Friday, June 13, 2014

Two Studies: West Salem Business District and Cherriots Flexible Transit

There's a couple of studies going on that involve West Salem, one for transit just wrapping up, the other for the Third Bridge and just starting.

Capturing the Ride - Flexible Transit Analysis

The final memo for Paradigm Planning's "Capturing the Ride" project is now out.

Nothing on the third bridge
It seems uncharitable to criticise a student project, but in at least one important way, the final project of PSU Masters students comes up short.

In Paradigm Planning's overview on West Salem, there's no mention of the Third Bridge planning process, and no mention of the way building a robust transit system in West Salem will help reduce pressure to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a giant bridge and highway.

This is a key fact about transit in West Salem, and they ignore it.

This may not be any fault of the students, and may well arise from instructions and scope from Cherriots. But the thing is, this analysis of transit in West Salem is being driven at a low, tactical level by budget constraints, instead of being driven by high-level strategy about avoiding an extraordinarily expensive bridge and highway and growing transit in Salem.

The introduction alludes to this:
[A]uto-oriented neighborhoods are increasingly being inhabited by transit-dependent individuals with mobility restrictions due to not being able to own or operate a car. Furthermore, the Great Recession has meant significant cuts in federal and local funding, cutting transit agency budgets and leading to subsequent cuts in service. Transit agencies are now tasked with the responsibility of figuring out how to serve transit-dependent communities in auto-oriented developments with less funding.
"Serve transit-dependent communities in auto-oriented developments with less funding" sounds nervously like circling the drain, a race to the bottom, don't you think?

That green area? Once an hour service to a transfer stop
The study's final recommendation is for
a flex route that starts at Glen Creek Transit Center and travels to Gibson Creek Retirement Community where it connects to a fixed route on Wallace Road. The flex route would have a flex zone which extends three-quarters of a mile off the route in all directions (except in certain areas west of Doaks Ferry Road NW due to the street network).
It would run once per hour. It would also require a transfer to reach a downtown destination.

It sure seems like a huge missed opportunity to develop a direct connection for State workers on the Capitol Mall.

Additionally, the recommendations in the Alternate Modes Study were largely ignored.

The River Crossing Alternate Modes Study and Transit:
Improve Transit Service, Increase Service Frequency
In the study it seemed clear that Cherriots was trying with fewer financial resources to serve existing, transit-dependent "captive" riders rather than trying to grow the customer base with improved service that would attract "choice" riders as well as serving existing riders.

Anyway, even if you prioritized depleting service NOW for a near-term budget crunch there should still be a vision for growing service in the medium-term. Otherwise, Cherriots is going to contribute to increasing auto-dependent conditions and increasing numbers of drive-alone trips.

(Hopefully Jarrett Walker's study in process will address some of this.)

The Final report, which also includes analysis of  routes in South Salem and Keizer, will be presented to the Board on the 26th.

Late postscript, Friday morning

I should have worked in the way this proposal violates the spirit of the Comprehensive Plan:
12. The implementation of transportation system and demand management measures, enhanced transit service, and provision for bicycle and pedestrian facilities shall be pursued as a first choice for accommodating travel demand and relieving congestion in a travel corridor, before widening projects are constructed.
13. The Salem Transportation System Plan shall identify methods that citizens can use to commute to work and decrease overall traffic demand on the transportation system. Such methods include transit ridership, telecommuting, carpooling, vanpooling, flexible work schedules, walking, and bicycling.
18. The Salem Transportation System Plan shall identify methods that employers can use to better facilitate the commute of their employees, encourage employees to use alternative travel modes other than the SOV, and decrease their needs for off-street parking.
This "flexible transit" plan makes transit the transportation choice of last resort rather than "first choice" and willfully ignores the problem of the proposed giant bridge and highway. In this it cuts against our highest level policy and goals.

West Salem Business District Action Plan - In the Shadow of the Third Bridge

Preliminary reports and memos from the West Salem Business District Action Plan have also started coming out, and it's kinda interesting to take a moment to register some of the findings.

Unsurprisingly, West Salem is not a good candidate for a hotel:
Without a massive public subsidy, a lodging facility in the West Salem District is not feasible under current conditions and should only be viewed as a future, following land use, not a leading land use, with respect to redevelopment of the District....

West at a competitive disadvantage with respect to a location for lodging facilities, as locations east of the Willamette River are in closer proximity to the hotel demand generators [State, Willamette U, etc] and major transient corridors [I-5 etc]...

The Salem CBD [central business district] is in a better location to capture commercial and meeting business generated from government, institutional facilities, and private business.
It noted that Salem hotel occupancy hovers just under 60%, so we have a surplus of rooms still, and in a "stabilized" market at equilibrium, the occupancy will average between 70% and 80%.

The memo on transportation conditions is interesting for two reasons.  The first is that it centers on the prospective impact of a Third Bridge and associated ramp spaghetti.

First page of memo on transportation
in West Salem reshaped around bridge footprint
The other reason is also interesting, but of uncertain significance: One of its authors is also a member of the Cherriots Board.

The memo outlines some options for future study, several of which involve widening or other car capacity increase:
Based on discussions and coordination with City staff, the following transportation alternatives will be considered to mitigate potential transportation impacts that would be created by increased trip generation associated with development concepts that will be considered along with land use/zoning changes:
  • Alternative 1: Six Lane Wallace Road
  • Alternative 2: Widen and improve Taggart Road at Wallace Road
  • Alternative 3: Murlark or Patterson extension to Glen Creek Road
  • Alternative 4: Grade separated connection across Wallace Road (located in the vicinity of the vacated railroad right of way)
  • Alternative 5: One-way connector from Edgewater that goes under the Highway 22 bridge, connecting Musgrave and possibly to the future Marine Drive
  • Alternative 6: To be determined
On the other hand, Alternative 4, the connection to the Union Street Railroad Bridge under or over Wallace Road, would be a great boon for people on foot and on bike and bridge a huge gap in connectivity in West Salem. (Of course studying this doesn't come up with the funding.)

None of the Edgewater Action Plan's Vision and Main Street Concept
is compatible with the devastation wrought
by the ramps and viaducts of a 3rd Bridge
Curiously, though, none of the other recommendations for the area from Bike and Walk Salem look to be developed, and because of the regular street grid and potential of Edgewater for a "main street" configuration, bike/ped stuff almost certainly deserves more attention. Though since the Third Bridge isn't compatible with most of the Edgewater Action Plan, perhaps this is not surprising.

Again, these are just preliminary memos, and there will be more to come over the summer and fall.

Saturday Update

A commenter suggests that "that what West Salem needed to do was look west to create a second business area."

The "leakage" analysis supports this.

"Retail Leakage" in West Salem
from Market Analysis memo
She argues it should be farther up in the hills, a big shopping center with an anchor tenant, but here we disagree and support the study towards revivifying Edgewater as a "main street," street-car scaled commercial district.

Still, it's true that given the population and income in West Salem, there's a dearth of nearby business to support it.

As the study deepens over the summer, it will be very interesting to see what it zeros in on here. There will be more to talk about in a future post!


Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

added excerpt and note on Comprehensive plan

Susann Kaltwasser said...

One of the things that I noticed before I even moved to West Salem was the fact that everyone looks east for development...or redevelopment. I asked why are we not looking west?

I was not encumbered by the mindset that seems to be fixating people on the river and east of the river, but just looking at the realities on a map.

Seemed to me that what West Salem needed to do was look west to create a second business area.

Now that I live here, I can see the fallacy of the planner's thinking. They keep thinking about making Wallace Road bigger instead of thinking where can we logically create places for people to get basic services within a mile of their homes?

Everywhere in Salem you can get the basic needs of food and gas within a mile or mile and a half of your home.

But in West Salem, everyone has to funnel down to Wallace Road or Edgewater to get groceries, a pizza, or gas.

This puts more people in their cars and less people on foot or bike.

What we need is to think about a second business zone to the west, like on Doaks Ferry....before it is totally consumed by more residential development.

West Salem did toy with the idea of a mixed use at the intersection of Doaks Ferry and Orchard Heights, but they were thinking way too small. They were thinking maybe a bit of commercial with some multifamily or medium density development.

What the area needs is a Fred Meyers that would draw people west.

Development is definitely going to work its way west and if they do not begin to think about creating another corridor street with services along it, we are going to be driving even more miles to get our basic needs met.

Susann Kaltwasser said...

I will add...this is why Salem needs to resurrect the comprehensive planning process (used to be called "Salem Futures") before we get too far down the road.

This idea of piecemealing this part and that part of the development is foolish and wasteful. If we want some logic as we move forward in Salem, we need to be doing comprehensive planning that looks at the big picture of what is needed for logical and efficient growth. Otherwise we are just building an extended mess like we already have!

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Susann, you are exactly right, and one of the memos - which I did not directly mention - directly addresses the deficit in retail/services in West Salem and the market opportunities. The City's website seems to be down, but I will add a clip from that report in an update to the post when I can access the memo again over the weekend or early next week.