Monday, September 29, 2014

What Hath the Studies Wrought? TGM's Example

Even though planners often appeal to the analysis developed by Jane Jacobs, one of her high level conclusions is to be suspicious of big plans. If Robert Moses was a classic Hedgehog, she positioned herself as the canny Fox, and suggested we should as a matter of habit prefer Fox-style thinking and solutions to the Hedgehogian dominion of the Master Plan.

I don't know if this is actually a contradiction in city planning, but it is certainly a tension. But it is no great insight to point out that there's a sweet spot somewhere in the middle between chaos and rigid plan.

2013 Report
During the life of this blog since 2008, we've followed a few studies funded by grants from the joint project between ODOT and DLCD, the Oregon Transportation and Growth Management project.

These include:

Bike and Walk Salem
North Broadway Parking Study
Middle Commercial Refinement Plan - forthcoming
State Street Mixed Use Study - forthcoming

Talk about Portland Road turned up the 1999 SINALACS project, also a TGM funded study.

Since the phenomenon of "shelf studies," planning studies that are released with great hoopla, but quickly gather dust on the shelf from inactivity, is a definite "thing," it was natural to ask:
  • Just how many TGM-funded studies are there in town? 
  • And what generally becomes of them?
  • Do we have any way of - or indeed interest in - assessing their success or failure?

The list of completed studies might surprise you, especially the number from the 1990s:
  • UG-18 Salem Infill and Transit Development (at some point they clearly changed project coding, so I'm not sure the year on this one)
  • 2FF-93 Salem-Keizer Public Transportation Plan
  • 2GG-93 Salem Mobility Alternatives Planning
  • 2JJ-93 Salem Coordinated Transportation Design Standards
  • 2KK-93 Salem Central Area Mobility Plan
  • 2MM-93 MWVCOG Regional Travel Corridor Modal & Land Use Opportunity
  • 2NN-93 Salem Lancaster Access Management Plan
  • 2PP-93 Salem Neighborhood Land Use Alternatives
  • 2QQ-93 Salem I-5/Chemawa & I-5/Kuebler plans
  • 2H-95 Salem Demonstration Design Project
  • 2J-95 Salem Neighborhood Environment Evaluation Design Study II (NEEDS)
  • 2K-95 Salem Wallace Road Circulation Plan
  • 2BB-95 Salem Salem Transportation System Plan Preparation
  • 2O-97 Salem Broadway District Mixed Use Development
  • 2P-97 Salem Industrial/Northgate Area Local Access and Circulation Study
  • 2Q-97 Salem Neighborhood Traffic Management Plan
  • 2R-97 Salem North Downtown Plan Implementation
  • 2S-97 Salem South Salem Mobility Study
  • 2QQ-97 Salem-Keizer Transit North Downtown Salem Transit Facility Development Plan
  • 2UU-97 Salem Land Use Alternatives Evaluation
  • 2G-99 Salem Evaluation of Alternative Land Use Scenarios
  • 2H-99 Salem Transportation System Plan Implementation: Sidewalk Construction and Maintenance Plan
  • 2CC-99 Salem Salem Industrial/Northgate Local Access and Circulation Study (SINALACS) Implementation
  • 2DD-99 Salem West Salem Redevelopment Program
  • 2Q-03 Salem West Salem Gateway Specific Development Plan
  • 2F-09 Salem Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan Update and Safe Routes to School Plan
  • 2C-10 Salem Area Mass Transit District Salem Area Mass Transit District Transportation System Plan
  • 2I-10 Salem Parking Management Plan
(Full list here.)

Rowhouses near South Salem HS replaced a grocery,
and used a TGM "quick response" grant
Separately, they have published two lists of "tangibles," things built that arose from TGM funded plans and studies. (The lists - here and here - look to be illustrative, not comprehensive, however):
  • Salem 12th St Safety Promenade - 1999
  • Salem Lincoln Street Row-houses - 1999
But both of these are from the Quick Response program, not from the study-funding side. There doesn't appear to be a feedback assessment loop that looks at which studies generated the most effective change and/or construction.

There are other funding sources and lots of other plans, so I don't mean to single out TGM grants in particular, but since they are transportation-related and can fairly easily be grouped here, they are a nice sample, hopefully representative of Salem's planning studies in total.

It would be interesting to know more about the contrast between the decade of the 90s and the 00s. Was this a result of changing politics in Salem, something encapsulated, say, by the shift from Mike Swaim to Janet Taylor? Did the TGM funding pool get smaller? Did planners see that Salemites' appetite for funded and constructed change was actually much less than their interest in manifesto and plan? Did the number of studies simply become overwhelming, too many ideas with no good way to winnow? Is the pattern here different from the pattern in other communities, or is it a statewide phenomenon?

I think there's a narrative here, maybe more than one, but I'm not sure what it is.

It seems impossible to drill into all of the studies to arrive at a rough count of the number of funded and constructed changes. But perhaps there will be a way over the fall and winter to look at more of them and to quantify what we mean when we use shorthand to say something is rotting on the shelf. There's a sense here that Salem is really coming up short in enacting its plans. So maybe a more interesting question is, where is the sweet spot between too much (and too many) plan, and not enough plan? And how do we get to that spot?

(No answers here, just questions! Do you know about some of these plans, especially those in the 90s? Chime in!)

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