Tuesday, March 29, 2011

City Asks for Ideas on Downtown Mobility Study

This past week the City began to shop the Central Salem Mobility Study and solicit key study locations. They took it to the Downtown Advisory Board and will bring it to the Vision 2020 Bike/Ped Group and a few other entities.

On paper the project looks promising, offering the prospect of distinct improvements.

It asks:
  • What should the balance be between: Vehicular capacity, parking (on-street), bicycle, and pedestrian travel?
  • How can downtown become a more appealing place to live, work, shop, and play while continuing to move people and goods?
  • What would enhance circulation, mobility, and safety for pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users to and through downtown?
These are good questions, and we can only hope that the City asks with an open mind, seriously entertaining the possibility that the old answers strike a balance that is wrong, harmful, or no longer useful.

People travel in multiple ways, and want to feel they have a menu of choices for "how to get there." Hopefully the study will look at the whole system and honor the fact that people and their mobility choices are not monolithic, and that for downtown, it matters less how they get there and more that lots of people get there and find it easy to get there.

The existing system instead tends to enforce travel by drive-alone car trip - most people don't feel they really have a choice. If the Eugene downtown pedestrian mall was one kind of failed monoculture, the ways Salem's downtown is too much like an auto mall is another kind of failed monoculture.

The mobility study needs to be people-focused, not engine-focused, with a recognition that robust mobility choice is central for a lively, diverse downtown.

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