Thursday, July 31, 2014

Cherriots Holds Open Houses on Proposed Route and Service Changes

At last week's board meeting, Cherriots adopted the "Moving Forward" plan, aimed at implementing the service recommendations generated by Jarrett Walker's study earlier this year.

Cherriots proposed five-day coverage for West Salem
only Edgewater route (G) goes downtown
Both Wallace and Edgewater routes go downtown
Perhaps the most notable element? The void in West Salem.While there are prospects for piloting a "flexible transit" route on the west side, at the moment, Cherriots has thrown in the towel, saying "it's too hard" to serve West Salem.

This approach may save Cherriots short-term budget, but it exacts a great cost on Salem generally as it will tend to increase drive-alone trips across the bridges. This looks like a strategic mistake and a tactical trade-off in the wrong direction. Lots of the residents in the hills work in downtown, and the service plan just abandons them.

"most of these workers have jobs located in downtown Salem"
(from the flexible transit study)
People want improved service, not depleted service.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Bike Recycling Programs Consolidate and Plan to Grow

You might recall stories this year about the bike recycling programs at Hillcrest and at Evergreen Church.

At Hillcrest

At Evergreen Church
The principals are joining forces and starting work on a new venture, called the Northwest Hub.

Northwest Hub
They're looking for a retail storefront and look to expand programming much along the lines of Portland's Community Cycling Center.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Salem Sunday Streets Shrinks for 2014 - updated

The City has updated the site for Salem Sunday Streets 2014, and the first thing you notice is: The route shrunk!

Salem Sunday Streets 2014: 5 blocks long!

Salem Sunday Streets 2013
Last year's route felt really small as it was, and this thing is dinky!

Signal or Noise? Traffic Fatalities Up - and Down

From the Wall Street Journal last week

From the Statesman Journal yesterday
"Really, car use is a safe activity!"


Monday, July 28, 2014

Construction and Street Closure Notes: Fairgrounds Road, 14th Street, the Capitol

Summer's construction and event season, and here's some notes on three street closures.

There's a good bit of work already completed on the safety median at the angled intersection of Hood, Fairgrounds Road, and Church Street.

New median at intersection of  Hood/Fairgrounds/Church
The crosswalks are deflected and slightly less conveniently located now, but they will be marked with much greater visibility - so the walking environment seems like a definite upgrade!

The biking environment may not be upgraded however.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

City Council, July 28th - To Demolish Howard Hall?

Council meets Monday night at 6:30, and the prospect of the demolition of the last remaining building of the Oregon School for the Blind is atop the marquee.

The City looks to be heading towards a big FAIL on that one, so let's start of with what so far looks to be an unqualified success.

Council will receive an information report on possible pod locations for food carts.

Detail from downtown map of possible pod locations
The report is "for example only" and doesn't mean a commitment, public or private, to any location. But it is yet more evidence of striking swiftness and purpose on this project!

A group of downtowners will hold a temporary pod on First Wednesday, August 6th.  Organizers say,
the first Salem food pod pulls into the alley behind Taproot (Pete’s Place) during First Wednesday Pop Up. Fusion, Sample This BBQ and Uncle Chuck’s Wagon join Vagabond Brewing, Santiam Brewing, 2 Towns Cider House and Hard Times Distillery.
As for some of the squawking by restaurant owners, the downtown restaurant scene still doesn't seem like a "mature" or "saturated" market. In an immature market, we should see a "rising tide floats all boats," and it is likely that food carts will not primarily cannibalize existing restaurant activity, but will draw more and different people downtown. Maybe not, but the bet here is that food carts will strengthen, not diffuse, total activity downtown and enlarge the pool of customers for restauranteurs in brick-and-mortar locations.

Howard Hall

Salem's fond of touting its historic preservation efforts.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Building Bits: AIA Awards and Community Development Block Grant Survey

Late last week the Salem chapter of the American Institute of Architects announced the 2014 design awards:
On June 3rd, the AIA-Salem Chapter gathered for an awards dinner to celebrate local design as well as to announce and present design awards for 2014. The event was moderated by Award Committee Chairman Alan Costic, AIA and Jurist Bill Seider, FAIA was on hand to present Awards as well as to provide jury comments and insight into their selection process.

Five Salem firms submitted a total of 13 projects for consideration to a three person Jury consisting of Becca Cavell, FAIA, Portland, Bill Seider, FAIA, Eugene, and Jane Jarrett, Portland. Upon deliberation, the Jury awarded two Merit Awards and one Honor Award. In addition, a People’s Choice Award was voted on by the public at large.
The last round of awards was in 2010, and with the Great Recession and all, there hasn't been very much new design and construction.  So that should frame our expectations.

Two buildings in particular are interesting and, maybe, show how the way the buildings fit into the urban fabric may not adequately have been considered - that is, the building may have been considered more as absolute sculpture than as part of a city context.

The Chemeketa Center for Business and Industry won a "merit" award, the second place citation. The jury citation is a little bland, however:
  • Careful attention to solar shading based on orientation
  • Well organized plan
  • Strong urban fabric building
And I think it gets the "strong urban fabric" part wrong.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Greenbaums Early Bulwark Against Parking Lot Expansion and Demolition

If you're not into quilting, it might seem like just a quilt shop but Greenbaums and the stub end of the Eldridge block in which it resides is no small part of Salem history, and the news it's for sale totally worth the front page space.

Much more could be written about it and its place in our urban history and urban fabric. The building dates from 1889 and is associated with builder/designer Wilbur Boothby. By marriage the Greenbaum family was related to early brewer Sam Adolph, owner of the Adolph Block, where Wild Pear is located. The quilt is ornate and has many pieces!

SE Corner of Chemeketa and Commercial, then and now
Then: Eldridge Block circa 1940, Salem Library
Inset, today: Chemeketa Parkade
(Click to enlarge)
Here's one piece related to transportation.

The last section of the Eldridge block can be seen in this photo circa 1940.  It extended all the way from Greenbaum's to the corner. Two of the central stairs also had towers over them. (The seven-window unit with the tower on the right side, the south end, is the only part that remains.)

Today most of the building's former footprint is the Chemeketa Parkade. Before that garage was completed in 1978, a department store wanted it for a surface lot.

Marion Car Park Demolition Hearing May Be Continued to Plan Next Steps

Remember the Hearing Notice for an application to demolish the Marion Car Park at Ferry and Commercial?

Holman Building demolished for
Marion Car Park (bottom)
SHINE: 1950
Tonight the Historic Landmarks Commission will hold the Public Hearing on it, and it doesn't look so very interesting or complicated after all.

When the Hearing notice first came out, it seemed like there was a good chance a demolition would meet the requirements and even be a positive development for downtown. It seemed to have a weak case for preservation.

It turned out the application arose out of a foreclosure and the new owners want to leave a gravel lot in its place. There is no plan for redevelopment.

This is a terrible idea! Not in any way strong enough to overcome a weak case for preservation.

And the Staff Report recommended, as it should, "denial" of the permit.

Since that report came out, there has been more conversation and negotiation. In a Supplemental Staff Report there is talk of one or more third parties interested in redeveloping the site.

Now, City Staff recommend continuing the Public Hearing for nine months to March 2015, giving the new owners time to sell, time to negotiate an agreement with a third party developer, or time to develop some other plan that would put the site to higher use.

It's hard to see a downside to that - and maybe something good would come of it. If nothing comes together, then the Commission can still vote for a straight-up denial.

Also on the agenda is the Virginia Green Award.

The Commission meets Thursday the 24th at 5:30 p.m. in Council Chambers, Salem Civic Center (City Hall), 555 Liberty St. SE.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mysterious Image of Mill Warehouse Identified!

Third Bridge, blah, blah,'s important but boy is it tiresome these days. So here's something much more interesting.

This photo was in the paper yesterday, captioned vaguely as "IT’S MILL TIME: An image from a series of slides..."

A while ago, perhaps a few years ago even, I think Mission Mill did a "can you identify it?" game with this image. The game's disappeared into the mists, however, and no amount of my googling was able to turn that up. (Maybe you can find it?)

Presumably the building and image still hasn't been identified, and that's why things remain vague.

But I think I have in ID for it. I think the image is reversed, and that may be why it has not been easy to identify. Details are at this updated post, so discuss it over there if you have comments or criticism!

Overlooked Details Should Doom Third Bridge

In an editorial today, the paper responds to the National Transportation Safety Board findings that a "cascading series of bad decisions led to last year’s collapse of an Interstate 5 bridge north of Seattle."

Well, we're well on our way with our own "cascading series of bad decisions" about a bridge and there's little or no self-awareness about the irony.

The Marion and Center Street Bridges are not reinforced to withstand a big quake, and the proposed Salem Alternative is at the moment conceptually outlined to withstand only a medium quake.

There is no plan right now for connectivity across the river after the Big Bad Cascadian Subduction Zone quake.

If you survive, you'll be wanting a kayak!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Local MPO to Consider Road Classification Scheme

Our local MPO meets tomorrow, Tuesday the 22nd. On the agenda (includes full meeting packet) for the Salem-Keizer Area Transportation Study is a "Review of the Functional Classification and National Highway System (NHS) in the SKATS Area."

The functional classification is that whole local-collector-arterial heirarchy. It's a small-medium-large typology that maps essentially to a twig-branch-trunk model of a tree.

It turns out that the feds, counties, and cities don't necessarily use the same exact terms or classify the roads in the same exact way.

Talk about a headache!

So the review is at least superficially a clean up.

One of several pages of "change request form"
A segment of Chemeketa is highlighted
For example, the feds apparently still classify Chemeketa as a "major collector" in some places, and the section between 12th and 14th now has two dead-ends/diverters, and it is most certainly NOT a collector. So the review proposes a federal reclassification of it as a "local" street.

Makes perfect sense.

There are many pages of street segments like this, some proposed to be reclassify upwards as "bigger" streets, others downwards, like Chemeketa was, as "smaller" streets.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Uber Visit: Eisenhower-Era Assumptions Won't Guide Future Mobility

Almost three weeks ago now in an editorial about the third bridge, the paper alluded to what looks to be a substantial shift in our travel and mobility patterns.

"No one can predict how travel will change in the years before the third bridge is built. Neither do we know whether the project will prove financially feasible. But it would be foolish to sit still instead of planning as best we can."

Uber was in town yesterday offering a taste of some of that change.

It was promoting its "sharing economy" taxi service. Folks who registered and used the app could get free ice cream delivered to them.

Salem's not probably going to be early in any way on the adoption curve for things like this. But since there are regulatory hurdles and legal frameworks still to develop, it makes sense to advertise in the State Capital. Statewide acceptance will help in places like Portland, where there is surely a greater demand.

From here, it is telling that in the background of the Uber ice cream truck is Cherriots and the transit center.

As Cherriots explores "flexible transit" for Keizer, West Salem, and South Salem, the Uber model leapfrogs the "rideshare" matching software and in just a few short years, it seems likely that there could be a suite of smart-phone enabled applications for things ranging from car pools, bus service, jitneys, full-on taxis. It will be easy, too, to price things with great variability: automate gas and insurance sharing for car pools all the way to deluxe white glove taxi curbside service.

I don't know that Uber is going to replace a lot of transit, but surely its model will exert a gravitational pull to reshape the way transit delivers its services. LoveSalem has mentioned this on more than one occasion.

Other technology and patterns aren't far off, either. The google car is approaching. Though they haven't taken off in the US, eBikes are super popular elsewhere in the world.

Modeling our future infrastructure needs on the Moses-Eisenhower School of Mid-Century Autoism is full of Peril and Wrong and Fail!

We don't know how many individual cars people are going to want or need, there's clear evidence that the number of car trips is flat and even decreasing, and it seems likely there will be increasing taxes or other costs associated with carbon and energy.

Using 1950s assumptions to plan for 2050 is a bad idea all the way around.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Union Gospel Mission Considers Move North out of Downtown Location

You probably read about the fire at the Union Gospel Mission thrift store at the corner of Commercial and D Streets.

But you might not have heard that the shelter is considering moving from the downtown location at Center and Commercial a few blocks north to a half-block site that includes the store property.

At the Planning Commission on Tuesday there was a proposed zoning change to permit a shelter in the Riverfront Overlay Zone.

Letter requesting zone change

The shelter could be the whole half block;
addresses correspond to those in letter.
The thrift store is in the NE corner at 885
There's a lot of parking lot there right now, and across the street is the cluster of O'Brien car dealerships, so it's not like the area is well used at the moment.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Boulder Creek Development Omits Sidewalk on 12th Street

You might remember last fall a note about the Boulder Creek development.

Boulder Creek North - Arbuckle Costic
Note sidewalk and footbridge
The rendering showed a sidewalk along 12th Street and a footbridge across Clark Creek.

Because of an adjacent project to widen 12th Street from McGilchrist to Fairview, there seemed to be an agreement with the developer that the City was going to do this in conjunction with that project.

City widening project from McGilchrist to Fairview - CIP map
Note that it does not cross the creek!
(The new CIP map shows it 2014-16, btw)
The thing is, the widening project isn't on the north side of the creek.

Moreover, now that the lawn is in and the connecting walkways are poured, the line of the lawn doesn't look wide enough for a sidewalk, curb, gutter, and bike lane.

The termination of the lawn doesn't leave room for a sidewalk
(railings for Clark Creek culvert in foreground)
It doesn't add up!

Maybe the City truly is going to come through and put in the sidewalk here, but I'm worried that line of the lawn, where a sidewalk would abut, is placed on the assumption that there's not actually going to be a complete sidewalk and bike lane here.

(Also - why are we still putting parking lots in front!)

Food Carts

It's worth pointing out that the food cart ordinance started with a request from Councilor Dickey on December 9th at Council. 

Revised ordinances only took a little over half a year!
The revisions are substantial and on Monday passed unanimously in an uncontroversial fashion.

That seems to me a striking level of responsiveness by staff and Council. The City did well. Bravo!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Just Raise the Gax Tax Already!

Well, now it's the turn here to defend the city against the paper. "City skimps on roadwork" is a misleading headline!

The City's actually doing a good job of extending the road bond, increasing by about 20% the budget and by about 50% the count of projects funded by the 2008 road bond.

I don't think there's any reasonable way to conclude that the city is deliberately skimping on roadwork - though a person might choose different projects to fund and construct.

There is, however, a very real problem with transportation funding in general, the way we prioritize maintenance, and the gax tax.

From the piece:
  • For 2014, the city expects to perform a maximum of about 18 lane miles of combined corrective and preventive maintenance. To meet its goal, the city should be doing about 120 lane miles of work each year.
  • No pavement maintenance is planned for residential streets this year other than emergency repairs, such as pothole patches.
  • About $1.9 million is budgeted for street maintenance in fiscal 2014-15. The ideal level of funding would be closer to $8 million.
The funds don't come out of the same bucket, but the money spent on the Third Bridge planning would have funded a full year's worth of maintenance.

June 29th's Paper
And we continue to plan for something new and shiny when we already can't maintain our existing and deteriorating roads.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Disconnecting the Dots on Climate Change

Sunday's Paper - on a carbon tax

June 29th's Paper
The transportation sector accounts for about a quarter of Oregon's greenhouse gases. A half-billion dollar project (and almost certainly more!) to make driving more attractive and convenient is probably not a useful part of how we want to fight global warming.

Lottery-funded ConnectOregon Projects

Also, in not how to fight global warming...

The Oregon Transportation Commission will meet Thursday the 17th at the Conference Center, and on the agenda is public hearing on the priority list of projects for funding with lottery dollars though the ConnectOregon V program.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

City Council, July 14th - Stinky at the Blind School!

After a bit of a lull, Council has a full and meaty agenda for Monday. Howard Hall and Food Trucks will be the highlights, and there's not much new to say on them, but another matter perhaps best sums up the City's stance overall.

Staff recommends a change to the composition of the Planning Commission and that Council
Adopt Resolution No. 2014-51 to initiate amendments to Salem Revised Code Chapter 6 increasing from one (1) to two (2), the limit on the number of members who may be principally involved in buying, selling, or developing real estate for profit, and a limit of one (1) to two (2) the number of members who may be engaged in the same business, trade or profession as allowed under ORS 227.030.
We are in thrall!

So it's not quite that bad - the Staff Report notes that other nearby cities also have up to two real estate / developer types on their planning commissions.  But clearly this is why Council paused on appointments to the Planning Commission earlier this year and held open one spot. It's not likely a conspiracy, but it sure gives off a whiff or two of cronyism.

Howard Hall

Ah, but the big stinky is at the Blind School. At Howard Hall the City seemingly has no interest in applying the values in our historic preservation codes and our transportation plan as updated in Bike and Walk Salem.

Plenty of room
There are two related matters at Council, and one of the problems is that while the matters are plainly related, it is convenient to treat them separately as wholly distinct legal and administrative matters in a divide-and-conquer strategy - just like pitting preservationists against people with disabilities.
There's nothing really new to say on Howard Hall itself, but the City's response to transportation issues brought up by SCAN is telling:

SCAN asked about improving crossing Mission at Church and at Winter, as well as to ask about improved bike lanes, and the City said, "take a hike."

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A New Wreck Exposed at Minto? And On Your Feet Friday Tomorrow

Been out to Minto Park lately?

There's a good bit of activity there this summer. New construction on kiosks, way-finding, and signage, and some clearing and planting as well.

A new wreck!
In the northeast corner of the park, at the gate where the path and bridge to Riverfront Park will connect, clearing has exposed a second wreck! Or maybe it's just a junk car that was part of rip-rap for a berm.

Tomorrow is On Your Feet Friday, and it has been interesting to watch the event develop.

On Your Feet Friday - June 13th, 2014
Gallagher Fitness
Here's almost exactly the same location 100 years ago. Only folks were in the street, not pushed into a parking lot!

There were more buildings, so there weren't holes in the urban fabric, and people could be in the street. (The very first comment on the FB post is "Remember, be SAFE crossing the streets." It is telling that the burden is on walkers, not on drivers.)
Commercial and Court, May 1913
This is the environment in which it made sense for the paper to embrace the priority of people on foot.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Before Jaywalking: In 1914 Street Crossings Belonged to Pedestrians

Over at the Willamette Heritage Center blog, they're doing a daily read of the papers in 1914 as a way of talking about the century of World War I.

On the entry for the 6th, there was some interesting transportation history.

July 6th, 1914 editorial
The daily editorial addresses the problem of "crossing the street":
Judge Sulzberger, of Pennsylvania, has profoundly formulated and wisely applied the legal dictum that street crossings belong to pedestrians...pedestrians have the right of way at the street crossings; that when the crossing is not clear it is the business of the motor vehicles to stop...
As we have seen before, the concept of "jaywalking" arose suddenly right around 1920, and this editorial clip from 1914 shows no awareness of the notion.

Jaywalk is a neologism and can be dated precisely!
In fact, it shows rather the opposite: That those operating motor vehicles must yield to people who rightly expect to be able to cross. The automobile, not the person on foot, is the interloper.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Alterations for Cremains Memorial Bridge Past and Future

With yesterday's dedication ceremony, the Cremains Memorial at the State Hospital is in the news.

Later this month or next we'll look at how it and the World War II memorials function as public space, but for the moment let's consider how the building is as an instance of adaptive reuse and historic preservation.

The original site with mid-century addition
Building relocated with mid-century box removed

Building painted and viewing apertures enlarged

Tree removal

Final construction details
The final shape of the memorial retains the essential building structure and much of its detailing, but it is nowhere near "original" condition. The holes in the wall are pretty big, and clearly modern!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Two Parking Notes: Demolish Marion Car Park? Free Parking Bad for Business? - Updated

The City has recently posted a Hearing Notice for an application to demolish the Marion Car Park at Ferry and Commercial.

Holman Building demolished for
Marion Car Park (bottom)
SHINE: 1950
In a spendid instance of stacked historical ironies, the Holman building which had played a key role in early Oregon governance, was demolished for the Marion Car Park, despite State Archivist David Duniway's efforts at preservation. The failure in part led to the creation of the Marion County Historical Society. So it was kindof a big deal.

Today, the Marion Car Park itself has become a "contributing resource" in our downtown historic district, and so it requires special permission from the Historic Landmarks Commission to demolish it.

And it will go through a process a lot like Howard Hall's. What goes around comes around!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Urban Monoculture and Saving Howard Hall

Did you have a good Fourth of July? The local "bombs bursting in air" seemed especially loud, frequent, and nearby this year.

Here's Charles Ives' take on the holiday, circa 1912. If you don't know Ives' music, it's a jumble, sometimes discordant. In a wonderful review last month, Jeremy Denk calls him "the crazy and brilliant patriarch of American music, [one who] loved a good cacophony." He was a real "American Maverick" and, musically anyway, not appreciated during his life.

Ives is increasingly interesting here because he was composing during the streetcar era, that period from 1880 to 1920 or thereabouts when we probably reached peak mobility: People regularly traveled by foot, horse, wagon, bike, streetcar, automobile, rail, early air craft. Sure, petroleum-based fuels later let us go farther and faster, but we might have had the greatest range of mobility choice in this period.

There was a real transportation ecosystem - a jumble.

It wasn't all soybeans and wheat and clear-cut second-growth of one age.

We might not want to look at it with an uncritical nostalgia, but it deserves a closer and critical eye.

By now you've read the news in the paper that Council is "calling up" for review the decision of the Historic Landmarks Commission on Howard Hall.

The Hearing Notice is out, and it looks like Bastille Day will be the occasion. A little poetic, no?

Last month there was a history note in the paper, and it turns out there's some relevant recent history in it.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Cars Rule, Walkers Drool! Othering the Person on Foot

The Wednesday "neighborhood" or "community" supplements don't actually seem very community-minded this week!

Impedance, 1920
By accident or design two of them conjure a sinister empire, a mob even, of jaywalkers.

They recycle last week's story about the ways people on foot threaten carspace with their imperial ways and should be dressed as hazards with traffic cone apparel.

It seems to me that the implied "understanding between pedestrians, drivers" in the subhead is twofold:
  • to people on foot: cars are powerful and people on foot should be sure to yield to them if they don't want to get hit
  • to people in cars: walkers are threatening to take over the world, and your rights of autoism are in peril
Plainly that messaging is not all that coherent, but it does speak to two different frames: In a crash, once catastrophe unfolds, people on foot are vulnerable in a way people in cars are not; in a changing legal and cultural environment on the rules and conventions of the shared public space called "a road," people on foot are beginning to regain what they lost in the 20th century of autoism.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Silverton to Beat Salem to First Bike Corral

Silverton's going to get a permanent bike corral in downtown before Salem!

Bike Corral locations at Water and Main
They'll be tucked in the parking strip, at the yellow zones
Maybe you saw the note in the Appeal-Tribune:
Bike racks will be installed on the east side of Water Street as will solar powered bollards — or light posts — and some fresh paint outlining a bicycle safety zone.

The $3,100 for the project came from the city’s Urban Renewal Fund. No residential property tax money was used.

Jason Gottgetreu with the city of Silverton said the rack will allow up to 12 bikes to park at a time and could possibly be used to display art in the future.

“The city looked at the traffic and parking issues downtown and found that there just aren’t that many places people can lock up their bikes,” he said...

The safety zones will be built between the curb and lanes of traffic but will not take up existing parking spaces. Gottgetreu said the new racks might even free up other parking spaces because more people might leave their car at home.

The 17-by-8-foot safety zone will have reflective markings and solar powered LED lights for illumination without additional wiring.
Interesting, though, that for the pilot "no parking spaces will be removed." The location on the corners in the "no parking" zone is also interesting, and the bollards may be necessary to protect against wide turns. I think the locations, though visible, are non-optimal. At the same time: baby steps. Pilot something, show it's successful, and then iterate with improvements for the next installation.

This will be exciting to watch! Silverton's also got some "Bike friendly businesses" in the Travel Oregon program, and increasingly they look to be making a play for that bike tourism category.

Hey City of Salem, you paying attention???