Thursday, September 18, 2014

Cherriots Hosts Webinar; Oversight Team Moots Third Bridge Design Today

Two interesting transportation meetings today: Cherriots has two webinars on their system redesign, and the Salem Rivercrossing Oversight Team meets.

Cherriots Moving For - Irrelevance? Self-Nullification in West Salem

Even our Transit Agency is infected by Bridge Madness. They're not "Moving Forward" as much as they are moving out.

One way of looking at the new routes and schedules is that the proposed service level entrenches drive-alone trips in West Salem.

It is convenient, but not very truthful, to treat the system reboot
and the Third Bridge as wholly separate matters
If we wanted to make sure that people living in West Salem feel like transit is not a useful option, and that drive-alone trips should be the preferred option, cutting routes in West Salem and boosting for a half-billion dollar bridge and highway might be a good strategy.

Cherriots proposed five-day coverage for West Salem
Both Wallace and Edgewater routes go downtown;
Edgewater is frequent service -
but lots of empty in the hills
And that's pretty much what they're doing.


Structural problems with West Salem aren't getting much play in the discussion. Cherriots could really use this as an opportunity to talk about how our land-use in West Salem is defeating transit. And talk about how we might want to use transit to improve West Salem. But no.

In the absence of this conversation, most people are reacting to the Cherriots reboot with questions about Saturday and evening service. And those are important questions, too.

Cherriots, alas, has done a terrible job messaging the budget constraints that lead them to service cuts and to the reasons they still can't offer Saturday service.

Instead they're selling it all as a great big upgrade - as indeed in some places it is. Especially along busy corridors, Cherriots is proposing 15 minute frequent service. That's almost enough that you don't even have to check a schedule, and can just walk to a bus stop, confident you'll get a ride with virtually no wait. That's real convenience and a service level that will draw new riders.

But the fact is riderships and revenues are down. So they have to make choices about where to concentrate limited resources.

And in making the choices they have failed to take into consideration huge structural problems in Salem land-use.

They talk about "Connecting Riders to Jobs," but one of the primary connections to jobs in Salem, the West Salem to downtown link, is being sundered.

"most of these workers have jobs located in downtown Salem"
(from the flexible transit study)
They say, well, existing land-use in West Salem makes it difficult to serve, so we should serve it even less.

Never mind that this exacerbates the trend of inefficient land use and will bear even worse fruit for Salem 10, 20, 30 years down the road.

The Operational Problem in budget and logistics gets totally separated from the strategic and long-range questions of land-use and transportation planning and what look like attractive short-term solutions may very well cannibalize the longer-term viability of a robust transit system in West Salem. 

This is messed up.

From Cherriots:
On Thursday, Sept. 18, we will be holding two webinars, a 3 p.m. webinar and 6 p.m. webinar. You can also view the webinars live on YouTube. To join a webinar and ask a question, all you need is a gmail account. If you don't have a gmail account and would still like to ask a question, please email info@cherriots.org and put WEBINAR QUESTION in the subject line.
(For more on the Cherriots system analysis, see notes here.)


Rivercrossing Oversight Team

Also messed up!

SRC Oversight Team Agenda for Sept 18th
The Salem River Crossing Oversight Team also meets today, Thursday the 18th, and one of the topics will be a brief update on "design refinements for bicycle, pedestrian, and transit facilities." Again conveniently passing over the fact that the bridge itself represents a huge structural degradation for people who bike, walk, and bus.

They'll also pick a bridge design and talk about a funding workshop.

It seems highly unlikely that there will be enough information and time to reflect to make a sophisticated judgement on bridge design. It seems almost certain to be made on price point alone.

The funding workshop, though, seems like it might offer a chance to get serious on how folks propose to pay for the thing - and how much more urgent and cost effective would be a seismic reinforcement of the existing bridges.

The land use approval process will also be interesting, as it just seems so unlikely that they can successfully make the case for expanding the urban growth boundary or justifying land use goal exceptions.

(On the other hand, there have been plenty of seemingly difficult barriers that in fact proved no barrier at all.  So who knows.)

The Oversight Team meets at 11am on Thursday the 18th at 100 High St. SE, Suite 200, above Bar Andaluz and Table Five 08. N3B will surely have more.

(For way, way too much more, see all notes on the Third Bridge here.)

10 comments:

Jim Scheppke said...

I attended the Oversight Team meeting today and there was NO discussion at all of bridge design refinements for bike/ped and transit. None. Nada. They spent 2+ hours deliberating on the bridge type and picked a "segmental precast concrete box" bridge at a cost of $100-$140 million. That's just for the bridge. To connect it to Wallace Road and Salem Parkway will probably increase the cost to around $300 million. The OT does not care about bike/ped and transit. No one lamented the fact that they did not get to talk about it today. Next up: a "funding workshop" on December 2 or 3. The OT inhabits an alternative reality.

Anonymous said...

The presentation slides for the Oversight Team meeting are posted on the project's website (www.salemrivercrossing.org) The direct link is here. Note: slide 44 shows a conceptual "phase B" that includes the bridge and other changes on both sides of the river. Also, the preferred alternative connects to Pine and Hickory at Commercial Street (somewhat similar to the way the Marion and Center St. bridges connect to Commercial Street downtown) and does not directly connect to Salem Parkway.

The Oversight Team had an extended discussion about selecting a bridge type, factoring items like number and type and location of piers, aesthetics of the design, ability to phase, construction costs, maintenance costs, etc. and the consultant's bridge engineer was there to answer their questions.

Under the agenda's technical work update, the project team informed the OT that now that a decision on bridge type was made, design refinements for bike/pedestrian/and transit facilities could continue to proceed. These refinements will come back to the Oversight Team at a future meeting.

-Mike Jaffe
MWVCOG

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Thanks for the update, Mike.

Anonymous said...

I heard at a Cherriots presentation that West Salem will actually have more hours of transit service than it does presently! They are just focused on two routes rather than scattered in the hills. I think reasonable people can disagree about which is the right course of action. But criticize that decision on those terms, because that's the decision that the transit route planners are facing.

My opinion is that more people will ride the bus (and drive less) under the proposed scheme than if there were infrequent routes though transit-unfriendly landscapes.

The main problem with transit, of course, is that we don't have enough of it, period. Weekdays, evening, and weekends.

Emily said...

Yes, within a limited-focus context of the decision transit officials made based solely on their current resources, the new route decisions make sense.

However, the point, and this keeps getting overlooked, is that within a big-picture context of how transportation is being planned and funded in this city as a whole, the transit decisions don't make sense.

In particular, continued planning for the third bridge while scaling back transit in West Salem creates further incentive for unhealthy, inactive transportation rather than spurring the kind of progressive development that increases active transportation options and transit ridership. The abundant free parking included the mix makes matters worse.

To say "West Salem will actually have more hours of transit service than it does presently" is a bit misleading, especially when one looks at the map of the proposed route. Yes, the routes that will remain in West Salem may be more frequent, but they don't penetrate far into West Salem and leave vast swaths of the region too far from a bus stop for bus travel to be at all practical.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Yeah, what Emily said!

Anonymous said...

I feel like I'm beating a dead horse here, but that's because I think the narrative that West Salem transit is getting worse (or "scaling-back") with these changes is just wrong. I think it is getting better.

Is most of West Salem currently planned and developed in a way that is auto-centric and terrible? Yes, absolutely. Is the bridge an awful idea that belongs to the relics of the 1950's? Yes, absolutely. Should we have a lot more transit everywhere? Yes, absolutely!

You can't measure transit service by lines on a map. The fact is today's transit in the hills is pretty useless and essentially nobody uses it unless they have to. They run every 60 or 120 minutes in big loops that only go one direction. That might work if you happen to be going the direction the bus is going when the bus is going by, but that isn't true most of the time.

If you really want people to have options, they have to have real options. That means useful transit, not *symbolic* transit that lets us say, "oh yeah, we have a line within 1/2 mile of everyone, so we're good."

Let's be practical for a second. We are planning out our transit system routes for implementation next year. That means we're stuck with the roads and land uses that we have today. Oh, and we have a limited amount of resources- only the amount of money that we have coming in now.

There are some real tradeoffs and decisions about values to be made here, citywide, between ridership and coverage. Cherriots made a choice to go about 75-25 or so in favor of ridership. I happen to like that myself, but I can respect that other people might make a different choice. I think focusing on ridership has the advantage of doing a better job of supporting compact development patterns and getting more people on the bus (and out of the car). I think focusing on coverage in West Salem would not achieve the goals that you say you want. Who is going to leave their car in the driveway for a bus that rarely comes by, and maybe only in one direction? Most people want to get back home!

If you want to be critical of Cherriots for supporting the bridge- by all means, please! It is really *really* dumb! But it drives me nuts that you are rolling that stupidity into what I see as positive transit changes that help support land use patterns that we want to see.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

It is disappointing to see how powerful is the "cloak of invisibility" around the Third Bridge! It has pervasive and systemic affects on lots of other things, and to treat them as if they were separate is to support the forces of madness, alas.

Briefly...

1) You will notice there has been little, if any, criticism of the "rebalancing" in South Salem, Keizer, and East Salem. The 75/25 service level split seems totally reasonable in nearly all of Salem, except...

2) Because of the proposed half-billion dollar giant bridge and highway, West Salem is totally different from the other parts of Salem. So -

3) The claim here, and plainly you disagree with it, is that it is inaccurate to analyze transit and transportation today without factoring in the shadow of the bridge project. We assert it is essential "to roll that stupidity into" the way we look at, and the way it affects, other transportation choices and planning.

The process in West Salem needed to be different from the process in the rest of town, and this problem with process is a big problem antecedent to the problem outcome.

(If you have not read them, these two posts, here and here, might be useful background and address more of the discussion on process.)

Anonymous said...

How would "factoring in the shadow of the bridge project" change what is being proposed?

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

We don't know, because it wasn't done!

(And, you know, this is a bike blog, not a transit blog. It would be great if someone would do a transit blog in Salem. Maybe you are the one to do it?!)

I don't have an answer about a route map and schedule. What I do know, is that Cherriots isn't asking, "What does service in West Salem need to look like if a policy goal is to reduce drive-alone trips especially across the bridges?" (This is not an arbitrary question. In the Comprehensive Plan is this: "Local governments within the Salem Urban Area shall develop multimodal plans, services, and programs that decrease reliance on the SOV as the dominant means of travel." It may be that this policy goal would trump whatever policy is behind a 75/25 split in West Salem.)

Or if we are abandoning that policy goal, let's be clear about that.

Changes in process would include more thinking about the thousands of workers who live in West Salem and work downtown. Under what conditions would transit become attractive to them? If the bridges were tolled and downtown parking was more accurately market-priced, then there might be more demand for transit, for example. This might mean that instead of advocating for a half-billion dollar giant bridge and highway, Cherriots advocates for tolling the existing bridges and developing a replacement for our parking subsidies. (In an early Third Bridge study, paid parking was I believe the thing that created the largest reduction in bridge crossing traffic.)

For these workers, perhaps an am/pm rush-hour only fleet of smaller buses would serve their needs - the Flexible Transit Study may not have drilled far enough into new or non-traditional models. The sharing app/jitney approach of Uber and Lyft would be an avenue as well.

Cherriots could develop a financial model of taxes and fees: Here's what it would cost residents of West Salem to have good transit (even if it remained underused), and here's what it will cost the same residents for a giant bridge and highway. It would be interesting to see the annual costs and trade-offs of each compared. And then flip it, how much in annual operations budget is Cherriots actually going to save in West Salem, and how does this compare to the cost of a bridge? (Maybe it would be surprising to us critics of the bridge how much cheaper is a giant bridge and highway, though I certainly hope that's not the case.)

Cherriots could be more vocal about comment and costs when developments are proposed in car-dependent areas not served by transit. (See here.)

There are a number of analytical frameworks and planning processes that would benefit from "factoring in the shadow of the bridge project." Right now it's an externalized cost, and instead that cost needs to be captured.