Thursday, March 21, 2013

Kroc Center, new SSA Office, and Proposed VA Clinic all have Access Issues

Problems with Kroc Center access are very similar to problems at the new Social Security office, and suggest issues might be more than merely with the Feds or with rail!

The Kroc with two RR lines!
When you look at the list of significant projects in Salem - the Boise Redevelopment, Sustainable Fairview Redevelopment and the Fairview Industrial Park, the Kroc Center - it's impressive how many of them involve access issues complicated by trains.

But even more, as annoying and problematic are the railroad tracks, access issues are complicated and difficult in Salem because fundamentally, all we plan for are cars and those who drive them.  Everything else is just lipstick, sometimes lovely, more often perfunctory, but always a cosmetic veneer layered on as afterthought.  Levels of service are always just for cars

Tracks complicate things,
but they aren't the core problem
It was great to see in the Sunday paper more investigation into the execrable decision to site the new Social Security Office in such an inaccessible location. 

Folks really screwed up and if an ostensibly "sound" or administratively "correct" process led to this outcome - well, maybe we've got a bad process on our hands!

Left mostly untouched is the system question.  The head on the article frames it up as an issue for seniors.  The body of the piece discusses decision points for Cherriots and the City where with better information both Cherriots and the City might have steered the Social Security Administration towards different sites, better suited for a special needs population.  Throughout, however, it's not about providing mobility options for all people, but about providing mobilty options for seniors or the disabled.

And these are really important things.  Moreover, focusing on a particular and particularly disadvantaged population makes for better storytelling (narrative seems to be a thing with the SJ these days).

But shouldn't all people, from the most able-bodied to the wheel-chair-bound, have a robust menu of choices on ways to get around?

In Salem we have a system totally oriented around the drive-alone auto trip, and we make lots of poor siting decisions because we assume the default user will have a car and want to use a car for a drive-alone trip.  And then we waste money on planning studies and infrastructure to mitigate the access problems.

Surrounded by Rail and Industry
The poster child for this should be the Kroc Center.

October, 2011
But it is interesting how the critique of the Kroc and worries about declining membership over the last couple of years miss the very factors that are highlighted in the critique of the SSA office:  Transportation choice! Kids can't get there without a chauffeuring parent and a car.

The same factors are so far missing from the conversation about the Boise Redevelopment. Though many will criticize the developers for certain decisions of style, building uses, and anchor tenants, we cannot ignore the fact that the site suffers from some real challenges for transportation and connectivity. It's going to be a pretty car-dependent development, and the plans so far all focus on big parking lots and main entries distant from the street.

An early plan for the north block included a new at-grade rail crossing that would have closed State Street at the Carousel entry. With or without this, connections across Front, Trade, Ferry, and Commercial remain difficult. 

Former access plan with rail crossing and State St. closure
At Boise, the Kroc Center, and the new SSA office on McGilchrist, busy roads and insufficient facilities for people on foot, on bike, and in bus create formidable challenges for anyone who is not in a car.

This doesn't take away from what appears to be a certain carelessness in the SSA's process for site selection.  If serving vulnerable and transportation-disadvantaged people is part of their mission, they missed the mark badly.  The Federal Veteran's Administration appears to be poised to make the same mistake, planning to put in a clinic next door to the SSA office.  We should be concentrating things like this in downtown, at the center of the city where transit has its central hub.

But at the same time, Salem's poor transportation network for anything other than those making drive-alone trips in cars creates conditions where it requires extra effort at coordination and due diligence to ensure that a site has realistic connections for transit, bicycling, and walking, and ADA compliance.

According to the SJ article, the Mayor suggested that the City should not have changed the zoning on the site from industrial to one that allowed the office use.

Maybe the problem is that we don't take care of foundational mobility, don't built things like sidewalks, and instead want to blow $800 million on an extra bridge and elevated highway!

$8 million in planning already spent could have built
a lot of sidewalks by now

1 comment:

Walker said...

yes. this. Exactly. Only people in cars count.

Again: all elected officials and any folks on the public payroll who have anything to do with transport planning or deciding where services will be should have to spend a month a year as an auto less person.