Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Super-Sized Wallace and Glen Creek Remains Charlie Foxtrot for Many

Is there any point to talking about Wallace and Glen Creek again?

But the autoist propaganda machine is at it again! So it seems like it's necessary to rant point out that there's a lot of cost to the intersection engorgement.

While the existence of crosswalks - indeed an increase from three to four crosswalks -  sounds like it might be an improvement, because of the massive widening, the intersection will be more forbidding than ever before to travelers on bike and on foot.

On a map it looks like it might be easier to cross, but in reality the crossings will be longer, there will be more lanes of streaming car traffic to contend with or evade, and it will be more stressful, not less. Hale and hearty 20-year-olds might not find it difficult, but those at the ends of the 8 to 80 spectrum will certainly do so. How many parents would send their kids alone across the intersection? How many would want their own parents walking across it?

It's also clear the "improvements" are fundamentally hydraulic autoism, all about flow and pumping more cars through the intersection. (We might, for example, have spent $10 million on alternatives to drive-alone trips, thereby reducing traffic rather than accommodating it and inducing even more traffic and congestion in road widening.)
Once the lights are turned on the traffic lanes are opened, drivers will have some major changes to contend with. The new configuration will provide dual left-turn lanes from northbound Wallace to westbound Glen Creek, in addition to dual right-turn lanes from eastbound Glen Creek to southbound Wallace. There also will be two dedicated left turn lanes, rather than one, from westbound Glen Creek onto southbound Wallace Road.

“What we hope to accomplish is getting more of those cars off of Wallace during the evening peak hours, and in the morning peak hours getting more cars off of Glen Creek onto Wallace,” [Project Manager] Kimsey said.
The crosswalks and necessary traffic light timing for them all constitute "pedestrian impedance," delays and clogs in the ideal world of free-flow and autoist trafficky goodness. 

Here again are the plans from 2011 with an inset of the now-former conditions:

This is from 2011 and may not represent the final, built design
click to enlarge and see notes
Maybe on a sunny day it after the traffic wands and barrels are gone it will be possible to take a picture from the west, uphill side that will show adequately the vastness of the intersection. It's an urban highway, not some pedestrian-friendly byway!

On Glen Creek looking west, up the hill

Here's a second thought: How much Cherriots service, calculated from the current "inefficient" configuration, would $10 million buy? Is that months of service, years of service, decades of service? How far would $10 million go just in West Salem?

It is convenient, but not very truthful, to treat the system reboot
and the Third Bridge as wholly separate matters
This is hypothetical, because the funding sources are entirely different, but that might be the best way to think about the opportunity cost of super-sizing the intersection here.

Also, previous notes on this project, going back to 2009, are collected here.

January 11th, 2015

Here's some praise.

No people, no cars, no life
via Moving Salem Forward
There are no people, no cars, no life. I'm just not seeing "WOW" or "transforming investment" or "positive change" or "livability." This is just sloganeering as empty as the intersection. Has the writer actually walked or bike through the intersection? I suspect the photo is taken from a car window, though it is possible that traffic was light enough they walked into the road. At any rate it is taken from a car lane, and represents the perspective of a driver, not a different user of the road.

Anyway, it's good to read the other side...

Update, April 2015

Would you send your child to the park on this by bike?
Note two people on bike in the crosswalk!
(Looking down Glen Creek towards Wallace Park)


Jim Scheppke said...

Great post SBOB. This project shows once again how the City leadership at both the Council and staff levels have their heads stuck firmly in the last century. Until we change that we will just get more of the same. Just think of what else $10 million might have bought to reduce traffic. I still like Cherriots Board member Bob Krebs' idea for a commuter street car that could cross on top of the Union St. bridge. We might have been able to buy that for $10 million.

Susann Kaltwasser said...

10 million dollars would have upgraded one of the main bridges for an earthquake!

What good is a nice intersection that does not lead anywhere in a disaster?

Some of the natives are avoiding Wallace Road altogether now by cutting across from Orchard Heights via Parkway Dr thru neighborhood streets to Rosemont to use that ramp to get on the bridge. While it is a bit longer, it is apparently faster in their minds.

It reminds me of Lancaster and Market Street intersection. We know it is not much better than what was already there, but the City said they "hope" it works too.

Only good thing about the project is that it pumped some money into the local economy for construction workers.

When it is fully completed, I will report on how it actually works for travel, but I can see now that there will be points of conflict with merging lanes on Glen Creek just where the sidewalk ends and people need to cross to get a better path to the shopping area.

Where was West Salem Neighborhood Association on this issue?

Ben said...

To think that the city could spend $10 million on a street car, Cherriots or other alternate means of transportation and make a meaningful, long-lasting impact on West Salem traffic is laughable. I’m sure you could double the number of people riding Cherriots in West Salem and it wouldn’t make a noticeable difference whatsoever, and a doubling of Cherriots useage would be a stunning achievement! While you may not care for an automobile-focused transportation policy, the VAST majority of us prefer to get around that way for obvious reasons, and a responsible city government recognizes and accomodates that desire on the part of its citizenry.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Ben -

Well, I think you would be surprised at the impact a doubling of ridership would have. Congestion effects on the road seem to follow a stair-step kind of function, appearing and disappearing rather suddenly at tipping points of small increments. Moving the needle just 5% or 10% in one direction or the other can have a meaningful impact on a roadway.

Of course the "vast majority" prefer cars currently, but creating more options for people is imperative just now. Autoism creates problems with:
- carbon emissions
- destroying urban fabric and community relations
- increasing obesity and diabetes rates
- death: car use causes over 30,000 deaths a year in the US

A responsible government will recognize that there are compelling reasons in the public interest to transition away from our current transportation system of autoist monoculture and will work to create a more vibrant transportation ecosystem that gives people a menu of real transportation choices.

Right now our transportation system enforces a nearly compulsory autoism - it is an intensely felt given - and we all should be able to agree that this is unfree and a system with more choices would be better.

It's not about forcing people out of cars, it's about freedom, about making people feel like for a short trip they can pause a moment and are actually free to consider which way is best. (And that means it must be true that you and others feel, "yeah, I can make that trip by bike"; it can't be the laughable prospect it mostly is today.) Right now the vast majority doesn't feel that freedom. You and everybody else probably feels, "of course I have to drive to make this trip."

Anyway, thanks for stopping by with your objections. Many feel this way, as you point out, and if we can't persuade you, we won't make much progress.

Ben said...

While I don't disagree with you at all on the benefits of getting people out of their cars, the answer is to accommodate the needs of an automobile-centric society while investing more in those alternate means of transportation. I have no problem with criticizing the city for failing to invest more in those other means of getting around, but being critical of needed road system improvements like the Wallace/Glen Creek intersection is nonsensical and makes it difficult for responsible leaders to take you and your positions seriously.

Curt said...

Responsible leadership almost always requires making decisions that are not popular in order to advance the public interest. Irresponsible leadership is promising all things to all people. We have to make choices. Other cities in Oregon have not gone to the same extremes that Salem has to "accommodate" the automobile and have benefitted from those decisions in ways that Salem hasn't.

Ben said...

Sorry Curt, but that argument doesn't hold water. The same folks that have railed agains the third bridge, arguing that we should instead be making improvements to bridgeheads and Wallace Rd to alleviate traffic conditions appear to now be complaining about an intersection improvement that will do just that - significantly help peak-hour traffic conditions on Wallace Rd.

Mike D said...

Not to gang up on you but...You claim to support getting people out of cars but then say we need to accommodate the needs of an auto-centric society while investing in alternatives. Firstly, we've spent billions over the past five decades accommodating auto-centric society at the expense of alternative transportation. After the build out of the interstate system, subsidy-drunk politicians decided to keep building and enlarging roads. So a reasonable argument can be made that it's time to swing the pendulum back.
Secondly, you can't build both systems and expect them to both succeed. You may argue that if people choose to drive it's because that's what they want. Of course this ignores the reality of all of the subsidies given to auto-centric development and the zoning environment that means only auto-centric development can be built. So the money spent on transit, etc is a needless subsidy rather than being more financially viable.
This all doesn't even discuss the effect of auto-centric development. Do you want to drive farther to get to he country and outdoor activities? Do you want more of the urban areas paved over to accommodate cars? Do you want to sit in traffic longer? Do you want to have more financially unproductive areas?
When you get past the selfish response of "I like to drive so we should spend taxpayer money to accommodate it" you can see that auto- centric development is wrong financially, ecologically, culturally, historically and health-wise. I hope that you can come to see the whole picture not just the view from behind you steering wheel.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Here's another way of conceptualizing the problem: When their faculties start the inevitable decline, people in their 70s and 80s mostly fight the need to give up their driver's license. We make it as difficult as possible for them! That's how compulsory is our autoism.

We should aim for a transportation ecosystem that makes it easy for people to stop driving when eyesight and reflexes and attention waver.

Such a system will also serve children well.

It's also interesting to note that the whole "Driver's Card" thing, measure 88, is a clear index of the reach of compulsory autoism.

Back to Ben, what is nonsensical is assuming as given what instead needs to be proved!

If you were given $10 million to improve mobility (not car mobility, but the movement of people, people who can choose any number of different ways to get around) in West Salem, is a single highway interchange really what you'd choose? Or would you choose other things? What needs to be proved is that this is in fact the best way to address mobility, and I think we have multiple ways now to show that massive widening is no longer the best way to improve mobility.

To echo Mike, the more we dig in on big auto infrastructure, the more difficult it becomes to invest in "those alternate means of transportation."

The widening at Wallace and Glen Creek makes it less likely that people will want to walk or bike across its treacherous vastness. There are some elements of a zero-sum game here: By giving more to cars, we take away from people who walk and bike and bus. Huge intersection widening is incoherent with a policy to improve "those alternate means of transportation."

The nonsense is in this contradiction. The nonsense is not in a critique of a super-sized interchange. Responsible leaders will recognize this contradiction and seek to do something about it in actual construction, not pretend that those of us who critique autoism are cranks.

As for the whole "bridgehead" thing, well, we differ here on some of the details from our good friends at N3B. It has never been the position here that the solution is to say "there are better ways to expand capacity at a lower cost."

The position here is basically that we should cap auto capacity, build no new auto capacity, and instead preserve and maintain what we have, and build out mobility for people who bike, walk, and use the bus.

(We agree with N3B about the folly of a new Third Bridge, but we are much less enthusiastic about Alternative 2A and on working on flow at the bridgeheads. But this is a friendly disagreement on details, not on the big picture.)

Curt said...

Ben: I don't see what the inconsistencies of N3B have to do with the merits of this project. This project will have no meaningful impact on traffic in West Salem. It will just clog up again and people will start to complain for the next expansion... at which time the cost of will be exponentially higher.

Susann Kaltwasser said...

Curt is right. The widening of Wallace and Glen Creek is misguided at best. The ability to turn faster at the light, will not reduce the congestion on Wallace moving south to the bridge. Hurry up and wait.

Bridge #3 as proposed fixes nothing either. If you take the bridge north, you still have to deal with congestion on Wallace.

As a West Salem resident, what seems more important is how to get norht/south without having to use Wallace at all.

Right now there are few convenient roads that will allow you to avoid Wallace Road. A few roads that do connect such as Doaks Ferry or Parkway do not go all the way through. And Parkway is pretty narrow at some points.

Fixing those issues will take a great deal of time and money, if they can be fixed at all. This whole mess is the result of a master planning process that allows for a network of collectors, arterials and major arterials rather than requiring as best as possible a grid system.

The other problem is allowing developers of individual properties to dictate where the streets will be put. Bad planning all around.

That siad, if we had a reasonable mass transit system it would benefit not only to reduce congestion, but it also would help with employment issues. People who can't afford a car cant afford to take jobs that are out of their transit zone. Lack of mobility is a big issue that is not getting addressed with these projects.

Over the weekend I went to Keizer Station (only because I was already in the area for a social event) and was once again reminded why I hate that place and avoid it pretty much but once year at best. Talk about poor planning!

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Added quotes from a fan of the intersection enlargement.