Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Cherriots to Engage Consultant for Comprehensive System Analysis

Recently Cherriots has entered into negotiations with Jarrett Walker, the author of Human Transit, the book and the blog, for a "comprehensive system analysis."

This is perhaps slender for a full post; you'll see there's a good bit of missing information.  On the other hand, it is an interesting development.

The Request for Proposals closed last month and Cherriots received four qualified proposals.   Last month the Board gave approval to negotiate with the high scorer.

Jarrett Walker's Human Transit Blog
And it turns out the winner is Jarrett Walker and his firm Jarrett Walker + Associates.

The RFP itself is unfortunately locked behind a byzantine database wall, the "Oregon Procurement Information Network (ORPIN)."  Ostensibly constructed to ensure fairness for bidders, it doesn't work very well for the interested public and seems on the contrary to erect as many barriers as possible between the public and public documents! And since the contract is not yet signed, Cherriots is not able to say much beyond the public documents - which themselves are effectively out of reach.  (Not very transparent, alas.)

So we'll go with a summary of the Request for Proposals (we're just googling here, and it's at least possible, though not probably very likely, this is bad data, so a little caveat emptor):
The CSA [comprehensive system analysis] will study the impacts of roadway, land use, and demographic changes occurring in the District service areas over the next 10 years that will affect public transit service, and make recommendations for improvement in service in each year.

An evaluation of System operations, equipment, and facility requirements for short-range (1-3 years) and long-range (4-10 years) will be completed. The core of the CSA is a short-range plan that will recommend mode and program changes designed to improve service efficiency, apply resources where they are most needed, and modernize the transit system based upon current and projected conditions within the service area. The CSA should also provide short- and long-range direction in terms of service expansion, equipment requirements, and future facility needs. [italics added]
Presumably once a contract is signed, more information will be released.

The CSA (yeah - you probably think a box of yummy veggies, too, right?) calls out "roadway, land use, and demographic changes" and it will be interesting to learn more about how these factor into the study. Even as we talk about making Salem more bikeable and walkable, we keep plopping new development on the outer edges where it is most difficult to walk and bike and use transit.  We don't integrate land-use and transportation planning very well.  In the aughts, the City and DLCD argued over this very matter, and the City dug in so deeply that the DLCD gave up. This will be another opportunity to discuss some of the matters and maybe execute some course-correction.

Salem's greatest density is on east side around anti-walkable Lancaster
Not anywhere close to downtown, transit center!
Income and ethnicity is obviously a big factor here also
The dark census blocks = a little over 10,000 people/square mile
map from The Atlantic
This study also comes at an interesting time.  Cherriots has really stayed in the background in the debate on the Third Bridge.  It would be a plausible scenario for a transit agency to offer a vigorous defense of transit's power to reduce congestion.  Instead, our agency has been pretty meek, maybe even a doormat, on the Bridge.  Maybe an outside consultant will be able to galvanize the agency. With the seismic work at the Capitol and a cascade of land use changes, including changes to parking on the mall, Cherriots will also have an opportunity to attract new transit users among State workers.  The Keizer Transit Station doesn't work very well as a multi-modal hub, and there will be an opportunity to do a better job with the planned South Transit Station.

Without the RFP, it's hard to know the right level of generality.  Maybe these things are too strategic, too high-level, and that the study will focus more on fiddling with - or optimizing, if you prefer - schedules, routes, and whatnot. It's crazy, for example, that the bus schedule doesn't work for Salem Hospital! And there's still the question of weekend and evening service.

Like with all studies, it's a blank slate and collectively we can do much or do little with them.

(For more on Walker...He's been in-and-out of Portland a lot lately, and recently you might have seen that he gave an interview to Willamette Week.  Here is a link to his recent Center for Transportation Studies talk.  And a group of videos from "A Field Guide to Transportation Quarrels.")


Transit Oriented Development envisioned in
Salem Futures, 2002
(click to enlarge)


Curt said...

Thanks for the historical link on the city and DLCD squabbles. It sounds as if the this city has fought very hard for its well deserved reputation as a transportation backwater in an otherwise progressive state. The empirical evidence from this experiment suggests the city's position is the big loser.

Wait for it....

I think one of the most important things Portland did to promote transit use was to abolish parking minimums for all developments within 500 ft. of transit service corridors. This allowed historic buildings to be preserved and more easily converted to new uses and it more allowed higher density, transit oriented development. In most cases these corridors don't have any bike lanes, yet IMO, they are more bikeable than your average Salem stroad with bike lanes and their vast parking lagoons. The quality of the urban environment there is also as good or better than anywhere I've experienced in the country. Portland TOD is even able to draw shoppers from Salem that arrive by car.

The biggest force of opposition has been the neighborhood associations fighting to prevent parking spillover. The developers of Boulder Creek are very proud of their 4.7 spaces per 1000 sq. ft. in what was once to be a transit oriented corridor as part of Salem Futures. Sigh...

Which brings up another rhetorical question I've been pondering lately: Is there one example from one city in the world that has robust transit usage that also has luxury accommodations for cars? I think that is an important question given the fact that many of the most vocal individuals in Salem that profess to want better transit in Salem are drivers first and their driving entitlement is what they are motivated to fight for most. When they look in the mirror, they don't see themselves as "anti-transit" but I think you do have to choose.

To our planners and engineers, I'm sure its as obvious to them, as it is to me, what Salemites choice is.

Anonymous said...

Here's more on the City-DLCD squabble -

The initial DLCD report from 2002 is particularly interesting -

In it is a map of proposed transit-oriented development. The TOD obviously has gone nowhere.

Curt said...

Thank you so much Anonymous.

In the Community Development office there is a TOD map on the wall so it hasn't disappeared entirely. I think Janet Taylor is given the most credit/blame for functionally dismantling Salem Futures. I wasn't around then, but I suspect that whatever advocates Salem had made it very easy to do... just like today's bike/ped. advocates made it very easy for parking activists to essentially defund the Mobility Study recommendations.

Two lessons that I draw from that are:

1. Strong, robust, intellectually sound grass roots support is essentially for long term success. Even if you have action from the top, without grass roots support, even small progress is just a house of cards waiting to fall.

2. The parking issue cannot be ignored. You have to confront the elephant in the room head on. You have to start chipping away at the stone sometime. People in this city who call themselves land use activists are entirely ignorant of the fact that per capita parking reduction one of our land use goals too, just like increasing bike and ped. counts.

I think it would activiate the blog more with less "anonymous" posts. Even a surname, used consistently, is better than no name at all. Something to consider.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Updated with TOD map from the 2002 DLCD report.

The final Salem Futures report does not seem to be anywhere online.

An early stage memo is available here from a Utah Academic Library Consortium. Click on the "view resource" tab. (Why Utah? Who knows.)