Saturday, September 28, 2013

Genre and Outdoor Writing: Story on Decline of Alpine Meadows has Unearned Happy Ending?

With the weekend's stormy weather - maybe not quite "extreme," but certainly atypical and early as fall storms go - thoughts turned back last weekend's outdoor piece on climate change.

Or sortof about climate change.

The piece had an odd wrapper, was bookended by a different story, and seemed to me to have the wrong shape, conforming to the wrong genre, as it were. Or at least a slightly awkward shape.

It was a ways into the piece before you reached the nut of the matter:
In a nutshell, the warming climate is allowing the forest to move higher on the mountain.

“There are two things happening right now — at Jefferson Park and throughout the Cascades — both caused by global warming,” Sullivan said. “The first is the melting glaciers, which sends down floods and (debris flows). The second is that warming allows trees to be able to grow at higher elevations.”
The start of the article, though, was a narrative about seeking and it zoomed in on one person's subjective experience:
They arrive from every corner of Oregon — and even from across the country — on a remote gravel road just outside the Mount Jefferson Wilderness.

Thirty cars line the small parking area at Whitewater Trailhead 68 miles east of Salem, their owners stepping into the bright sunlight on a recent Saturday wearing hiking boots and carrying backpacks for a journey into one of the Cascade Mountains’ most beloved hideaways.

“I’ve wanted to do this hike for a long time,” says Caitlin White, who made the trip all the way from Beaufort, N.C., after scouting the hike online. “The pictures looked just amazing.”
The piece started out as a story about longing for Beauty.

And it ended as a tribute to fading Beauty - but not Beauty harmed or hurt.  The fading was just a semi-natural aging or development, hastened or modified by climate change, but not essentially a human-caused rupture.

Friday, September 27, 2013

CRC at the Legislature: Newsbits on Tolling and MegaProjects

With the September 30th deadline for action on the Columbia River Crossing and Monday's Special Session of the Legislature, Willamette Week has had a cluster of updates on the CRC fiasco. Not all of them offer direct analogies to our own Salem River Crossing fiasco - but insofar as they cast further doubt on the wisdom and feasibility of not just his giant auto-centric mega-project, but any giant auto-centric mega-project, they're worth paying attention to!

September 26th
Wheeler Kicks CRC Can Down the Road: Citing risks, Treasurer's letter to lawmakers says it's "premature" to conclude deal can work

Washington Congresswoman Says Columbia River Crossing Backers Lied About Federal Deadlines: Jaime Herrera Beutler says the federal government has already put the project on ice 

September 25th
The Toll Truth: Drivers would flock to I-205 to avoid paying tolls for the Columbia River Crossing.

And elsewhere recently -
Report: Traffic projections 'invalidate the transportation rationale for the CRC' (BikePortland's take on the tolling news)

The Costly, Risky CRC is Back – Now with Twice the Risk (a different angle on risk and exposure)

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.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

City Traffic Committee and County Health Committees Meet Today

Two meetings today show how difficult yet it remains to think about changes in our transportation system.  In theory we should be able to coordinate actions in support of reducing our reliance on drive-alone car trip across a variety of policy areas.  But in practice it's far from easy, and progress remains theoretical or just plinking around on the edges of things.

Obesity and Healthy Vending Machines

The Community Health Improvement Partnership led by the County meets today to plan 2014 projects with partners.

So far the overall CHIP project has addressed health largely in a consumerist way - looking at the small discretionary choices in leisure time an individual might make about this or that.  It hasn't looked at the way we create systems - and changing those systems - that make healthy choices difficult.

On their agenda, as they plan for 2014, the focus is on things like "healthy vending machines" for better breaktime, and not on getting people to bike to work and building a transportation system that makes easy to choose to bike.  A bike was on their "road map" graphic earlier in the project, but so far they haven't seen city transportation and the urban, built environment as a meaningful topic for action.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Welcome to Fall! Last Breakfast of the Season this Friday

Fall is here.  It's been raining lately, but sun is in the forecast for Friday!  That's the fickle fall for you.

Fickle Fall's Welcome this Weekend
Did you enjoy the "glad summer days" while they were still around?

Enjoy them while you can
Frank J. Moore Ad, April 1910
For more on Moore - here and here

On the Promenade
The start of fall means the last Breakfast on Bikes for the season!

We will be on the Promenade just east of the railroad tracks at 12th and Chemeketa on Friday, September 27th. We'll have free coffee, pastries, and fruit for people who bike between 7am and 9am.

There's still bike maps available, and we'll have some if you need one.

v2.0 of the Salem Area Bike Map is out!

Aaron and Cory
The rockin' wrenches from Second Chance Recyclery will also be joining us for quickie maintenance and checks.

Tell your friends!  Recruit your neighbors.  Ditch the car and its tiresome commute!

Please support our generous sponsors!
Cascade Baking Company
Governor's Cup Coffee Roasters
LifeSource Natural Foods
Salem Bicycle Club
Willamette University.

View Larger Map

Area MPO to Discuss Next Rounds of Federal Funding Today

The Salem-area Metropolitan Planning Organization meets today at noon. On the agenda is discussion of the next Federal transportation legislation and the start of planning for allocating the local share of Federal funds for the 2015-2020 cycle.

MAP-21 roadmap
Image from LAB
and discussion at Advocacy Advance
From the agenda:
A position paper developed by ODOT, the Association of Counties (AOC), and the League of Oregon Cities (LOC) regarding reauthorization of the federal surface act (MAP-21), which expires at the end of federal fiscal year 2014, is attached. It includes recommendations for both policies and funding levels. Travis Brouwer (ODOT) will review the document.

(Note: It is explained on page 5 that without additional resources for the Highway Trust Fund, surface transportation funding could be cut by about 30 percent.)

This document was presented to the Oregon Metropolitan Planning Organizations Consortium (OMPOC) members (including Cathy Clark and Bob Krebs) at their meeting in August. Each MPO in Oregon has been asked to review the document and give instructions to their OMPOC representatives, who will be meeting in Portland on October 25, 2013, to provide a formal recommendation of the paper (with changes, as needed). [bold italics added]
Will try to get a copy of the letter to see how much the groups are advocating for improved funding for completer streets and non-auto travel.

(For more on MAP-21 here in Oregon, see BikePortland here and here, and ODOT here.)

Monday, September 23, 2013

City Council, Sept 23rd - Parking Initiative

There's little to say that's actually interesting about City Council tonight.

The big item on Council's agenda, of course, is the parking meter initiative petition.  Council can adopt it, reject it and thereby put it on the ballot for a vote, or refer a competing initiative to the voters on the same ballot.

In addition to all the other reasons the initiative that's on the table is almost certain to have undesired consequences, likely changes to the Capitol Mall and to State parking arrangements add additional evidence against making the whole of downtown a subsidized "free" parking area.  (As others have pointed out, it is also ironic that subsidies to increase the supply of downtown housing have been vocally opposed, but subsidies to support free car storage are passionately defended.  For more on the saga of downtown parking, see here.)

Difficulties with Getting Connected Streets

A couple of items show how a connected street network in new development is not yet a baseline here in Salem.

In an information report on a concluded matter, it looks like a path connection to a cul-de-sac is still deleted on a development out Skyline.  There's also a squabble over car parking, as the neighbor to the south feels a new parking lot will adversely affect the value of their parking lot, which had been required to be available for an earlier development. (Or something like that. The details of parking supply are hopelessly Byzantine and the case not interesting enough here to take the time for complete understanding.  For more on the path connection see here.)

Site Plan with abuting cul-de-sac and no path connection
In a separate continuation of a public hearing on a different parcel, it is very interesting is the way the County has opposed road connectivity off of Mildred and Skyline in a new development that apparently straddles the city limits.  Note the way that it's all about maintaining a high rate of speed, and not about re-engineering road facilities for appropriate speeds as residential housing develops along hitherto largely rural stretches.  This is from the County's letter of objection:
The location of the proposed "G" Street access is problematic due to roadway horizontal curvature compounded. by a raised embankment, as well as vertical curvature to the south. The posted speed limit is 45 mph with a 35 mph northbound curve warning sign. Field target measurements were taken by County staff to estimate Intersection Sight Distance (ISD), Taillight Stopping Sight Distance (SSD) for a northbound right turning (NBRT) vehicle and SSD for a southbound left turning (SBLT) vehicle. It was found that an available 3 73 feet of ISD fell short of County Public Works Design Standard of 450 feet and available SSDs of 305 feet (NBRT) and 302 feet (SBLT) each, did not meet the 400 foot standard. The County defers to the ISD as the benchmark for a new road connection, versus SSD. In this case, ISD does not appear to be achievable in this area. Due to the projected volume of traffic using the proposed "G" Street, and the high traffic volume on Skyline Road, we cannot allow a proposed connection such as this to Skyline Road S that does not meet sight distance standards.

[The] development of the Bella Cresta subdivision will warrant a left turn lane (LTL) on Skyline Road S into the proposed "G" Street access using ODOT left turn lane criterion. Therefore, the County will require a LTL be concurrently constructed as a condition for issuance of a "Road Approach Permit". It would take construction of only 36 homes to theoretically meet the LTL warrant of 25 left turning vehicles during the pm peak hour using ODOT left turn lane criterion. Construction of a LTL will require pavement widening and striping work. In the alternative, we would be willing to consider deferring the construction of the LTL, if a condition is included in the City's decision that includes a legally binding method for requiring the construction of the LTL prior to the construction of the 36th home.
Only 36 homes will warrant a left turn lane!!!  That is crazy nutty overbuilding.  It's hard to see how 36 homes would actually create much congestion - and what congestion it would create would be beneficial for traffic calming!

Again, it's all about maintaining speed and through-put in a development that will remain not just car-dependent but walking-inimical because too few will want to walk and bike in an area for 45mph. 

So the County gets to put the kibosh on a more connected street network and contributes to yet another enclave-y subdivision.

In small matter, the City proposes to cut a vertex off of a triangular lot for the right-of-way on Fairgrounds and Hood for the median.

That is all.  (Maybe you see something more interesting or important?)

Friday, September 20, 2013

State Awards Grant to Study Middle Commercial Street Improvements

Yesterday the State announced the list of successful Transportation and Growth Management grants.

The City of Salem applied for two, and won one.

The winning grant is for a study and refinement plan on south Commercial Street (I'm thinking of it as "middle" Commercial) between Madrona and Ohmart for a complete street with facilities both along and across for people on foot and on bike.  (The corridor was also designated a critical ADA corridor in Bike and Walk Salem.)
This commercial district developed at a time when little thought was given to non-auto travel. Much of the area consists of commercial properties with a mix of parcel sizes, numerous driveways, and few connections between the public realm and shop entrances. This lack of an inviting, attractive circulation system can be a limiting factor for reinvestment. Although this area is experiencing a moderate resurgence of development activity, several parcels such as the old Safeway store remain vacant or underutilized.
The grant study area also includes the terrible Y-intersection of Liberty and Commercial.

The award citation also mentions "improving the visual character and functionality" of the streets, and it is interesting to see "curb appeal" included so strongly as part of the transportation system. Is the place inviting and comfortable for people to walk in?  A study that successfully embraces this aesthetic dimension will represent a significant step in the way we think about the whole transportation system.

The unsuccessful application was for a citywide study of arterials and collectors:
Many of Salem's arterial and collector streets were originally developed as farm-to-market roads. The city grew up around these roadways that are now the backbone of the city's transportation network. Many of these roads are not constructed to the City's Street Cross-Section Standards.
You wonder if this one didn't win in part because it's not all that difficult to see what the proper standards are for each street - this one suffers from maybe the solutions being too clear and obvious, not going beyond the minimum.

The Commercial Street project scopes out a more narrow problem, and does look to a solution beyond the obvious minimum solution of upgrading to current standards.  (Commercial is mostly built out to the standard here.)

The Old Weathers Music Store Lot on S Commercial

Proposed Development for old Weathers Music Site
Parking in Back - Cafe Seating in Front!
So it's great news the City got the grant.  With new food-oriented businesses going in, complimenting existing ones like Ventis, the French Press, and LifeSource, there's potential for making it really walkable and even turning it into an identifiable district with its own distinct character.

The challenge, though, is to get off the cycle of "study churn" and "shelf studies" and create something that is enthusiastically embraced and assertively funded.

This may not be easy.

But as always, we start with a completely blank slate, full of opportunity and promise...

Trivia Update for Historic Maps!

Some time ago a friend of the blog had shared a bunch of old USGS quad maps.  Here are two side-by-side clips of the study area.

USGS Quads for 1915 (left) and 1939 (right)
Click to enlarge
Notice in particular that Triangle Drive and Sunnyside Road
were the main highway south - "Jefferson" and "Pacific" highway
On them you can see the 12th street cut-off and the realignment of the highway along the new Commercial Street.  In this interwar period, there were still lots of orchards out in this part of town, parcels mostly of 5 and 10 acres.

Maybe the project will also send some love to St. Barbara's Cemetery, Salem's Catholic alternative to the Odd Fellows/Pioneer Cemetery between Rural and Hoyt.  It has some very significant burials, but doesn't get nearly the attention the Pioneer Cemetery does. 

Kids Car Safety Day Shows Mixed Messaging

The Capitol Auto Group Kids Safety Day is tomorrow, Saturday the 21st.  It piggybacks on National Child Passenger Safety Week.

But it's not surprising that the event is more for marketing than for substantive contributions to safety.  "Fun Fair" is the effective center here.  It's the Happy Meal™ approach!

Asking car dealers to focus seriously on safety may not be realistic and is actually rather something of an oxymoron. 

The single best thing we can do for car safety is to drive less! And obviously that's not in the interest of car dealers - or the car-highway-industrial complex behind them.

So observations about mixed messages in a "safety day" may not be all that interesting, therefore, and are probably more nugatory than useful...but still.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Capitol's 75th Anniversary Hoopla Yields Interesting History; 1938, as Now, Transitional

You might not think much of the "bowling trophy" on the 1938 Capitol, but when you consider its competition, the art-deco-y modernism of the winning classical facade actually looks pretty great.

Which design do you prefer?
(75th anniversary site)
Consider how chunky and out of proportion is the central element in one of its modernist competitors!  It's so top-heavy!

By comparison the winning design is refined, balanced, and harmonious. It really is a graceful modernist interpretation of a classical dome with symmetrical wings.  I think it will only continue to look better and better the farther away we get from its design and construction.  

Yesterday some of the history was presented in a lecture at the State Library by architectural historian Lee Roth.  Anybody go?

In honor of its 75th birthday, the State has set up a mini-site with links to lots of archival images and newspaper articles.

There's tons of great stuff!

Did you know that one plan was to expand south of State Street?  This required buying the site of Willamette University and relocating the university to the Bush property - so no Bush Park!  Negotiations on this, it seems, were pretty serious for a while.

Hillsides were also popular.  Fry Hill, right by the library was one site discussed.  Proposals for view lots in Candalaria, Morningside, and on Ben Lomond near McKinley were also floated.  The Grabenhorst development in Candalaria was so interested they offered to donate the land!

In the end, the choice to build at the same site and to expand northwards may well have been the best choice - but it was hardly free of consequences.

Cooke-Patton House Demolition, 1939
Current site of State Library
Salem Library Historic Photos
Indeed it was in some ways tragic.  For the expansion of the Capitol Mall north led to the demolition of one of Salem's premier residential neighborhoods, so-called "Piety Hill."  

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Parking Meant Beauty and Landscaping, not Car Storage, 100 years Ago

Park(ing) Day is this Friday, September 20th. It is "an annual worldwide event where artists, designers and citizens transform metered parking spots into temporary public parks."

A Salem parklet with picnic table, hobby horse, and potential for fun
The original Park(ing) Day in 2005,
transformed a single metered parking space into a temporary public park in an area of San Francisco that the city had designated as lacking public open space. The great majority of San Francisco’s downtown outdoor space is dedicated to movement and storage of private vehicles, while only a fraction of that space is allocated to serve a broader range of public needs. Paying the meter of a parking space enables one to lease precious urban real estate on a short-term basis.
In Salem, acceptance for repurposing car parking stalls has been slow.  One First Wednesday attempt was shut down by the City. Creative merchants have put grass on the sidewalk, but not ventured out into the street and its angle parking.  (Portland observes Park(ing) Day in several places.)

You might not know, however, that the word "parking" used to refer to the act of making a park and the parklets themselves, and not primarily to the act of temporarily storing a car.

This was not considered "Parking"!  Oregon State Library
(That's Scott's Cycle first store on the far left, at 252 State Street)
The act and area celebrated in Park(ing) Day is, in fact, a revival, and not a new phenomenon!

Monday, September 16, 2013

NEN Meets Tomorrow the 17th: Marion and 13th, and Center Street on the Agenda - Updated

The Northeast Neighbors neighborhood association meets tomorrow night, Tuesday the 17th.

In addition to an update on the neighborhood plan process, they'll also get a presentation from the City Traffic Engineer on some plans for Center Street and the crossing at Marion and 13th Street.

Back in March, you may recall, one of the items discussed was the possibility of crossing help at the tricky intersection of 13th and Marion, just northeast of Safeway.

And it looks like the City is ready to show some preliminary concepts!

13th at Marion: unmarked crosswalks, one-way + dual turns = difficult!
The intersection is right after Center Street splits into a one-way couplet, and while Center Street south of Safeway has marked crosswalks and a pedestrian median, Marion Street north of the grocery store has neither, and most often cars take the dual turns quickly and without consideration of the unmarked crosswalks and any people waiting to cross.

People walking to the grocery store, including students from Parrish and North, sometimes face great difficulties and even dangers as they attempt the crossing.

On Friday the City didn't have any concept drawings to share, so if you're interested, the meeting will be the first place to see them!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Even the Oregonian Sez: We Hit Peak Driving; also, SJ on Boise

Some choice bits:
[A]n analysis of new traffic data by The Oregonian shows that driving in the state actually peaked in 2004, four years before the Great Recession hit. What's more, for the first time in the history of America's love affair with the automobile, the driving levels nationally aren't tracking economic growth....

[In] the past 10 years, passenger vehicle ownership has increased by only 4 percent, even as Oregon's driving-age population jumped 14 percent, Oregon Driver and Motor Vehicle and U.S. Census statistics show....

[I]n Multnomah County, as bicycle commuting, car sharing and transit use has transpired at a revolutionary pace, the number of registered vehicles grew by less than 1 percent, even as the population grew by 11 percent....

"The long-held belief is that the Great Recession hit and forced people to cut back on their driving," said Michael Sivak, a research professor at the university's Transportation Research Institute and author of the study. "But it's clear that something else was happening with society before that"...

Chris Monsere, another PSU professor of civil and environmental engineering, said the generational shift is positive from a safety perspective.

"Older and younger drivers are the most at risk groups," Monsere said. "Less driving means fewer crashes and injuries, and travel by public transit is generally much safer than other modes."
(More on the Third Bridge here.)

Mayor to Travel to Design Conference

From the SJ:
[Mayor] Peterson is one of eight mayors invited to the event, held Oct. 16 through Oct. 18 in Charleston, S.C. The Mayor’s Institute on City Design brings together mayors and design experts to tackle urban problems, such as downtown revitalization and transportation planning.

It’s the first time a Salem mayor has participated in the event, city officials said.

Mayors present a case study about a problem facing their city and participants suggest possible solutions. City of Salem officials haven’t yet decided what case study Peterson will bring to the group.
Presumably the Boise Project is a leading candidate for her to take!

Editorial on Boise

Meanwhile, the paper has a great editorial on the project:
[T]hroughout the community, there remains a strong consensus that the old factory site must be developed and that the city and the property owners, Mountain West Investment Corp., need each other in order to get any project done.

What is needed now is a break, for a few months, to let frustrations fade so people can return to the conversation later with renewed vigor, renewed commitment, renewed cooperation — and maybe a few new ideas.
(All notes on the Boise Project here.)

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Arts Commission Installs Finger Jello in ODOT's Swale - Will it Melt in the Rain?

Why did they do this?

Knox Blocks at ODOT
When they could have done something like this?

Cyclepedia show at Portland Art Musum
According to the Statesman, for a new piece at the recently renovated Highway Department headquarters,
Walla Walla Foundry did a three-dimensional computer scan of an abstract painting by [James] Lavadour, “it looked like the Columbia Gorge,” said Megan Atiyeh, public art coordinator for the Oregon Arts Commission, which chooses art work for state buildings.

“It was from that scan that the foundry took portions for a model and molded it. The resulting sculpture is a transfiguration of his painting.”
The full panorama
Sure, the geology of the Columbia Gorge, formed by the epic Missoula floods, and other geology exposed in road cuts - yeah.  I get that and the relation to stormwater run-off and ODOT's road construction work.  I can see the rhymes and reasons the piece might be appropriate in the abstract.

But it looks like cast-off candy here floating above the grasses!  It's gonna dissolve!

More importantly and more seriously, the State keeps missing opportunities to say something about transportation in the 21st century. (Though the kerfuffle over Barbur Boulevard suggests they may have little interest in being serious even in the bike-nirvana of Portland!)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Walk and Bike to School Day is October 9th - Register Now!

A little over a week ago Statesman Journal reporter Stefanie Knowlton wrote about the dearth of kids walking and biking to school.

Last October you might remember she also wrote about Walk + Bike to School Day:
Only four out of Salem-Keizer’s 65 schools signed up for International Walk to School Day Wednesday. And two of them already pulled out.

“People aren’t into it for some reason,” said David Lemons, the PE teacher at Salem Heights, one of the two remaining schools.

“I don’t understand it,” he said, “to me it’s a no brainer.”
Lemons is right.

It's a no brainer!

And it's time to register your school!  (And get swag!)

Walk + Bike to School Day is Wednesday, October 9th.  Click here to go to the Walk + Bike Oregon Safe Routes School page to register.

On the blog, LeeAnn has a series of plans tailored to whatever level of commitment you want to make - from testing the waters to whole hog!

Check it out and register your school!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

New Police Station Project Heating Up? Tid-bits from CAN-DO - Updated

The draft minutes from the last downtown neighborhood association meeting (CAN-DO) contain an interesting bit about movement on a new police station:
City Hall campus hopes to build a new police facility in Peace Plaza. A bond will be proposed. Seismic retrofit of City Hall is needed. New buildings in Peace Plaza will extend the life of the complex. Cost is 50 cents per 1K for bond. The plan to start a year from this coming November. Visit the police department to see how poor the facility is for our men in blue. Plans are on the drawing boards over the next year.
Back in December 2011 Council reviewed concept plans for the current preferred Civic Center site option, in a rendering by collaboration between CB|Two and ZGF architects.  (You may also recall the more general concept boards from December 2010 that the University of Oregon Students generated!)

At that time, the preferred concept Council saw was for a new police station, identified by A2, that would sit across from the Boise project. Here's a corresponding aerial view (awkwardly snipped and rotated from the google):

The building in Peace Plaza (E1) was going to be new Council Chambers.

The notes from CAN-DO may represent a change - locating the Police Station itself there in Peace Plaza - or might just loose reference all of the expansion work envisioned in the preferred concept, which does include a new building at Peace Plaza in addition to the Police Station building further north.

As folks think about this development, they would remember that the Civic Center is currently a dead zone outside of business hours, a mono-use office park that empties out at 5pm and on weekends. It would be neat to have some ground floor retail or restaurant, something unrelated to police and other City or emergency services, that would relate to the Boise project (also currently being designed by CB|Two) and create a richer zone of activity here. It's also an opportunity for a lovely building as opposed to the brutalist fortress now there.

Peace Plaza is also disconnected from the street, and is not a very well functioning public space.  Hopefully the memorial to Peace can be replaced/recreated elsewhere at a more lively location - something that would make it more known, and also make it more generally available to the public for other gatherings, both organized and impromptu.

In thinking about this, we should remember that when the earthquake hits, City Hall will be toast, so it's not like this is a frill. This is an essential infrastructure project, and hopefully the City will do it well and do it right.

Updated rendering, October 2013
(click to enlarge)

The Capitol Seismic Retrofit and the Capitol Mall

Also in the minutes is a brief note about the Capitol Mall Plan and the Capitol's seismic retrofit.  You may remember that the Legislature budgeted $35 million for this.

On Monday earlier this week, Salem City Council also held a work session with the State on this.

The retrofit will likely require closing the Capitol building for a while.  As you would imagine, this would displace lots of people, including legislators, who will need offices and meeting spaces elsewhere for a while.

There may be a cascade of significant land-use and transportation implications!

This will likely be one of those inconveniences that also offers an opportunity for some meaningful downtown transformation. 

Public details are few at the moment - but pay attention to this, as it is likely an opportunity for advocates working on several different problems to seize in coordinated fashion!

The Next Meeting

CAN-DO next meets Tuesday, September 17, 2013, at 6:00 p.m., in the First Christian Church, 685 Marion Street NE.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Council Streets and Bridges Bond Committee to Select $8M in Projects from $36M List

I don't really know where this falls in the priority list, but dang it was nice to see and feel this brand new pavement late yesterday afternoon!

One day old pavement overlay on 14th Street
smoothes over rough spots where rails
had been removed on the Geer Line wye.
That driveway looking part?
That's where rails were!
The former asphalt patches where the rails from the Geer Line had been ripped up made for awful bumpy biking on 14th Street between Oak and Mission Street. Since 14th here is a great alternative to 12th Street for north-south travel, the bumps were a frequent annoyance.   For cars too.  So for whatever combination of reasons, the City rolled a new overlay on a little less than a block of really crappy pavement. 

I don't remember seeing this on a project list, so I wonder if it was a "fill-in" project with left-over asphalt from a bigger project.

Whatever the case, the new smoothness was sweet! Hooray!  Thanks, City of Salem!

A City employee happened to drive past and I yelled "When did you do this?" and he said Monday.  So yeah, brand new.

This isn't a project that increases connectivity in any way.  But it's a meaningful increment in bicycling pleasure!

Council Streets and Bridges Bond Committee

And that's a meandering, even dilatory, way to introduce today's Council Streets and Bridges Bond Committee meeting at noon in the Public Works office at City Hall.  Councilors Clausen, Clem, and Nanke are the members and deciders.

The grand topic is identifying a list of candidate projects that might be funded with another chunk of bond surplus.  Because of the Great Recession, the road bond projects have been coming in consistently under budget, and it's very nice to be able to expand the number of projects it funds.

In the previous round of expected surplus from savings, Council adopted
Resolution No. 2013-46 authorizing use of Streets and Bridges Bond proceeds to fund improvements at the Commercial Street SE/Kuebler Boulevard SE intersection ($2, 187,000), Fairgrounds Road NE/Hood Street NE intersection ($325,000), and 25th Street SE/Madrona Avenue SE Intersection ($5,000,000).
And there's more savings!

So staff have identified a whole bunch - about $36 million worth - of new projects.  These will need to be whittled down to a list of about $8 million, with expected completion in fiscal years 2016-18.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

SJ's new Green Beat on Climate Change and Hopes for Better Transportation Talk

You might recall from earlier this year a report on water flows, snowpack, and ways our drinking water will be impacted by climate change. The map of anticipated flows and corresponding droughts in 2040 should be sobering.

Creeks feeding the Santiam and Willamette Rivers will be low in 2040!
The Statesman switched up beats in a significant reorganization of the newsroom recently, and Tracy Loew who had been doing data and deep investigative reporting has now moved to a "green" beat as the "Environment and Sustainability Reporter."

Previewing coverage of a recent conference on climate change, she talked about water and singled out Portland's "green dividend," the cash retained in the local economy caused by driving less - study author Joe Cortright says, "The $1.1 billion Portlanders don’t spend on car travel translates into $800 million that is not leaving the local region."

Loew reports
In the Pacific Northwest, the biggest threat is a large drop in mountain snowpack, speakers said. That will impact everything from hydropower to agriculture to stream health.

“This, I submit, is a really big deal,” said Nick Bond, Washington State Climatologist.

I’ll be writing more about current and potential impacts of climate change locally and region-wide in the coming months. Meanwhile, here are a few interesting facts from seminar speakers...

Portland was the first local government in the nation to adopt a climate action plan, in 1993. And the city has the highest percent of residents who commute by bike (7 percent). That gas savings means more money for the local economy, in the form of “lattes and microbrews,” said Michele Crim, climate action program manager for the city of Portland. [perhaps trivializing the magnitude of an extra $800 million!
I know the editorial and news side operate independently, but you'd still like to see some coherence at the paper. Two recent editorials strike diametric opposite stances on road widening, and one hopes that the news side will better inform the editorial side. Too much of the talk about transportation operates in a blissful vacuum about climate change.

Over the weekend, road reduction was a winner!

Road Diet is a Winner!
This Saturdays "Winners" on the Editorial Page
So will we hear more about road diets and about policies and planning to make low-carbon travel easier?

But this road needs fattening up!
Third Bridge editorial from earlier this year
The concepts that worked in Ashland can work in Salem too!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Tyranny of Parking Pringle Square's Doom? Video Posted, Council Likely to Delay to 23rd

Whether it's the petition for preserving free parking downtown or the effort to preserve parking at the Carousel, Salem's mania for car parking blinds us to deeper problems and forces retrograde planning on the community.

Old City Hall with Parking Meters on Chemeketa, 1959
Salem Library Historic Photos
We don't have good historical data on on-street parking,
 surface lots, and downtown prosperity.
It would be too much to say the disappearance of meters
is directly linked to the persistence of a surface lot here,
but it's an interesting coincidence.
Criticism of the Boise Redevelopment from almost every angle has started with 20th century assumptions about mobility and put the car, its movement and its storage, at the center of analysis.

This is all backwards!  Criticism should start with a look to the future in the 21st century, and put the foundational experience of walking at the center.  (We have to look back to look forward!) Even walking to the car is a nearly universal experience - every trip starts and ends with a walk.

The Carousel should be asking - what can we do to give people choices?  To make it easier to choose not to drive?  To make it easy for people to walk, bike, or take transit to the Carousel and to the Park?  Or to park downtown and walk to the Carousel?  How can we more efficiently use existing parking and serve a greater number of people?  And for those who do need to drive from far away or with someone disabled, or with a large family - how can the experience of walking after you get out of the car be better?

Skinny streets actually calm traffic!
But people walking seems to be beside the point...

Instead, they are asking, what can we do to ensure there is plenty of parking?  They may say "adequate" parking, but in so many ways this means a "surplus."  It's not that the development doesn't need parking, but we aren't thinking about total mobility, which includes non-auto mobility, and right-sizing parking. 

Just off the playground, the wall of buildings looms over the park.
These edges should be the center of analysis and critique!
(still from Pringle Square Salem video)

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Myra Albert Wiggins Shoots Home and Flood in 1890

Rain, rain, go away!

Not ready for fall.  (And ready for a pleasant diversion from civic matters.  Maybe you are too.)

A note during Thursday's deluge about a show of Myra Albert Wiggins' photos in Portland brought to mind one of her photographs (as Myra Albert) of flooding here in Salem.

The Flood of 1890, From the Blind School,
looking out east over Pringle Creek to the Albert House.
Today we'd just be seeing lots of the Hospital
photo by Myra Albert Wiggins
This one, reproduced in Witch of Kodakery, The Photography of Myra Albert Wiggins 1869-1956, has been puzzling. It's identified as her childhood home - and the only way it works, I think, is as photographed from across a flooded Pringle Creek. The photograph must be taken from the rise at the Blind School and looking east towards where I believe was the Albert house (on the greater hospital campus now), though I don't see a current topographic feature that corresponds to the little bluff on top of which the house sits.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Sunday Statesman Article Highlights Walking and Biking Problem - But Lost in Glare of Carousel?

It's interesting - not really in a good way - to see the difference between the hullaballoo over safety at the Carousel and Riverfront Park and the much quieter response to questions about walking and biking to school.

Mostly I just wish people were as worked up over making it fun, easy, safe, and comfortable to walk and bike to school as they seem to be animated about making it easy, safe, and comfortable to drive and unload kids at the Carousel. 

Narrow or no shoulders, speeds too high on long straightaways -
What's wrong with this picture?
It's not that the Carousel and its safety is an unworthy cause - far from it.  But circulation and access at the Carousel has attracted an amount of attention, and even displaced attention, that might better be directed at larger, more systemic problems.

Isn't there something wrong, too, more wrong even, with the paucity of kids walking to school and the conditions under which we either ask them to walk or find so problematic (whether just in perception or in actuarial reality) that we insist on busing or driving them?

Fire Truck at the Park - Pringle Square Access
In order to avoid busy roads with inadequate or missing sidewalks, bike lanes, and crosswalks, parents regularly drive able-bodied kids to school. Some schools are sited along busy roads that the school district won't even ask kids to cross, and so the School District furnishes yellow bus service for relatively short distances.

Urban Renewal Board to See Kroc Center Access Final Recommendations.

Today the North Gateway Redevelopment Advisory Board will meet this morning at 8am and hear about the final recommendations of the Kroc Center Access Feasibility Study.

Basically a big bridge across both the Parkway and Railroad was too expensive, and so they scaled back to a smaller bridge over just the Parkway and two shared use paths along Hyacinth and Salem Industrial/Bill Frey. 

From the final recommendations settled on earlier this summer:
Near Term Improvements:
  • Construction of a bicycle/pedestrian connection from Hyacinth Street NE to Bill Frey Drive NE with transit stops on Hyacinth Street NE [red alignment]
This connection could be constructed either as a part of the planned roadway extension of Salem Industrial Drive NE (adopted project in the Salem TSP—not currently programmed for funding) or could be constructed as a separate shared use path through the conservation easement and with a bicycle/pedestrianbridge over Claggett Creek (see map), should funding for the path become available sooner than funds for the roadway extension. The planning level cost estimate for construction of the street extension with transit stops on Hyacinth Street NE is $8.5 to 9 million. The planning level cost estimate for a shared use path with a bridge over Claggett Creek, transit stops, and enhanced crossing of Bill Frey Drive NE leading to the Kroc Center is $1 to $2 million.

ODOT is currently reviewing more immediate bicycle/pedestrian improvement options that can be made to improve safety at the intersection of Salem Parkway/Hyacinth Street NE/Verda Lane (continental crosswalk striping and bike lane skip/colored striping at the right turn sliplanes, shifting the bike lanes to the left of the right turn lanes on the Hyacinth Street NE/Verda Lane and possibly installing truck aprons on the right turn slip lanes)

Mid-term and Long Range Improvements:
  • Construction of a shared use path along the south side of Hyacinth Street NE between Salem Parkway and Salem Industrial Drive ($550,000 estimate) with construction of bicycle and pedestrian intersection enhancements at Salem Parkway/Hyacinth Street NE/Verda Lane to increase the visibility and safety of pedestrians and bicyclists (costs not determined) [yellow alignment]
  • After the above improvements are made, a bridge over Salem Parkway at Verda Lane/Hyacinth Street NE to completely separate bicycles and pedestrians ($3 - $3.5 million) should be considered to further enhance bicycle/pedestrian safety.[blue alignment]
For previous notes about the study and siting of the Kroc Center, see here.   In the end, when with a different site we could have avoided the problem altogether, it's just dumb, dumb, dumb that they sited this big facility in an industrial wasteland; and having made that dumb decision, it's even dumber that they didn't anticipate this transportation problem and fold paying for the solution into the original construction costs. 

The pieces in this project will linger around competing for dollars (about $5 million total) that could fund other projects that didn't arise from such obviously preventable problems.  And kids from Grant, Highland, and Hallman neighborhoods will still face formidable barriers in reaching the Kroc Center from the other direction.

Pretty much EPIC FAIL all the way around.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

New Details on Salem Sunday Streets Schedule of Activities - Updated and Hashtagged

More info on Sunday's Open Street Festival! It's a whole bunch of carfree goodness from 11am - 4pm, September 8th, along Wallace and Riverfront Parks and in town on State Street to the Capitol.

Sunday Streets Map for September 8th
Here's the schedule at the moment - more may be added! - keyed to the starred activity sites.  The local music looks very nice!

The route itself is really going to be too small for bicycling, except perhaps for the littlest ones, for whom the carfree streets will be a great boon  Don't let that stop you from biking to it, but for circulation it will probably be best to lock up and walk around the route instead of trying to bike along it.

Wallace Marine Park Activity Center
  • 11:00 Yoga – Courthouse Fitness
  • 1:00 Music – Jeremy Crofoot
  • 3:00 Music – Tonya Gilmore

Riverfront Park Activity Center
  • 11:00 Yoga and Zumba – The Lotus Studio
  • 12:00 Music – Find Your Smile
  • 1:00 Walking Tour – Just Walk!
  • 2:00 Music – I Am A Zombie
  • 2:00 Walking Tour – Autoist Attack walking tour

State Street
  • 11:00 Laughter Yoga – The Nest
  • 12:00 Laughter Yoga – The Nest
  • 2:00 Laughter Yoga – The Nest

Capitol Steps
  • 12:00 Zumba – YMCA
  • 1:00 Dance – Tokyo International University
  • 2:00 Zumba – YMCA
Salem Sunday Streets Participating Organizations:
Marion County Public Works Environmental Services, Salem Creative Network, DIY Studio, Northwest Human Services, Kaiser Permanente, Willamette Valley Music Company, Interface Network, Amaxyng Health, Salem Chamber Orchestra, Salem Bicycle Club, City of Salem Recreation Services, YMCA, Family YWCA, Salem-Keizer Transit District, Willamette Humane Society, AdvoCare, The Bike Peddler, The Lotus Studio, Salem Health Community Health Education Center & Salem Cancer Institute, The Nest, Salem Bocce League, Santiam Bikes, A.C. Gilbert’s Discovery Village, Salem Library, Hallie Ford Museum of Art, Tokyo International University, Salem Area Trail Alliance, Be, Resiliency Action Network, LifeSource Natural Foods, Venti’s, Friends of Straub Environmental Learning Center, Salem Riverfront Carousel, Habitat for Humanity, Oregon National Guard, Willamette Valley Physicians Health Authority, and more...

(Isn't it great to see all the different organizations?!)

Update, Saturday, Sept 7th

Here's more detail on the organizations at the activity centers!  Looks like a terrific mix of groups, something for everyone.

Wallace Marine Park
Salem Area Trail Alliance
City of Salem Recreation
Capital City Disc Golf
Pedal Powered Stage

Riverfront Park
Salem Creative Network
Oregon National Guard
Riverfront Carousel
Just Walk!/City of Salem Neighborhood Services
Friends of Straub Environmental Learning Center
Willamette Humane Society
Amaxyng Health
Children's Educational Theatre
Marion County Environmental Services
The Lotus Studio
The Bike Peddler
Mosaic Salem
Habitat for Humanity
OSU Extension Services
A.C. Gilbert's Discovery Village

Waverly Street and East Capitol Park
Bike Safety Skills Course
Resiliency Action Network
Salem Bicycle Club
Salem Bocce League

Cottage Street
Salem Saturday Market
Northwest Human Services
Interface Network
Kaiser Permanente
Salem Health

State Street

Salem-Keizer Transit
DIY Studio
Salem Public Library
Hallie Ford Museum of Art
Willamette University, Archeology
The Nest
Salem Chamber Orchestra
Willamette Valley Music Co.
Salem Summit Co.
Zena Forest and Farm

Farmer's Market at Willson Park

Hashtaggery - you know what to do!

And of course Thanks to the Sponsors!

Kaiser Permanente
City of Salem
Salem Health
Cherriots RideShare

Update, Thursday, Sept. 12th

The City wants your feedback! Take part 1 of a survey here and part 2. Let them know what you think!