Sunday, July 14, 2013

New Keizer Transit Station has Nice Bike Racks - But Getting to them? Not so Easy

By Salem standards the bike racks at the new Keizer Transit Station are pretty posh. They're staples, generously spaced, and they're covered. What more could you want?

Decent Bike Parking in Salem!
But located on the sidewalk and a little isolated
Well, it would have been nice if more thought had been given to how reach them!

For there's no approved way to ride up to them.

Coming from Salem, on the approach from the south, things start off inauspiciously, as there is no connection from the corner of Chemawa and Keizer Station Boulevard, and you have to look through the trees to see the station.  It's kinda hidden.

Then, when you try to make a right-hand turn into the station from the extension of Chemawa north that becomes Keizer Station Boulevard, there's a huge lip - a mini-curb and gutter even - on the driveway, totally big enough to catch your wheel and enforce an involuntary dismount.  It's scaled for bus wheels, not bikes.

The lip on the Transit Station Driveway
Once in there, it's not clear at all where to go for bike racks.  There's no directional signage, and it dawned that the designers weren't envisioning people biking in.  It was pretty much for buses only. There did seem to be an outer ring road for cars in addition to the inner ring for the buses.

Poor Connections to Roadway
for People on Bike; Insufficient signage
for regulations and directions
So I continued around the outer ring and finally found a covered group of four racks (top image) on the sidewalk at the south end of an area striped for perpendicular car parking.

Then I went to the center and found two other clusters of racks, for a total of 10 staple racks, all covered.

And some other neat stuff.

Like this sinuous swale for run-off.

Swale
According to the press release
The center includes sustainable design features, including a green roof, solar panels, electric vehicle charging stations, energy efficient heating and cooling and rain gardens. The facility includes a waiting area, public restrooms, a meeting room and driver break rooms. A park and ride is on site, which includes charging stations for up to five electric vehicles.
There's also several fun whirly-gig pieces mounted on poles.  The art is kinetic and whimsical.

The bus shelters contain a short bench, system map, and trash receptacle - with recycling slots.

Nice Shelter!
Then a very sweet security guard caught up with me to tell me that I couldn't be biking there. He cited a Salem-Keizer Transit District Ordinance 3.9.6, which clearly prohibited it, but also sounded old and like it was written for Courthouse Square's transit mall, and not for this one.

I was there at the end of the day, there were no people there, and he didn't make a fuss.  During the commute hours of course you'd want to dismount on sidewalks when there are lots of people around, and for most people these crowds would provide the cue to dismount - but since not all people on bike would yield to common sense in this context, the policy makes sense.

But there weren't any signs posting the "no biking"!  So he was "busting" me - again, very sweetly and politely - for something I couldn't possibly know about.  This seemed wrong.

And more crucially, if part of a good design is to make the "desired" choice seem like the intuitive, obvious, and "natural" choice, this design failed.  The bike racks are only connected to the sidewalk system, both the internal one and the external part along the public streets.  The rack clusters sit up on the concrete sidewalk and do not directly abut the asphalt.  So of course you'd be biking on the sidewalks.

If you don't want people to bike on the sidewalk, give them a way to bike on the asphalt, on the roadway system.  And provide clear directional signage.

The deployment of bike racks here enforces the sidewalkification of bicycling!

More than this, because of the way Keizer Station Boulevard lacks sidewalks and the access driveway is right-in, right-out only, it's clear that designers imagined people walking or biking only from the south side and the external sidewalk along the east-west running Lockhaven/Chemawa arterial.

Right-in, right-out with median on Keizer Station Blvd
This part of town isn't very easy to bike, and many will prefer to use the sidewalks rather than bike lines for bicycling. Certainly if you wanted to take a family by bike to the mall - it is an important shopping center, and the idea should be a reasonable one given that there's no old-school "main street" or streetcar-scaled alternative here - you'd be on the sidewalks for a good proportion of the time.

Driveway on Keizer Station Blvd,
Connections via Sidewalkon Chemawa
But there will also be commuters biking to the station before they get on the bus, and for them the station is not very well knit into the bike lane and road system.  Even the press release only mentions features for electric cars, not the bike parking.

I have an expectation at a new multi-modal transportation hub that I will be able to bike in, find my way easily to conveniently located bike parking, and dismount adjacent the racks.I think this is a reasonable baseline for a brand-new transit facility, and the Keizer Transit Station did not meet it.

Additionally, the transit center is also isolated, and you wouldn't probably want to leave your bike overnight here.  The shopping center is across the Oregon Electric railroad and another road, and so the transit center has but a single use at the moment.  There are no commercial pods of other uses in pleasantly adjacent space, and the area lacks other eyes and ears.  There are no bike lockers yet, so it still falls short in this area as well.

Just overall it feels like there hasn't been sufficient thought given to how people on bike might use the station as opposed to just installing some nice fixtures.

Figuring out how to get back on Keizer Station Boulevard/Chemawa going south was tricky - and I ended up having to ride on the sidewalk and through a crosswalk.

All in all, the station was nice to look at, but not maybe so great to use.  Have you used it?  What did you think?

Other Sight-Seeing

The area around Keizer Station has been remade:  The old course of Chemawa Road altered, intersections widened or newly made.  The parking lots and construction are all new.  For the transit station, a house nearing a century old had been purchased and demolished.

But traces of old Keizer can still be seen.

On the way back I saw that the big old tree in front of the John Pugh house had been cut.  A note in January references a very old tree, possibly Keizer's oldest, that fell in December, and it seems likely this is that tree.

John Pugh House with Stump
The age of the house is not firmly established, but seems to date to the 1870s - a little before the Bush House! - and may be the oldest house in Keizer. And like the Bush House, it sits on a rise overlooking a creek and bottom land prone to flooding.  Now, both houses preside over a park.

Those who built it are from the oldest families in Keizer.  John Pugh had married Sally Claggett - the family for which the creek is named.  Members of the Pugh family were involved in the creation of the first school districts in Marion County, in construction of many early Salem landmark buildings, and in the design of old City Hall and the Grand Theater in Salem. From the Keizer Times:
Will Pugh had 230 acres which now include the land occupied by the Albertson’s shopping center at Chemawa Road and River Road. John’s claim of 318 acres was across Chemawa Road from his brother’s and included what is now the Safeway shopping center and Claggett Park:, and extended south almost to Greenwood Ave. Silas’s was north and east of Will’s and Janette’s was south of Silas’s and east of John’s.

When John married Sallie Claggett his neighbors, who had some experience with Keizer’s floods, advised the young couple to build their house on high ground. Their house, probably the oldest in Keizer, still stands at 4845 Verda Lane above Claggett Park. The huge rocks for the foundation were hauled from the Santiam River.

In 1878 John and Sallie donated 1-1/2 acres for a school at the corner of Chemawa and River Roads, with the stipulation that when the land is no longer used for school purposes, it is to reven to the heirs of Charles Pugh, their oldest son.
Here's the tree from a year ago via the google:

John Pugh House Before Tree Removal, 2012
Writing in Looking Back:  People and Places in the Early Keizer Area, Ann Lossner continues the house's history.  After a few changes in ownership, in the early 19-teens William Savage rented and then owned the farm, operating the Keizer View Dairy for some 40 years.  Popularly known as the "Savage Dairy," as raw milk lost popularity it transitioned into a pole bean farm after World War II.

Not long after, one of William's children, Ernie Savage, opened a children's shoe store, the Junior Bootery, and for many years it was in the Derby Building.  The Derby Building housed the Senator Hotel - and was demolished for Courthouse Square and the Transit Mall.  (See, it all comes together!)

Back in Salem and in the present, the new signage on the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway on Auto Group Way showed the ironic backdrop of the Capitol Auto Group.

Willamette Valley Scenic Car Dealership Way
Once Lithia Motors relocates to this area, it will be interesting to see how effective this bikeway remains. Hopefully it won't become choked with cars.

1 comment:

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Probably should have added that with the median in front of the driveway, if you come from the neighborhood to the north via the underpass on Tepper and come south on Keizer Station Boulevard, you can't make the left hand turn into the driveway. Again you're stuck with a circuitous route along sidewalks. They really weren't thinking about local connections for people on bike.