Monday, June 24, 2013

City Council, June 24th: Third Bridge and Parking Garages, Overbuilt Infrastructure

Calling the proposed giant bridge and highway a benefit for "multi-modal" travel is like calling a parking garage with extra-wide staircases a "multi-modal" garage.

(But,'s got extra room for walking and deluxe stair rails!)

A new bridge is a "solution" to no actual problems
for people who bike; instead, it creates
a bunch of new problems and exacerbates yet more.
Over and over this scene comes to mind:
'I don't know what you mean by "glory",' Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. 'Of course you don't — till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you!"'

'But "glory" doesn't mean "a nice knock-down argument",' Alice objected.

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'

'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master — that's all.'
That's the City in a nutshell on this.

2006 Purpose and Need Statement
June 24th Staff Report on Salem Alternative
See how it's "aligned" with the purpose and need?

Tonight Council will "deliberate" - and it certainly is looking like a done deal - on the Third Bridge.  At his point there may not be any benefit to being diplomatic.  The language of multi-modalism is outright greenwash:  "Improves cross-river bicycle and pedestrian access."  Ha.

We want in-town bicycle and pedestrian access, thank you.  Access to schools, businesses, and other urban destinations.  Not access to Highway 22 or to I-5.  This is not the kind of access people on foot and on bike want or need.

Implementing Bike and Walk Salem for tens of millions of dollars would do something positively for people on foot and on bike.  Building a giant bridge and highway for hundreds of millions, even billions, will multiply barriers on land after making a single point-to-point connection across the river.

Don't sell a giant highway and bridge by cloaking it as a great improvement systemwide for non-auto travel.  More than horse-pucky, this is industrial scaled, factory farmed ordure.

Just like a parking garage with extra-wide staircases, this is a deluxe facility for cars.  It's gilded and mono-modal.  It's all about the drive-alone trip.

Skagit River Bridge Collapse:  Seattle Times
Tacked onto the staff report as a kind of PS is this:
Furthermore, staff recommends Council authorize the Mayor to sign a letter to the Oregon Department of Transportation to urge continued attention to maintenance of the Center and Marion Street Bridges to ensure ongoing safety of these facilities.
Gotta love this expression of priorities.

There's much more to say, of course, but nothing new.  It's still a terrible idea.

For more on the River Crossing / Third Bridge see reasons it's a bad idea, and all breakfast blog notes tagged River Crossing. The No Third Bridge advocates have the latest news and information, other reasons it's a bad idea, and are coordinating a presence at Council. 

Downtown Parking

SE Corner of Chemeketa and Commercial, then and now
Then: Eldridge Block circa 1940, Salem Library
Inset, today: Chemeketa Parkade
(Click to enlarge)
As we contemplate the creation of one grotesquely overbuilt and expensive structure, downtown struggles with the legacy of other overbuilt and expensive structures. Our commitment to the downtown parking garages has created a drain on city finances.  As pointed out over the weekend, the current $2.8 million budget this year includes $1.4 million in subsidy from Urban Renewal funds.

People who oppose the bridge and support free parking downtown should think more on the ways the problems might have some parallels.

Proponents of free parking count cars instead of people, and make the same mistake that bridge boosters make: That the only way to ensure prosperity and mobility is to encourage and pump more cars into the system.  But in fact, people arrive many different ways, and the long-term health of downtown depends on creating a more diverse transportation ecosystem in which there are many ways to go downtown.

It is astonishing that people say, there are ways to solve congestion that don't require an expansion of the bridge system to serve drive-alone trips, and at the same time say that downtown is utterly dependent on serving people making drive-alone trips who will flee at the slightest hint of meters.

In the paper's Friday Winners and Losers, the SJ had it right:
LOSER: Anti-parking meter petition. Several downtown property and business owners have launched an initiative petition drive to force an election on whether to allow parking meters in downtown Salem. The petition drive is reactionary and premature. Give the city time to develop a specific, well-researched and technically advanced parking meter plan — and then debate its merits.
It's not like a plan for meters is going to make downtown go cold-turkey. A good plan would be staged and gradual, and have milestones where the course can be altered and corrected as actual conditions require. Technology, for example, can support variable pricing, and an on-street scheme could offer no-fee for especially low-demand times and a higher fee for high-demand times.  If equity with the big box stores is really a problem, a compensatory mechanism could be built into a funding scheme. There are lots of possibilities, and lots of ways to create a fair and effective system.  Whatever the parking task force situation is, it most certainly is not a wish or conspiracy to kill downtown. If anything, it is recognition that after 35 years of free on-street parking, downtown is still not healthy, and we need a change.

(This has been one of the most striking differences between the arguments:  Proponents of free parking say that free-parking has worked well for 35 years. Some people who say metered parking deserves a strong look read the evidence very differently:  Downtown has continued to struggle over those 35 years, and free parking has never yielded a healthy downtown.  We need more debate:  We should hear more about ways that free parking has been a great success and essential ingredient in downtown vitality.)

Seismic Retrofit for City Hall

Finally, City Hall's gonna collapse in the big quake.

Two elements requiring infrastructure that are undeniably critical are emergency services and basic government services.

Instead of spending money on a giant bridge and highway, we should be saving it for a seismic retrofit of City Hall and a new police facility.  Council looks to start a "public outreach" effort for funding on this.  It should be like, "Hey, Council and Citizens, if you got to choose, a giant bridge and highway or a new police facility, and you only had money to go to one of them, which would you choose?"  This should be a no-brainer.  (There are, in fact, multiple priorities and values that should be stacked up next to the bridge and force a choice:  Schools or a bridge?  Repair old bridges or build a new bridge?  Transit or a bridge?  Sure, the moneys come out of different pots, but there's not an endless supply of money.  We have to make choices, and by choosing a giant bridge and highway, there are other things we won't be able to plan for and afford.)

Bullet points!

Latest iteration of Minto Bridge - click to enlarge


Curt said...

A potential equalizer in the race to the bottom for free parking is the new storm water charge. Based on that formula, Lancaster Mall is looking at around $66000 in new storm water charges for all the impermeable surface they have in their parking lot. That fee could easily be increased and used to fund street maintenance. It would be much fairer than the fee that is on the table now.

Anonymous said...

Here's the supplimental agenda -

It looks like the CoC's petition in support of the bridge is 2x as long as it needs to be! They reproduce the list twice, once by signature, and again by typed transcription.

Anonymous said...

It's also worth pointing out that one of the Official "project need" statements is "Develop a financial strategy for implementation."

Which has totally been ducked, and nothing in the current process addresses this component.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

The storm water fee looks very interesting! Wasn't aware of that. Thanks for pointing it out.

Thanks also for the addendum and point about the P&N statement.

Also! 9-0 Cavalcade of Consiliar Amity and Riverine Rapture last night. As suspected, it was something of a charade of deliberation.

And so it goes.