Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Third Bridge has Faulty Foundations: Its Flawed Analysis of Transit

1975 Land yacht:  Wikipedia
The $687 million Alternative 4D is surely the vintage Cadillac of bridges.

So why aren't we talking about Lexus bus service? (Oh, wait, bus service always has to be bad!)

If there's just one picture that conveys the dubious nature of much of the analysis behind the Third Bridge, maybe it's the transit analysis. Even more than the declining rates of miles traveled and licensing that we can project into the future, the transit analysis shows the flaws in the process.
Sloppy or Intellectually Dishonest?
According to the River Crossing FAQ,
approximately half (46%) of the traffic using the bridges originates from or is destined for points in western Polk County and beyond. The other half (54%) originates from west Salem.
The approach that's taken is to solve the problem for the 46% who don't live in Salem by proposing a giant highway and bridge to by-pass downtown Salem.

But an easier and less costly approach would likely target the 54% who live in Salem.

When the team "studied" transit, however, it used a straw man to find that transit would fail the 54%.

According to the project alternatives page,
During the alternatives development process, a stand-alone Transportation System Management and Transportation Demand Management (TSM/TDM) alternative was studied and determined not to meet the project Purpose and Need all by itself.
And at the center of what it studied, as you can see from the picture, were just two new routes based on a park-and-ride approach.

You know:  Ask people to get into their cars, drive to a lot, then get out of their cars and transfer to a bus, and then make the reverse trip.

Left unstudied was a robust network of residential bus routes in West Salem that offered frequent and convenient door-to-door service.

The official study used crappy bus service that already asked people to get into their cars to conclude that all bus service is helpless to reduce congestion!

And once you accept this conclusion, as the citizens of Salem and project participants are asked to do, then so much of the giant highway and bridge concept seems to follow by necessity.

There are plenty of reasons to oppose the bridge.  One list is here, and another is here.   And the Oregonian has a heart-breaking story about "displacement," likely condemnation and resulting homelessness for an 86 year old woman in the way of "progress." 

But the reply to many objections or critiques, as it was last Monday at Council, is that other solutions don't meet the purpose and need and that the project team has already investigated TSM/TDM measures and found them wanting.

Staff will continue to say to Council and others that a giant bridge and highway is necessary, and that the project team has already studied this exhaustively.

But that's just not true.

At the center of the analysis - maybe not the single point of the center, but certainly in that inner ring - is a spectacularly errant "study" of transit.  No conclusions on funding and building should be drawn until a better study has been undertaken.  Until then, support for a $687 million dollar bridge and highway is misguided and would lead to grave waste - waste in dollars and waste in the community.

(Here's the relevant TSM/TDM memo from the Task Force proceedings. Here's the earlier discussion of it on the breakfast blog.)

For more on the River Crossing / Third Bridge see a summary critique and all breakfast blog notes tagged River Crossing. The next important date is the West Salem Neighborhood Association meeting at 7pm on the 19th.

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