Tuesday, December 30, 2014

ODOT Draft Transportation Options Plan has Juicy Bits!

...But how effective will they be?

(Or when will ODOT actually become aware of itself saying these things?!)

Cars cost a lot to use!

Cars use space and funding inefficiently!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Design of Second Phase for Pringle Square Apartments at Planning Commission

Construction at Boise - via CB|Two
You've probably been watching the layers go up on the Boise shell this fall and now winter.

The next step
 At the Planning Commission next month is a new phase!

South Block, Phase 2 in lighter cream color
The developer and designer have submitted plans for a "class three design review" on phase two of the South Block apartment complex.

Disconnecting the Dots - But it's not too late to Connect Them!

Hope springs eternal! It's not too late to connect the dots...

"We need a bridge because we need a bridge"

This is what our "preparedness" looks like

We're nowhere close to being ready in any real way

None of Salem's bridges are expected to stand

Monday, December 22, 2014

2014 in Review: Boise and the Riverfront Finally Come Together

This is the sixth year-end review on the blog. If there's one thing that's become clear from them, it's that each time momentum seems to gather for real change, things stall and revert back to 20th century norms.

Remember when the Mayor
Rode an e-bike over the bridge?
It all seemed so promising then!
For every new bike lane, there's a giant intersection widening. A few sharrows are spattered around town, but we never build on them to develop the next step in a bikeway. We don't leverage them to make new connections, and we don't upgrade existing bike lanes to protected bike lanes or cycle tracks. In all things we are better at funding and writing plans than at funding and executing those plans.

If last year was dominated by debate and argument about parking, this year doesn't seem to offer a single neat narrative. (Maybe you will see a theme that ties them all together, or have a very different ranking?) This year's review will meander and scatter a good bit: Like our policy choices, this post will be incoherent.

Boise and the Bridges: Connections to the Park
Wallace and Glen Creek: Barriers to the Park

From here, though, it seemed like completing some huge pieces of the jigsaw puzzle on the Boise Redevelopment, Riverfront Park, and the Courtney Minto Bridge was the biggest, most important story of the year.

Developers broke ground on Boise, the City agreed to buy the Park Parcel, final funding and permits came together for the Courtney Minto Bridge. There were a lot of positive developments on an important part of the larger project to connect downtown to the riverfront.
Pringle Square Apartments - via CB|Two
(More on Boise here, and the Courtney Bridge here. The path system under and around the new Commercial Street Bridge is also part of the story.)

December, 2013 - Paths almost done!
A close second, and not such a happy story, one in fact that exemplified the push-me-pull-me dynamic in our facilities, was the simultaneous small-scale ARRA make-work of the connector path between the Union Street Railroad Bridge and Glen Creek Road while at the same time the City and ODOT undertook a massive degradation in the walking and biking environment by widening the intersection of Wallace and Glen Creek.

The incoherence is Salem in a nutshell.

Traffic canyon on Glen Creek looking west, up the hill, Fall 2014
Path connections in Wallace Park are also likely to be degraded further by Marine Drive's encroachment on the park.

If the Boise project knit the river closer to the city, Wallace widening projects drive the city away from the river. (Read more on Wallace and Glen Creek here.)

Rest of the top stories

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Environmental Assessment Delays Boise Park Parcel Purchase; New Details on Creek Path

It's entirely unsurprising that the environmental assessment at Boise is taking longer than expected. At a "special session" of City Council on Monday is a third set of amendments to the purchase and sale agreement for the park parcel.

The details on the environmental assessment itself don't look that interesting. Because, "duh."

There's lots of icky stuff and unknown stuff there, and no one should be surprised the process is taking longer and costs could be greater. (But one can wish that folks would start these processes more "pessimistically," and increase the odds of underpromising and overperforming instead of overpromising and underperforming.)

Boardwalk detail
More interesting for our purposes are some new details on the proposed path connection along Pringle Creek.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Chinook Wind or Pineapple Express? You Might not Guess a Link to Bicycling!

Bemer S. Pague
"Chinook Wind" or "Pineapple Express"?

Neither term seems completely innocent.

Chinook comes from the fur trapper and settlement era, and at least hints as a reminder of dispossession and our ignoble origins.

Pineapple express is to my ear a flip off-rhyme with "Banana Republic," and also might say something about dispossession.

"Pineapple express" only dates from around 1990 it seems
Google Ngram viewer
Both terms seem to locate the storm pattern, a frequent source of flood and catastrophe, elsewhere. In these seemingly foreign origins, both terms encode at least a little hint of nativism. Both make me wary.

Your mileage may vary.

I think I prefer "Chinook," though, because of its association with the jargon and the creative seam where different cultures met, traded, and generated new ideas. It's older and seems to have a much deeper established usage. There's also more "there" there in Chinook than in the pineapple - at least for around here.

Weather Forecasting and Weather Types
on the North Pacific Slope
Bemer S. Pague (et. al.), 1897
It turns out that one of the important explainers and popularizers of the term "Chinook wind" was also an important bicycle advocate in the late 19th century.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Ladies-only Cleaning and Maintenance Class on Saturday

Hey, this looks pretty great!

On Saturday the 20th, folks associated with The Bike Peddler will be hosting a ladies-only cleaning and maintenance class, "Clean Your Dir-tay Girl":
We are bada** and ride regardless of weather. Mud and slime? Heck that’s a badge of honor. While we’re hardcore, our bikes would like some spa treatment every so often.

Join the Selle Salem team (aka Michelle and Robyn) on December 20 to learn how to give your bike the pampering she longs for. During our one-hour session, we’ll take you through our deep cleaning process one-step at a time until your bike glimmers and performs like the super model that she is.

What Next? Bring your bike and smile. We’ll bring the cleaning supplies, tools, and drinks.
It'll be at the Bike Peddler, 174 Commercial St NE, on Saturday the 20th, starting at 4pm.

Sounds like a fun time - and no pesky boys!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

More on the Commercial Vista Corridor Study Issues and Opportunities

The Commercial Vista Corridor "Transportation Conditions Booklet" is posted to the website now, so let's take another pass at it.

The project team has also announced a workshop:
A public workshop will be held on Thursday, January 15, 2015 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at South Salem High School (1910 Church Street SE) in the North Library.
In the inventory of existing conditions, most of the analysis doesn't do much with the dimension of time; and it treats space as grid or empty container with things deployed in it, as a set of present or absent facilities (or kinds of facilities). But the inventory doesn't much look at how people move in space and in time. The only movements that are enumerated are turning movements by people in cars at intersections.

Mid-morning on Wednesday: Commercial only pulses with cars
The slack moments show there's tons of excess car capacity
Sidewalks are also empty
City of Salem Traffic Camera
We look at 24-hour traffic counts, but we don't look enough at how it bunches and how much capacity is wasted because we are always planning roadspace and carspace for those two hours of "peak" traffic each day.

Speeding is a problem here
Do we really 14 foot travel lanes?
Presentation Slides, Dec 11th
On this particular part of Commercial at Fairview and the Y with Liberty, there are sidewalks and bike lanes. But few use them. Why is that? Doesn't the existence of a facility guarantee its sufficiency? (Regular readers will know the answer!) But of course there's no crosswalk at the bus stop in the lower left. You will see people jaywalk here because the alternative is a three-legged crosswalk crossing. And it's ugly, even with a lawn and bark mulch. There is no element of interest or delight for the person on foot. Car speed is often high.

In order for the study to be a meaningful success it is going to have to dig deeper and propose real changes.

Let's look at a couple of ways it could go awry.

So far in the issues and opportunities identified in the Commercial Vista Study Corridor, there are a number of things that we really ought to be able to just assume, and should not require a study's analysis to "disclose."

Principally, there are a number of missing sidewalks, bike lanes, and lighting deficiencies. Can't we just assume it's obvious we're going to abate them? Do we have to fold a bunch of legacy remediation into this new study? I thought the study was going to identify ways we might go above and beyond current standards. Instead, a regrettable amount of study time and labor has already been spent identifying things that are obviously deficient.

Additionally - and this is perhaps looking more towards next year's State Street study - maybe the first act needs not to be engaging the consultant team for an inventory of existing conditions, but instead the first thing should be engaging a stakeholder advisory committee to walk the entire study area.

I wonder if these things are driven too much from the top, from the consultants and what planners "already know" about industry standards and even "best practices." Instead, maybe what is most needed is the "ground truth" from actual feet on the ground, especially the feet of those who ordinarily are driving in and around the study area. This will help better identify user issues as well as sensitize people to problems other kinds of users face and perhaps built more enduring political support for the eventual recommendations.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

CAN-DO Meets, Moots Parking; Oregon Bike Plan Advisory Committee also Meets

The downtown neighborhood association, CAN-DO, meets tonight and on the agenda is downtown parking.

Downtown Surface Parking Lots in Red
Parking Garages in Solid Brick Red
On-street parking stalls not included
click to enlarge (1 mb total, 1874 x 1114 px)
From the agenda:
Factors the City, residents and businesses should take into account in developing long-term solutions for downtown Salem's "parking problems" -- Jim Vu
CAN-DO meets Tuesday the 16th, at 6:00 p.m. at First Christian Church on 685 Marion Street NE.

(For all notes on downtown parking, see here.)

The Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan Policy Advisory Committee also meets today (agenda here).

The minutes from the last meeting are somewhat interesting. You can see the hints of some debate and resistance - no "mandates," freight is uncomfortable with non-auto mobility and general human capacity.  One promising sign? Maintenance and facility lifecycle issues are getting some discussion. You know how 1970s sidepaths from the first flush of the bike bill suffer from neglect now, or how "thin skin" pavement overlays don't always reach the shoulder or do create dangerous seams on the shoulder? That kind of thing. It's not clear how much the end product will be merely "advisory" and "aspirational" and how much it will effectively fund policy decisions enacted in concrete and asphalt.

This comment from the Portland area MPO, METRO, perhaps sums up the uncertainty best:
Consider updating strategy A.1.a from the 1995 Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan ("integrate bicycle and pedestrian facility needs into all planning, design, construction and maintenance activities of ODOT and local governments") with specific tools to achieve this strategy.
As in 1995, so today - is it walk or just talk?

Here's the start of some draft policy language.

(And here's more from the kick-off a year ago.)

The committee meets Tuesday, December 16th from 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM - Chemeketa Center for Business and Industry, 626 High St, Rm 115.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

State Bike Advisory Committee gets Update on Least Cost Planning

The Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee meets tomorrow, Monday the 15th, and on the agenda is an update to hear the latest on "Least Cost Planning."

Somebody has a sense of humor!
Willamette Queen in Least Cost Transportation Planning
You may recall that back in 2009 as part of the omnibus transportation package, Legislators asked ODOT to develop a new planning approach, "Least Cost Planning," to find out how to meet mobility needs in a more mode-neutral and cost-effective fashion:
Least cost planning was defined by the 2009 Oregon Legislature in the Jobs and Transportation Act (House Bill 2001):

"Least-cost planning means a process of comparing direct and indirect costs of demand and supply options to meet transportation goals, policies or both, where the intent of the process is to identify the most cost-effective mix of options."
At least theoretically, the idea is that if you can meet mobility needs with better transit, bike, walking facilities, why build a big new highway that's going to be a lot more expensive?

It always seemed like our own Third Bridge process was a terrific candidate for this "least cost planning" approach, since it didn't seem all that difficult to imagine a suite of transit, bike, walking, and land-use approaches for $50 or $100 million that would do a whole heck of a lot more than a giant bridge and highway for $500 million or more.

Least Cost Planning has now morphed into "MOSAIC", and it has its own website.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

City Council, December 15th - the Courtney Bridge and a Mysterious $2M

At the head of Council's agenda for Monday is a fitting tribute to a long-time Salem politician.

The City proposes to name the Minto bridge after Peter Courtney, who was on City Council in 1975 when the bridge idea first hatched and the first Riverfront Downtown Urban Renewal Plan adopted. Since 1980, at the Legislature he's done a bunch of other stuff. You may recall that he was involved in the $1.6 million in STIP funding that was the final piece for the project. He also runs and bikes a good bit for recreation and exercise, participating in the Monster Cookie, for example.

Seems like a pretty fair idea, don't you think?

There's also an interesting agreement on the Pacwest development out on Kuebler Road. The City says the total cost of the Kuebler widening is going to be about $5 million, and the fair share for Pacwest would be $3 million. So far so good. But then the City proposes to give back $2 million in System Development Charges:
Developer shall pay to the City the sum of $3 million, which the parties acknowledge is a reasonable estimate of developer's cost to provide the Kuebler Boulevard SE improvement, and other associated Qualified Public Improvements (Required Improvements)....

The parties agree that upon completion of the Qualified Public Improvements developer will be entitled to $2 million in SDC credits that may be used to offset SDC charges for the property and related development owned by the developer.
Maybe there's a good reason for this, but it sure looks a little funny! If the fair estimate is $3 million, then why is it going to become an effective sum of $1 million?

This development has also been the subject of some debate in no small part, as I understand it, because the City has granted it a driveway off of Kuebler, and as a parkway, a kind of urban highway, Kuebler is generally not supposed to have driveway connections in order to facilitate the free-flow of traffic (that hydraulic autoism). It seems like there might be multiple layers of developer subsidy here - but at least in Urban Renewal and Enterprise Zones, municipal subsidies are rather more direct and are called out and enumerated. Public benefits are easier to assesses - from here, for example, a $2M subsidy on Riverfront Park and Boise is much easier to justify than $2M on a Kuebler strip mall. Or why not $2M for the vacant Rose Gardens/Epping property on Portland Road? The comparative benefit here looks off.

Anyway, this complicated, others will know the history better, and perhaps they will find the matter worth more conversation, even debate, than a silent Council action among the consent items.

Update, Sunday

Revisiting the Staff Report yields this, which I think is the center of the matter:
The Kuebler Boulevard SE improvement, as well as the other Qualified Public Improvements, will provide more capacity than the traffic impact of the development. SRC Chapter 41 provides that the developer will be entitled to SDC credits upon completion of those improvements, and can use those credits to offset SDC payments the developer will be required to make for development of the property.
So basically the City's taking a loan to complete the Kuebler work, and then paying back the money via SDC credits.

The real problem here, then, is maybe not so much that there's a
reduction in the total amount the developer is "paying" in SDCs ($3 million payment - $2 million in SDC credits), but that the SDC charges, which might go to a variety of different infrastructure elements, are all concentrated on overbuilding Kuebler. And overall the SDCs are probably too small.

This may be less a case of funny accounting and sweetheart dealing than it is a case of misplaced priorities, insufficiently small SDCs, and out-of-date notions and analysis of "traffic impact."

Other Things

There's an information report on "Council accomplishments," but some of them are of the paper sort rather than concrete and asphalt. The list is maybe padded out with adopted plans rather than completed projects from those plans. Your mileage may vary, but I wished I had seen more vision and a larger proportion of grander things. Still, it is interesting to read the list for the City's own synoptic view of things.

There's an adjustment on the food cart ordinances to accommodate special events and events in the streets or alleys.

Finally, there will be an appointment to the Planning Commission, but the Staff Report doesn't share a recommendation.

Friday, December 12, 2014

An Early Fail on Commercial Vista Corridor Study?

There's a couple of neat pamphlets out from the Thursday Commercial Vista Corridor Study, but neither of them are posted to the project website yet. We'll update the post here when they are published.

In the meantime, already there's a small moment for that queasy, sinking feeling.

From the "Draft Transportation Issues Booklet"
and the "opportunities" map
In the "Draft Transportation Issues Booklet," number 1 on the "opportunities" map is an
option to avoid the split [at Liberty and Commercial] by directing [south-bound] bicyclists onto Liberty Rd S until Vista Ave SE where bicyclists can connect back onto Commercial St SE
But we already did this!!!

Left turn signed at Liberty and Vista, 2009
People on bike are directed to continue right on Liberty and at Vista there's additional signage to turn left on Vista, with a strong bias towards using the Crosswalk.

The only problem? This is totally non-intuitive and very few people do it this way.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Third Bridge is Self-Negating

There's a draft memo circulating of a funding analysis performed by ECONorthwest.

Just tolling solves all our congestion problems!
(Chart not in memo; all other clips here are from the memo)
The memo hasn't been finalized, and will be posted to the project website when it is finalized.

Draft memo on funding
But one very interesting result is clear: Based on their own, internal formulas and projections, there is no need for any measure on the bridges other than tolling!

More than this, the best way to fund a bridge removes the conditions that supposedly make it necessary.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Funding and Bike/Ped Design on Oversight Team Agenda Thursday; Process now a Decade

Whether you parse the word as "supervision" or "neglect," or even a deliciously tart blend of the two, the Oversight Team now looks out over a decade-long process. (Or, as the sports world might say, "We're going to the third OT period!")

On Thursday the 11th they meet to look at "funding" and we should probably adjust our expectations. (Agenda here.)

Latest schedule delay - out to at least May 2016
from Dec 2014 Funding Workshop Presentation
The schedule already has been pushed out again. The plan for the terminus, the "record of decision," is plotted for May 2016.

No evidence
Regular readers will know why it's taking so long. Because the project offers no meaningful solutions. A strong solution that actually solved a well-identified problem would have attracted a consensus incorporating meaningful compromises by now. The elongated process is a clear sign the problem is poorly defined and the proposed solutions, including the "preferred alternative" of the Salem Alternative, are in search of an actual problem and themselves introduce a host of new problems.

Partisans for the bridge are able to cite very little in the way of facts or evidence, and instead cite a priori commitments, as well as feelings of being neglected. (The "second-class" nature of investment and facilities at WSHS, Straub MS, and Kalapuya Elementary would surprise many, I think!)

Original schedule from 2006 had
Record of Decision in early-2009!
Back in 2006 at the beginning, it was anticipated that a formal "record of decision" might be attained in early 2009. We've blown past that, and as the bars in the latest schedule for "Land Use Approval Process," "Financial Plan," and "TSP, TIP, and RTSP amendments" suggest, there is still quite a bit to do.

Main Street, Carbon Tax and Climate Change - Newsbits

Variations on "Main Street" are important in so many ways for us. There's downtown, North Broadway, the Commercial Vista Corridor Study, and soon there will be State Street.

So it's with interest to note the Project for Public Places blurbed the fall edition of Main Street Now. I don't know anything about the periodical, but it looks very interesting and timely.

In the PSS post they note
Speed kills sense of place. City and town centers are destinations, not raceways, and commerce needs traffic—foot traffic. You cannot buy a dress from a car. Even foot traffic speeds up in the presence of fast moving vehicles. Access, not automobiles, should be the priority in city centers. Don’t ban cars, but remove the presumption in their favor. People first!...

Designing road projects to fit community contexts can help increase developable land, create open space, and reconnect communities to their neighbors, a waterfront, or a park. They can reduce household dependency on the automobile, allowing children to walk to school, connecting neighborhoods to downtowns, and helping build healthier lifestyles by increasing the potential to walk or cycle. Think public benefit, not just private convenience....

It is also essential to foster landuse planning at the community level that supports, instead of overloads, the transportation network. This includes creating more attractive places that people will want to visit in both new and existing developments. A strong sense of place benefits the overall transportation system. Great Places—popular spots that have a good mix of people and activities and can be comfortably reached by walking, biking, and perhaps by public transit as well as by car— put little strain on the transportation system. Poor land-use planning, by contrast, generates thousands of unnecessary vehicular trips, creating dysfunctional roads, which further deteriorate the quality of places.
And that's what we're talking about here!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Commercial Vista Corridor Study at SCAN and Morningside - Updated from Traffic Analysis

There's so many things on Thursday!

Yesterday we mentioned the Cherriots Board meeting.

Today we'll mention the Commercial Vista Corridor Study.

Commercial has six lanes + bike lanes just north
of Fairview and Alice
The high level goal, you will recall, is
to identify specific project to manage traffic, enhance connectivity, and provide a welcoming environment for walkers, bicyclists, transit riders, and motorists. The general approach will be to identify short-term projects for immediate implementation as well as incremental improvements that can be constructed as funding becomes available or in conjunction with private investment actions.
Tame the vastness and speed!

Between Madrona and Ohmart, with businesses like LifeSource, Venti's, Panera, Cafe Yumm, French Press, Acme, Five Guys Burgers - there are lots of neighborhood-scaled businesses that should be walkable and bikeable here, but the roadway is configured here as an autoist firehose.

The Commercial Corridor Study kicks off publicly with two meetings on Thursday:
  • A listening workshop will be held Thursday, December 11, 2014 from 1:30 to 3 p.m. for businesses and property owners within the study area to better understand issues and desires for the area. The meeting will be held at the LifeSource Community Room, 2649 Commerical Street SE (located on the first floor of the Candalaria Terrace building [one block south LifeSource itself]).
  • Stakeholder Advisory Committee Meeting #1 will be held from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on December 11, 2014 at the LifeSource Community Room, 2649 Commercial Street S.
Since the more urgent Salem River Crossing Oversight Team meeting is also on Thursday, it is convenient that two neighborhoods adjacent to the project area will be discussing the study some on Wednesday, the 10th.

Morningside will get a general update on the project at its monthly meeting.

The Morningside Neighborhood Association meets Wednesday the 10th at 6:30 p.m. in the Pringle Creek Community Painters Hall, 3911 Village Center Drive SE.
Already moving to commentary, at their meeting SCAN will offer for deliberation a "Statement of Concern about Commercial-Vista Corridor Project." It will be interesting to learn more about concerns expressed already before the thing has formally started the public phase. Has the City messed up already? Or is it just fear of change?

The South Central Association of Neighbors meets Wednesday the 10th at 6:30 p.m. in the South Salem High School Commons [not the library, note the change!] at 1910 Church Street SE.

(For all notes on the Commercial Vista Corridor Study, see here.)

Monday, December 8, 2014

Cherriots: Walmart Parking Lot for South Salem Transit Station, Walking Map, Rideshare

Thursday's kindof a busy day with the Salem River Crossing Oversight Team meeting, but Thursday there's also a Cherriots Board meeting that has a couple of interesting items on it.

It looks like Cherriots has identified the Walmart parking lot on South Commercial as the best candidate for a new transit station.

Site assessment: Walmart on Baxter and Commercial best
Planners note the Walmart site scored best for three different site plan types and that Eugene had recently purchased land from Walmart for a transit station:
The evaluation shows that the Walmart site, laid out in three different design types, still performs better than either the Capital Rental or the Kilgore Blackman Building Materials sites.

The next phase of the project will be focused on obtaining the required land for the transit center. Based on conversations with the Walmart store manager it is possible that negotiations for acquiring land could take a year or more. During this time the District will need engineering support to jointly develop design concepts that benefit both parties. The District will also apply for federal and state grants to support other pre-construction activities.

Lane Transit District (LTD) has had recent experience negotiating with Walmart to purchase land. District staff contacted LTD and summarized the LTD approach in the attached memorandum labeled as Attachment B. The bottom line is that although it may take time, Walmart can be a willing seller when presented with a mutually beneficial facility.
As a secondary consideration - this is after all principally for buses, and only secondarily a multi-modal hub - I hope more thought this time is given to non-motorized connectivity. The Keizer Transit Station has nice furniture, but it fits in users and actual use patterns rather awkwardly.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

City Council, December 8th - also LUBA update

Light Council agenda for our interests. So just bullets without commentary. Plus an update on Thursday's LUBA arguments on the Blind School property.
There didn't seem to be anything new or interesting to say about any of these. Maybe you will have something to say?

City Engages High-Powered Attorney for Blind School Hearings at LUBA

Far more interesting than the Council agenda was news that filtered out after the hearing before the Land Use Board of Appeals on Thursday.

It seems the Hospital and City brought large artillery into the field at the oral arguments over the Blind School parcel.

Plenty of room
Coming down from Portland, Edward J. Sullivan argued for the City and, apart from the fact that we disagree with his side on this, he's had it turns out quite a distinguished career.

Friday, December 5, 2014

More Pleasant than Bridge News: New Bars and Bike Locker Map

I missed GIS day at the library last month. It flew under the radar! Did you go to it?
City Staff recently shared news that one of the projects they worked on was an update to the City map of bike lockers.

New City bike locker map
Now it shows the location, and when you click on a locker site, you can see how many there are and if any are available.

There are eight at the YMCA, but all of them are in use.

Right now the information probably isn't very useful. Who's looking for a bike locker in winter?! But we'll revisit it later in the spring!

Archive's High-Brow + Low-Brow Blend Promises Great Fun
And Other Openings Too

Archive's grand opening is today in the newly renovated McGilchrist and Roth building and they're offering treats of many kinds.

Skeletonwitch + Pinot Noir? The Metallic Sommelier!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Congestion Pricing on the Bridges Deserves more Thought; Transit may Depend on it

Lots of good talk about tolling as a result of last night's "funding workshop."

The tone spurred by the word "toll," however, might be a little high, and we might have better results if we talked about "congestion pricing" instead.

Tolls maybe sound punitive, but "congestion pricing" is a market-based solution that preserves individual choice and relies on the aggregate wisdom of the crowd in allocating road capacity.

Cherriots new service map points towards congestion pricing
The topic also illustrates why we have zoom out and not just look at "what's in it for me?" or "how are they going to stick it to me?"; we must also consider a host of land use, development, and transportation questions.

Maybe the thing that crystallizes this best is the probability that transit will not work in West Salem unless we have congestion pricing on the bridges.

Cherriots new service levels just empty out West Salem, just give up on it. The case boils down to, "Have you looked at the numbers? There's no way to justify running empty buses all around the hills of West Salem."

One of the reasons for that is the drive-alone trip is too cheap.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Free Parking and One-Way Grid Highlighted as Reasons for Business Closure

Bittersweet Boutique cites transportation issues in closure
The piece in the paper today about the closure of Bittersweet Boutique was sad. It's never a good thing to read about a business closing.

But the piece was also interesting because of how prominently transportation figured. Owners cited ways that free, unlimited parking harmed their business, and ways that people don't like the one-way grid.

They also highlight clustering: Clusters of competitors make it easier to for people to plan focused shopping trips. You can also walk between businesses that are clustered, and there are interesting things on the sidewalk between destinations. 

This is anecdote, of course, not data - and of course it's subject to our own confirmation bias here - but it is interesting that these elements external to a business model or plan are highlighted.

The solution to Salem's downtown is not MOAR PARKING. Hollowing out downtown for more surface lots or parking garages will only exacerbate the problem. Cars are just a delivery system, and a pernicious one at that.

The solution to Salem's downtown will involve better delivery systems, better sidewalk environments, and some equation of more people and fewer cars.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Postscript on Catastrophe, History, and the Third Bridge

The Dye House right next to the big factory building for the Woolen Mill will be a great place to consider questions about the Third Bridge on Wednesday.

The first mill burned down in 1895
Here it is circa 1889 during construction
(image via Writerquake)
Dec. 16th, 1895
In an irony not perhaps considered by organizers and planners, it is significant that the first mill structure completely burned down in 1895.

It was rebuilt in brick instead of wood.

Walter D. Pugh, who was both a builder and architect, and who was responsible for Old City Hall and the Grand Theater, as well as many buildings we have lost, was engaged for the second mill structure.

The catastrophe of fire should remind us that we face another catastrophe.

A seismic retrofit of our existing bridges will be a lot cheaper than a new bridge, and when the big earthquake literally shakes everything to the foundations, as we know it will, wouldn't we be thankful for functional Center and Marion Street bridges instead of piles of rubble?

Additionally, both of the mill buildings used water power, and the Dye House setting, so close to the Mill Race, is also a fine place to consider technological and social change.

The second mill, still standing today, circa 1900
(image via Oregon State Library)
Bridge planners like think that mid-20th century patterns of autoism will continue into the 21st century, but we're already seeing change as Millennials drive less and get cars later than their parents, and smart phone technology, like what is being used for Uber and other ride-sharing applications, will offer yet more change.

The old assumptions won't work in the future. The whole mill complex testifies powerfully to this.

Autoist-in-Chief  Eisenhower at a Traffic Safety Conference, 1954
Part of work leading to the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956
(image via Eisenhower Presidential Library)
It should be a great place to ponder whether best practices from the 1950s are what Salemites will most likely need as we head towards the 2050s.

Whether to Fund a Giant Bridge and Highway: Funding Fantasy Wednesday

The workshop for whether to pay for a giant bridge and highway is tomorrow!

It all sounds so innocuous, doesn't it?
The City of Salem has been working with the Oregon Department of Transportation for the past several years...for a new bridge.... [The City and ODOT] are now seeking input on how to fund the Preferred Alternative, which is estimated to cost $430 million....Information on potential funding strategies will be discussed at a public workshop scheduled for 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, December 3, at the Willamette Heritage Center Dye House.
It'll be painless, really, you won't feel a thing...

Already we've sunk almost $7 million into the stacks of paper and meetings.

$60,000 per month since 2006 - via N3B
As you can see from N3B's year-by-year graph, there's some variation, but thinking of the project as spending $60,000 a month for more than 100 months is a way to grasp the waste in planning.

In round numbers that's a pedestrian median and enhanced crosswalk once a month, every month.

We could have installed about 100 more of these -
That's one a month over the life of the project
More than 100 could have been installed around the city and region.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Draft of a Project Tracker for Bike/Ped Improvements

Over Thankgiving weekend a question came to mind: Is the City of Salem just trolling us with bike/ped teases? Or should we be more thankful? Now that Bike and Walk Salem has had a chance to settle in, are we pursuing bike/ped stuff aggressively, or lackadaisically?

I'm not exactly sure the best way to configure this, so this is a draft of what I will post as a permanent page in a week or two.

The questions it seeks to answer are:
  • What are the significant bike/ped projects (or widening projects that will include meaningful new bike lane or sidewalk connections) coming up? 
  • What is their approximate cost?
  • When are they scheduled for construction?
The primary sources of information I expect will be the City's Capital Improvements Program (latest is the 2014/15 - 2018/19 document from April, 2014) and the SKATS (our local MPO) Transportation Improvement Program (latest is the FY 2015-2020 TIP).

Not all sources of information are totally consistent, so there's some uncertainty, and it will be necessary to edit/revise occasionally. Right now the regional TIP is the more recent document, so dollar amounts and construction dates will mostly come from it rather than the City's CIP.

Projects that are primarily bike/ped improvements, as opposed to widening ("modernization") that incidentally includes sidewalks and bike lanes, are in green.

See an error, have project to add, see a better way to configure the information, or just want to quibble, drop a comment. I'll incorporate criticism into a second version.

The Minto Bridge is getting closer
2015 (Year scheduled for construction)
  • Minto Bridge and Path - $7.2 million (this dollar amount is from the CIP and looks too small)
  • 25th and Madrona, and new 22nd street segment - widening, sidewalks, bike lane, the whole deal - $6 million
  • Widening McGilchrist from 12th to 25th - design only $1.2 million

Friday, November 28, 2014

City Council, December 1st - Uber Duber Change

Maybe the most interesting item on Council's agenda for Monday is a recommendation from staff to review the regulatory scheme for taxis. You'll recognize the whole Uber thing in the background here:
Recommended Action: Direct staff to review the City's vehicle for hire regulations within Salem Revised Code (SRC) Chapter 30 for possible amendment to address newly emerging transportation network companies who utilize smart phone applications and the internet to link drivers with passengers in need of transportation, and prepare recommendations for amendments to the SRC to address issues raised by this new business model.
This is a rapidly changing environment, and last summer there was a long piece in the Washington Post about how disruptive is the class of "transportation network companies" and their "smart phone applications." More recently, the New York Times noted "The average price of an individual New York City taxi medallion fell to $872,000 in October, down 17 percent from a peak reached in the spring of 2013, according to an analysis of sales data." The disruption is happening in all cities, everywhere.

The NEN-SESNA "Looking Forward" neighborhood plan continues to move, with a future report here for a December 8th appearance at Council, and it is amusing to note that one of its pieces is called "GLUM." The "Generalized Land Use Map" is glum. That's a piquant internal note on the effect that our proliferation of "shelf studies" and largely-ignored policy language has on advocates. So here's to "GLUM," maybe the most accurate component and effect in our planning toolkit.

Other Stuff

There's not really a whole lot of substantial interest here, so mostly a list with little commentary. (There weren't enough four-letter words, like UBER and GLUM, to riff on. Maybe you'll see other four-letter words or have other thoughts?)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanksgiving Weekend in 1914 Illustrates History of Autoism

Thanksgiving in 1914 looked a lot like it does today. It had already become an opportunity for marketing and merchandising, and the advertising isn't much different from what we'd see today.

Tuesday, November 24th, 1914
One highlight of the weekend here was a "five reel feature film sensation," From Molten Steel to Automobile, a PR extravaganza from the Maxwell Motor Company, shown at the Grand Theatre.

Tuesday, November 24th, 1914
It was making the rounds in the US. An August, 1914 issue of The Horseless Age magazine talked about viewings in New York, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, and Flint.