees should lead in reducing drive-alone trips, and this is inconsistent with the City's own goals for that reduction. More generally, it's inconsistent with the goal of being a "sustainable city."

Which brings us to that very goal, and the proposed collaboration with the University of Oregon Sustainable Cities Initiative.
The Sustainable Cities Year Initiative is a ‘partnership’ with one city in Oregon per year where a number of courses from across the University focus on assisting that city with their sustainability goals and projects. The Sustainable Cities Year faculty and students work with that city through a variety of studio projects and service learning programs to: 1) provide students with a real world project to investigate; 2) apply their training; and 3) provide real service and movement to a local city ready to transition to a more sustainable and accessible future.
Sounds great!

Earlier this year the City solicited the partnership. Here's the proposal. This past year Gresham participated, and it looks like some good things came out of the collaboration. It looks to bring valuable analysis and planning resources to the City at a very minimal cost.

Here is the agenda item with the finalized list of projects. Two of them look particularly interesting for transportation and bicycling.

One is a project to look at parks connectivity. It dovetails neatly with the Salem Greenway project we highlighted last month. It also looks to examine the approaches to the Union St. Railroad Bridge, which we have argued are unreasonably disconnected from the neighborhoods adjacent to the bridge and its parks.

The other project is to examine downtown traffic circulation, with a special emphasis on walking and bicycling. This looks to duplicate the proposed study that failed to garner a TGM grant last year. (The State gave the City grants to do a Safe Routes to Schools Plan and to update the Bicycle and Pedestrian chapters of the Transportation System Plan - so, you know, two out of three wasn't bad!)

We'd like the City more consistently to pursue sustainability and to make sure that it isn't pursuing Potemkin Projects. Investing in sustainable transportation should be high on the list. One act at City Council does this, another does not.


Unknown said...

Our new Mayor has the ability and record for getting near impossible things done. Her predecessor, Janet Taylor proposed, in a state of the city address, a two way city street grid. A bike/pedestrian friendly city would give a big boost to downtown businesses. Speeders zoom through Salem's one way race tracks causing annoyance to sidewalk occupants not to mention increased pollution and a safety hazard. Let's hope the emphasis on a residential and walkable downtown is given by the city council and Mayor.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Yes, indeed, a returning to a mostly two-way grid would be a boon to downtown!

Hopefully, as you say, it will receive greater consideration!