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?)


Curt said...

For No 3rd Bridge the money currently being on parking could be used to improve access to the Union St. Bridge as a TDM alternative to relieve peak hour bridge congestion.

For Pringle Access the money could be used to purchase the land to extend Riverfront Park.

But most of the rank and file members defend subsidized parking--even when it is against their own interest. The term "circular firing squad" comes to mind.

As a political strategy, council might be shrewd to accept the petition and meter the garages. It would generate more revenue for downtown improvements than what we are doing now. When garage parkers move into the street, the on street parking situation might be bad enough that downtown businesses will recognize their folly and even ask for meters. Then we will have 100% of the district generating revenue instead just the on street spaces. Though I always underestimate certain peoples' talent for self-delusion and intellectual gymnastics.

Anonymous said...

Michael Rose of the SJ tweets:

"Salem City Council seeks more information on proposed parking meter ban. Delays vote until Oct 14"

Curt said...

Sounds like that is the direction they are moving:

Rational arguments are obviously not going to win the day. This puts the failure of the parking district right in the lap of the parking lobby.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Well, it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

The proof will certainly be in the pudding!

And it may be for the best: Either free parking is a huge boon for downtown as the anti-meter partisans claim, and those of us who think meters might have been helpful will have to yield to the empirical evidence...

Or, free on-street parking becomes more problematic as the garage parkers move to the street and merchants don't have enough turn-over in stalls. And again, there will be a clear body of evidence for this case.

Either way there should be incontestable evidence - and we won't have to be making arguments based on the experiences of other cities.

Curt said...

There will never be incontestable evidence! There is incontestable evidence that parking is incredibly expensive but the parking lobby insists that Salem's expenses are the result of waste, fraud, and abuse.

We also had that experiment last holiday season when time limits were waived and the city lost approximately $50000 (?) in just that month. It was not a boon for downtown. Downtown was just as lifeless as it always has been, especially when compared to other regional shopping areas. But the parking lobby insists that we shouldn't have time limits.

Which is another example of an argument that can't be won. If turnover is not a problem, then there is no need for enforcement. But they insist that people are boycotting downtown because the 2 hour limits are being enforced. They argue both sides of the same coin

Because WA has a sales tax, Sightline has a body of evidence that they can use to clearly draw the correlation between parking policy and retail sales. We don't have a sales tax so the evidence will never be that crystal clear.

No, like many issues in Salem, we have to rely on the leadership and legislative creativity of council and staff to navigate past the obstructionism of downtown businesses.

Anonymous said...

RE: Bella Cresta -

"At Monday’s council meeting, the council passed a motion to allow the developer until Sept. 30 to file final legal arguments. The council will take up the matter again at its Oct. 14 meeting."


"In written testimony, the Sunnyslope Neighborhood Association voiced concerns about the project.

“Davis is very narrow and much of it is without sidewalks and bike lanes. This presents a significant safety hazard for children who walk to Crossler School,” the association told the council."