Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Kidical Mass Salem 2.0 to Kick-off and Ride Again

Here's some great news! Kidical Mass is starting up again in Salem. The project has been on hiatus since Kat Franken wrapped things up in the fall of 2010 after a terrific first run.

One of the parents, Curt Fisher, has started a new blog and is organizing new rides.

Add this to your blog feed and get ready for some spring and summer riding fun!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Legislative Update - Week 1

Golly, the golden bike dude bowling trophy seems like an unwarranted triumph this week.

Nevertheless, the Legislature starts up this week on a brand new adventure - sessions in the even numbered years.

As for pre-session filings, or other new bills, there are only two that even have the word "bicycle" in them, and these are but incidental references, not relevant to active transportation interests.

Scaring up other relevant bills will be hit-and-miss for the moment, and I'll piggyback on other coverage by legislative specialists.

Still, a few odds and ends have turned up.

House Bill 4148 would impose a fee on studded tires.

House Bill 4043 would permit the "Department of Transportation to reinstate person’s suspended driving privileges or right to apply for privileges, or any identification card or right to apply for card, under certain circumstances." There's got to be a story here, but I don't know what problem this is trying to solve.

The session will be short and the main thing will be looking at the budget. So stay tuned, I think is the answer.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Run for City Council - Two, Maybe Three Openings

With the news yesterday the Bob Cannon will likely resign from City Council, there are two confirmed openings and the possibility of a third. If you live in one of these districts, consider running! Salem needs transportation-minded Councilors to help steer the City, a big and unwieldy ship, from Eisenhower-era 1950s America into the 21st Century!

South Salem

Cannon's ward is in South Salem.
Salem City Councilor Bob Cannon said he probably will resign before his term ends at the end of the year.

Cannon has represented Ward 7 in South Salem since appointed by the council in 2008.

Since November, however, Cannon has spent much of his time out of town in order to look after investments in Southern California and has attended council meetings via telephone.

"I will not be seeking reelection," Cannon said in a phone interview Thursday. "In all likelihood I will resign at or before the primary."....

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Former Chair of OTC Gail Achterman has Died

Former Salemite and advocate for non-motorized transportation Gail Achterman died today.

From the Oregonian:
Gail Achterman, a Portland lawyer and lifelong Oregonian whose record of public service spanned nearly 40 years in natural resources, environmental law and transportation policy, died Saturday of pancreatic cancer at age 62....

She had recently retired as director of the Institute for Natural Resources at Oregon State University and as chair of the Oregon Transportation Commission, having served for 10 years on the commission....

Achterman was born in Portland Aug. 1, 1949, grew up in Salem and attended Stanford University, where she received a degree in economics and was a three-sport athlete in basketball, track and swimming. She went on to obtain her law degree and master's in natural resource policy and management from the University of Michigan.
This is a real loss for all of Oregon and a sad weekend for the Oregon Department of Transportation and fans of non-motorized transportation. Heartfelt condolences to friends and family.

Achterman is not the only person with close ties to ODOT to pass away this weekend. David Apperson also worked for ODOT, and participated in the Bike Commute Challenge, but I have not been able to confirm this.

Sunday Morning updated. Revised Oregoninian obituary here. Achterman graduated from South Salem High School. Rembrance also at Bikeportland.

Image from BikePortland's note about her resignation from the OTC. Mia Birk left, Achterman on the right.

Friday, January 27, 2012

On his Recumbent David Apperson Killed in Crash with Pickup

Apparently riding his bike on the way to his daughter's wedding, ODOT employee David Apperson was struck on Hopewell Road by a person driving a pickup and died.

The SJ and Oregonian are both reporting a fatal crash this morning involving a person on bike. From the Statesman:
A Salem man died today from injuries he sustained after his bike was hit by a pickup.

Polk County Sheriff’s Sgt. Mark Garton said the incident occurred about 10:50 a.m. on Hopewell Road near Spring Valley Lane, about 10 miles northwest of Salem.

A Dodge Ram pickup was west on Hopewell Road when it hit the bike from behind. The impact threw David Apperson, 57, of Salem from his bike, Garton said.

Apperson was killed, Garton said. The driver of the pickup, John Taylor, 26, of Salem, cooperated with the investigation, Garton said.

Hopewell Road was closed for about four hours in the investigation. No criminal charges have been filed, Garton said.

Bike-Partisan Thinking on City Budgets, Land Use, and Transportation

With the City's budget meetings and conversations starting next week, here's some interesting reading for Salem citizens and staff.

But first a reminder!

The City is holding meetings to talk about the budget:
To insure financial stability during the five-year forecast period, the City of Salem will need to reduce $10.5 million over the next three budget years, including $1 million from the current budget. Attendees will receive a presentation on the forecast and have the opportunity to provide input regarding budget priorities.
Times and places of the meetings are as follows:
  • Monday, January 30, 6-8 p.m., West Salem Roth’s
  • Thursday, February 2, 6-8 p.m., South Salem High School library
  • Monday, February 6, 6-8 p.m., Salem Coalition for Equality, 3850 Portland Road NE (Spanish speaking event)
  • Wednesday, February 8, 6-8 p.m., Center 50+, 2615 Portland Road NE
In reading and rereading Jane Jacob's Death and Life of Great American Cities, I am repeatedly struck by a strand of deep, considered, and rather complicated conservatism in her writing. It is fertile and provocative, quite the opposite of the sound-bite excesses on both the Left and the Right.

Curt pointed out this group of conservative Midwestern fans of small towns who started a non-profit substantially rooted in, as I see it, a reading of Jacobs that draws on this conservative strand in her thought. Extending a refusal of the over-simple, their analysis also evades easy cliches from the Left and Right: The Strong Towns material is thoughtful and fascinating stuff!

In the logo and image you can see some nostalgia for main street Americana here, but the mission is a hard accounting of budgets and spending:
Our expectation of plenty, and our expectation to pay only a portion of the full cost of growth, has led to a scarcity of resources. Our approach to land use now constrains us, growing our financial commitments at an alarming rate. It threatens real American prosperity with long-term economic stagnation and decline.

We can do better.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Second Annual Walk and Bike to School Retreat set for Bend

The Second Annual Walk+Bike to School Retreat is set. Whether you're a parent, an educator, or advocate, if you're interested in building out Safe Routes to School programming for your child, your school, or your neighborhood school, here's a terrific resource. From the Portland BTA blog:
Come join us for the Second Annual Oregon Walk+Bike to School Retreat in Bend, Oregon June 21-23 as Oregonians interested in Walk + Bike to School and Safe Routes issues come together for an event that will give you an opportunity to access training*, learn best practices, network with others working on these issues, and work with us to create a strong state network.

Please register by March 30th for the low price of $10/day (plus a $2 processing fee). Registration is limited to 100 participants due to space, so please register early to ensure your participation. Click HERE to register.
For complete information, see the BTA blog.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Car Driving in Decline among Young People in Marion County

While the Great Recession is almost certainly part of the causal mix, it's likely too that we are seeing a significant shift in cultural attitudes as the number of young people having drivers licenses is on the decline.

Interestingly, it's the 25-34 year old cohort that shows a decline coincident with the Recession. Younger cohorts show declines starting well before the crash of 2008. (Part of this, also, may be a demographic bump peaking in '99 among 14-17, and that group aging with bumps in 2001 for the 18-21 group, in 2003 for 22-24, and so on - but the overall decline is clear.)

The population does not show equivalent declines, so these data also represent a decline in rate of licenses, not merely a decline in absolute numbers.

No wonder the car companies are moving to market aggressively to young people! Driving is the perhaps the new Smoking.

In any case, this is yet another reason why the City should assertively move to adopt and then implement the Bike and Walk Salem update to the Transportation System Plan. If Salem wants to be a competitive in attracting and retaining young adults in the work force, it would do well to heed this trend and offer a robust suite of mobility choices.

Update, February 2 - here's a chart using the same data, but sorted into two buckets. It really shows the shift.

Data from DMV Driver Statistics and this graph of County level data.

Thanks to Jeff for finding this!

Update, December 11th, 2014

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Police Cite Driver for Passing Stopped Vehicle

This doesn't qualify as good news, per se - and with the flooding I'm hungry for some good news! - but it's worth highlighting. We talk about what amounts sometimes to a prevailing presumption of innocence for autoists when there is crash that involves a car operator and a person on foot or on bike. It's like it takes a higher standard of evidence and fault to cite a car driver than the more vulnerable person on foot or on bike, who "shouldn't" be on the road.

So it was good to read about an instance where a car driver was cited for failing to yield to and then hitting a person on bike in a crosswalk. The officer issuing the citation would have determined also that the person on bike was operating properly in the crosswalk, something we cannot take for granted.

From the SJ last week:
A Salem woman on a bicycle suffered minor injuries Friday when she was struck by a car in a downtown crosswalk.

Salem Police said Troyce Fortune, 22, of Salem, was hit by a car driven by Tanner Million, 20, also of Salem. The crash occurred on Court Street NE.

Other vehicles stopped as Fortune entered the crosswalk, police said. Million's car did not stop, hitting Fortune.

Million was issued a citation for passing a stopped vehicle at a crosswalk, police said.
If you're interested in the issues around passing, Doug's got a good discussion.

Monday, January 23, 2012

City Council, January 23rd - the CIP

While Chickens will probably get the headlines, tonight City Council also takes the first look at the draft Capital Improvement Plan for fiscal years 2012-13 to 2016-17. Chicks are way cuter than CIPs, it's true, but the CIP is $142M of stuff.

As you can see from map from last year's CIP (a bit of a frankenmap, stitched together from a couple of different views and resolutions of the original version online), the City develops all kinds of capital investment projects - from sewer lines to roads to parks.
A capital improvement plan (CIP) is a five-year plan for financing major public assets based on City-adopted master plans, goals and policies. The purpose of a CIP is to match scarce financial resources with the capital needs of a growing community and to preserve or enhance existing capital assets to provide efficient city services....

The City Council’s role in the CIP begins each year with receiving the Preliminary CIP and setting a public hearing. In preparation for the public hearing, staff provides notice to the community in general and also communicates specifically with all neighborhood associations. At the public hearing, staff provides a presentation designed to educate both the City Council and the public about capital planning in general and the planned projects in particular. At the conclusion of the public hearing, the City Council votes to adopt the CIP either as presented or with whatever changes it deems appropriate. Whatever version of the CIP is adopted becomes the Adopted CIP. Staff completes the annual cycle by publishing the Adopted CIP.
The overall plan budgets about $142M spread over multiple categories.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A High Wheel at Mission Mill Show on Women's History

It was great to see an old bike on the front of the "Arts and Life" section of the paper today!

In a note about the new exhibit at Mission Mill*, "Willamette Women: Our History is our Strength," Barbara Curtin quotes Director Peter Booth about the bike:
The Willamette Heritage Center chose to exhibit a bicycle whose front wheel rises more than 4 feet high.

"Bicycles were a very liberating thing for women in the late 1800s," Booth said. "They were a form of transportation that women used as a form of empowerment." Among the innovations that followed: bloomer dresses so women could ride modestly and safely.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Proposed Minto Bridge in Floodtime

So far the City's discussion of the proposed Minto Bridge and high water has been pretty academic. Oh, sure, there are winter high water flows, but what about a real flood? Well, we've got a flood.

(click to enlarge)

Here's a pretty close composite of a summer view with the proposed bridge and a winter view of the flood.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Crowds on the Union St. Railroad Bridge Watch the Flood

Auspiciously, the clouds offered a rainbreak just as the floodwaters on the Willamette were cresting.

I wasn't the only person with the idea to come down to the river. The Union Street Railroad Bridge was full of people! And the way it gave citizens and visitors a connection to the river, even when in flood, was special.

The view straight down offered terrific scenes of the roiling, turbid waters. It was a little terrifying, actually. The water was so dirty and swift and powerful. The power was awesome - and maybe a little sublime.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

City's Network of Stream Monitoring Stations Shows Water Levels

Though it doesn't help necessarily with plugged storm grates and micro-conditions, the City's network of monitoring stations can provide some useful data on stream levels, especially as it impacts your commute and non-neighborhood conditions farther from home.

The Statesman is reporting several road closures and the City Manager's call that it's now a "40 Year" event.

The graph above shows the water level on Mill Creek very near North High. It's over the high water mark and some State offices are evacuating underground parking structures today.

Here's a map of the stations and click here to generate the most current graphs and reports.

More Budget Cuts on the Way, but Bikes can be the Thrifty Choice

Late yesterday the City announced more cuts. The human cost of layoffs is demoralizing and sad. Maybe there are labor inefficiencies to be found. But I bet not. Cuts are to the bone and affect real service levels.
On Tuesday, Salem City Manager Linda Norris announced mid-year cuts in departments funded through the City’s General Fund. Salem is targeting spending reductions of at least $4 million to begin in the current fiscal year. Revenues for the current year are expected to be $1.1 million below budgeted levels and revenue projections for the next five years have been scaled back due to the prolonged economic slowdown.

Preliminary estimates for mid-year adjustments include eliminating between 22 to 28 positions over the next five months. About half of the positions are currently filled, but others have been held vacant in anticipation of possible staffing reductions....

Planned reductions include police non-sworn staffing levels; parks maintenance; aquatics; planning services and projects; code enforcement; urban development program support; central services; staff training and overtime; and purchases of supplies and services.
But you know, there is actually one area where we all can do more with less: Even AAA says having an extra car is expensive!

Bike transport just makes sense. It's a great choice for people who want to be thrifty.

And for the City, just as for a household, supporting drive-alone car trips is a revenue leak - much more than an order of magnitude more costly than supporting bike trips! The cost of a 30 year wham-pow! wish-list of improvements for people on foot and on bike is about the same as the pared-down four year bond for roads!

The subsidy in roadway infrastructure and maintenance and in city planning for drive-alone car transport is a significant part of the problem.

Supporting lower cost transport should be part of the solution - part of the solution for the City, and part of solution for people who want to make thrifty choices. As a side benefit, with fewer drive-alone car trips, existing roadways will have less congestion for essential freight movement. Not to mention reduced health care costs and greenhouse gases.

If the City truly is a Sustainable City, why aren't we focused on thrifty and sustainable transportation?

Let Citycouncil@cityofsalem.net know you'd like to see thrift and efficiency in transportation! Go by bike!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

On New Development and the Bank, Downtown Partnership Focuses on Foot Traffic

Thursday night the Historic Landmarks Commission will deliberate and make a final decision on the question of the bank drive-through for the proposed Columbia Bank on the empty lot at State and Commercial.

There's somegood news: transportation is top of mind! While it's a little disappointing that the drive-through and auto-centrism hasn't got more attention, it's great to see the interest in walking.

And in a stance that is difficult to imagine Go Downtown Salem taking, the new Downtown Economic Improvement District adminstrators, the Salem Downtown Partnership, are leading that interest in walking!

Monday, January 16, 2012

From the YMCA to the State Health Plan: Signs Point to Bikes

Whether it's seat width on a bus, health care costs for workers, YMCA and County initiatives, it doesn't take a soothsayer or sheep guts to discern the wisdom of active transportation. Let's not wait!

In a recent story about big bottoms, transit designers and purchasing agents grappled with seat width in subways, trains, planes, and buses:
The problem of American waists that are too big for seats meant to accommodate them is certainly not new. Today, everything from love seats to toilet seats can be built bigger to accommodate wider profiles, and the seats offered on public transportation are no different....

“It’s clear that the U.S. population is getting heavier,” said Martin Schroeder, chief engineer for the American Public Transport Association and the committee’s chairman. “We are trying to get our hands on that and figure out what is the best average weight to use.”
Bigger and fewer seats makes transportation of all kinds more expensive.

But the costs don't stop there.

In a strongly worded close to a piece rehearsing the history of the Health Engagement Model for State workers, Dennis Thompson writes:
State workers should realize that, because of premium share, they now have a personal stake in the health of their fellow employees.

If the rates of chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease continue to rise, then health care premiums will continue to rise. And that 5 percent health premium share will eat deeper and deeper into paychecks.

Any wellness plan that effectively promotes healthy living is a good thing for state workers' pocketbooks.

And inaction ultimately will cost everyone, healthy and sick alike.
The Salem YMCA recently announced a community health project.

From the Statesman:
The Family YMCA of Marion & Polk Counties is now part of a national initiative that has helped local leaders make their communities healthier through long-term policy and environmental changes.

YMCAs nationwide have brought together community leaders to launch various projects as part of Pioneering Healthier Communities.

Those efforts include creating safer streets for pedestrians and cyclists to providing more fresh fruits and vegetables in school lunches.

The YMCA of the USA recently selected the Salem nonprofit as one of 10 communities to join the initiative. The local YMCA was also awarded a $64,000 grant mainly to provide leadership training....

After the group implements a particular project around the second year, it will then focus on making sure their long-term goal is sustainable.

More than 100 communities have participated in the Pioneering Healthier Communities initiative since it was launched in 2004.

Each community identifies its own goals depending on the area's health needs.
Meanwhile, Bike and Walk Salem is stuck as various interest groups try to pare it down. The County and its "I Love Me" campaign haven't yet embraced active transportation, strangely enough.

But there's a huge opportunity here!

A community united around making biking and walking the preferred mode of transportation for short trips of three miles or less would:
  • Reduce automobile road congestion
  • Reduce pollution and carbon emissions
  • Reduce healthcare costs
  • Reduce household expenses
  • Reduce capital infrastructure costs
  • Create the most sustainable transportation system
  • Improve mental and physical health
What's not to like? Why are we waiting?

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Green Tea Alliance: Populists Left and Right Unite to Question MegaProjects

In a fascinating thickening of the psychic aether, simultaneously in Salem and in Portland, groups thought to be antithetical have temporarily united and announced coalitions to question large, speculative infrastructure projects.

Salem Weekly writes about expansion at the airport:
In an unusual alliance, a Marion County “Tea Party” group and progressive activists have both questioned a proposed $11 million expansion of Salem’s Municipal Airport. They’ve combined forces to write a letter to the Salem City Council asking questions about the project and requesting a reply.
Their letter leads with the indisputable fact of a consistent pattern of failure:
With three failed airline ventures, what has recently changed that would justify the City of Salem’s plans to use FAA funds and Connect Oregon II Lottery funds for runway expansion and other upgrades to the airport. Please provide a market analysis and documentation, grant applications, and supporting documents justifying your claims for your proposed expansion. Also please provide supporting data, letters of intent from specific air freight companies who are actively considering coming to the Salem Airport.
That's a project measured in the low 10s of Millions of dollars.

In Portland, folks are facing a project measured in low Billions.

From the Portland Mercury yesterday:
Influential individuals across the political spectrum met this morning on the sunny, frigid banks of the Columbia near the Vancouver base of the hulking I-5 bridge to discuss the one thing they can all agree on: The Columbia River Crossing (CRC) plan to replace the bridge is flawed and should not be funded.

The Oregon legislature's oversight committee begins meeting next week and people ranging from Metro Councilor Carl Hosticka to State Representative Lew Frederick to free-market think tank Cascade Policy Institute's John Charles all say the committee should not authorize spending more money on the bridge plan until more alternatives are examined and a solid funding plan is secured.

"Please stop the bleeding," said Councilor Hosticka. "At a time when the state highway department is laying people off, it's a bad idea to keep spending over a million dollars a month on a project that may never get built. After six years of trying, there is not yet any assured funding from any source."

"The current finance plan is a disaster waiting to happen for the taxpayers of Oregon," said Plaid Pantry President Chris Girard.
This is a fascinating development, and may have implications, too, for Salem's own $500 Million project.

Stay tuned! Things are getting interesting.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Salem Area Places Two Projects for $3M in "Flex Funds" on Final List

Yesterday the Oregon Department of Transportation announced Marion County's Brown Road project for bike lanes and sidewalks and Cherriots' bus stop improvements look to advance for final approval from the Oregon Transportation Commission in March.

City of Salem projects in Wallace and Minto Parks, did not make it to the second round, and Cherriots' Courthouse Square project is on the alternates list.

(Look for project details later this winter or early in the spring.)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The City's Budget and Transportation: Thrift and Making Do with Less

In the Statesman was a piece about the most recent projected $10.5M shortfall in the Salem budget and community meetings to brainstorm and prioritize corresponding reductions to follow.

According to the City:
To insure financial stability during the five-year forecast period, the City of Salem will need to reduce $10.5 million over the next three budget years, including $1 million from the current budget. Attendees will receive a presentation on the forecast and have the opportunity to provide input regarding budget priorities.
Times and places of the meetings are as follows:
  • Monday, January 30, 6-8 p.m., West Salem Roth’s
  • Thursday, February 2, 6-8 p.m., South Salem High School library
  • Monday, February 6, 6-8 p.m., Salem Coalition for Equality, 3850 Portland Road NE (Spanish speaking event)
  • Wednesday, February 8, 6-8 p.m., Center 50+, 2615 Portland Road NE

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Active Transportation Summit Dates Announced with Call for Presentations

This year the former Bike Summit, now known as the Active Transportation Summit, comes to Salem again. Organized by Portlanders, it usually has a distinctly Portland focus and flavor, and Salemites have understandably been lukewarm about it.

But there's some good news!

Organizers have opened a call for presentations. It's possible that people who don't live in Portland can carve out a set of talks that will make it more relevant to Salemites and others.

The Active Transportation Summit will take place on April 16th and 17th at the Conference Center.

If you have an idea for a talk or presentation you'd like to see, fill out the submission form!

Maybe there will be interest in making it an OREGON summit, not just a PORTLAND summit!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Boise and the Grid: The Island of Pringle Square and Connection to Downtown

The biggest challenge of the Boise development may not have anything to do with the site itself. It may, actually, have everything to do with the roads just outside it.

Site Issues and Connectivity

In a nutshell, if the Boise Project is supposed to be part of increasing density downtown, part of making a more vibrant downtown, the Boise Project's natural connections may not have anything to do with downtown. Without truly multi-modal improvements to connectivity with downtown, it may be easier for residents and employees to drive elsewhere than to walk downtown to shop and dine.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

City Council, January 9th - Words and Rhetoric

There are lots of interesting items related to transportation on Council's agenda this week. Many of them offer meanings that are not clear, though - they sound good, but what difference will they actually make? (How you read them may depend on whether your interpretive charity is feeling "half-full" or "half-empty.")

Central Salem Mobility Study

The City appears to be ready to go out with an RFP and select a consultant for the Central Salem Mobility Study. The proposal is loaded with things good for people who walk and bike! At the same time, some of the things to be studied are things we've talked about a lot, and the recommendation for further study is something of a punt. The upside is more talk gets more people comfortable and on board; the downside is we talk something to death and waste a study on blah-blah-blah.

Still, going from one-way to two-way streets would be huge, doing more for mobility and downtown vitality than perhaps any other single move.

The core of the study will be these three scenarios:
  • Two-way Street Conversions - High Street NE/SE, Church Street NE/SE, Cottage Street NE, Court Street NE, and State Street: Analyze the impacts of converting existing one-way streets to two-way for High Street NE/SE, Church Street NE/SE, Cottage Street NE, Court Street NE, and State Street. Some of the key issues to be addressed include vehicle delay, traffic volumes (in primary and secondary study area), impacts to on-street parking supply, impacts to transit operations (current and future), impacts to pedestrian circulation, bicycle facility improvements, turning movement restrictions, and cost to implement. In order to make the most efficient use of limited resources, an initial high-level review will be conducted to determine which street segments are the most viable candidates for conversion to two-way operation. The most viable street segments will then be given a higher priority for further analysis.
  • North Salem Big Blocks: Develop possible street configurations to support redevelopment of the north downtown area between Commercial Street NE, High Street NE, Division Street NE, and Market Street NE. At least one configuration will include extending Liberty Street NE to connect from Division Street NE to Belmont Street NE.
  • Pedestrian and Bicycle Access - Union Street Railroad Bridge: Evaluate possible options for creating a more direct and safe pedestrian and bicycle connection between downtown and the Union Street Railroad Bridge, and Riverfront Park.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Help Keep Church Street for Walking and Biking on Wednesday the 11th

Do you live in the SCAN neighborhood? Wednesday, the 11th, at 6:30pm in the South Salem High School library, the South Central Association of Neighbors will discuss both the Bike Plan Update as well as the Hospital's plan for the Blind School.

Both have important implications for north-south connectivity, especially to and through downtown!

Hospital Parking Lot and Church Street

You may remember the discussion of the Blind School parcel (here and here) and the Hospital's plans to put in a parking lot. The demolition is now complete, and Howard Hall's been retained, but there are still plans for a parking lot, and it's not yet final where the lot will empty and how the expected auto traffic will impact Church and Winter Streets.

Bike and Walk Salem identifies an urgent need for Church Street to handle more bicycling and walking traffic as a tier 1 project (in red) - not a need for it to handle more car traffic. The Bush Park - Gaiety Hill Historic District has also identified Church Street as having an important historic character, not consistent with high traffic volumes.

Willamette and Winter Street

But one reason the Hospital could be looking to Church Street (lower left on map, with Blind School parcel in green) is that Willamette's longer-term plans call for closing Winter Street to car traffic between State and Bellvue. That could be terrific.

But that could also impact the Hospital: With a Winter Street closed to cars north of Bellvue, access to State Street east-bound from the Hospital could be an issue. (Though Bellvue offers a light and a left hand turn lane at 12th, with connections to State Street.)

Because Willamette and the Hospital are aggregating smaller blocks into superblocks, movement may be bottlenecked and funneled, and through-mobility for all modes increasingly problematic. There's a complex relationship between institutional needs and community needs, and hopefully we can all find a good balance.

It will be important to see how the Hospital plans on using the Blind School property and what are their plans for the parking lot. Hopefully they will also see the importance of active transportation in light of increasingly urgent public health problems, like obesity and diabetes rates, and will recognize the importance of Church Street for north-south connectivity.

But as we all wait to see the plans, and as we press for action on Bike and Walk Salem, Church Street needs fans right now. Doug has argued improvements to Church Street should be one of the three highest priorities for the City, and a big parking lot would hinder that. So if you live in the neighborhood, consider attending the meeting.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Boise Project Heats Up; Design Review on Tuesday the 10th

CB|Two and Pringle Square South LLC will in a Type II Site Plan Review bring the latest plans for the Boise Project at Trade and Commercial across from the Civic Center. This will be for
  • 107 Residential units
  • 19,200 square feet of commercial space
  • 450 parking spaces in the existing structure
  • 35 parking spaces on a surface lot
  • and zoned for South Waterfront Mixed Use
The hearing will be at 5:30pm in the Council Chambers at the Civic Center on Tuesday, January 10th.

This is an important development for downtown! (And hopefully the site plan will clarify the RR crossing on State Street at the Carousel.)

Stay tuned.

(Here's some history and old renderings.)

Take Morningside Neighborhood Survey for Priorities on Parks, Walking, and Biking

The Morningside neighborhood is updating the neighborhood plan.

As part of the Morningside 360 project, you may have completed a survey about values and goals.

Now there's a new one about priorities for parks, walking, and biking. Be sure to take it!

There are meetings tonight and Thursday the 19th at Pringle Creek Community, Painter's Hall at 7pm. See the neighborhood association website for more info.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Bike Plan Back to Staff, Planning Commission Continues Hearing to March 6

Tuesday night the Planning Commission sent the Bike Plan back to staff with some direction on priorities, funding, outside consultation, and language, and asked to see a revision on March 6th.

The upside is there's time to educate and develop public support. The downside is delay brings out the foes and wears down proponents.

Most of the public comment this time was in opposition to the Plan or parts of the Plan.

The proposed cemetery path remained a lighting rod, and several folks came out to oppose it specifically. It continued to receive a disproportionate amount of the public comment.

System Development Charges were another issue. The best description I could find (2008 TSDC Update) suggests bike lanes are funded by Transportation System Development Charges:
all additional right-of-way costs are TSDC eligible, as well as all additional pavement, bridge and culvert expansions, installation of needed storm drainage systems (curb, gutter, catch basin to pipe systems or open ditch/swale systems), required water quality systems, and the cost of replacing existing pavement, curb, gutter, drainage, sidewalk, bicycle lanes, landscaping and street lighting needed to be moved or reconstructed due to having to expand the roadway section, or it beign [sic] damaged by constructing the improvement. [italics added]
But the representative from the Home Builders Association sought assurances from the City that SDC fees wouldn't fund bike infrastructure. I don't understand this completely, but it bears watching. (If you know the issues, please chime in!)

Commissioner Levin summed up an important part of the sentiment when he said that he wanted to see more "protection of private property rights." Representatives from the Home Builders Association, Americans for Prosperity, Willamette University, the Chamber of Commerce, and some individuals asked several times for "mandatory" or "mandating" language to be replaced by advisory, recommending, or encouraging language. In short, the focus for many seemed to be a hope for assurances that the plan remain aspirational and optional - not something that the City actually intends to do!

A bicyclist himself, Commissioner Fox asked about Policy 3.1 and the focus on ticketing people on bikes. He suggested that people on bike shouldn't be singled out, since the vehicular code applies to them basically the same as to people in cars. He also pointed out that the components of the bike chapter should be handled in the same way as the components in the street chapter and auto-focused portions: If the street project list is expansive and over-ambitious, why should the bike project list be any different?

All in all, it's hard to know what to say. We aren't at the point where we are asking, "is this a good transportation plan?" Instead, the battle is whether biking and walking even count as transportation: For several of the Commissioners they are lifestyle perks that shouldn't be paid for in the same way we pay for roads and other transportation facilities. Though the total quantity of public comments still on balance favors biking and the plan, several Commissioners appear more sympathetic to the opponents. In this regard biking looks to remain second-class. The City seems content to follow rather than lead, and the path here at this moment doesn't appear to be taking us very far. (This also shows a problem with treating each mode independently rather than looking at a multi-modal complete streets philosophy.)

Commissioner Gallagher had the most searching questions and he appears to be key as the swing vote and an honest broker. On the one hand, I have a great deal of sympathy with his desire for a more sharply articulated list of priorities. I would also like to see more focus. And I appreciate his willingness to say that some community transportation needs may trump individual private property rights. On the other hand, I worry that the biking and walking chapters are being held to different standards than the street and auto-focused chapters. In general, facilities for biking and walking should not be more optional than facilities for cars, but we seem to be going towards this asymmetry.

In any case City staff will draft an outline of what they understand the direction from the Commission to be, and then once the outline and direction is agreed upon, the plan revision and consultation with additional interested parties will commence.

Look for more to come.

And if you haven't commented, please do so! It's ever more important to demonstrate broad public support!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Comment on the Bike Plan before 5pm or Attend the Planning Commission!

Tonight the Bike Plan goes for a final time before the Planning Commission. At the first session there were lots of people. At the second session there weren't very many. If you can make it, consider coming to show your support. The online comment tool is still taking comment, and the record will be kept open at least until 5pm.

Here's the staff report with the latest edits and well as the revision reformatted to conform to the existing TSP style sheet.

Some additional changes have been made to routes, and it's not clear how concerned to be. One the one hand, some of the changes represent accommodations to property owners who have complained about the possibility of eminent domain. On the other hand, in many cases they are tier 2 or 3 projects, rather far off, and not important at the present. So taken individually, they are not really worth getting too worked up over. But hopefully they do not also represent a wholesale retreat in the face of individual opponents.

Here's an excerpt of a letter from a resident of west Salem with a proposed change to a route. The writer is someone who thinks that a good bike route includes a dismount and enforced walking, and that "there is no...truly safe way off the West Salem hills using a bicycle." It's hard to see such a writer as a credible source for an amended route. Does this person even ride a bike? Nevertheless, the Staff Report of November 1st recommended adopting the proposed change and it is included this way in the current plan (and January 3rd Staff report) before the Planning Commission.

Another area of retreat is on the enforcement policy, Policy 3.1:
The City shall encourage schools, safety organizations, and law enforcement agencies to provide information and instruction on bicycle safety issues that focus on the most important accident problems. Law enforcement agencies should use warnings and citations as a tool to enforce safe operation by bicyclists. [italics added]
As Doug pointed out, the enforcement policy should be mode-neutral and accurately assess risk: Unsafe motorist behavior kills a lot more people than unsafe bicyclist behavior and is involved in most serious crashes.

There are a few other instances of language being weakened in response to plan opponents.

Fortunately, one of the key issues regarding property acquisition seemed to find a satisfactory conclusion:
Additional key issues raised at the Planning Commission Work Session included proposed methods for acquiring property for bicycle and pedestrian proejcts and how people were notified of the proposed TSP amendments. As noted, project implementations, including property acquisition, will be consistent with the provisions of the Salem Revised Code.
Unless there's a rotten "easter egg" hidden in the SRC, this means that property acquisition for bike/ped projects will proceed by the same processes and be evaluated by the same standards as property acquisition for auto-oriented road expansion.

So, you know, compromise on the edges and keep the key center intact. Still, I worry that the City may be too ready to compromise or even bail out at the slightest opposition. Death by 1000 cuts and all. There's just not enough of a sustaining vision here.

The solution to this is popular support! If you haven't commented, please do so! If you facebook and haven't posted about it, hit the facebook. If you blog or tweet or tumblr or whatever social media you use - let your friends, colleagues, and peers know it's important to show support for improving biking and walking in Salem!