Sunday, September 18, 2011

New 20 under 40: Kenji talks Downtown

Last year 16% of the 20 under 40s wanted better bicycling facilities. This year, it's only 5%, one out of the 20. Bikes and transportation was not a general theme for making Salem better this year.

But the good news? Kenji Sugahara was one of them! Congratulations Kenji!

Here's the vision he shared with readers, and there's lots of bikey goodness in it:
In 5 years I would like to see the completion of projects that increase the livability of the Salem area. For example, I hope to see the Minto Island bridge completed- finishing the connection between the 3 parks.... I would also like to see the bike/pedestrian plan come to fruition. This would help mobility throughout the city....In 10 years I would like to see a revitalized downtown core area with many more choices for dining and shopping. I would like to see the downtown area as a destination for shopping with the mixed use housing units full. I would like to see a full service grocery store located in the core area....On a more personal note, I hope to see Salem as a cycling mecca.
But maybe the best part is his brief analysis of downtown traffic:
The design of downtown is not conducive to shopping. If one takes a look at traffic and shopping patterns customers often drive into town, park in front of the business where they will shop, shop, and then leave. There is no incentive for shoppers to stay in the downtown area. Taking a look at the more successful downtown areas they are most often much more walkable and heavier traffic is often routed toward alternate routes.

Contrary to the view of some people, heavier vehicle traffic in front of someone's store does not mean that there will be heavier foot traffic. With heavier vehicle traffic, it becomes more difficult for people to park and exit from parking spaces. There is also a difference between commuters and shoppers. Shoppers will stop if something looks interesting. Commuters are less likely to stop. By routing commuters away from the downtown shopping districts, visitors are more likely to be qualified shoppers.

I would like to see a revitalization project of the downtown area bounded on the west side by Front St, Ferry St on the south, Center St on the north and Cottage St. on the east. Within this district roads would be narrowed to 2 lanes and sidewalks would be extended outward with further greenery planted in the area. By making the area more aesthetically pleasing, people are more likely to linger and visit multiple stores in the area. Slowing traffic would also make walking the area more attractive. This would also serve to make the area more attractive to families as there is less pollution and traffic to deal with. Great examples would be NW 23rd in Portland and downtown Bend.

By changing traffic patterns, you would make the downtown area a destination shopping district. This would further increase the attractiveness for shoppers. More shoppers equals more money for Salem.
What's especially interesting about this is the way several of the new 20 honorees talk about how important downtown is to the way they think about Salem, to identity for self and for community, for livability, and for the economy - but only Kenji talks about mobility, how people get to get to downtown, whether they live there or use some kind of transportation, and how they get around once they are there.

If there was a theme to the statements this year, a new theme anyway, the theme might be farm and garden to table. Conrad Venti, David Rosales, Molly Pearmine McCargar, Jordan Blake all touch on it. That's great to see as an emerging interest.

I don't know if the deeper connections are significant, but as you think about food going from farm to table, you have to think about transportation and mobility. The proximity of farms to table, and making it easy for the food to get from farm to table - together this is some of the same problem as getting people to downtown. So much of it is about petroleum and distance.

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