Monday, December 8, 2014

Cherriots: Walmart Parking Lot for South Salem Transit Station, Walking Map, Rideshare

Thursday's kindof a busy day with the Salem River Crossing Oversight Team meeting, but Thursday there's also a Cherriots Board meeting that has a couple of interesting items on it.

It looks like Cherriots has identified the Walmart parking lot on South Commercial as the best candidate for a new transit station.

Site assessment: Walmart on Baxter and Commercial best
Planners note the Walmart site scored best for three different site plan types and that Eugene had recently purchased land from Walmart for a transit station:
The evaluation shows that the Walmart site, laid out in three different design types, still performs better than either the Capital Rental or the Kilgore Blackman Building Materials sites.

The next phase of the project will be focused on obtaining the required land for the transit center. Based on conversations with the Walmart store manager it is possible that negotiations for acquiring land could take a year or more. During this time the District will need engineering support to jointly develop design concepts that benefit both parties. The District will also apply for federal and state grants to support other pre-construction activities.

Lane Transit District (LTD) has had recent experience negotiating with Walmart to purchase land. District staff contacted LTD and summarized the LTD approach in the attached memorandum labeled as Attachment B. The bottom line is that although it may take time, Walmart can be a willing seller when presented with a mutually beneficial facility.
As a secondary consideration - this is after all principally for buses, and only secondarily a multi-modal hub - I hope more thought this time is given to non-motorized connectivity. The Keizer Transit Station has nice furniture, but it fits in users and actual use patterns rather awkwardly.

Like the Keizer site, this new site is not very rich with connections for bike transportation. Southbound travel on Commercial will have to make a big jug-handle turn at Baxter, almost certainly using the cross-walk, and east-west-bound connections are few. Kuebler is the main one; while the blue line makes it look connected on a map, it's not a very comfortable facility at all, and few parents would send their children to use it. Around the area Bike and Walk Salem identifies no high-priority "tier 1" facilities, and only a few "tier 2" and "tier 3" facilities that are far from likely or on distant horizons at the moment.

Connectivity is mostly arterials with old-school bike lanes

The lack of bike connectivity is not a reason to choose a different site, but it is a call for Cherriots to give more thought to "last-mile" connectivity in the site plan itself and the adjacent roads.

Again, if the Board agrees this is the best site, a purchase will still have to be negotiated from Walmart. 

Walking Map

Also interesting is an update on a walking map for downtown and relatively close-in neighborhoods.

Willamette MBA student PACE Project
A group of MBA students from Willamette University is working on producing "a walking map centered on a three-mile radius of State and High Streets in downtown Salem. The map will consist of twelve routes with descriptions and photographs."

It looks both promising and head-scratching. The promising side? International students from Saudi Arabia, Kosovo, and India could very well turn up facets of Salem that we routinely overlook! One should not underestimate the "fresh eyes" effect. I'm not sure the chance is particularly large, but there is a real chance they could turn up more than a few "wow, I never thought of that" moments.

At the same time, the MBA students may be making the simple act of walking way more complicated and even monitized than it needs to be:
Currently the team is focused on creating a demographic profile of Salem walkers, differentiating them into segments and targeted markets and scoping out proposed distribution points and channels within the community.
Are we going to get one approach for power walkers who invest in special-purpose walking apparel, walking accessories, and walking shoes? And another approach for workforce walkers, who walk because they can't afford to drive? I don't know. The marketing buzzwords make me wary, and this looks like an unnecessary move towards commodifying and accessorizing - finding a business opportunity to squeeze discretionary dollars out of consumers - the foundational act of mobility.

Quarterly Rideshare Update

There's also the quarertly Rideshare report. I'm still working on understanding what exactly these numbers mean.

Here's the latest:

Drive Less Connect Numbers for Q1, 2014-2015 year
July-September 2014
And here's the same period from last year:

Drive Less Connect Numbers for Q1, 2013-14
Jul-Sept 2013
Compared to last year, walk, bike, and bus trips are up - but since these are numbers from Polk, Marion, and Yamhill counties, the proportions of total trips are dinky.

Drive Less Connect Numbers for Q2, 2013-14
Oct-Dec 2013

Drive Less Connect Numbers for Q3, 2013-14
Jan-March 2014

Drive Less Connect Numbers for Q4, 2013-14
April - June 2014
Quarterly new user growth in this tri-county area seems pretty meagre:
303 - Q1, 2013-14
728 - Q2, 2013-14
150 - Q3, 2013-14
139 - Q4, 2013-14
185 - Q1, 2014-15
And I wonder what similar departments in Corvallis, Eugene, Portland, Medford, and Bend are experiencing. The lack of comparison and analysis is a problem for assessing how Rideshare is actually performing. These are just contextless factoids, and it's not clear that other Rideshare activities are specifically aimed boosting these numbers. And if they aren't aimed at this, why report on the numbers?

Rideshare is working on a strategic plan, and maybe it will include a better set of assessment metrics and goals.

(It's also true that Cherriots' advocacy for things like the Third Bridge is wildly inconsistent with programming like Rideshare, and it's possible there are institutional reasons to keep Rideshare small and on the margins. This is a possible structural problem.)

Rideshare is badly underfunded, and it's almost certain that they are spread too thinly. At the same time, our community has tons of room for improvement in reducing drive-alone trips.

Cherriots' Board meets Thursday the 11th at 6:30pm, Courthouse Square, Senator Hearing Room, 555 Court St NE.

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