Friday, May 31, 2013

Bicycling Best to Appreciate Preservation League's Most Endangered Places

Yesterday the Historic Preservation League of Oregon revealed their 2013 list of "Most Endangered Places."

One building is in Salem, and a group nomination has several representatives nearby in rural Marion and Polk counties.

Historic Preservation League:  Most Endangered Places
Phillips House in middle photo
The group nomination, for Pioneer Farmsteads of the Willamette Valley (1840-1865), shows, but does not name, the Phillips and Waldo Houses. The Phillips House is out in Zena, and the Waldo House is out in the Waldo Hills naturally enough.

Red dots show demolished houses; black dots show remaining.
Several remain in Polk and Marion counties.
There are several more in and around the hills and prairie surrounding Salem. Geercrest Farm, the home and farm of R.C. Geer on Sunnyview near Silverton, might be the best known. You're likely to bike by them on your rides!  (You can see the full infographic here.)

The building in Salem is the Dome Building at the State Hospital on the north parcel slated for sale and redevelopment.

Dome Building last fall

Dome Building in winter, South facade
Does bicycling have any necessary connection to these? Nope.

But the scale of a good mixed use redevelopment at the State Hospital will be perfect for bike travel to downtown, to many employers, and for many errands.

The Pioneer Farmsteads are often set back from the road, invisible to speedy car travel, and most accessible by bike. They are also spaced out at horse-and-buggy or footspeed distances, and bike travel is perfectly suited for traversing these. I would argue that there's a harmony, a fitness, between bike travel and the disposition of 19th century farms.  And as people on bike we should be more attentive to them.

There's a cluster of black dots in Keizer and it will be interesting to learn more about it.

As the weather will be glorious this weekend, as you're out-and-about, be alert for really old buildings!  They might be some of the early settlement farmhouses!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

History and Heritage Fair Today, Article in Sunday Paper

How do we use history?  "Heritage" seems to be the word du jour, and there are two opportunities this week to see it in action!  There's a fair today and an article on Sunday to look forward to.

On February 3rd, 1890, the first Center Street Bridge washed out and collapsed in the big flood.

Ruins and Aftermath:  Center Street Bridge Collapsed
in Flood on February 3rd, 1890
Photo, Salem Public Library
The paper on February 5th was full of news about it.

"What shall we do?" about the bridge -  Front Page, 5 February 1890
One article surveyed 18 "leading citizens" and asked "What shall we do?" Asahel Bush said:
Hon. A. Bush: there are various objections to a free ferry. I think that if Mr. Holman or some one will put in a good ferry and charge a minimum toll that...would be the most proper thing to do. If private parties do not put in a ferry then I would favor a joint stock company doing so. I want to see the bridge rebuilt, but when it is I want a good one, one that will be a credit to the county. I do not think it well to be too hasty in the matter. We might build a combination wagon and railroad bridge together, if a railroad bridge is wanted across the river.
It is interesting how this answer, and the others collected with it, anticipate and relate to the debate we are currently having about bridge replacements and new bridges.

Looks like the Sunday paper will have an article about this or a very close topic!  A Statesman editor yesterday tweeted:
While you might quibble about the hashtag, history most definitely rhymes.  What about "heritage"? Does it rhyme or repeat?  Whatever the case, the piece will make for interesting reading.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Bike Skills Fair at Hallman Elementary this Saturday

The Salem-Keizer Education Foundation is holding a bike skills fair at Hallman Elementary this Saturday.

Free Bike Skills Fair at Hallman Elementary
June 1, 1:00-3:30pm
  • Drawing for a free bike
  • 30 min class on bike safety
  • Bike obstacle course
  • Bike and helmet fittings
  • Food & other Prizes
For more information email the foundation!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Statewide Bike Safety Education Numbers Show Salem Lags Behind

The BTA has a note on bike safety education enrollment around the state.  It's interesting, but as it is more of a "rah-rah" than analysis, it's maybe a little short on context and interpretation.

Nevertheless, the second largest school district in the state doesn't show very well!

Of course, it was a year of transition, with the Boys & Girls Club taking over from the BTA for the first time.  But it is interesting to see Albany, Bend/LaPine, and Dallas far exceed Salem.

There's a growth opportunity here!

District Bike Students District Rank by Size
Portland area (+ 2 more) 5000 1
Bend 2500 7
Albany 800
Bethel 625
Eugene 620 3
Dallas 420
Ashland 344
Corvallis 330
Wilsonville 250
Salem 145 2
Gresham 75 10

With data from the Department of Education

City Council, May 28th

Maybe the most interesting thing at Council tonight is a clarifying motion by Councilor Bennett to close the public hearing on the third bridge on Friday, June 21st:
I move that the Salem River Crossing Public Hearing be continued to the June 24, 2013, Council meeting and that the record be held open for written testimony only. I further move that the record for written testimony be closed at 5:00p.m. on Friday, June 21, 2013, so that Council may have time to review the record in its entirety prior to the June 24, 2013, meeting.
Given the amount of material to review, this makes good sense. But it underscores the importance of submitting comment and testimony before the hearing and not just showing up in the belief you'll be able to speak.

Also a move to extend the reporting of the Parking Task Force from May 31 out to August 31.  With the contentiousness of metered parking, and the need for debate and outreach, who's going to disagree?  (Meanwhile, Salem Cherry Pits has shared more on the initiative petition to ban metered on-street parking downtown.  And why, on the contrary, metered parking might be a good idea here.)

There's material on an airport ground lease rate.  And a couple of "tax enterprise zone tax abatement" extensions.  One for Garmin AT at the airport, the other for Hanard Machine in West Salem.  Don't know whether these are good or bad deals for the city and its citizens, but if you're interested in the scale, scope, and ROI of business tax incentives, here's some raw data for you.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Boise-Carousel State Street Pickle: Rail and One-Way Grid Don't Make it Easy

Today's guest opinion in the paper about the proposed extension of State Street to service the apartments in the first phase of the Boise redevelopment project highlights an important question.

Entry and view from Carousel Parking Lot and Access Drive
Unfortunately, this is truly a complicated venture and space limits in the paper surely made the writers leave out multiple elements and nuances.

One of the biggest is the element of rail (and inflexible approaches to "rail safety") and more general questions about our transportation and street system in this corner of downtown.  It may, in fact, be that the biggest constraint on developing the site is how mobility for people on foot, on bike, and in cars is managed.

Editorial against  entry
You might recall the first time plans for the site were floated. These included closing off the State Street entry to the Carousel and creating a new at-grade crossing within the development. The Railroads and ODOT Rail are working to decrease the total number of at-grade crossings (those without going over or under the railroad) and they would not allow a new crossing without closing an adjacent one.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Who Needs Maintenance? Marion St. Bridge rates much worse than Skagit Bridge

How is it that "shiny and new and expensive" so often trumps "repair and maintain"?

Skagit River Bridge Collapse:  Seattle Times
During their most recent published inspections, the Skagit Bridge was rated 57.4, but the Marion St. Bridge rated only 29.7 and the Center St. Bridge rated almost the same as the Skagit bridge at 61.8.  These bridges are in need of repair!  So why the rush to plan and build a new bridge?

Marion St. Bridge = 29.7 rating; Skagit Bridge was 57.4
We need a bridge because we need a bridge...It's a glorious tautology!

Yesterday the Statesman came out with a draft for the Sunday editorial "lessons from the Skagit bridge collapse."  Mostly it's about the Columbia River Crossing, but it talks about Salem, too.  Or around Salem.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Ellis Lawrence-Designed Mausoleum Deserves Consideration this Weekend

Memorial Day is on Monday, and as you consider your own memorials and obsequies for departed family and friends, it's also nice sometimes to wander a little, to pay respect as we can to those we don't know.

One significant site in Salem that seems to languish and may not get enough love is the Mount Crest Abbey Mausoleum in City View Cemetery.  Designed by one of Oregon's most important architects, it is nevertheless off the beaten path.

The exterior is a little severe, and the massive doors are hard to swing open.  It might take a little courage to pass through them.  The interior is all classical, row-on-row of identical crypts, symmetrical and ordered.  It is a place for the modern refrigerium.

The promise for the mausoleum was "a better way," more scientific and civilized.

December 20th, 1913

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Tonight's I-5 Bridge Collapse Reminds us to Preserve and Maintain First; Third Bridge Can Wait - Updated

This is terrible. Tonight multiple media are reporting that a section of the I-5 Bridge over the Skagit River has collapsed.

Some have suggested that it is the bridge on WSDOT's list of "structurally deficient" bridges.

The bridge seems to have been built in 1953.

As we consider a giant bridge and highway for $800 million, this is a reminder that the Marion Street Bridge is also rated "structurally deficient," and the Center Street Bridge just above the threshold for "deficient."

We need to focus on repairing, preserving, and maintaining before we think about building a new giant bridge and highway.  Really.

Update, Saturday, May 25th

So now we have some facts. From the Seattle Times:

Year built: 1955
Number of spans: 4
Materials: Concrete cast deck; steel trusses
Average daily traffic (2007): 70,526
Trucks: 12% of total traffic
Sufficiency rating: 57.4
Superstructure condition: Fair, 5 of 9
Substructure condition: Satisfactory, 6 of 9
Deck condition: Satisfactory 6 of 9
Source: National Bridge Inventory 2010

It was "functionally obsolete" rather than "structurally deficient."  By contrast, the Marion Street Bridge rates 6/5/4 and 29.7 - the Skagit was 5/6/6 and 57.4.  The Marion St. Bridge is rated "structurally deficient."  The particular design of the Skagit Bridge also meant that it was "fracture critical," and liable to failure at a single point - like a truck strike might create.

Monday's Third Bridge SJ Story Shows Shift from Regional to Local Traffic Talk

In Monday's front page piece on the Third Bridge, it seemed like talk of local traffic and development issues were finally gaining traction over talk of regional transportation issues. Nevertheless, there's still a lot more explaining and analysis to be done between now and June 24th.

Would it kill the paper just to print a graph of the actual numbers? Doesn't have to be any explanation, even. Just let people decide for themselves whether bridge traffic is increasing, flat, or declining, and whether any shift started before or after the recession?

But the framing in the piece on this is easily questioned - more can be done than "he said, she said":
When the recession hit in 2008, a slowdown in construction might have been at least partially responsible for decreases in traffic over the Marion and Center street bridges, said Mike Jaffe, a planner with the Mid-Willamette Council of Governments. Some bridge planning opponents cite that flat line as an indicator that an additional crossing is not necessary.
Here's data from the Federal Reserve, that bastion of goofy, alternative lifestyles:

Driving and Recessions - Matthew Yglesias at Slate
Nationally and in Salem, the decline started before 2008!  In OSPIRG's recent report on the decline of driving, they include a chart that shows easily what is known, and what we all agree is the past data, and a series of scenario projections. That's a much more even-handed approach to letting the data speak.

OSPIRG chart shows multiple scenarios

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Overbuilt Capacity: The Problem with Parking Today is Tomorrow's Problem with the Third Bridge

There's a hornets' nest for you! The paper came out Sunday with an editorial in favor of metered parking.

As far as these things go, it seemed like a reasonable and fairly nuanced piece in favor of a gradual, flexible, and incremental approach.  The SJ got it right!
The main advantages of street parking meters would be:
  • Producing adequate revenue to pay for city parking operations and upkeep of the city parkades. As a result, the parking tax paid by downtown businesses would end.
  • Enabling downtown visitors to purchase street parking for longer than the current two free hours.
  • Shifting more drivers to free parking in the city parkades, thereby opening up more street parking.
It's a complicated conversation because there are two matters, and analysis sometimes slides too easily between them.

One matter is the dynamic of supply and demand - making sure that someone can find parking when they want it.

The other is revenue for the operating and capital expenses for parking.

Metered parking addresses both supply-demand and revenue.

Some say, "oh, I won't come downtown if I have to pay" - but the current plan would retain free parking in the garages for people that find "not-free" a deal-breaker.

Downtown remains something of a fragile and not-quite healthy ecosystem.  We should all want to be careful with it.  At the same time, whatever it is we've been doing, isn't exactly working.  A strong reason to think hard about metered parking is that free parking isn't working all that well.  Downtown isn't healthy, free parking hasn't made it healthy, and while change is difficult and sometimes scary, it's hard to understand why people see free parking as an effective key for downtown health.  Maybe an excess of free parking is part of the disease.  Metered on-street parking will contribute to a more lively streetscape, a more attractive downtown, and in the end attract even more people.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Mid-Century Modern in Salem: Four Buildings Better than the Bank

In Jeffrey Tumlin's talk last month, one of the very last things he mentioned was the role of beauty. He didn't give it much air time, and he admitted that it was a problematic topic due to differences in taste among individuals and beauty's resistance to being quantified and measured.

That Belluschi Bank:  Not Lovely.
A cold, sterile, box, and unfriendly at the sidewalk
An elusive quality, beauty doesn't work its way into policy and planning very easily.

Step 9 in Jeff Speck's Walkable City
The notion's in the air, happily enough.  Though Jeff Speck doesn't use the word, his criterion of the "interesting" walk suggests he'd agree beauty is an important ingredient.  Something "friendly and unique" is often going to be something attractive, even beautiful. His Step 7 on shaping spaces and step 8 on street trees, also point to the aesthetic dimension of walking and perception.  So even if he doesn't mention beauty outright, beauty is lurking in the background of several of his points.

Back in February, in a comment on a note about the Belluschi Bank, Jim threw down a challenge,"What building have we built in Salem since 1940 that is as good as this one?"

Salem doesn't have a lot of mid-century architecture, and in addition to needing to think about the virtues of simply reusing existing building stock, we are also now at the point asking how much of it we should be preserving as historically or architecturally significant.  It is, unfortunately, also an era that has produced some terribly ugly things, and the general style cues don't very often say "beauty." More often they say instead things like "order" or "function," or "exposed," and it might take effort to see something interesting or even beautiful.

With the Saul Zaik home tour in Portland, the Gordon House tea getting press for Mother's Day, mid-century has been in the air lately - since Jim threw down a good question, here's the start of an answer!

Save the Date! Downtown Mobility Study Final Open House June 12th

The announcement for the final Open House of the Downtown Mobility Study is out.

Mobility Study Open House, June 12th, 4-6pm
From the City:
A third and final public forum to present draft recommendations will occur on Wednesday, June 12, from 4- 6 pm at the Salem Library, Anderson Rooms. Please join us to review project details, recommended phasing, and costs. Computer-generated imagery of some projects will be available. Presentations will occur at 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.
Will the 3rd round recommendations do better than they did in round 2?

Informed rumor suggests two-way conversions are losing ground, alas.

We'll just have to see!

More once the poster boards and other materials are posted.

(For all notes on the downtown mobility study see here.)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Legislative Update, Week 15

Getting There!
Skipped last week.  Future updates may be haphazard and random as there just isn't that much of interest for bikes and transportation generally.  See week 12 for longer list of bills that died in committee and other bills that looked certain to die in committee.


Two hearings, one on Monday, May 20th on a study of studded tires; the other also on Thursday the23rd on length of license suspensions.  See below for links to the hearings agenda.  Neither seem like key legislation.

Only three bills really remain active on the watch list here.

Paying for the Roads
  • Studded tires.  House Bill 2277 is the survivor! In committee, though, it was watered down from genuine action to a call for the proverbial "further study" on the "impact" of studded tire use.  There's a hearing on the 20th.
  • House Bill 2453 - "Requires persons operating certain high-mileage motor vehicles to pay per-mile road usage charge or flat annual road usage charge." It continues to get hearings and at least to give the appearance of movement. Work Session held on the 14th.
Road Safety
  • HB 3047 would double the length of a motor vehicle license suspension from 10 to 20 years.  In Senate Judiciary.  Work Session for the 23rd.
Bills Moribund in Committee, looking doubtful

  • ConnectOregon V reform - House Bill 2310 to fund "ConnectOregon" has moved out of committee and picked up amendments to include bike/ped projects, but there has been no movement for a month now and it looks increasingly dead.   
  • Celphones, texting, and distracted driving - Senate Bill 9 filed by Senator Courtney would "increase the penalty [for using a cel phone while driving] from a Class D violation to a Class B violation, which means the maximum fine would increase from $250 to $1,000. The minimum fine would increase from $60 to $130."  (The amendments are still baffling.  Hopefully folks will chime in with some clarification.  I have no idea what this bill really means.)  It also looks stalled in committee. Senate Bill 294 would create an exception in existing law for taxi-cab drivers to use a hand-held celphone while driving. It passed the Senate and is in the House.  Hearing held on the 8th, but no movement it seems.
  • House Bill 2115 would broaden the definition of intoxicating substances for the purposes of DUI citations.   It has picked up amendments, and went to the floor, but it was re-routed back to committee last month.  Could be death by procedural shuffling.
House Bill 2500 on school transportation funding and Senate Bill 756 donations to Parks and Rec for bike path funding look more than moribund.

All of this year's legislative updates are tagged 2013 Legislative Session.

If you know of something of interest, please add it in the comments!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Pioneering Healthier Communities Working on Walking Book

At the Y, the Pioneering Healthier Communities is working on a book of walking routes for Salem!

They are using the Walk There! 50 Treks as a model.

Through the 24th they're collecting information about walking - so click here and help 'em out! They especially need information about tipping point kinds of things - what pushes you over the edge to walk, and what barriers keep you from walking.

(Dual turn-lanes and busy roads and long stretches of arterials without crosswalks!)

Hopefully they're also thinking about Tumlin and Speck!

How was your Bike to Work Day?

Did anything interesting happen at your workplace?  Any people try bicycling for the first time?

Yesterday BikePortland featured a note about the 2012 ODOT Sustainability Progress Report and employee demographics.
ODOT Sustainability Progress Report

The report also has some interesting things about Salem, commuting, and sustainable transport naturally enough.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Proposed Streetlight Fee Shows City Knows Driving in Decline; USA Today Says "Just Raise Gas Tax"

Back in February, City Council adopted a legislative position against any statewide increase in the gas tax, and they are instead trying to raise revenue by a proposed local utility fee.  But as they argue for the utility fee, they have to admit that driving is in decline.  Will they align this position with their position on bridge traffic?  Something's gotta give!

Interestingly, just a couple of days ago, USA Today came out with a strong editorial in favor of raising the gas tax.
Gas taxes are not perfect. Unlike transponders, they don't allow for peak-hour pricing to reduce congestion. And, as many states have figured out, they raise less money when people buy more efficient cars.

But they have the great virtue of being uncomplicated and fair. The people who pay the most gas tax are those who drive the most and use the most gas. Makes sense to us.... is best to keep things simple.

And the simplest, fairest and least invasive way to respond to lower gas tax revenue is with higher gas taxes.
The State is monkeying with House Bill 2453, which would add a mileage fee for owners of electric cars and other high-mileage vehicles.

Meanwhile, as Curt pointed out in a comment, the City's argument for adding a fee to utility bills to pay for street lights is revealing.

Slides from Staff Presentation
The City has been talking about this for at least a couple of years.  It first hit the blog during the Sustainable Cities Initiative.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Our Approach to Rail Safety has Real Costs and Sometimes Fails to Encourage Compliance

In the paper today is a note about Operation Lifesaver and "International Level Crossing Awareness Day." The piece shows a picture of the crossing at 12th and Mill.

About it the piece says:
The Mill Street SE crossing in Salem, near the Amtrak station, was identified as a high-density area for pedestrian and bicycle traffic. There is an elevated foot bridge for pedestrians to cross to and from Willamette University and the Tokyo International University of America.

However, it is not the shortest route.

“The crossing has bells, lights and crossing arms, but people need to be looking and listening for them — not texting,” said Diane Young of Salem, an Operation Lifesaver volunteer. “Students with cell phones and ear buds in place cross regularly without even looking up.”
Not mentioned is the way our approach to "safety" sometimes displaces problems and shifts them to other locations in the street and complicates what should be direct and intuitive movements for people on foot and on bike. (Epicycles, I tell you!)

The crossing at Mill & 12th is an excellent example.  Having used it a good bit over the winter and spring, I find one movement in particular especially nerve-wracking and worrisome.  The work shifts conflict from the RR crossing to the street corner and intersection.

When going north on 12th/13th by the train depot and wanting to turn right to make my way onto the promenade, the design forces me to become an urban deer.  Just like a bike salmon, I have to perform a ridiculous, non-standard, unsafe movement that cannot do other than totally flummox and even anger motorists for whom it looks like some stupid random bike crap.  It makes people on bike perform unexpected things rather than act in more predictable ways.

I hate this!  Rail safety people should hate it as well.

The right-hand turn is especially screwed up

New Report Adds to Chorus on Decline of Driving - updated

The New York Times has a piece on the latest outfit to observe that we are driving less.

A New Direction report:  We're Driving Less!
The PIRGs - the NY Times says US PIRG, the report's links point to OSPIRG - released another study documenting the decline in driving.  But you have to wonder, at what point will the news sink in?  The PIRGs might be too fringey to sway the mainstream.  I mean, how many times have folks documented the change to City Council and the Salem River Crossing staff?

They are immune!

But here is is again:
The Driving Boom is now over.
BikePortland chimes in with thoughts from an interview with ODOT Director Matt Garrett and the agency's reluctance to embrace change.

You can download the 64pp report here.

Fancy infographic here.

Update, August 31st

Here's another one!

A couple of days ago OSPIRG released Moving Off the Road:  A State-by-State Analysis of the National Decline in Driving.

From the conclusion:
America’s six-decade Driving Boom lasted so long with such consistent increases in driving that it came to be seen like an immutable law of nature. The evidence suggests that there has been a long-term shift toward stagnant or even declining driving. It may be tempting to dismiss this shift as merely a temporary side effect of the recession, but the evidence does not support this view. Looking at state-level trends further confirms that the decline in driving is about more than an economic aftershock.

Accepting that the Driving Boom has ended presents an enormous opportunity. Our transportation system remains oriented to the goals of the 1950s, focused on creating new highways and expanded mobility for a new era of expanding automobile ownership. To the extent that driving rates no longer climb, it makes it easier for America to shift priorities. Revising forecasts about future driving will make it easier to achieve billions of dollars in savings by not building new highways and expanding old ones. It will be easier to dedicate highway funds to repairing and maintaining bridges and roads that are in disrepair. And it makes it easier to prioritize investment in other modes of transportation that are expanding rapidly, such as public transit, biking, walking and intercity rail.
The full report (31pp) can be downloaded here.

Update, Dec 14th

Here's another one.

 Transportation in Transition came out a couple of weeks ago and in it OSPIRG took another run at driving decline denialism. 

Will it make any headway? 

The full report (63pp) can be downloaded here.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Kuebler and I-5: Epicycles and Sidewalkification

Things are heating up in discussions for the design of the Kuebler Road and I-5 interchange, and a proposal has been making some rounds in neighborhood meetings.  The proposal is for something shiny and new, but at best (and this is at present more theoretical than established, as even the project team says many of its benefits are yet "theoretical") it offers tiny, incremental change for people on foot and on bike.

I don't know how much time is worth spending on this. The project is already well underway, and it's in a part of town that is already so screwed up it is nearly irredeemable.

Even the best project will only begin to address facilities for a few more than those exclusively among the "strong and fearless" people on bike - it would barely make inroads to address the needs of "enthused and confident" and doesn't get anywhere close to addressing the vast majority of those "interested and concerned."  When you look at it, you will wonder how many moms would send their child on it.

So this falls under the rubric of "pick your battles" and I don't think this is a battle to choose.  It's between bad and bad - and how much does a slight difference in bad really matter?

Anyway, if you're curious...first came to notice back in January, when Curt pointed it out in a comment.  A developer was using a new ODOT process to propose a different interchange design for a project authorized in the Legislature's big 2009 roads package.

Diverging Diamond
The proposed design is a diverging diamond and the project team is taking it out to neighborhood associations, last month to Morningside neighborhood.

Monday, May 13, 2013

City Council Tonight on Third Bridge - Hearing Continued to June 24th (corrected)

Tonight's Public Hearing brought irony, unintended humor, a poem, and one more neighborhood association in opposition, to the bridge question.  It also brought a 45 day continuation to June 24th for more written testimony and time to review project alternatives. As Councilor Bennett said "This is not ready for prime time."

It did not start off auspiciously.  Mayor Peterson scolded the audience and forbid the showing of signs.

(If that's not a violation of the first amendment, it sure is an instance of being a heavy-weight and squelching dissent!)

Here's some slides from the Staff Report with brief response.

Seven Neighborhoods say No; Five More this Week Can Join!

In today's paper the lead on the City Council preview is that six neighborhood associations are on record opposing a giant bridge and highway.  A seventh was just added.

Front page news
This week several more neighborhood associations meet. While the bridge and highway is not on the agenda for most of them, it's not too late to attend your neighborhood association and solicit a vote on the no third bridge resolution or something similar!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013
SEMCA - South East Mill Creek Association
10:00 a.m.
Sundial Mobile Home Park - Hall
2310 Lancaster Drive SE

NOLA - North Lancaster Neighborhood Association 6:30 p.m.
Oak Park Community Church of God
(Youth Center in the back)
2990 Lancaster Drive NE

7:00 p.m.
Hee Hee Illahee RV Park
4751 Astoria St NE - clubhouse
The third bridge is on the agenda, so be sure to attend!

Wednesday, May 15th
7:00 p.m.
Pringle Creek Community Painters Hall
3911 Village Center Drive SE

Saturday, May 18, 2013
3:00 p.m.
Sunnyslope Park
1800 Matthews Street S

Not sure about your neighborhood association?  Check the City's guide here.  Links to agenda and minutes are here.

For more on the River Crossing / Third Bridge see a summary critique and all breakfast blog notes tagged River Crossing. The No Third Bridge advocates also have lots of useful information and are organizing speakers at City Council tonight.

City Council, May 13th - Bridge, Bridge, Bridge: Lalala I can't hear you!

No Third Bridge signs are sprouting up, and here's one from over the weekend!

Tonight Council takes up the continued public hearing on the bridge. In the staff report packet, there's but one letter in support, and it just recapitulates in writing testimony given in person on April 22nd. There's nothing new.  In opposition are several letters and an increasing number of neighborhood associations.

It's striking how little support from the public there has been, and how the support when it does show is characterized by vague generalities - in a real contrast with the specificity and detail in the arguments by opponents. An impartial judge might or might not score it a knock-out, but would certainly give opponents the win on points by a large margin.

Arguments in support have been weak, weak, weak.

Nevertheless there a sense that supporters have simply plugged their ears and refused to listen. There's no sense they are actually engaging the arguments against the giant bridge and highway.

Anyway, at this point there's nothing new to say about facts and arguments.

The political process, however, might be worth watching.  Behind the scenes conversation suggests there might be change in the wind - and so it is imperative for a show of force at Council to help nudge things in a constructive direction.

Especially if you haven't been to Council yet, consider going in the strongest possible way!  The forces of rationality request your attendance!

It will be crowded so consider showing up at 5:30 or 6:00 to make sure you get a seat - and a sticker!

For more on the River Crossing / Third Bridge see a critique and all breakfast blog notes tagged River Crossing. The No Third Bridge advocates also have lots of useful information and are coordinating speakers.

Other Matters

The Minto Bridge.  There's a simultaneous action in the Urban Renewal Agency and City Council to provide $750,000 in Urban Renewal Funds as a local match for a $750,000 Oregon Parks and Recreation Grant.  (Three reports!  One, Two, Three.)  At least theoretically, this looks to complete the funding.   Current and planned committments total $6.5 million, anticipated cost is $8 million, and this combined $1.5 million would look to close the gap.

There's a move to study the code on street trees and make some recommendations related to planting, pruning, and removal.

The report on a Micro Enterprise Food Manufacturing Accelerator Feasability Study is actually kind of interesting as a study in the role of networks and realism for Salem business development.  If it weren't for the bridge, it might be worth looking at in more detail.  Maybe for a future note.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

SJ Fails to Take own Advice: Whiffs on Third Bridge

From the editorial:
Objections to the project have centered on the cost and financing, location, effects on neighborhoods, and whether, based on traffic trends, the bridge really will be needed.

Those are worthwhile questions, but the bridge has been needed for more than 30 years to reduce congestion while serving commuter, tourist and commercial traffic. Salem has done about all it can to improve traffic flow on the Center and Marion Street bridges.[italics added]
From an earlier note yesterday on assault and reporting at Willamette:
But that also was a lesson for student journalists: To be effective, they can't just spout off. They have to back up opinions with evidence and they have to present all sides of an issue.
Instead of talking right over "objections to the project" and dismissing them by fiat and circular logic -"the bridge is needed" because we need a bridge! - the SJ refuses its own advice to "back up opinions with evidence" and "present all sides of an issue."

(At least they did publish a counter-point from 1000 Friends just below the editorial, but is significant they did not hold one of those "editorial board" lunchtime meetings with critics and with supporters.  It's hard to see that the SJ has taken strong measures on both the reporting and the editorial side to investigate the project thoroughly.)

Maybe most crucially, it is far from proven that Salem has done all it could do.

Indeed, in January, on the same editorial page, in a column titled "You and I are environmental hypocrites":
Altered work schedules. I’d bet that most of Salem’s traffic congestion could be eliminated if public and private employers radically changed their work schedules and fewer people were on the roads at the peak hours.
It's hard to square "most of Salem's traffic congestion could be eliminated" with "Salem has done about all it can do."  And if opinion changed from January to May, then that deserves a much longer discussion.  That's a giant inconsistency to pass over so lightly.

WESD and Courthouse Square have got tons of reportorial resources applied to them.  The proposed giant bridge and highway is in cost more than an order of magnitude greater, hundreds of millions rather than tens of millions. By this calculation it is reasonable to ask whether 10x the staff time should be allocated to investigating claims and intellectual honesty in the DEIS about the giant bridge and highway!  The case is far from proved, and the SJ has an actual job to do in "backing up opinions with evidence" on a once-in-a-generation sized project.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Fences and Streets: How we Configure Park Edges

With Hood View Park on Kale Street NE opening this weekend, it will be interesting to see how it relates to the rest of the neighborhood. In many cases the edges of our parks are hard borders, fences or other inactive and non-permeable borders.

Bryan Johnston Park along Mildred Lane - kids are playing
on equipment, the basketball court, and lounging on blankets;
people are also walking dogs
I think that Bryan Johnston Park is the most recently completed park, and it makes for an interesting comparison.

While Bryan Johnston Park has a nicely open edge along Mildred Lane, the rest of the edge is strange.  Across the street the houses and yards are all fenced, and back into the park.  The whole development, in fact, is fenced along the sidewalk, and the fence almost looks like a sound barrier you'd find along an urban or suburban highway!  Though Mildred has little auto traffic, and has very few intersections and turning possibilities, for future development it is today classified as a "minor arterial" and built to a three-lane standard with a continuous turn lane.  You can see a pedestrian island in the middle of part of it, where the turn pocket is completely superfluous, with no turn movement across traffic into the park possible.  Mildred is over-built here, and the wish in current standards to control access on a minor arterial means that all the houses have front doors facing the other way on a parallel street one block up on Mountain Vista Ave.

By comparison, let's look at one of Salem's favorites, Bush Park, an older park. If the houses along Mildred all back onto Bryan Johnston Park, the houses along High Street all have front doors and front yards facing Bush Park, as if the park were an extension of the front lawn!  High Street is classified as only a "collector," but it has a lot more traffic, and it's only two lanes wide.   But the edges and permeability here are all far more active than along Mildred!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Our Parking Problem is also a Walking Problem - Jeff Specks Ten Steps of Walkability

An important part of our problem with parking is actually a problem with walking! As one commenter elsewhere said,
No one likes to park, go a half block get ticket, go back to car, put ticket on car correctly, then go to store. This is what pay and display demands.
Another person said,
And don’t tell me that they can park in the garage — the folks who park there are going to one of the locations attached by a skybridge or just across the street, they’re not walking 5 blocks in Oregon weather just to get to the block where they’ll get their hair done.
A third person said,
The City consultant reported “80% of women will walk 750 feet from where they park to their first destination, the other 20% will walk farther, as long as the area they walk through is engaging.”
Clearly there's a sense in which walking is a big part of the problem.  In his four-part piece on walking Tom Vanderbilt says that
walking in America has act dwelling in the margins, an almost hidden narrative running beneath the main vehicular text. Indeed, the semantics of the term pedestrian would be a mere curiosity, but for one fact: America is a country that has forgotten how to walk. Witness, for example, the existence of “Everybody Walk!,” the “Campaign to Get America Walking” (one of a number of such initiatives). While its aims are entirely legitimate, its motives no doubt earnest, the idea that that we, this species that first hoisted itself into the world of bipedalism nearly 4 million years ago—for reasons that are still debated—should now need “walking tips,” have to make “walking plans” or use a “mobile app” to “discover” walking trails near us or build our “walking histories,” strikes me as a world-historical tragedy.

Jeffrey Tumlin also pointed out that humans were made to walk.

Why do we resist walking so much?  People's wish to minimize the amount of light exercise in walking they might get on a daily basis contributes to the public health problems of obesity and diabetes.  (The more you walk and bike now, the less you might need to go the gym!

Unfortunately, we fail with the carrot.  We create crappy places for walking, so who's gonna blame someone for not relishing the idea of walking a few blocks (or many blocks!).

This seems like a great time to excerpt Jeff Speck's "Ten Steps of Walkability" from Walkable City.  (Brief intro here.)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Really, We have Plenty of Parking Downtown

How can anyone look at this map and conclude there's not enough parking downtown?  In addition to on-street parking that is less than 75% full at peak hours, and public parking garages less than 50% at peak, downtown is like swiss cheese, full of parking lots!

Downtown Surface Parking Lots in Red
Parking Garages in Solid Brick Red
On-street parking stalls not included
click to enlarge (1 mb total, 1874 x 1114 px)
Over time as buildings have burned or been demolished, we've hollowed out the urban fabric of downtown and reduced the number and diversity of businesses downtown.  The more we cannibalize real estate or the public right-of-way for parking, the fewer destinations there will be for people to visit after they've parked!  That's less economic activity - less private wealth, fewer public tax dollars.  Less prosperity all around.

The ways we've gutted downtown for surface lots is related to our obsession with free on-street parking.

In the short-term, pricing on-street parking looks scary, like it might send people to the malls and big-box stores situated on gigantic parking lots.  In part that's an argument for economic gardening to develop goods and services for which there are not easy substitutes at the mall or big-box store.  And there is merit to the argument by opponents of priced parking that on-street parking is already only utilized at 75%, less than the 85% that is currently identified in best practices as optimal.  These defenders of free parking acknowledge we already have a surplus of parking.  (But if that's true practically rather than abstractly, why do people say parking downtown is difficult?  Maybe the surplus still isn't being used efficiently, in which case pricing will make a more efficient market.)  Making changes will not be easy and balancing policy goals with unintended consequences important.

But in the medium- and long-term, we have to refocus the debate to be people-centered - on a multi-part strategy for how we get people downtown, and not make the mistake of equating cars and people, focusing only on road capacity for autos and temporary, free auto storage.  Cars ≠ people!  And the nearly exclusive focus on accommodating cars for the last 75 years or so has been counterproductive, eroding and harming, not helping, our efforts to make downtown more vital and prosperous.  The more we dig in on cars today, the harder it will be to reverse the negative feedback loop of that three-quarter century.  Just look at Detroit.

(The idea for the map is hardly new.  Here's a large collection of them for other cities.  If you know of a better one for Salem, please drop a link in a comment.  Maybe someone has done this before and done it better?  Parking usage rates from 2010 study.  There's a lively debate on free parking here.)

Legislative Update, Week 13

Is it over yet?
Things are really slowing down for people who bike and more general transportation matters.

See week 12 for longer list of bills that died in committee and other bills that looked certain to die in committee.

There are several other bills left that look likely to die in committee, and we'll follow them for a bit longer.  But things don't look real promising for meaningful legislation in our little corner.


Two hearings, one on Wednesday, May 8th on a mileage tax; the other also on Wednesday the 8th on the celphone exemption for taxicab operators.  See below for links to the hearings agenda.

The different piles after the jump.