Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Mostly We Consider Development in a Transit Vacuum

The weekend's post about the prospect of a significant reduction in Cherriots' service in West Salem is getting a good bit of traffic.

The thing about it, is that it really points to the link between transportation and land use, something that currently gets short shrift in our planning and calculations.

Development in West Salem, especially without adequate growth in transit, puts significant pressure on everybody else to subsidize a giant new bridge. Development on the edges everywhere makes car trips compulsory and adds pressure for other auto capacity increases.

1911 Ad for Kingwood Park development
At the Goal 9 Economic Opportunities Analysis (EOA) and Goal 10 Housing Needs Analysis (HNA) project, fortunately there's some discussion of this.

Growth on the edges is problematic for transit
May 1 EOA-HNA meeting notes
But will it come in time to make a difference in our planning and policy? Or will it just be rhetorical window dressing?

Later this month the Planning Commission will hold a hearing on a re-partition for an apartment complex out on Cordon Road.

Apartment complex out on Cordon Road
(Cordon Road in yellow)
The proposal is doubly problematic: It's utterly car-dependent multi-family housing on the edge of the city, and in light of this fact they want to delete a walkway - which, you know, isn't really going to connect to anything.

Whack the "pedestrian connection"!
This is just kindof an absurd charlie foxtrot. I don't know, maybe after the staff report comes out there will be some meaningful complications or factors, but it just looks sprawly and dumb. For any cup of sugar or gallon of milk, any errand at all, residents will have to get into a car. Car ownership, and all the gas and carbon and expense that implies will be mandatory.

Tonight the Planning Commission will hear an appeal of a decision on a 140-lot subdivision way out Brush College Road in West Salem.

Out Brush College past the High School
I don't know that the specifics of the appeal are necessarily of interest here. (Maybe you know otherwise?)

But given Cherriots' proposed service level, this too will be wholly car-dependent.

140-lot subdivision circled in red
It's totally distant from a bus line
Why are we allowing development in areas we are not planning to serve with transit? Shouldn't the ability to serve an area by transit become a criteria for development? It's ok for folks to choose to make a car trip, but it should be a choice, not something compulsory.

The Comprehensive Plan, our highest-level policy document, suggests expanded transit, fewer drive-alone trips, and less off-street parking are all goals for new development in the city.

So, whatever. We just ignore it. Land use and transportation is pretty much just given lip-service, nothing substantive.

But we really shouldn't. If we want a lively city in a reduced-carbon future, we have to give more thought to how we use land and how people move to and from that land.


Susann Kaltwasser said...

I am in agreement about the planning for transportation in development, but my guess is that the city staff will reply that transit will come when the population reaches a critica level to make it feasible.

That said, the staff takes no responsibility for mass transits response to demand. Perhaps because it is two separate agencies. But if we were realling planning a community we would have coordination of all aspects such as location of school, work, shopping and residential.

Salem has abandoned the planning process when former Mayor Taylor scrapped 'Salem Futures' back in her first term. After spending over a million dollars and several years of staff and community efforts, she pretty much unilaterally scrapped the project.

Salem is out of compliance with state land use laws in that we have not done a comprehensive plan review in over 20 years.

Furthermore we have been doing bits and pieces of planning without any real community discussion. The 'clean up' of the Unified Development Code (UDC) was done by a small committee of developers and only 2 or 3 non-development people. The EOA and HNA are also a part of the piecemeal comp plan update process. It too is mainly developers and real estate people, not much in the way of neighbors.

Now the city is started the significant part of the UDC update by taking on the 'bucket list.' This is the part where we get into making changes in the code.

Last week the city council held a work session to discuss how to proceed. The decision was to go back to the UDC committee, so it mean once again it will be a development weighted group with little residential citizen participation.

The trend seems to be to let the development and real estate commuity design our future and base it on economic benefit to them, not necessarily on what is good for the people who will have to live in those communities.

I asked staff if they would consider working with Neighborhood Associations in a more direct way and was to basically, no. They will come speak to NA if asked, but as far as involvement with land use chairpersons, they will maybe hold a meeting or two and then give updates at the chairperson meetings that take place every 8 weeks for about 10 minutes.

The average citizen will be hard pressed to follow the process, let alone learn enough to make any reasonable comments. Even us NA people will find it very difficult to engage in a meaningful way.

This is why I think that our future is not likely to change. We foolishly have elected people who are not enlightened in these matters, so I am not confident that any of the policies that are encorporated in the current comprehensive plan will be implemented in a meaningful way.

The only thing that can make a difference is is all of the like-minded groups and individuals work collectively to not only educate themselves, but to coordinate their actions.

Mike D said...

All I can say in response to Susan's post is AMEN. When you put people in charge who care only about their gain and the gains of their associates, the rest of us and those in the future suffer.

It's really sad that Salem voted in so many Chamber zombies. Salem could be such a great place but instead it makes decisions like someone walking around in the dark. The solution is easy but they seem to want to ignore the flash light in their hand.

Laurie Dougherty said...

Where is this silent majority whose burning desire for dense, mixed-use, walkable, bikeable, transit-oriented, close-in development is being thwarted? I don't see it. It seems when there is an opportunity, like at the Salem Hospital North Campus, what people want, with a very few exceptions, is more of the same: low rise, low density with the look and feel of a 1950s suburb and lots of ornamental emptiness (to borrow a phrase) to boot.

I've been living in Salem almost 3 years now and I visited my daughter here many times before I retired and moved here from Boston. I still can't figure out whether I just don't get Salem or whether Salem doesn't get what it means to be a city.