Saturday, February 28, 2015

Legislative Update, Week 4 - Back to Normal

With Governor Brown sworn in, we won't be following the Hayes-Kitzhaber story very closely. But one new development is interesting as it relates to transportation. The shadow consultant on the CRC had a shadow role in Cover Oregon, it turns out.

Willamette Week's view in 2013
Was this prescient or what!
More on McCaig and Kitz in Willamette Week:
In public, Kitzhaber assured Oregonians he was working diligently with state officials to find a solution for the website’s woeful performance.

In private, however, Kitzhaber handed oversight of the Cover Oregon mess to a secretive campaign consultant who liked to call herself the Princess of Darkness.

By her own admission, Patricia McCaig knew virtually nothing about health care reform or the reasons Cover Oregon had crashed. Her primary mission was not to save a beleaguered state program but to get Kitzhaber re-elected.

Emails that Kitzhaber’s office tried to delete from state computers show McCaig was effectively in charge of all decision making for Cover Oregon beginning in February 2014.
It just looks real messy.

So, the bills and commentary. Milestones and movements are highlighted in green. (See more relevant bills or movement, drop a note in the comments!)

Bike "safety" and licensing:
  • SB 177 Bike licensing and repeal of Bike Bill
  • SB 551 Bike licensing and repeal of Bike Bill 
  • HB 3255 Requiring additional reflective clothing at night
BikePortland on HB3255 and reflective clothing.  Portland BTA on bike licensing bills. Here's a review of the Oregon history again, when we had an ineffective licensing program from 1899 - 1913. (And the numerically consecutive bill, SB 176, prohibiting Sharia law, and introduced at the request of the same constituent, was a winner in the Oregonian's Oddball Bill Bowl.)

Other Bike-relevant and transportation bills:

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Cherriots Defers Measure for Weekend and Evening Service; Other Board Notes

The Cherriots Board meets tomorrow, Thursday the 26th, and there are a number of items of note in it.

Perhaps the most interesting is the decision to defer action on a possible ballot measure for weekend and evening service.

You may recall that there was some discussion of trying to put a measure on the May ballot of either a property tax or a payroll tax that would fund "phase II" of the system realignment - aka "Moving Forward" - and bring some weekend and evening service to Salem.

They consulted with the Chamber of Commerce - and a striking omission in the board materials is the letter from the Salem Chamber of Commerce!
[GM] Mr. Pollock and Board members met with the Salem Chamber Public Policy Committee on January 8th to present Phase II of the Moving Forward plan and receive feedback on expanding service within Salem-Keizer Transit’s service area and how to fund it. The Chamber’s Board of Directors voted on this issue at their January 21st meeting and sent Mr. Pollock a letter with their findings. [minutes from Jan 22 board meeting]
That's as much as Cherriots is sharing. The letter or a summary of its recommendations is nowhere to be found.

That makes you a little suspicious!

Especially considering that there is a full slide deck on a poll that Cherriots commissioned.

Regular folks give more support to a payroll tax

Property tax not as favored
(I don't know all the ins-and-outs of this, but as I recall many years ago the Legislature carved out a special prohibition for Salem-Keizer on a payroll tax. There's an untold story here somewhere in all this. Maybe readers will know more. Additionally, it's too bad that Cherriots didn't seize the opportunity in the polling to compare taxes for the Salem Alternative to taxes for Transit: To ask area citizens, if you got to pick between these two tax packages and services, which would you choose?)

In any case, the disparity between the transparent presentation of the poll and the hidden nature of the Chamber's letter is worth registering.

The upshot: Delay.
Staff recommends the Board delay any decision on when to file notice until further community input is received and considered. Consequentially, this would eliminate a ballot measure for the May 2015 election. Staff also recommends the Board direct the General Manager to seek out additional community input, as proposed above, and bring a report of the finding to the May 2015 Board meeting.
This shouldn't actually surprise us. The timeline had seemed compressed, and so at least from here, this seemed like the most probable and expected outcome.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Pioneering Pinot is in Peril, Actually; Climate Change Threatens Much

The front page story on Oregon wine was great to see.

It deserves every bit of the attention.

But remember the stories about the early grape harvest last fall?

Warm summer meant early fall harvest
About the harvest Harry Peterson-Nedry at Chehalem said:
Since October began, we’ve had five more 80F+ days and our Cumulative Degree Days now rest at 2681, the highest I have ever seen in the Willamette Valley, 2500 being the boundary between Region 1 and 2 (Cool and Not-so Cool!). [italics added]
A couple of weeks later he noted still more heat, with "degree day accumulations of 2800."

Pinot is in peril!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Local MPO says "NO" to Amtrak, GHG Reduction, Meets Tuesday

The Policy Committee for our local Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Salem-Keizer Area Transportation Study, meets on Tuesday the 24th, and there are a few items of note. (Agenda and full meeting packet here.)

Old Business

OTF Principles for Legislative Package in 2015
Last month as the  Committee was debating Legislative positions for the prospective big transportation package, there was a few interesting split votes. (The Committee usually works by "consensus" and unanimous votes are the norm and preference, so this stood out a little.) From the minutes:

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Editorials on Low-Carbon Fuel and Third Bridge Need to have a Talk

Could we just get these editorials to talk to each other?

You know, like "connect the dots..."

From the editorial:
The transportation sector accounts for 36 percent of Oregon’s greenhouse emissions. Could equal or greater reductions be achieved by less-intrusive measures? Traffic congestion, and the resulting emissions, might be cut significantly by encouraging state agencies and other employers to further stagger their office hours and work shifts, so employees avoid rush hours.

And let’s face it: Despite years of prodding, most Oregonians have yet to join carpools. Neither have organizations made the switch to virtual meetings, which would reduce travel. It’s ludicrous that people usually testify in person during legislative hearings instead of via video....

In short, of all the ways to reduce greenhouse emissions in Oregon, is the low-carbon fuel standard the most cost-efficient and effective? [italics added]
Of all the ways to reduce greenhouse emissions and congestion in Salem, is the Third Bridge the most cost-efficient and effective? Could equal or greater reductions be achieved by less-intrusive measures?
Last summer

Earlier this week

Saturday, February 21, 2015

City Council, February 23rd - More Streetlight Fee and Historic Preservation

At Council on Monday there are two  matters on which Council has asked for more information and discussion before making a final decision. In and of itself this is not new, but with a much smaller agenda than there was on the 9th, the proportion of "revisiting" is high, and this seems like a hopeful sign that maybe this Council as a collective body will engage in deeper probing more often, and be less quick simply to rubber stamp a staff recommendation.

On the Streetlight fee, Councilor Andersen has proposed a different fee schedule, raising the amount for large businesses and apartments, who under the first proposed fee schedule would be charged proportionately much less than a regular family household. That seems like a fine conversation and debate to have! (See previous discussion here.) (Monday night update - letters mostly against it here and here.)

Starkey-McCully block, detail, 1964
University of Oregon (Elizabeth Walton Potter)
As the Urban Renewal Agency, Council also asked to learn more about the yearly property taxes they would forgo if the Salem-Keizer Education Foundation gets urban renewal funding for the Starkey-McCully block (circa 1869) and stays exempt from property taxes. The Salem portion of the taxes look to be $1,673 - so let's call it an even $2,000. The Foundation is asking for $300,000 from the City. In a way-simplified calculation, it would take 150 years of $2,000 property taxes/year for the City to get back the $300,000 grant.

(Obviously $300,000 today is worth way more than $300,000 in 150 years, but someone with better accounting skillz will have to figure an appropriate discount rate and all. And if the total proposed investment is about $2 million, the building's assessed value will be higher, and the yearly property taxes the City would forgo commensurately higher, but the City apparently couldn't get even a SWAG on this value. Someone should be able to model this!)

This is what I don't get about urban renewal and tax increment financing. How the heck does an investment like this (considered chiefly as urban renewal to generate a tax increment and not primarily as historic preservation) actually pencil out for the City? Why don't we have a good answer?

Friday, February 20, 2015

Motorcycle Crash Points to Contra-Flow Emergency Lanes; other newsbits

A motorcycle crash and a jumper blocked portions of the bridges this week. The events themselves are sad and have rippling effects for family and friends.

For the rest of us, the events and news become stories about traffic congestion. (It is terrible to use another's misfortune to illustrate an infrastructure solution, but here we go.)

The incidents illustrate ways we misuse excess capacity on the bridges and create a false narrative that we need to build a super-duper expensive new bridge.
Traffic might be backed up some on Marion...

Some queuing and slowing on Marion Street
(Yet it's not even total gridlock)
But there's plenty of room on Center.

Free flow and wide space on Center Street
One or even two lanes could be used for west-bound traffic
(Both traffic cam clips from during the crash and lane blockage.)

By developing a plan for contra-flow two-way traffic on either bridge when one bridge is fully or partially shut down, we could also use surplus capacity during rush hour. This would cost a lot less than a new bridge or even adding lanes to the existing bridges.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Christo's and Capital Market: Old Safeways Still Useful, Tell Development Story

Even a fragmentary history of Safeway in Salem is far, far beyond our scope here at the moment. Without better documentary evidence, it's hardly possible develop any narrative.

But city phone directories can give us a faint sketch of the history, and it turns out it's pretty interesting. As shopping moved from on foot to by car, the building forms and locations changed too, conforming to auto-logic over human scale. This is not a novel insight, of course, but the history of Safeways in Salem show it with particular clarity.

Safeway on corner of Court and Commercial, 1938
182 North Commercial Street was 3rd iteration
The building is the Breyman block of 1874,
also known as the "White Corner"
Salem Library Historic Photos

Enter the Market - Late 1920s

As best as I can tell, Safeway first came to Salem between 1926 and 1930. They opened shops in downtown buildings and the addresses bounced around a fair bit. They include 162, 270, and 182 North Commercial Street. One outpost at 1980 North Capitol Street was also opened.

Nationally, Safeway was already a large chain. It went public in 1927 and by the early 1930s had over 3,000 stores. The entry into the Salem market coincides with this growth phase. (See wikipedia and a long history at Groceteria for more.)

The period is a fertile one for change, obviously: It is the same time streetcar service ended in Salem and is also the end of stock market bubble and beginning of the Great Depression nationally. Ferment and then catastrophe brought lots of transitions in housing, transportation, and shopping.

It seems likely that the store on North Capitol Street was the first auto-oriented store. I don't know, though, if it was new construction or represented a reuse of an older building. The other stores downtown were in pre-auto storefronts, like the Breyman block of 1874, representing city development that dated from the 19th century or right at the turn of the century.

This is a transitional period, Safeway hasn't settled into a pattern, and is not so interesting for us. It may be that Safeway was always auto-oriented and had to wait for things in Salem to catch up. The next period, which represents particular configuration and set of solutions, is very interesting!

The SRC has a new Project that Ramps up the Boondoggularity

There will be more to say later on this later in the week, but in the meeting packet for our MPO meeting next week, there's a draft the new "unified planning work program," basically what the MPO is going to do in the next year.

The Preferred Alternative won't fix congestion
And buried in that "unified planning work program" is new project - at least a project I haven't seen before - "Alternative Mobility Targets":
In the SKATS area, analysis for the Salem River Crossing Study and EIS show multiple locations in the study area where v/c ratios exceed the mobility standards in the base year conditions. The analysis also shows that with the proposed changes in the Preferred Alternative there will be locations where forecasted traffic conditions in year 2035 will exceed the mobility targets. It will be required that ODOT do a performance assessment and bring to the OTC a package that demonstrates the need to establish alternative mobility targets. [italics added]
Why is this interesting? One shortcoming of the proposed Third Bridge that has been highlighted several times by others is that even after we spend $500 million - or more likely a billion after cost-overruns and inflation - and if you also accept the traffic modeling assumptions, the project still doesn't actually reduce congestion all that much!

Using its own assumptions, in crucial ways the Preferred Alternative doesn't actually solve the problems it sets out to solve.

This new "Alternative Mobility Targets" project represents official acceptance of this failure. And it will be a new contract or change order for the consultants.

This is another reason for Council in Council Goals to pull the plug. The Third Bridge is a boondoggle, and this "Alternative Mobility Targets" project is indirect recognition of this fact.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

More on the Proposed Goodwill in West Salem; NEN talks Biking and Walking

Because of the holiday, the West Salem Neighborhood Association meeting was canceled yesterday, but the prospect of a new Goodwill store at the corner of Edgewater and Wallace would surely have been a topic of conversation.

The immediate area is hemmed in by urban highway and ramp spaghetti, and it has languished for some time.

Goodwill site today - corner of Edgewater and Wallace
On the aerial you can see industry, parking lot, highway, and low-density nothingness.

Nevertheless, along Edgewater there is a remnant "main street" from the days when West Salem was its own municipality. (Here are two photos of the corner from the 1940s.) So despite the flat-out awfulness of Wallace, there's lots of potential for reinvestment and redevelopment here.

A large Goodwill thrift store could be an important ingredient, a semi-anchor if not outright anchor use. (Images from presentation to West Salem NA.)

Proposed site plan
Like a lot of recent development around here, the proposed store is turned 90 degrees from the street, so the entry faces the parking lot and a side wall is mostly flush with the sidewalk.

Monday, February 16, 2015

14 Black Walnuts to be Removed at State Hospital

Today you might be thinking about George Washington  - and a cherry tree. That's probably apocryphal, but we've got plenty of real stories to consider. With trees at the Blind School in the news, here's another set of trees to worry about.

The villain this time is an invasive species.

Regular readers may recall a couple of scattered notes about "thousand cankers disease." The "walnut twig beetle" carries it, and it has come to Salem. Our big walnuts are beginning to wither and die, and at the moment there's no treatment.

Walnuts line D Street at the State Hospital in February
In a "minor historic review," last week the City approved removal of 14 of them at the State Hospital:
As noted by [the consulting arborist] the Black Walnut trees are all experiencing various amounts of branch dieback that are indicative of Thousand Cankers Disease (TCD). Of the fifty-six tress that were evaluated on the property, [they] recommend a total of fourteen (14) be removed because they are in advanced stages of decline and present an unreasonable risk to the public due to...falling dead branches.
The City Forester concurred with the consulting arborist, and this appears to be a straightforward assessment - no funny business.

Four trees on D Street and 10 trees on Center Street will be removed, and Oregon White Oaks planted in their place. The new trees will also be recessed an additional five feet from the road to allow for future road widening and/or new sidewalks.

(As wonderful as the walnuts are, when the nuts drop, they are terrible to bike through, and the debris poses an unwanted risk of involuntary dismount. Drivers wonder why we might stray from the bike lane or shoulder to the center of the road in the fall! Purely from this standpoint, native oaks will be much nicer - though of course we'll all be dead before the new trees have large canopies and are equally grand.)

Because of the life cycle of the beetles, the prospect for further spread of the disease, as well as the possibility of nesting birds, the tree removal is scheduled to start this week.

If you're around the neighborhood, consider paying your respects. Especially this week with the glorious sun.

From all appearances, the disease will continue to spread from tree to tree, and the whole planting is at risk. Each year new trees will succumb and have to be removed. There doesn't seem to be a way around this loss, and it's just sad.

Update, March 23rd

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Legislative Update, Week 2 - Lady Power Ascendent?

Lots of talk about the Oregonian editorials, but not enough talk about Willamette Week and things that happened before October of 2014.

Cylvia's not the only one Governor Kitzhaber allowed to skate across the private/public border, muddying and exploiting ambiguous roles.

Willamette Week's view of some tentacles in 2013
The pentagram looks more sinister now!

Willamette Week
During the Columbia River Crossing debacle, Patricia McCaig also acted in ways that were less than fully straight-forward.

In 2013 Willamette Week said:
Kitzhaber has made McCaig, 58, his top adviser on the CRC, a position in which she has waged a years-long political battle to make sure 2013 is the project’s year.

But she is not a state employee. McCaig’s paycheck is signed by the CRC’s biggest contractor, David Evans and Associates, which profits by the project going forward. To date, McCaig has been paid $417,000.

Government ethics experts from across the country interviewed by WW say Kitzhaber’s use of McCaig appears to be a conflict of interest and demonstrates a lack of transparency.
Sounds a little familiar, right?

Friday, February 13, 2015

Show on Photo-Secessionist Myra Albert Wiggins Opens this Weekend

This weekend at Hallie Ford, a show on the photography of Myra Albert Wiggins opens!

Myra and Fred Wiggins, 1899
(Image Gallery from Hallie Ford)

Her photography's the big deal - but she's related to a lot of other Salem history, too.

From the show description:
Myra Albert Wiggins (1869-1956) was a Salem photographer and early member of Alfred Stieglitz’s Photo-Secessionist Group. At the turn of the last century, Wiggins was considered one of the foremost women photographers in America. A major exhibition of her work will open February 14 and continue through April 26, 2015, in the Study Gallery and Print Study Center.
The Albert House on Winter and Oak
with Pringle Creek in flood
(the ER is now on the house site,
the house demolished; the view looks across
what became the blind school)
Wiggins photograph
Born and raised in Salem, Oregon, Wiggins was a painter, poet and singer, as well as an instructor, essayist and speaker on art topics. But it was as a photographer that she established herself as an internationally recognized artist. From the late 1890s until 1910, her photographs were exhibited throughout the United States, as well as Paris, Vienna and London.

Wiggins attended Willamette University and Mills College, and in 1891 she began three years of study at the Art Students League in New York, where she received instruction from leading American painters William Merritt Chase, George DeForest Brush and Kenyon Cox. Her photographic interests prompted her to join the Society of Amateur Photographers of New York where she met and impressed a fellow member, Alfred Stieglitz, who was to become the most famous and influential photographer of the era.
Albert-Wiggins Wedding, Nov 24th, 1894:  Oregon State Library
This is likely inside the Albert House
Wiggins self-portrait
She returned to Salem and in 1894 she married Frederick Wiggins. During the next decade and half, Wiggins continued to gain recognition. She was especially known for her touching and award-winning pictorial Dutch genre photographs that focused on women and children. Her work won numerous prizes, including cash awards and even a trip to Paris in 1900.
Apart from her photography, she has lots of transportation connections, and her life bridges the transition from bikes to cars.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Pringle Square Rebrands as South Block Apartments; Thinking about the Car Dealerships

Do you remember the old website for Pringle Square Apartments?

Aerial Rendering in online advertising
(Here's an archived version of most of the site.)
After the "Residences at Riverfront Park" tanked because of the furor over access via State Street, the website was pulled.

I have been calling the apartments on the Boise warehouse shell the "Pringle Square Apartments," but perhaps they were never formally named this.

In any case, now that construction is in full swing and there is a real thing to market, they have a new brand: The South Block Apartments.

New website and branding
Welcome to the neighborhood.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

EOA-HNA: Agnostic, even Ignorant on Climate and Carbon?

It looks like the City's released a draft version of the final report for the Jobs and Housing project - formally called the "Economic Opportunities Analysis and Housing Needs Analysis" or EOA-HNA.
EOA-HNA draft Report - Jan 2015
(graph added from CO2 Now)
But if you read it, there's one glaring, giant omission.

Words like "carbon," "greenhouse"/"green house," and "climate" are nowhere to be found. A text search doesn't turn up a single instance of these words.

This is a document that
is a key part of the City’s planning efforts to accommodate population and employment growth over the 2015 to 2035 period.
Consistently, though, the whole process has been guided by 20th century assumptions on growth and carbon emissions. In fact, there has been a deliberate effort to bracket carbon and climate change as "potential impacts" of uncertain consequence and limited relevance. It's relegated to a footnote in an appendix, basically.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Bike Boulevards at the Neighborhood Associations, Other Newsbits

The Bike Boulevard folks are making the rounds. If they're visiting your neighborhood, make sure to show your support!

A Bike Boulevard Crossing Treatment! - City of Portland
  1. Southeast Mill Creek Association (SEMCA) Paradise Island Park - 3100 Turner Rd SE. 2/10/2015 (Tuesday) 10:00 AM
  2. Morningside Neighborhood Association Pringle Creek Community Painters Hall,  3911 Village Center Drive SE. 2/11/2015 (Wednesday) 6:30 PM
  3. South Gateway Association Our Savior's Lutheran Church 1770 Baxter Rd SE. 2/12/2015 (Thursday) 6:30 PM
Need another reason to support better ways to walk and bike? The Oregonian found that pollution is a real problem in yellow bus service:

Monday, February 9, 2015

Legislative Update, Week 1 - Carbon v. Hayes

You might know about an east coast band, "this bike is a pipe bomb," whose stickers occasionally scared folks and brought out the bomb squad. A few bikes were "neutralized" and destroyed over the years as a result.

BikePortland caught wind of SB 177, a bill that would license bikes and end the provisions of the McCall-era Bike Bill, and I wonder if they took it too seriously.

Perhaps the only thing that needs to be said about it is that it was introduced at the request of a constituent, and the very same constituent also requested SB 176, which would prohibit Oregon courts from applying Sharia law.

To the bills.

Bike licensing:
  • SB 177 Bike licensing and repeal of Bike Bill
  • SB 551 Bike licensing and repeal of Bike Bill
 Other Bike-relevant and transportation bills:
  • A pod of bills about speed bumps: HB 2281, HB 2282, HB 2283, HB 2293, HB 2730, HB 2736
  • HB 2256 Cleans up language about PIP in auto insurance (not sure if it's a policy change or just housekeeping on language)
  • HB 2274 Changes name of "Connect Oregon Fund"; also HB 2275; and HB 2740
  • HB 2552 fees for studded tires 
  • HB 2620 would require ODOT to inventory ODOT land and determine if it is really needed transportation
  • HB 2819 to require drivers over the age of 75 to take annual license exams
  • HB 5040 ODOT Biennial Budget 
  • SB 120 expands the definition of ways to meet "mobility standards" and includes "reducing congestion in other modes of travel" - which seems ambiguous, but could as the language is adjusted mean something like "reduce auto congestion by means of improvements in bike lanes and transit (etc)"
  • SB 511 creates a study on DUI and recidivism (many DUI cases are repeat offenders)
Lots of carbon things:
The gas tax will be at the center of transportation package
But Rs don't like the low-carbon fuel standard
While some Republicans are posing an either/or show-down between raising the gas tax and continuing the low-carbon fuel standard, and locally we love our SeQuential Biofuel plant, there are serious questions whether agricultural land should be used for fuels rather than food. Instead of trying to create "better" fuel so we feel ok about using it, maybe we should just try to use less fuel. In any case, SB 324 looks to have made it out of committee and to the Senate floor on a strict party-line vote last week.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Why so much Acceptance for Traffic Cone Theory of Walking?

British kids walking across a parking lot dressed as traffic cones.
Is this really the best solution for people of all ages?
via Evesham Journal
A little over week ago you might have seen a follow-up piece on the people killed while walking. One of the reporters recounted a tale of an incoming high school frosh killed by a driver going 35mph.

What is sad is the way that walking is made the problematic, hazardous activity, and driving the normal, unproblematic, safe one.

Is the first satirical or sincere? Maybe "rolling coal" adherent?
The second shifts substantial blame onto the victim
Too much of a predator-prey dynamic is encoded in our conversations. Instead of fueling outrage over carnage, they become a cautionary tale and spur more defensive walking. The person on foot must adapt, not drivers. This is the usual pattern. Focus shifts down to individuals and their decisions, and not up to systems, their biases, and the tendencies and probabilities they promote.

But is the proper response to a realistic understanding that cars will kill you then to say, "well, maybe I need to be more careful" or is the proper response to say, "WTF, we gotta change that!"  

Salem PD PSA: Scene 1- Loud music and fiddling at the dash
The Salem Police have a new PSA out on driving and walking, and it shares the basic pattern. It never addresses speed of drivers and, trying to be even-handed, it implicitly asserts a questionable equality in the balance of power between people in cars and people on foot.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

City Council, February 9th - Streetlight Fee

Probably the headline item at City Council on Monday is the proposed "streetlight fee." It continues current trends of cost-shifting from users of the road to owners of homes.

"Pure public good": Raptors like Streetlights too
(Do owls? Note also the new LED light.)
The working theory is probably here in the SCI Report linked to at the city's streetlight page. It says:
Salem’s streetlights represent a pure public good, from which all residents and businesses derive indistinguishable utility....

According to economic theory, streetlighting is a pure public good. The use of a streetlight by one individual does not preclude another’s use (it is non-rival), nor is it possible to limit the benefits to only those individuals who have paid for them (it is non-excludable) When individuals cannot be prevented from enjoying the benefits of a good, there is little incentive for private provision. Consequently, the provision of streetlighting falls within the scope of city government.
This theory, interestingly, does not draw a strong connection between road users and street lighting, which seems more than a little questionable.

The utility fee would be a fair topic for debate if our road funding corresponded to proportional utility. But of course it is easy to distinguish ways car users derive vastly greater utility from the roads than any other group of users. Effectively other groups are excluded or limited from the roads. (Just look at how difficult we make it for people on foot!)  Autoists have successfully off-loaded the fair costs for road use onto other user groups, like home-owners (the 2008 property tax bond for roads). Tolls, paid parking, licensing fees, gas tax - all of these are made free or kept artificially low, and someone else pays to fill the funding gap. Right now a lot of the fill-in is created by taxes or fees on home-owners.

Right now our policy actions should be to try to recapture proportional funding for the roads, and this means bringing funding for things like streetlights back onto a car user fee. (It's curious that trading lower property taxes for higher road fees isn't a more attractive trade: For one thing, it permits greater individual choice, as pretty much everyone has a home, but you could ditch a car for transit or bikes with much less trouble. Why isn't this more exciting?)

The solution to this problem remains: Just raise the gax tax. It's not indexed to inflation and its value has continually eroded since the 1990s.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Quid pro Quo in Historic Preservation: At Council Monday Parenthetically

Did you know Salem's a Heritage All Star Community?

Salem: Heritage All Star!
On Monday Council will entertain a couple of small matters regarding historic preservation and while there's nothing really new or insightful to say, perhaps it would be interesting to revisit a couple of things.

One of the arguments for demolishing Howard Hall has been that "it's private property now, the Hospital owns it, they should be free to do with it as they see fit."

But there's actually a deep connection between the City of Salem and Salem Health that makes the Hospital take on some important quasi-public qualities in addition to their non-profit status.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Now and Then: Oregon Electric Cars in Front of Grand Theater a Century Ago

In the "Weekend" entertainment section today, there's a great picture of Oregon Electric rail cars in front of the Grand Theater!

Oregon Electric cars on High Street at Court, circa 1912
Today, between the Masonic Building and the Central Stage Terminal and Hotel Building, there's a bunch of surface parking lots, but of course there used to be other buildings there, and you can see one of them, with a nice brick cornice and all, in the old picture. It reads "Simon..." and "Overland," and old maps suggest it was an early car garage, perhaps linked to the Fashion Stables, which had been at the corner site of the Masonic Building. (Will check the Polk directories and update later! - see postscript below)

Same view, today, Hotel and Grand Theater on right
In the old photo, the Central State Terminal hadn't been built yet, so the picture must date from before 1921. Far on the right you can see old City Hall.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

ODOT Announces "Enhance it" Federal Funding Cycle for 2018-21

The Department of Transportation send out news this week about the timeline and instructions for an important Federal funding cycle of 2018-2021.

Sheila Lyons, our statewide Bike/Ped Program Manager, notes that
This is for the next round of ODOT’s STIP capital funding. Similar to last time, with tweaks. Note that pedestrian and bicycle projects are STILL ELIGIBLE projects. TAP, OBPAC Grants, Safe Routes to School, Scenic Byway funds have all migrated to this process.
I think this is the most meaningful chunk of funding for bike/ped projects and many of the programs that have been separated out are now brought together in one process. At least in theory this will better coordinate and leverage efforts that had been perhaps more fragmented.

So if you wanted an additional positive note for your City Councilor as they consider "Council Goals," asking the City of Salem to compile a robust slate of strong applications for this funding would be a good ask!

Push the City for quality and quantity!

Apps due Monday, August 3rd
(from the Review Process
Applications are due Monday, August 3rd, and the official process envisions significant consultation between local agencies and ODOT.

These applications are for Federal funds, so one interesting thing is that it looks like we have no idea actually how much money will be available, since the Highway Trust Fund is busted right now.

Evaluated for ROI and Multi-modality
(from the Application Instructions
Among the criteria for the program are "greatest benefits in relation to costs," and bike/ped infrastructure is a lot cheaper than that for cars, so at least in theory projects for people who walk and bike should be competitive.

The program also includes that projects "benefit the state's multimodal transportation system" and "make key connections between modes or facilities." So again, at least in rhetoric there is meaningful support for people who walk and bike.

Make a car-walk-bike connection along the RR line - 2nd Street
It looks, for example, like the increasing talk about underpass between the Edgewater district and Wallace Marine Park area could make a very strong proposal in this funding cycle. Additionally, we could fund a Union Street Bikeway and finally complete a full east-west corridor with the Union Street Railroad Bridge.

This will be something to watch over the spring and summer! The door looks open - will we push through it?

Traffic Commission Could be Force for Good; Instead, it's like your Appendix

The Citizens Advisory Traffic Commission meets on Thursday the 5th after a long, long hiatus.

The Commission is missing four members and is only 5/9 full. Formally it is charged with making "recommendations to the City Council in the area of traffic movement and safety."

It's 4/9 empty!
But they barely seem to meet. The City shows no agenda for 2014, and only one for 2013 (here's notes on the last one, I think, a very small parking squabble).

Few meetings
It's hard not to conclude the Commission is about as functional as your appendix.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Firehouse Crossing Shows Need for Error Bars; Just Walk, Need for Sidewalks

Interesting transportation news in the paper today!

You may recall the note about Firehouse Crossing last fall.

It's in the news again, this time for questions about traffic impact.

Firehouse Crossing from northeast corner looking southwest
via CB|Two (click to enlarge)
There are lots of interesting things going on in the piece. First off is the near automatic and reflexive concern about "more traffic."

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Transportation in Council Goals and Grant Neighborhood this Week

Tomorrow night, Monday the 2nd, Council meets in a "work session" to start conversations about updating the "Council Goals" document, which are the high-level policy goals and focus areas for the city each year.

Here's the 2013-15 version and a few highlighted clips.

The editorializing checks indicate not whether they are finished or incomplete, but rather whether they are good or bad policy goals from our perspective here. (Yeah, it's kinda like grading on a pass/fail scale!)

We lead with the continued folly of the Third Bridge:

Transportation in Council Goals
Fortunately, the Downtown Mobility Study is also there, and if you need something positive to mention to balance criticism on the Third Bridge, suggest Council move more assertively on implementing the recommendations from that study. Right now things are sluggish, and implementation could use a jolt of energy and interest!