Wednesday, February 8, 2012

SCAN to Discuss Church Street and Parking Lot at Blind School Parcel

Tonight, the 8th, at 6:30pm in the South Salem High School library, the South Central Association of Neighbors will discuss the Hospital's plan for the Blind School.

At last month's meeting neighbors talked a little about the hospital's plans for an employee parking lot of about 300 stalls. It would have driveways both on Winter and Church Streets, but not on Mission. Neighbors are concerned about impacts to the most pleasant low-traffic street between Liberty and 12th - both High and Winter have slightly higher traffic volumes, but aren't as pleasant.*

Bike and Walk Salem also identifies Church Street as a tier 1 family friendly bikeway and walkway (in red). The Bush Park - Gaiety Hill Historic District has also identified Church Street as having an important historic character, not consistent with high traffic volumes.

At last month's meeting some design ideas that might mitigate some of the traffic impacts were floated, but subsequent conversation found these unsatisfactory.

If you have ideas or want to get involved, you should attend! City Traffic Engineer Kevin Hottmann is also supposed to be in attendance. Susan Miller will also talk about her greenway concept, which uses Church street and which links downtown Salem parks.

An Opportunity for Active Transportation

But maybe there's an opportunity here. Salem Hospital has a smoke-free campus. Signs posted near entries and other places say, "This is a place of healing."

While automobiles possess a clear social utility that cigarettes do not, automobile exhaust as well as physical inactivity are also documented health risks. Car use and active transportation should be public health matters.

According to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
The mobile source pollutants, including acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, 1,3 butadiene, diesel PM, benzene, and arsenic show high concentrations along and adjacent to the major traffic corridors....simultaneous exposure to multiple air
toxics, even at median exposure levels, creates the potential for adverse health outcomes, including cancer.

Geographically elevated cancer risks align with major highway corridors within the Portland area, which is consistent with on-road engines as an important source of benzene [and arsenic].
Located between the Salem Parkway and Mission Street, it's likely that the Hospital complex also experiences elevated air pollution.

Public opinion is slow to change, unfortunately. It has taken well over a half century of advocacy to create smoke-free public spaces. Why can't we learn from that campaign and work to promote the public health benefits of active transportation?

Oregon Health Sciences University might provide a model. Just a couple of months ago they published their 2011 Bike Program Report. They say
2011 was a banner year for biking at Oregon Health & Science University. We counted more bikes than ever on campus, marked one year of operation for our web application, test ran a popular bike valet, and the American League of Bicyclists Gold rated us as a Bike Friendly Business.

...OHSU has a robust array of incentives to aid transportation options: incentives recoup maintenance costs of biking; subsidies slash the cost of transit passes; yearend bonuses for employees incentivize walking and other active modes; and carpooling reduces a parking deduction by 50% or more. Reduced auto trips save the institution and the individual real dollars and cents by aiding health and reducing costs of commuting and parking. And for those who must drive, it eases traffic congestion and the demand for permits.
Salem Hospital should take a look! The reasons a bike program is good for OHSU are no different one would be good for Salem Hospital.

Maybe encouraging more employees and staff to bike can eliminate or reduce the need for additional employee parking.

* High, Church, and Winter are all rated as "collector" streets. Church Street south of Trade seems to get around 3000 trips per day; High at Mission between 3000-5000; Winter around 4000. It will be interesting to hear what Kevin has to say about volumes and trip generation from 300 stalls.


Curt said...

I think this video is very revealing and relevant, not only to the discussion tonight, but to the City budget debate and to the Bike Plan:

Curt said...

Also, if anyone wants to throw some "likes" my way it can't hurt.