Thursday, January 15, 2015

Commercial-Vista Corridor Study Open House Tonight is Opportunity for Streetmix

Tonight the study on middle Commercial, the Commercial-Vista Corridor Study, holds an Open House and public Workshop at South Salem High School.

The vastness of Middle Commercial: Six wide, wide car lanes here
(also, the Clark Creek dale, totally buried in a culvert!)
The road is wide and vast, and turning movements and access conflicts here are similar to the ones that yielded the deaths of the Crosslands this week. There's a lot that can be done for safety and comfort here.

The SUV appears to be making the same turning movement
that killed the Crosslands
One concept that may not be getting enough attention is a multi-way boulevard, with local access on the edges and through-traffic in the center.

A Nelson/Nygaard proposal from the helpful
Stroad to Boulevard tumblr
But even better than design proposals from elsewhere are your own!

With Streetmix you can design your own road cross-section. The Open Houses should have stations where people can take the road widths and place different things on them.

Streetmix, an interactive web app that lets you
design your own roadway
At the first Stakeholder Advisory meeting, some worried about vagrants and prioritizing too much for non-auto users. There's an opportunity here for the project team to push back on some of the myths.

Fear that non-auto users don't add enough value
First off, there are more than a few vacant buildings and underdeveloped parcels here. Exactly what kind of "success" is envisioned here?

Vacant big box - former Safeway on Middle Commercial
In addition to the big vacant Safeway, there's the Peach Tree Grill/Fussy Duck building that has struggled, the strange cinder block thing across from Pizza Hut, and the former Sizzler and erstwhile home of a Big Foot statue and lagoon. There's also a pawn shop, a tobacco store, a tattoo parlor, the liquor store, a mattress store - it's not that these are necessarily bad businesses, but I'm not sure they scream "prosperity!" and "success!" either.

Second, the project team can remind neighbors and businesses that while people on foot and on bike may spend less per visit, they often visit businesses more often. In fact, for some kinds of businesses, the life-time value (the sum of all visits) of a non-driving customer is higher than a driving customer! In most cases, there's not a penalty for non-driving customers.

Parklet for Parking:  172% increase in retail sales!
Measuring the Street: New Metrics for 21st Century Streets
New York City Department of Transportation
They can also point to New York, which has also seen great benefits from making streets better for non-auto users. (More: Here's a 2008 review of literature and a League of American Bicyclists report.)

One thought in the first stakeholder meeting that may be worth more attention is equity: When there are streets in Salem that don't even have sidewalks, is it fair to improve existing sidewalks? This is a reasonable question and deserves more thought.

(From there, though, the problem is not so much why improve this sidewalk and not that sidewalk - not comparative or competitive sidewalks and neighborhoods - but why are we spending so much to expand auto capacity instead of building sidewalks for everyone. Why so much for cars rather than for people on foot and on bike? That's the nub of the equity question.)

The Open House is at South Salem High School from 5:30pm to 7:30pm.

The agenda
The school is at 1910 Church Street SE, in the north side of the library.

(For previous notes on the middle Commercial study, see here.)

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