Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Road Funding, Project Lists, and Road Fatalities at the MPO Yesterday

I missed the announcement of yesterday's meeting of our local Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Salem Keizer Area Transportation Study.

Nothing that needed close attention happened to be on the agenda (agenda and full meeting packet here - it's big), but there were some interesting tidbits.

The last RTSP during adoption
The new draft Regional Transportation System Plan (2015) is being discussed, and this time draft chapters four and five were on the agenda.

Chapter Four is on finance, and if you want to understand all the different ways we fund roads, that chapter dives right in. (Here's the adopted chapter from the 2011 RTSP with substantially the same material.)

All the different pots of money! Yellow are those for bikes.
(the pdf was scanned as an image, I think,
and it is not very clear throughout)
There's a nice chart that shows what the different funding programs can be used for. Many funding streams have restrictions.

Chapter Five is on projects - though it's titled "Proposed System." (Here's the adopted chapter from the 2011 RTSP.)

It list funded projects and wish-list projects.

I didn't find any new funded projects, but the wish list is a little interesting. Even after Bike and Walk Salem, there are still no bike boulevards or other 21st century mobility projects on the wish list. At best we still are working on legacy remediation for 1980s style bike lanes and sidewalks in the context of "widening to urban standards." Most of the proposed projects are widening ones, right out of the Eisenhower-era playbook.

Just part of the wish list
It's going to take work to change this.

Yesterday we noted the Salem Bike Boulevard Advocates, and in order to get boulevardy things built, the projects will need to get into wish-list side, and then the "funded" side of this document. It funnels up, so first thing is to get the City on board. (And there will be some wish-list projects, like the Third Bridge, we want to work very hard to keep out of the funded side.)

The chapter also contains a clear statement of hydraulic autoism. Woah, look at all the red! In 2031 these roads won't have free-flowing traffic according to our 20th century travel models!!!

Most roads won't offer "free flow" in 2031
(Never mind that the error bars
are huge, huge, huge!)
Funding of course is also an issue, and SKATS is deliberating on what set of recommendations for a transportation package to endorse.

The gas tax will be at the center of transportation package
Back at the November meeting,
Commissioner Sam Brentano concurred with Commissioner Pope that the counties will not support any funding scenario except for the 50-30-20 split [State-County-City]. He added that he is not in favor of the cities and counties inheriting any orphan highways. He also supports contributions from bicyclists and pedestrians toward transportation infrastructure and maintenance...

Commissioner Pope commented that while many people seem to favor contributions in some form from bicyclists, to date no practical method has been found that would not have higher administrative costs than would be realized in revenues. He noted that a majority of bicyclists have cars and therefore do contribute to transportation funding....

Commissioner Brentano reiterated his lack of support for the bicycle/pedestrian and orphan highways proposals. He expressed appreciation that the OTF proposal does not include climate change/greenhouse gas recommendations.
It looks like some version of the Oregon Transportation Forum's recommendations will be endorsed. (The OTF's recommendations do include a high-level goal to "Improve public health and air quality by making our neighborhoods walkable and bikeable and improving access to transit." And while it is possible SKATS would adopt a recommendation without this, it seems like opposition to this will remain rhetorical rather than adopted.)

In the meeting packet there's also a report on 2013 crashes. Though crashes cluster and occur at higher rates in some places than others, these rates take some time to stabilize, and year-to-year variation is significant. (In 2013 only two people on foot were killed; this year not one month has passed and we've already had three dead.) Even if one intersection has twice the crash rate of another, the crashes themselves are still distributed randomly in time, and it is not good to be quick to draw conclusions over a too-small sample. So I don't really know what these mean, other than that cars kill and hurt a lot of people.

While friends and family will remember,
the rest of us will forget and carry on.
(Note on Basic Rule added -
even 25mph in fog may be too fast!)
But there's this thing: Pretty much we baseline to the average level of death and crash and injury.  If an intersection or corridor has 50% more death and crash and injury, we say there's a problem (or whatever number represents our threshold of concern).

Intersections and corridors that have an average level of death and crash and injury? No problem! They're functioning well.

We have an implied level of death and mayhem that is an acceptable cost of using the road.

This is not surprising since we have plenty of streets and stroads on which 30, 35, 40, even 55 mph is the posted speed. Posting for these speeds means we know that people on foot, and some in cars too, will die. (Remember, if you are walking and hit by a car and driver, at 20mph you are only 5% likely to die; at 30mph you are 40% likely to die, and at 40mph it is a near certainty at 80%.)

If, as the Swedes did, and an increasing number of American cities are starting to also to do, we define "acceptable" as zero deaths, and find any non-zero number as "unacceptable," then we realize the system is totally messed up and we have engineered our urban roads and legal environment for speeds way too high.

So, with that in mind, here's a graphic of the total crashes in 2013.

All 2013 crashes involving cars
And a map of just the crashes involving people on foot and on bike.

Those hit on foot and on bike


Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

By email SKATS staff send some comments (with additional comment here in parens):

- A quibble regarding the "wish list" projects in Chapter Five: The unfunded projects actually in Chapter Five are those "those projects with funding reasonably anticipated over the next 20 years" and then there will be a true "wish list" of projects whose funding is not reasonably anticipated published in an appendix titled "Illustrative Projects," which is not out yet.

(While this is a meaningful distinction for staff and insiders, for interested citizens an unfunded project is still an unfunded project. For our perspective here it still counts as an item on a "wish list." I appreciate the clarification, but I think there are functional differences that depend on one's perspective. So not to say that one is right and the other wrong, but that the nomenclature here is definitely a matter of perspective.)

- The 2013 crash reports will be published along with ones from 2007 - 2012 here.

(It would be nice to see them rolled up; a 7 year slice is going to offer a much better sample than a 1 year slice.)

- Once the Technical and Policy Committees complete their review, a public review draft will be released and a formal process for review and comment announced. Look for this in the Spring.

Anonymous said...

This is going to be in tomorrow's newspaper. We are "in line with the national average":

"On a larger scale, the state of Oregon is in line with the national average for pedestrian deaths, according data released by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in May 2014.

Lou Torres, a public affairs specialist for ODOT, said that there were 31 urban pedestrian fatalities and 17 rural pedestrian fatalities in Oregon in 2014 which was similar to 2013 when there were 37 urban and 15 rural.

“If you look at our history of fatalities, there has been a gradual decline over the last 25 years both nationally and in Oregon,” Torres said. “There was a low point in 2009 and we have seen an increase since.”"

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Yes, that's exactly how we baseline to an average and acceptable level of death!

The dead aren't someone's parent or child, they're just data points.

Thanks for the headsup.

Anonymous said...

Regarding crash data: 5-year rolling averages of fatalities and serious injuries (both number and rate) will be required under proposed FHWA rules. These are totals and not broken down by mode.

This will be reported by all the state DOTs and each of the MPOs in the country.

We (SKATS) will expand on the reporting to include non-fatal/non-serious injury crashes and property damage only crashes (as we do now) and break the data out by mode (motorized vehicle, bike, ped).