Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Area Transportation Commission to Prioritize Lottery-Funded Projects Thursday

Tomorrow, Thursday the 1st, the Mid-Willamette Valley Area Commission on Transportation meets to make final recommendations for lottery funding under the ConnectOregon V program.

The Commission looks to finalize recommendations from among the 11 candidate projects in the region all competing statewide for $42 million in lottery-backed funding. (For previous notes on ConnectOregon and some of the projects, see here. There are way more applications than funds, and most projects will not be funded.)

Preliminary voting for ConnectOregon V projects
(click to make legible)
In the preliminary voting, the top ranked application is for a truck and rail hub connection in Dallas. The second ranked one is Cherriot's South Salem Transit Center.  The Kroc Center path is in the middle at five, and the Bike Pods of Oregon is near the end at nine, having got only a single vote - but don't feel bad; two projects attracted no votes!

Also interesting in the minutes of last month's meeting was conversation about poor conditions on the Center Street Bridge. The irony is perhaps lost on some: We have money to plan a shiny new future bridge, but not enough to maintain our existing one.

$7 million on the SRC could have funded the pavement.
MWACT meets at 3:30pm on Thursday the 1st at 100 High St. SE, Suite 200 above Bar Andaluz and the former La Capitale.

New Federal Transportation Authorization (mini-round-up)

The League of American Bicyclists has a brief analysis of the proposed federal transportation bill. Also Streetsblog. Apparently there's also some talk about increasing flexibility on tolling. There will be more to say!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Learn about Grant Neighborhood Architecture and History on Thursday

When you're walking or riding around Salem there's always a neat or odd or interesting old house.

What's this old house sandwiched between Evergreen Church
and some new construction? (via Streetview)
A talk on Thursday will shed light on some of them! May 1st retired architectural historian Thomas Hubka will be giving an informal talk about house styles and "vernacular architecture" in the Grant neighborhood.

Around town, once you're outside of the historic districts, which have their own house-by-house documentation, sometimes in Salem helpfully scraped up on sites like waymarking, and not looking at the houses that are individually listed on the National Register, there's not a lot of useful information.  One helpful resource is Virginia Green's "Discover" blog, which information has a lot of the "local landmarks" (deemed slightly lesser than the national listings) and other older homes.  Not about Salem, but very helpful for styles and dating is the pamphlet, Everyday Houses: A Guide to Springfield’s Most Popular House Types, 1880-1980 (big pdf).

Style Cluster in "Everyday Houses" - Cross-Wing center top row
Put together in 2008, "Everyday Houses" was a student project under the direction of Hubka while he was Distinguished Visiting Professor at University of Oregon. It's great for a vocabulary to describe the architectural styles of the homes, both grand and humble, we see around town. It also helps with naming and analyzing some of the detailing.

Hubka's now retired and lives in Portland. And he's visiting more around the valley.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Strava Heat Map shows Popular Salem Routes

Earlier this month I saw a heat map for a larger urban place - maybe Portland? - and I didn't investigate further, thinking it was a hacked-together datamap from a larger tech community.

Turns out it's from all over!

A reader this morning sent a link to the Salem view. Strava has aggregated data from their users - so we're talking relatively serious and affluent road cyclists here - to show the most popular bike routes. I don't know how many are from Salem, but this gives you a starting point for actual use.

It is interesting to see, for example, how much the path on the Center Street Bridge is used - even with the Union St RR Bridge close by.  The connections are more direct in some directions, and it's not surprising to see this group using it a lot. Keubler and Cordon get a good bit of use because they're the only connecting roads out there. It's funny to see people with Stravas biking in Minto Park (and to it via the "secret" RR trail) - probably some runners are in this data set too? Or maybe that's a measure of people with fancy bike gear who nevertheless don't like traffic.  Conclusions from the map should probably be tentative.

What stands out to you when you click through and check it out?

Sunday, April 27, 2014

City Council, April 28th - Capital Improvement Plan Tables and Charts

Maybe the most interesting thing at Council on Monday is an update on the West Salem Business District Action Plan. The draft Capital Improvement Plan is much larger and also important.

They've finally settled on the "Key Scope Elements" for the west Salem study: Looking at large-scale demolition, a new hotel, and accommodating the proposed giant bridge and highway dominate:
  • Prepare Area Market Study. Assess the market for existing and new uses for the area. Through consultation with several of the area's major employers, prepare an assessment as to the capacity of resident industries to stay or expand in their existing space. At a very high level, assess the viability of the existing building stock to determine whether/which structures could be considered economically obsolete, or identify cases in which the property may be more valuable without an obsolete structure.
  • Conduct Hotel Feasibility Analysis. There is interest in determining whether a hotel could be supported in the West Salem Business District in light of proximity to downtown, overflow at Salem Convention Center, softball tournaments at Wallace Marine Park, access to wine country, and opportunity to obtain views. This analysis will determine the market for a hotel in the area, now or in the future.
  • Develop Development Concepts. Possible development concepts will be developed to support further analysis of the range of traffic and infrastructure investments that may be required. Feedback on development concepts and transportation options will be the focus of a public forum later this summer. More detailed design concepts and charrettes may be completed in collaboration with a future architectural studio at the University of Oregon.
  • Assess Traffic Circulation Needs and Mitigation. Evaluation will include identifying what traffic mitigation may be required to support the initial development concepts and in light of known transportation challenges in the area [ie: the third bridge]. Order of magnitude cost estimates for transportation access enhancements will also be included. This task assumes transportation modeling to "test" the impact of up to six alternatives on the transportation system and in light of new land uses and increased vehicle trips, assuming redevelopment occurs.
  • Provide Summary Memoranda and Develop Recommendations. Recommendations will reflect the anticipated schedule of available funding in that the near-term recommendations should be lower cost and offer quick fixes appropriate to the level of urban renewal funding and/or City action. Longer-term recommendations will include a method for prioritizing future urban renewal investments.[italics added]
This project is a little squirrelly, as it seeks to bake into plans an accommodation for the giant bridge and highway. That is, it assumes what is yet to be proved, and the circularity is, well, maybe a little devious.

The bit about a hotel is also interesting.  If a hotel is needed, it seems like there's way more sense in another downtown hotel that would serve Willamette and the State offices and making it easy to get to the ballparks without a car, than in building a highly subsidized one in West Salem and trying to fill it.

And if our experiences with urban renewal have taught us anything over the decades, it's to be suspicious of projects that require large-scale demolition and clearance.

There's potential for hijinks and boondoggletry here!

This is a study to watch closely - but since the Edgewater district is in fact very dormant, it's also possible that something genuinely useful will emerge, so being skeptical doesn't preclude pleasant surprises.  It rates a yellow for caution (we're gonna go with a highlighter theme today).

Draft CIP

Super important, and also interesting, but not representing a whole lot of completely new information is the draft Capitol Improvement Plan for fiscal years 2014/15 to 2018/19. (Here's the city microsite with a link to a better pdf of the CIP - it's fascinating that the Council agendas usually contain links to scanned versions of the same docs rather than links to the original electronic pdfs.  Maybe this is to satisfy some legal requirement, but the second- and third-generation copies of printed-out pdfs are always inferior!)

Here's a bunch of tables and charts. At least theoretically, this is a compilation document, and shouldn't represent new things. You can see how the road bond tails off (second thought: this can't be right, since the bond savings is funding projects through like 2018, so there's something missing; will update the post once I figure it out), how the gas tax is used for maintenance and actually funds very little, how we have to plug holes in the budget for the parking garages, and the breakdown on a couple of street projects.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Silverton-Stayton Railroad Abandoned? Rails-to-Trails Opportunity! - updated

The Brewfest at the Oregon Garden is this weekend, and imagine you had a bike path to Silverton separated from road traffic. Wouldn't that be terrific?!

A reader sends word that the Union Pacific short line recently operated as the Willamette Valley Railway between Silverton and Stayton may be abandoned soon.

Willamette Valley Railway Shortline (yellow)
between Silverton and Stayton
According to a March piece in the paper:
[S]ervice to Stayton was suspended in January 2012 after a storm compromised the tracks north of Aumsville. Operators of the Willamette Valley Railway have been seeking abandonment for much more of the track, reportedly everything south of Mt. Angel.

“There hasn’t been a train here for two years, plus, at this point in time,” [Stayton City Planner Dan] Fleishman said.

He said area businesses that were customers of the rail line prior to the 2012 halt included Wilco and RedBuilt Engineered Wood Products. NORPAC, which has spurs to its food processing plant, has not used the service in years, and Fleishman said a representative from the company indicated little interest.
The paper said there was some interest in an excursion train, but the cost seemed prohibitive.

Friday, April 25, 2014

More than the Police and Civic Center Debate: SCV's new Issue Papers

Hey, this is pretty neat. Salem Community Vision has published some "white papers" on three issues in Salem.  Two of them are of particular interest.

on downtown bridges
on downtown sidewalks and streets
Though we might differ on a few details, in general terms there's a lot to like and they could contribute to a consensus approach on the bridges and the streetscape concept. This is a meaningful contribution to debate and discussion and they're worth reading.  (Perhaps there will be more to say over the next few days.)

You can find all three here.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Two Reasons to Check out the Capitol this Weekend

Shoot, I'm not sure the beautiful sun we had earlier in the month will return on Sunday.

Though advance registration for the Monster Cookie on Sunday the 27th is closed, if the weather's not too bad, day-of-ride registration is easy!

Starts at 8am by the fountain on the north side of the Capitol.  You can print out the registration form at home.

The ride is always a great way to enjoy the gentle rolling hills of French Prairie and to see some of the earliest settlement area in Oregon.

If you're not up for a long ride, or the weather's too yucky, consider a ramble to observe ruins of the second Capitol building.

Capitol in flames, April 25-26, 1935
Capitol 75th Anniversary site
The 75th anniversary of our third, the current one, was celebrated this past year, and Friday the 25th is the anniversary of the conflagration in 1935 that destroyed the second.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Cherriots Retreats on Transit Components in Third Bridge Concept Design

On the agenda for the Thursday, April 24th, Cherriots Board meeting (whole agenda and packet here) is a proposed change to the terms of support for the Salem River Crossing "Salem Alternative." Having run into friction from the Oversight Team on transit, Cherriots seems willing to back down.

Cherriots' "New Vision"
In light of all the excitement and possibility represented in Gil Penalosa's talk earlier this year, the retreat is more than a little surprising.

In the proposed revision to their policy statement on the third bridge is a brief explanation of the objections:
[W]hen the letter (Attachment A) and policy statement (Attachment B) were presented to the SRC Oversight Team, a clear level of concern was expressed by some members of the SRC Oversight Team. As a result, the SRC Oversight Team has requested a revision be made to the policy statement submitted for inclusion by Salem-Keizer Transit. These members would prefer to have language that, in their perception, would be less prescriptive in nature and would allow for a greater level of discretion throughout the design process. [italics added]
The current, and apparently disagreeable, language:

THAT the Board of Directors hereby states as a matter of record, support for the “Salem Alternative” as the preferred alternative to be included in the Salem River Crossing Environmental Impact Statement, and

“…THAT the following statement be added to the Oversight Team Policy Statements:
Public Transportation supportive amenities such as bus stops, park and ride lots, transit centers, bus queue jump lanes, and transit signal priority will be included as an integral part of the design of the project.” [italics added]
The new language (the paragraphing and quotes aren't exactly parallel, so if you're a stickler, check the original):

THAT the Board of Directors hereby states as a matter of record, support for the “Salem Alternative” as the preferred alternative to be included in the Salem River Crossing Environmental Impact Statement, and

THAT the following statement be added to Oversight Team Policy Statements:
["]In order to avoid additional costs and design conflicts, bus stop locations and construction shall be coordinated with Salem-Keizer Transit. In addition, other public transportation supportive amenities such as park and ride lots, transit centers, bus queue jump lanes, and transit signal priority will be considered as part of the design of the project.” [italics added]
A change from "include as integral" to "consider" is a meaningful softening and retreat.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Crazy! Admiral Embraces Climate Science; Exhorts Conservatives to Conserve

Climate change should be one of the dearest issues to conservatives, but somehow the idea of conserving the best of the past has got lost for many.

"If you’re a conservative—half of America—why would you take yourself out of the debate? C’mon, don’t be stupid. Conservative people want to conserve things. Preserving the climate should be high on that list."

Commie-Hippie-Tree-Hugging-Agenda-21er, prolly
The other day a reader tipped this interview with Rear Admiral David Titley on Slate:
I see climate change as one of the driving forces in the 21st century. With modern technology and globalization, we are much more connected than ever before. The world’s warehouses are now container ships. Remember the Icelandic volcano with the unpronounceable name? Now, that’s not a climate change issue, but some of the people hit worst were flower growers in Kenya. In 24 hours, their entire business model disappeared. You can’t eat flowers....

Here’s another one: We basically do nothing on emissions. Sea level keeps rising, three to six feet by the end of the century. Then, you get a series of super-typhoons into Shanghai and millions of people die. Does the population there lose faith in Chinese government? Does China start to fissure? I’d prefer to deal with a rising, dominant China any day....

A lot of people who doubt climate change got co-opted by a libertarian agenda that tried to convince the public the science was uncertain—you know, the Merchants of Doubt. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of people in high places who understand the science but don’t like where the policy leads them: too much government control.

Where are the free-market, conservative ideas? The science is settled. Instead, we should have a legitimate policy debate between the center-right and the center-left on what to do about climate change. If you’re a conservative—half of America—why would you take yourself out of the debate? C’mon, don’t be stupid. Conservative people want to conserve things. Preserving the climate should be high on that list.
Happy Earth Day. Celebrate, worry, and act.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Framing Howard Hall as Practicality vs Sentimentality Misses Giant Parking Lot

The Hospital is gearing up for another attempt to demolish Howard Hall. But lost in the headline antithesis of practicality vs. sentimentality is the way the whole thing is a giant surface parking lot.

It's all about cars.

Drab and Useless?
Rather than framing it as reason vs emotion, how about we look at carbon footprint.  A more interesting angle might be how profoundly unsustainable and unhealthy is the whole model of car storage and new construction proposed here. In reuse, retaining the embodied carbon in an existing building isn't just sentimentality, and in fact it might be the most prudent, practical option of all.

Local MPO to Review Draft Project List for 2015-2020

On Tuesday the 22nd - the actual Earth Day - the Policy Committee for our local Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Salem Keizer Area Transportation Study, meets at noon. On the agenda is the draft Transportation Improvement Program and federal funding for 2015-2020.

Look!  It's the Light at Union and Commercial
You might ask, what is this TIP?
The SKATS Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) authorizes the allocation of federal, state, and matching local funds for transportation activities and improvements within the SKATS area boundary during the period October 1, 2014, through September 30, 2018, (federal fiscal years FY 2015 through FY 2018)...The TIP represents a policy document for the SKATS Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) area describing which projects will be given funding priority....[and] represents the formal programming mechanism by which funds are committed to specific transportation projects by the affected jurisdictions in the SKATS MPO area....[in this way it serves] as the mechanism for the incremental implementation of the regional transportation and program priorities in the adopted RTSP. [italics added hopefully for clarity]
So, how 'bout that cover?  Looks pretty good!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Celebrate Earth Day at Pringle Creek Community and Willamette

Last year for Earth Day, City Council celebrated fossil fuels and driving more.

Fortunately, this year there's no aggravating City Council meeting at odds with the spirit of the day - so instead, think about biking over to Pringle Creek Community for a low-key, family-friendly celebration of greener living!

And yummie food!

More from Pringle Creek Community:
Steel Bridge Coffee will offer a tasting of their delicious coffees, Curt Fisher will bring his bicycle blender and share coffee smoothies, Full Circle Creamery will offer selections of their cheese for tasting, Edgemaster will sharpen tools, The Bike Peddler will be here to help with bike maintenance, Straub Environmental Learning Center will share knowledge about worm composting, Garten Environmental Services will help us to gather electronic waste, Turtle Ridge Wildlife Center will show off local wildlife, and ZeroKar, a local electric car manufacturer, will show us their latest creations
(Salem Weekly also has a nice note on it.)


Tall Bike at Wulapalooza 2013
Not precisely for Earth Day, but a celebration of creativity and life on earth anyway, over at Willamette, during Wulapalooza check out some touring bands that, depending on your age, you might never have heard of before.

Especially if the weather's good, either one or both might be fine ways to think about the earth.

(If you know of other Earth Day events, on Saturday or the 22nd, drop them in the comments!)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Annie Leonard to tell Story of Stuff tonight at Willamette

When you go by bike, you know you can't take a whole lot of stuff with you.

One of the underrated attributes of bike transportation is that is it helpful with "stuff management." When you shop, you have to ask yourself if you have room for that extra thing; when you commute, you have to pare down to the essential stuff. Bikes pose the question:  Can you carry it? and Do you need it? It's a way to be more disciplined about stuff.

A basket only carries so much stuff
Tonight, Thursday the 17th, Annie Leonard, internet personality, viral star, and serious advocate, will talk about stuff at Willamette University as the 2014 Dempsey Lecturer.
The lecture will take place in Hudson Hall on the Willamette University Campus. A book signing will follow. The lecture is FREE and open to the public--and does not require a ticket. Doors will open at 6:45.
You have almost certainly seen "The Story of Stuff."

If not, check it out!

Since its rollicking debut in 2007, Leonard has worked on several more features, including ones on bottled water, cosmetics, and electronics.

The talk will likely touch on consumerism, logistics, and disposal - The Story of Stuff. Hopefully she's also work in something about bikes!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Study shows why Transit, Parking, and Bridge should be in Same Conversation

Capturing the Ride, the project to discuss "flexible transit" in West Salem, Keizer, and South Salem has started publishing some of their preliminary findings. Silence on the "third bridge" is interesting - and worrisome, unfortunately.

Lots of residential West Salem is far from a bus stop
The Existing Conditions report is especially interesting. In a heat map of places within a 1/4 and 1/2 mile of a bus stop, you can see large swaths of road and homes that are not well served by a bus.

Not surprisingly there are few boardings in the hills
And in fact the boardings follow the geography. Except for the high school, there's little activity in the hills.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Church Street and other Newsbits

Sunday: Yeah, so it was on a parking lot - but still!
Now that the transit mall is open again, the City has removed temporary markings and restored Church Street to three travel lanes.

Now that the bus mall is open, do we really need all three lanes?
But the section seemed to function alright with just two travel lanes - we managed just fine with a road diet!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

City Council, April 14th - Boise Project Grant

Monday at Council doesn't really bring any transportation issues, but there are some interesting bits anyway.  The main items of interest are some additional information about the Boise project and the adoption of the Morningside Neighborhood Plan. There's also a note about an upcoming work session on the Civic Center and Police Station concepts.

Don't miss the camas!
There are additional details on the nursing home proposed for the Boise site. None of them seem like big, meaningful changes - just tweaks and details. In the staff report is a note about how the project grant would be funded:
A RDURA Project Grant is paid solely from the tax increment revenues generated from the new construction of the Development...

Because a Project Grant is paid from the tax increment revenues of a single project, it will not be paid if the project isn't completed, or if the project is completed but later proves unsuccessful, is abandoned, or destroyed.
Proposed Marquis Care Facility on Boise Site
So it looks like the grant will just recycle some or all of the tax increment and will not draw on the tax increment from other properties.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Quotidian Work? Make Exercise less Awesome, more Often

Earlier this week columnist Jeanine Stice wrote about the Awesome 3000 and the goal of getting kids more exercise. "[T]he Awesome can develop habits that reduce children's risk for heart disease as adults." (etc, etc.)

Readers here will know all the arguments.

More interesting is the way it echos what might be a particularly American style of thinking in seeing the origins of "habits" in special-event, one-off episodes.  Isn't this heroic exceptionalism and sort-and-separate thinking oxymoronic, even contradictory? I mean habits are supposed to be routine, deadly-dull even.  That's their power. You chug along in them and don't give them any thought. Repetition, not epic heroism and trophies, is their hallmark.

Of course kids can bike and walk to school.  Rather than having parents drive them to the gym, to practice, or special event races, kids could just simply walk or bike to school most every day.

While it might not seem so "awesome," that routine and habit is all the "training" they need for a healthy foundation in every day life!

It should be easy to integrate exercise into daily living - it shouldn't require special clothes, special memberships, special events. We treat exercise with the trappings of the liminal, even! But the accessories should be optional, not normative.

La Dolce Vita:  Them Romans know to do it!
Yield for Walking school bus - from N3B
Maybe if we spent more time and effort and construction budgets on the everydayness of Safe Routes to School and Walk+Bike to School, and less on the Awesome Magnificence and Wonder of a single day's race - maybe then we'd be getting somewhere meaningful. Athletes will still find ways to train and avenues for competition, but for the rest of us, just a baseline level of walking or biking would do wonders.

It is cranky to pick on the Awesome 3000, because of course it's not like it's a bad thing.  It's a good thing! But it is telling that it seems to enjoy a level of institutional support that Safe Routes to School can only dream of right now.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Pothole Problems Remind us the Gas Tax is Running on Empty

There's a preview of the City budget in the paper today and it mentions Public Works and the Department of Pothole Repair.

Not much highlighted, since it's a piece on the whole budget, is the fact that the gas tax is falling further and further behind on our basic needs for potholes. But not mentioned at all is the way our committment to building new roads and new road capacity exacerbates the whole mess - why are we building new stuff if we already can't maintain the old stuff?

Preview of next year's budget: Fewer resources for potholes
From the piece:
City government still is shrinking. City staff would be reduced by a little more than 6.5 full-time equivalent positions in the draft budget. The reductions primarily are from positions already trimmed, mid-year, and positions left vacant.

Deeper budget cuts — perhaps as much as $6 million over five years — may be needed in future budget cycles if city revenues continue to lag behind costs, Norris said...

Salem Public Works Director Peter Fernandez, who also will give a presentation to the budget committee, said roads that are in bad shape will continue to be in bad shape. Projects to maintain roads, such as applying asphalt overlays, probably won’t get done, he said.

As Fernandez explained, the city will continue to fill potholes. Unfortunately, there may be more potholes to fill with fewer resources. Funds to pay for street maintenance are being squeezed for a couple of reasons:

The draft budget cuts general fund support for the transportation fund, which pays for street maintenance, to zero, he said. As late as fiscal 2010-11, the transportation fund was getting about $1.2 million from the general fund.

Revenue from gasoline taxes steadily has dropped because people are driving less and using more fuel efficient vehicles.

No layoffs are expected in public works, but the department will not fill four vacant positions in street operations and maintenance, Fernandez said.

Budget cuts might revive discussions about a streetlight fee. [italics added]
The gas tax and other car user fees don't come anywhere close to full funding for roads. The general fund supports maintenance and a property tax bond is doing all the road bond construction - $100 million worth! - since 2008. This is the trade-off:  If folks want to pay less at the pump, then they end up paying more on their house. (So, equally, if folks want to pay less at the pump, they may pay for streetlights instead.)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Shabby, Unlucky Neighbor - That Path along South River Road

Holy Smokes!  What looks like a week of nice weather started yesterday, and that means more recreational bicycling.

The route out to Minto Park along River Road is an important one, but it's long been neglected. It's also in a problematic configuration, seemingly built to court natural hazards and to make it difficult to share with fellow humans.

Recently a reader shared their dissatisfaction with the path's condition, and the question is a good one:  What should we do about it?

Falling from the sky, in the fall walnuts narrow the path, create too many inducements to an involuntary dismount, and conceal the already meagre paint and markings.

Reaching up in the other direction, roots heave the pavement into knots and twisted bumps, also creating inducements to involuntary dismounts. (And what about that cut-out? It looks like there used to be a bus stop or something there, but now what purpose does it serve?)

Monday, April 7, 2014

West Salem, NEN-SESNA, and SCAN: In the Neighborhoods this Week

As other bloggers and history entrepreneurs have pointed out, there used to be a big brewery downtown where the "sculpture garden" is today.

You know what the "sculpture garden" really needs?
A beer fountain for thirsty Salemites!*
(Janky composite with an assist: Salem Library Historic Photo)
And that was right next to the city's biggest hotel and on the same block as the armory.  Before zoning, things were a jumble.

How to manage industrial development is the topic this week of "Looking Forward," the update to the neighborhood plan for NEN and SESNA neighborhood associations.

West Salem - Monday

But that's on Tuesday.  First up, tonight on Monday, is the West Salem Neighborhood meeting.

There's what looks like a small street matter on a new development - "2825 Brush College Road NW Revised Notice of Filing – Street Layout Revision" - otherwise the agenda has the usual items.

But of course what is interesting is the perennial question for new development on the edges of West Salem: How is it that the development gets to proceed unchecked if that same development is what is driving the "need" for a billion dollar giant bridge and highway and most crucially gets to offload the cost for that bridge onto everyone else?

Both candidates for City Council in Ward 8 support the third bridge - and support asking everybody else to subsidize it. While Polk County is eliminating Sheriff patrols and emergency response, is building a giant bridge and highway really where community priorities should be?

Count 'em! A bridge will cost at least ten Courthouse Squares
(And even if you are committed to your car, here's why you should care: The cost of the bridge is at least ten times the cost of Courthouse Square or of a new Police Station/Civic Center upgrade. Imagine, demolishing the Derby building, constructing and then repairing Courthouse Square  - and then rinse and repeat ten times! That's the order of magnitude here.)

If you live in West Salem and aren't involved in the neighborhood association, it's a great time to get involved!

The West Salem Neighborhood Association meeting is at Roth’s West, Mezzanine level, at 1130 Wallace Rd NW on Monday, April 7th at 7pm.

Cherriots Route Coverage in West Salem
(Also, remember the Cherriots meeting about improving service in West Salem! That meeting is also at Roth’s West at 1130 Wallace Rd NW on Wednesday, April 9th from 5-7 p.m.)

Looking Forward, NEN-SESNA - Tuesday

Back to industry, one way to think about this kind of development is to think about breweries and the activity they attract and generate.  

Santiam Brewing on McGilchrist in an industrial park
Right now there's a strong clustering of Salem's nascent craft brewing industry in SESNA's industrial parks.  Gilgamesh (just outside of SESNA), Santiam, and Salem Ale Works are all pretty close together. Since the breweries don't have kitchens, food carts have found customers.  But the railroad and other roads create barriers and it is very difficult to walk or drive to these places.  Chemical or polluting scents and sights may also act as a brake on food consumption and lingering.  Industrial areas aren't places to relax and hang out.

But not all industry is wholly incompatible with residential areas.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Even the Ski Operators might Agree: It's time for a Carbon Tax

Maybe you saw the front-pager today:
[A] growing body of research by Oregon State University suggests snow-challenged years are already becoming more common and are likely to increase in decades to come....

"We're eyewitnesses to climate change - it's real and it's costing us."
Last year, it was interesting that after the piece about changes in subalpine meadows, the SJ ran an op-ed piece in favor of a carbon tax written by a Crater Lake Park Ranger.

The online commenting went nuts, accusing proponents of carbon pricing of being socialists and fans of redistribution.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

One Bridge to Rule them All? Issues and the Election

Green is the New Red!
Several folks have emailed about the possibility of doing candidate interviews on transportation. I don't think that's something we'll be able to get to here, and historically it has been beyond the scope of the blog.

Fortunately the Chamber of Commerce has compiled their endorsements and candidate questionnaires, and in some ways they might do a better job than anything we could do here - while a person might draw very different conclusions about for whom to vote, the questions themselves are pretty good:
  • What about the proposed third bridge?
  • How to allocate extras on the road bond?
  • What about the streetlight fee?
  • How about the State Hospital north campus?
  • Some thoughts on specific Urban Renewal questions
No matter what you think of the answers, these get at some of the important issues in Salem, and the style of the answers also say something about the disposition of the candidates.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

William Stafford: Maybe Alone on My Bike

William Stafford, 1980s
Forget policy!  How about some poetry?

April you may know is "National Poetry Month," and this year is the centennial of William Stafford's birth.

His son, Kim, was in town last month to celebrate, and it happens that the elder Stafford biked and wrote a bike poem, "Maybe alone on my bike"!
I listen, and the mountain lakes
hear snowflakes come on those winter wings
only the owls are awake to see,
their radar gaze and furred ears
alert. In that stillness a meaning shakes;

And I have thought (maybe alone
on my bike, quaintly on a cold
evening pedaling home) think! -
the splendor of our life, its current unknown
as those mountains, the scene no one sees.

Oh citizens of our great amnesty:
we might have died. We live. Marvels
coast by, great veers and swoops of air
so bright the lamps waver in tears,
and I hear in the chain a chuckle I like to hear.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Kroc, Pods, Transit at Area Commission for Rankings Thursday

Thursday the 3rd, the Mid-Willamette Valley Area Commission on Transportation meets to consider the applications for lottery funding under the ConnectOregon V program.

Locally there are two bike/ped projects and one transit project among the 11 total project applications in our region.

Maybe the most interesting thing is in the transit application:  If there's one thing that's clear in the South Salem Transit Center application materials, it's the massive disconnect between land use and transportation.

Proposed transit center on South Commercial
While the area proposed for a transit center site is along the Commercial Street corridor, the big new employment areas highlighted in the application are well off it, on the other side of I-5.

A new cluster of jobs and homes
on Commercial in purple,
but away from other clusters in red and blue.
Notably the others have little housing.
These areas do not have housing, grocery stores, restaurants, or other services nearby. They are car-dependent islands, and even if you took transit, you'd still want a car on your lunch hour to go anywhere meaningful! Without your friends to drive you, you're stuck.

Kroc Center path in red (rotated 90 degrees - north to right)
About the Kroc Center Path and the Bike Pods of Oregon there's little new to say.  Last month the Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee did look at and rank 36 bike/ped applications.  The Kroc path ranked 15th and the Bike Pods 21st - solidly in the middle. A set of Eugene bike/ped bridges ranked first and a Tualatin trail ranked second.

Top ranked bike/ped project:
Eugene's bridges connect streets and bike paths to transit
I don't even know what a Salem project similar to the Eugene proposal might look like:  First you'd need something to correspond to the Fern Ridge path, then you'd need a couple of bus rapid transit lines...and THEN you could come up with a set of bridge connections across a barrier.

In the end the project illustrates just how far behind is Salem.

For more on the bike pods, see here and here, and for more on the Kroc see here. For notes on last month's economic assessment, see here.

(The local packets can be downloaded for a few days from the ODOT ftp site. Usually they don't hang around, however.)

MWACT meets at 3:30pm on Thursday the 3rd at 100 High St. SE, Suite 200 above Bar Andaluz and the former La Capitale.