Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Open House for Regional Transportation Plan; Thoughts on Walking Kuebler

The draft Regional Transportation System Plan is out, and SKATS has announced some open houses and other events. One is tomorrow, Wednesday, April 1st.

Carbon is a huge void at the center of the plan
Draft RTSP, with chart from CO2Now
The first thing to say about the RTSP is again that carbon is missing.

But it's important to understand that mostly the RTSP is a compilation of projects - not an originator of them - fed into it by the cities of Keizer and Salem, by Polk and Marion counties, and by ODOT. The document reflects the priorities and policies of its member organizations far more than it sets the priorities and policies.

So it's not like this is the best advocacy opportunity to lobby for including one project and cutting another.

It will be more useful, for example, to lobby the City of Salem for bike boulevards than to try to lobby the RTSP process to include them.

1,584 injuries = lots of unnecessary healthcare costs!
SKATS 2013 summary
Still, here are three things to consider passing along as public comment:
  • We need more attention to carbon and greenhouse gas emissions
  • The Third Bridge remains an enormous folly - that's one project it's totally worth criticizing.
  • More and more cities are embracing "vision zero." We tolerate a lot of death and serious injury as acceptable "costs" of using the roads and of road-widening to reduce congestion. If we actually wanted to, we could do a lot more with reducing speeds and better engineering roads for safety.
The Open House is Wednesday the 1st. It's from 5 pm to 7 pm at 100 High St. SE, Suite 200, above in the first-floor lobby between Bar Andaluz and Table Five 08. Ah, it's a street-level, First Wednesday kind of thing. That's nice.

Want more? Read on...

Monday, March 30, 2015

Portland Road Study Posts New Memo; NGRAB Meets Thursday

On Friday the City posted a new memo to the North Gateway Redevelopment Advisory Board for the meeting on Thursday the 2nd.

The title is "PORTLAND ROAD CORRIDOR - OPPORTUNITIES AND NEEDS ANALYSIS OUTLINE" and it is in the meeting packet here.

In no small part because it concerns a smaller area than the citywide jobs and housing study, the EOA-HNA, it's more specific and, consequently, more interesting.

But first, though, if there's one overwhelming impression, it is this: Since there's already city infrastructure and all this undertutilized industrial land along Portland Road, why are we screwing around with the undeveloped Mill Creek parcel and our "Renewable Energy and Technology Center" instead of redeveloping along the Portland Road corridor?

Maybe there are good reasons, but from a glance it seems like they boil down to "shiny! new!" And shiny and new is almost always less sustainable than recycling.

Should this be the priority?

How is this more sustainable than redeveloping existing land?
In addition to carbon pollution, we also aren't probably talking enough about water.

Drought on the Front Page
Are we facing the prospect of a mega-drought?
Seriously, our planning for industrial and commercial development doesn't factor in the prospect of increasing scarcity of clean - and tasty - tapwater from our mountain source. If you don't want to drink water from the Willamette, this is important.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Fish and Flowers and Walking; A Quibble on Mill Creek

A little over a week ago there was some twittering chatter about big fish in Mill Creek. The days of a salmon run in the creek are in the mythic past, it seems, and so it was something to investigate!

At the Front Street Bridge there were fish! Lots of them.

Unfortunately, a reader confirms, the fish are almost certainly suckerfish - but they're big! 18 - 24 inches, maybe more. They're probably spawning.

Still, life in the urban creek is interesting.

We don't talk about life in the creeks enough, and our city parks and plans don't really involve the creeks much. It's like we only talk about them when there's flooding. Once the Boise project is done, there will be a path along Shelton Ditch and Pringle Creek almost continuously from 12th street to the Willamette River. That's going to be neat. But we have very little pathage along our other downtown creek, along Mill Creek.

Moreover, the paths always sit on the shoulder or benchland, well above the creek, never related to a wading pool or anything. Only behind the Departments of Agriculture and Veterans Affairs is there a picnic table at the creek. Mostly we turn our backs on the creeks.

So chasing down the fish story was a bit of a special adventure.

On Front Street where it and the tracks cross Mill Creek a very pleasant discovery was an old cherry or plum tree in bloom by one of the Truitt Bros. warehouses. Especially adorning the industrial area, it was a minor astonishment.

This year!
Unfortunately the tree blossoms will be mostly be gone this weekend but the early and sunny spring has offered special treats. Camas, for example, is blooming right now. Don't miss it!

Camas in Bush Park, the second week of April 2014
We're two or three weeks ahead this year - don't miss it!
With Mill Creek on the mind...

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Carnegie Library Architect George Post, not Polk, Designed McKinley Elementary School!

You probably saw the hullaballoo over House Concurrent Resolution 13 observing the 100th anniversary of McKinley Elementary School.

The anniversary was also celebrated in the most recent issue of the newsletter by the Historic Landmarks Commission.

Salem Landmark, Spring 2015
It was interesting to learn that during the 1918 influenza pandemic, the school was actually used as a hospital.

But there's one important detail that's not quite right.
The city awarded the contract to build the school to the firm of Snook and Traver. The total value of the contract was $20,130.13. The city also paid architect George Polk $400 to complete plans and specification. In October 1915, construction on the McKinley School was complete.
But the architect wasn't George Polk, he was George Post.

October 9th, 1915
The Capital Journal says
Designed by Architect George M. Post, the building is regarded as much the best in this district, and has been constructed with economy and efficiency.
And the Statesman agrees.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Cherriots Board Considers Standing up 4 Transit

The Cherriots Board meets tomorrow, Thursday the 26th, and in many ways the most interesting item on the agenda is a resolution to participate in "Stand Up 4 Transportation" Day, April 9th.

From the American Public Transportation Association (APTA):
On April 9, 2015, APTA Chair Phil Washington is asking members to coordinate and hold events and advocacy in their local communities, while Members of the U.S. Congress are in their home districts during the Spring congressional recess. The effort is intended to convince federal officials to support passage of a good surface transportation bill before the expiration of the MAP 21 extension. Its focus will be on media events and rallies and other defined actions where participants might include mayors and other state or local officials, U.S. Senators and Representatives, and coalition partners in the community.
We need a new transportation bill - APTA
The hashtag and motto say "transportation," but the bullets are mostly about transit:
  • Public transit and highway grants funded from the Highway Trust Fund cannot be made without an authorization bill. Congress needs to pass a new surface transportation authorization before MAP 21 expires on May 31!
  • Show how public transportation spurs growth in your community, using Where Public Transportation Goes, Community Grows message.
  • Outline how your community will be at risk if there is no federal funding, i.e., service reductions, layoffs, stoppage of projects, etc.
And it goes on with many more.

So here's a great opportunity for Cherriots to "Stand Up 4 Transit."

Cherriots' "New Vision"
Remember Gil and the idea of a "new vision"?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Crossing Wallace Road at West Salem Business District Open House Wednesday

Don't forget about the Open House for the West Salem Business District tomorrow, on Wednesday.

Open House on the 25th
They'll be showing a solid idea that has metastasized - and it needs a therapeutic intervention!

Marine Drive-2nd Street connection
overwhelms the path and park
For several months now there has been talk of making a connection along Second Street by going under Wallace Road. Earlier versions of the underpass showed car access terminating at Cornucopia, just a block or two in from Wallace.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Local MPO meets Tuesday, Draft Regional Transportation Systems Plan Released

The Policy Committee for our local Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Salem-Keizer Area Transportation Study, meets on Tuesday, and they'll advance the 2015-2035 Regional Transportation Systems Plan with a public draft and public review process.

Carbon is a huge void at the center of the plan
Draft RTSP, with chart from CO2Now
The most significant thing about the RTSP is the donut hole: At the center of it there is a huge void where we should have talk and policy about greenhouse gas emissions.

In the complete document of 219 pages, the word "carbon" appears 15 times - but 14 of them are about "carbon monoxide" only.

"Greenhouse gas" appears 8 times, and the sentiment is summed this way:
Greenhouse Gases (GhG), which were a major topic in 2008‐2009 for the Oregon legislature, has not received much attention in subsequent sessions. It remains to be seen when the SKATS area will be required to address the issue as Portland and Eugene‐Springfield were required.
The Policy Committee has been skeptical, unwilling to do more than was "required." At last month's meeting on the 24th, they reaffirmed this:
At this point, SKATS is essentially unaffected by the greenhouse gas reduction process. SKATS was asked if they would like to perform a baseline assessment. The response at the time of the request was to wait....

Mike Jaffe expressed concern that SKATS might miss funding opportunities if SKATS doesn’t perform a baseline assessment. He suggested that the SKATS Policy Committee should consider this issue further....

Salem City Councilor Jim Lewis commented that it may not be prudent to appear uncooperative to funding organizations.

Commissioner Brentano commented that he believes that the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions is based on faulty information.
The Carrot has failed, and it's time for the Stick! As it stands now, the only thing that will move our MPO on this is the threat of penalty. Withholding funding is the only language that will have meaning.

There will be a public hearing on the RTSP on May 26th, and perhaps there will be more to say then, especially depending developments with the Legislature or DLCD.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

City Council, March 23rd - Transportation in the CIP and ARTS

A couple of wonky transportation things leads for us on Council's Monday agenda.

The Salem Bicycle Boulevard Advocates hope to be out in force as the City starts adoption of the five-year Capital Improvement Program. Public Works is also applying for a grant from the All Roads Transportation Safety program.


When the "future report" for the CIP came out, it was pleasant to note an expansion of the Union Street bikeway project.

There are no other new bikeway projects, and perhaps the Boulevard Advocates will ask the City to consider more of them. But the rejoinder will be, of course, how do we fund them?

Overall funding sources for transportation
You'll see that the bond funds from property taxes are all obligated and no longer visible in the tables - it's a quirk of accounting that even though the work's not even started, the money is still "spent."

Several of the funding sources are constrained. ODOT grant funds can't be shuffled around, and Urban Renewal funds have separate processes for allocating them.

But some of the funding sources may be deployed by some amount of staff discretion with no public application or public comment. Here are some two of them it looks like:

System Development Charges ($5.2 million total over five years):
  • $220,000 out of $2,777,000 for 12th Street widening between Hoyt and Fairview widening
  • $1.6 million out of $3.1 million for Fisher Road NE Extension to Market St. NE 
  • $50,000 for flashing yellow light signal upgrades at various sites, $25,000 for signal interconnects, and $500,000 for fiber optic interconnects
  • $200,000 for developer reimbursement on Battle Creek Road improvements.
  • $750,000 for 22nd Street extension at Madrona
  • $1.1 million for Marine Drive "design, analysis, and Right of Way acquisition"
  • $750,000 for Lone Oak Bridge across Jory Creek
It's interesting that two little stub road connections at Fisher Road and 22nd will be funded out of SDCs.

Maybe most interesting is that in addition to some bond proceeds for Marine Drive, now some SDCs are contemplated. That $1.1 million could instead be used for better bike lanes in West Salem instead of car lanes along Wallace Park. That's a pretty clear policy choice for autoism over human capacity.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Transit Center at a Cost of More than Coal; Eugene Big Winner in ConnectOregon

You probably saw the headline: "Coal's loss is South Salem's gain."

But the full story of the final round of ConnectOregon V is considerably more interesting - and more complicated.

Corvallis, not Coal, had the Relevant Loss

First off, there's the funding. It's not just about saying "no" to a coal project. Back in December the Portland Tribune reported on the project list:
Among them was the Port of St. Helens, which sought $2 million for reconstruction of Berth 2 near Clatskanie. Ambre Energy, an Australian company, proposed to match it with $3 million to rebuild the 70-year-old dock for ocean-going ships to carry coal to Asia.

But a majority of the commission had questions about the project’s readiness, and by a 3-2 vote, dropped it from the list of 37 projects recommended for $42.3 million in funding....

Since the commission acted Aug. 20, an additional $2 million in savings makes possible $4 million more for projects.
That $4 million grew, in part because a sidepath linking Albany and Corvallis also ran into trouble. The letter to the OTC from ODOT says
In a letter dated February 18, 2015, Benton County formally withdrew the Corvallis to Albany Trail project, making an additional $2 million available and bringing the total remaining from ConnectOregon V to $4.5 million. In addition, $2.45 million is available from savings realized from ConnectOregon I, II, III and IV projects. As a result, the OTC now has $6.95 million to allocate.
ODOT staff had advanced a list of projects that included the coal project - it was out, and staff the Final Review Committee tried to put it back in - and at the meeting the OTC decided against that and slotted in the transit station. In a sense the coal project did lose out - but we have to remember that it was already out!

So the funding isn't exactly simple. As the letter from ODOT suggests, there are three distinct pots that contributed to this new funding:
  • Savings from other projects coming in under budget
  • Cancelling the coal terminal
  • Cancelling the Albany-Corvallis bike path
If new funding had only come from the $2 million coal terminal, the South Salem Transit Center would not have ranked high enough. If the funding had only come from the $4.5 million savings+coal terminal, the transit center didn't rank high enough.

As seemed possible earlier this month, with the deleted coal project was already supplying some of the funds, it's really the cancellation of the Albany-Corvallis bike path that is funding the extra portion that enabled the transit center, wait-listed if you will, to slide up into the funding list.

And that's a bummer. And not nearly as much of an "environmental" win as perhaps we all would like.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Don't Drive to See the Tulips, Go by Bike!

The three-page spread in the "Weekend" section today is a great example of the "tragedy of the commons."

The tulips are coming early because of warm weather almost certainly related to climate change.

And so we are going to encourage people to burn fossil fuels to go see the beauty.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Rideshare to Conduct Individualized Marketing Campaign in Grant and NEN

Last summer as part of the "Drive Less Save More" project, ODOT piloted "individualized marketing" programming in Ashland, Corvallis, and Portland.

This year, Salem is one of the three cities, and the local partners, City of Salem and Cherriots Rideshare, will focus on the close-in, streetcar-era neighborhoods of Grant and NEN during the summer.

From Ashland's November
Transportation Commission Meeting*
About the project the City of Corvallis wrote:
The “Drive Less Save More: South Town” program aims to encourage south Corvallis residents to use transportation options such as bicycling, walking, taking transit and carpooling, that encourage an active lifestyle. The program will run from July through September of 2014 and is an opt-in program that will focus on the positives of non-driving. It is funded by the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) and is a joint effort by the City of Corvallis Transportation Options Program, Cascades West Rideshare and ODOT.

ODOT selected Corvallis as one of three locations in the state to test an “Individualized Marketing” (IM) program for the Drive Less Save More campaign. Residents of households in a specific geographic area are targeted with information and events that encourage the use of transportation options. The selection of south Corvallis as the test site in Corvallis was based upon the natural boundaries of the Willamette River on the east, the railroad on the west and the Marys River on the north.

A pre-campaign survey on how south Corvallis residents traveled on a specific day in June was returned by over 300 South Town residents. South Town folks that choose to participate through either an online registration or returning a printed mailer will be sent free resource tools that will inform and encourage participants to use transportation options. A post-program survey in September will help determine what impact the program has had on the transportation habits of these residents.

The information kits provided to registrants will include travel tools, including the City/County Bicycle Guide, a South Town Go Guide, safety brochures on walking and bicycling, local and regional transit schedules and ride sharing information. Free gear such as umbrellas, bicycle lights or water bottles is also provided to participants. A number of special Drive Less Save More events that are intended to encourage active transportation will be held in South Town each month.
The Grant and NEN (Englewood) neighborhoods make a lot of sense for Salem: There are complete streetcar-era street grids, the distance to downtown is not very large, and they are among the neighborhoods where Salem is best set up for lower-car, even car-free, living.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Legislative Update - Week 6, Cheers to Rep. Towne and Sen. Clark

In all the talk about the Kitzhaber-Brown transition and mess, there's a remarkable anniversary that seems to have gone largely unnoticed in the press.

Women gained the vote in 1912, and after winning election in 1914, the first female Representative and Senator served as lawmakers in the session of 1915.

In the run-up to the session, the Capital Journal published a series of caricatures of all or most of the Legislators, and here are the pictures of Representative Marian Towne and Senator Kathryn Clark.

Especially as they are in a series with caricatures of all the men, it's not easy to filter out the general humor directed towards all and to discern anything meaningful specifically about gender and culture. Mostly I see equal opportunity jokes - but maybe you will spot something significant. It is interesting the two come from southern Oregon rather than from the more urban valley. Perhaps the penumbral influence of San Francisco is relevant.

Rep. Marian Towne, looking towards the 1920s
February 1, 1915

Sen. Kathryn Clark, much more Edwardian
February 13, 1915
Seemingly long ago already, Governor Brown signed Senate Bill 324, which lifts the sunset on the low-carbon fuel standard first enacted under Governor Kulongowski.

A century ago it was the cowboy archtype;
Our modern "cowboy" as failed superhero
It seems like the law is going to have some cascading unintended side effects, and is not in the end going to turn out to be a sustainable or wise way to tackle the constellation of fuel, transportation, and carbon emissions.

In a better summary than the overheated claims its proponents make, Representative Julie Parrish (R) writes
Fracking, pipelines and coal trains used in conventional fuel production have tangible (and sometimes negative) environmental impacts that are visible and immediately present. But “clean fuels” that rely on high intensity farming can have equally tangible (and negative) environmental impacts. Since the impacts aren’t visible, it’s easier to accept them. Further, there are serious societal impacts associated with biofuels.
The bill isn't so much pork as it is corn. Lots of corn, even GMO corn. It's a corny solution for greenwashing gas instead of just simply using less gas.

See also Rep. Parrish's Oregonian piece a few days later. Her criticism is not merely partisan.

The more reflexively partisan Republicans will use its symbolism to opt out of more serious conversation about raising the gas tax and funding transportation maintenance and expanding multi-modal travel facilities.
If "transportation costs" were really an issue, there's a whole 'nother agenda the opponents of SB 324 might support, an agenda for lower cost household transportation and lower cost government transportation investment. The agenda could be about small-c conservative values for thrift, saving, local small business, and community.

But hey, why save a few thousand dollars a year by going low-car or even car-free when you can make car payments, spend aggravated hours isolated in a car, and spew carbon and other pollution in the air?
SB 324 may well be something of a pyrrhic victory.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Reasons to Demolish Marion Car Park Still Lame, HLC to Deliberate Thursday

Here we go again.

On Thursday the Historic Landmarks Commission will deliberate on an application to demolish the Marion Car Park at Ferry and Commercial.

Marion Car Park from inside the Conference Center
You may remember this from last summer, when the HLC kept the hearing open until this month. The hearing now is a continuation of that process.

But nothing materially has changed!

The idea last summer was that the owners and prospective developers would have a better idea of how a new purpose for the lot would offer a "better and higher use" than the parking structure proposed to be demolished. They would have a plan.

But no. They propose to level the building and merely to leave a new surface parking lot. Not a new building or anything. Just a hole in the urban fabric.
The applicant argues that a gravel vacant lot has more value than the resource [the building and parking structure] in its present state.
That is a laughable proposition.

The Staff Recommendation is rightly to deny the application, and this seems like a slam-dunk.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Planning Commission to Consider Drive-Throughs on High and Broadway Streets

On Tuesday the Planning Commission will consider a request to allow drive-throughs in an area with an overlay zone on north High Street and Broadway that excludes them.

You know the blog is no fan of drive-throughs, regarding them as generally pernicious and a pox on urban space and sidewalk vitality!

And you may recall the debate at the Historic Landmarks Commission and the Planning Commission about allowing drive-throughs in the downtown historic district.

A couple years ago, a different drive-through:
The abandoned plan for a drive-through
at State and Commercial
The situation here is not entirely different. The streetcar-era vestiges along the High Street/Broadway corridor don't rise to the level of an historic district, but they are still valuable, and we should have great interest in building on them and making this corridor one of Salem's most walkable. Fortunately the new construction near Market and Broadway, like Salem Cinema and Broadway Commons, retain the same scale, and contribute to pleasant sidewalk life.

So it was interesting to read the application.

The parcel at Division and High: Mostly parking lot
MAPS Credit Union wants to redevelop a parking lot they own adjacent to their building on Liberty and Division.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Water: Old Firehouses and our Dismal Snowpack

If the history of Safeways in town tells us a lot about development patterns, the same can be said for the history of our firehouses.

There's a likely pair of old firehouses about equally distant from downtown, and the sunny winter finally afforded a chance to take a picture of one of them.

Engine House Number 4, built 1931 - Firehouse Clinic today
This one is near Bush Park, at Liberty and Lincoln. It has been repurposed as a medical clinic.

A sharp-eyed reader has proposed that a building at Fairgrounds and Winter is a near-match, a firehouse of the same vintage. It looks a lot like a mirror image of this clinic building.

These are just about the same distance from the center of downtown as are the 1930s era Safeways, and they clearly served the same city areas. There's an interesting parallelism in scale here.

Do you know of other old and repurposed firehouses in town? It seems like there ought to be a firehouse like this on the east side somewhere, with an address in the 2000s or so.

(More on Salem's Fire Department history here.)

Fire Station #4, circa 1930 - via Oregon State Library
Water, Snowpack, and the Prospect of Drought

With all the vaccination talk in the air, and with recent fluoridation battles in Portland, it's hard not to think of the character in Dr. Strangelove, General Ripper, who is obsessed with water quality and the foreign substances we put into our bodies willingly or unwillingly.

You probably saw the article about our sunny, warm winter. It was the second-warmest on record - right behind the start of the Dust Bowl!

No snow: Second warmest winter
Our snowpack right now is at 8% of normal.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Portland Road this Week: Action Plan and Police Siting Committee

Meetings on Portland Road and the Police Station area also in the neighborhoods this week.

On Thursday the 12th, from 5pm to 7pm at the Salem/Keizer Coalition for Equality, 3850 Portland Rd. NE, there will be the final late winter Open House to solicit ideas and feedback on the Portland Road Corridor Strategic Action Plan.

Already the City "at your service" has poached $1 million in urban renewal funds for a stormwater project that was supposed to be funded privately by business and/or developers. After what looks like a City error in failing to bring forward the project's terms when the property was sold and changed hands, the City appears to have caved and funded it publicly.

Still being debated
So it remains to be seen how focused the City will be on the actual street conditions, the ways storefronts and businesses greet the street, and the way non-motorized travel is prioritized.

Survey on Commercial-Vista Corridor Study Misses Significance of Speed

The Commercial-Vista Corridor Refinement Plan has released the responses to the first survey, and the general sentiment looks to be strongly in favor of improving the environment for walking.
(They moved the intersection a half block south it looks like! Pay-n-pak is the current site of Office Depot. Here's the modern view.)

Nevertheless, it found a few skeptics, and here's a particularly great response:
You people are ******* ******. Area beautification upgrades are irrelevant to traffic function. Do you guys have any engineers on staff to draw you a picture? Salem only has a couple main arteries for traffic to use in order to get anywhere. They are choke points, and planting trees in this corridor is probably the most counterproductive plan to be conceived from complacency. South Salem has Commercial (the entire length of it), East Salem has Lancaster, and West Salem only has one access point. I don’t know, maybe do some research on pneumatics, hydraulics, Venturi tube, and/or the Human Circulatory System. You are wasting resources painting rocks.
It's a terrific articulation of hydraulic autoism.

Even more than this, it claims a corridor in which 4245 people a day should get speeding tickets is a "choke point."

Speeding is a problem here
Do we really 14 foot travel lanes?
Presentation Slides, Dec 11th
If that many people are speeding, it's not a choke point. That's how autoism distorts an accurate reading of reality.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Marine Dr to 2nd St Encroaches on Park, Degrades Union St RR Bridge Paths

Well, it was nice while it lasted. The notion of a local street connection along Second Street and under Wallace Road seemed awfully promising, but it turns out it was too good to be true.

Second Street Continues into Park to Connect with Marine Drive
It won't destroy the path to the Bridge, but it'll totally degrade it
Last week at a couple of meetings on the West Salem Business District Action Plan a new conceptual plan brought Second Street into the Park and compromised the path system connecting with the Union Street Railroad Bridge.

Earlier versions of the underpass showed car access terminating at Cornucopia, just a block or two in from Wallace.

Monday, March 9, 2015

In the Neighborhoods: More Support for Bike Boulevards; Cherries and Camas

Did you get out in the glorious weather? Lots of people enjoying the start of the cherry blossoms at the Capitol!

One thing I hadn't noticed before was that the very first trees to blossom are on the east side directly on the Chemeketa Street alignment. It looks like stairwells or something from the underground parking garage add just enough extra heat over the course of the winter that these trees are perhaps a week ahead of most of the other cherry trees in the spring.

(Assuming that the Cherry trees are all of the same kind, this is a very small example of the way our parking has broader system effects to which we give insufficient attention.)

Everybody's out enjoying the warmth and early blossoms.
Three of the trees are blooming earlier than the others.
(The warm weather and our low snowpack
is also related to climate change, alas)
The paper had a nice piece about a man who's been tracking the flowering for 56 years now:
[Wilbur Bluhm, a retired horticulturist of 30 years,] records a variety of information including when trees are leafing, flowering, done flowering, bearing fruit, showing fall colors, and when they lose their leave among other things.

Bluhm has been collecting this the data each week for the past 56 years and says that this spring season is the third earliest date that the cherry blossoms have been blooming outside of the capitol.

"On average, the cherry blossoms bloom around March 15," Bluhm said. "But this year they started on March 1."
At Bush Park the very first small camas shoots are also beginning to flower. So those are early too. In another couple of weeks they will also be glorious!

In the Neighborhood Associations this week lots of support for bike boulevards.


Last month by a vote of 8-4, the Morningside Neighborhood Association endorsed the family-friendly bike boulevard concept and is sending a letter to Council in support of it. (The minutes don't talk about the dissenting votes, and it would be interesting to learn more about the reasons four voted against the resolution.)

Saturday, March 7, 2015

City Council, March 9th - Boise and State Hospital Updates

Here's some unambiguous good news!

Not "long-term" any more!
Union Street: Commercial on left, Liberty at center
(concept only, and final design will likely be different)
You already knew about the project for the intersection at Union and Commercial.

Union and Commercial, Phase IA
Now in the City's draft Capital Improvement Program for 2015-2020, there's more! "Phase IB of the project includes adding four curb extensions at Liberty/Union Street and design and constructing enhanced bicycle facilities on Union Street, between Commercial and Winter Streets." Previously there had been no work funded east of the intersection with Commercial. This is good to see.

On Union, Liberty to Winter, Phase IB
Looks like this work is anticipated for 2017 - 2019.

(The section of Union Street east of Winter Street is outside the Urban Renewal Area and remains unfunded, so there is no connection yet planned for the Esplanade, North High, and Safeway. Hint, hint!)

And on that pleasant thought, we note Council meets on Monday, and in addition to starting to think about formal adoption of the CIP, which is actually on the schedule for the 23rd, there are several other matters of interest.

The North Campus of the State Hospital and the Boise Redevelopment

Two redevelopment projects lead the way. Councilor Bennett will introduce a motion prompted by the Salem Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. They propose the City should formally explore the idea of "acquiring the State-owned 6-acre field at the southeast corner of 23rd Street NE and D Street NE, for use as a City park and sports field." In addition to the fact that it is already in use as a park, the Advisory Board notes that the new Salem Parks Master Plan calls for new softball and soccer fields, and that a formal acquisition here would contribute to easing that deficit. It also fits with the neighborhood preference for lower-scale redevelopment along D Street and greater massing and density along Center Street.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Green Awards and Heritage Awards Both Honor Recycling - updated

Tomorrow night there are two award and fund-raising galas, and they both highlight the values in recycling - recycling buildings in preservation, and recycling smaller stuff to keep it out of the waste stream.

They also highlight tensions between sticks or carrots, and between process or outcome. It is more important to nudge laggards, or to honor excellence? By themselves good processes don't guarantee good outcomes, but at what point do inadequate outcomes point to the need for improved or altered processes? And how do we communicate scale? A small, seemingly trivial, increment of improvement in a very large business or thing may have a much larger total impact than a tiny business that is amazingly green.

Most of these don't have clear answers.

The Mid Valley Green Awards is one of the galas, and there are several great bikey businesses representing in the nominations.

You probably saw the Salem Weekly story that highlighted some of them.

Steel Bridge Coffee is one, nominated in the "Sustainable Small Business of the Year" category.

The delivery and transportation is all bike.

Last summer - see also Salemis story from two years ago
South Salem Cycleworks is also nominated.

Unfortunately, they're in the same category - but that's a nice problem to have!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Cheap Oil's Going to Hang out for a Bit: So What about Traffic Projections?

A fivethirtyeight chart on gas spending lines up pretty nicely with the chart on bridge crossings.

But traffic did increase a bit in 2014 - via N3B
So the question is, is the uptick in 2014 bridge crossings mainly a product of swooning gas prices in the fall or something else?

And if you think there's a correlation with oil and gas prices, and that there's a meaningful chance for the trend line in 2015 and 2016 to go back up as consumers enjoy less expensive gas and feel freer to drive, what does that mean for the Third Bridge?

Fans of the bridge will likely appeal to the increase in bridge crossings, say it demonstrates demand, and suggest it represents a trending exit from the decade-long plateau.

We critics may not be able to depend on the plateau to say we don't need a new bridge because demand is slack, and may find we need more of a prescriptive analysis that doesn't depend as much on simply describing a "flat" or even declining demand.

The best reason to oppose the bridge is not because "we don't need it," but because it's bad policy and would be harmful. It's more than gratuitous; it's bad. Even if bridge crossings were trending up, the solution is for better land use in West Salem and for building out kinds of mobility other than the drive-alone trip.

Avenging Angel of Autoism Welcomes new Shrine

It is of course snarky and low to mock the new installation at the corner of State and Liberty.

But we're gonna do it anyway.

The Avenging Angel welcomes a new altar
The City's own announcements about the installation use a flattering angle to make it look like there's more space between the pole and the cube on one side, and more space between the cube and the garbage can on the other.

The piece actually doesn't have room to breathe and it is crowded by both the light pole and garbage can. The installation site is not in a very good place for this piece. While it will have more passers-by here than it did at the Conference Center, it's still jammed into a bulb-out spandrel rather than given its own real space. It's afterthought, not integral.

Even though it has a fancy, semi-mirrored exterior, in form and location it looks more like a telecommunications cabinet or vault playing dress-up.

Or an altar to the Avenging Angel of Autoism.
If we are going to be serious about making good places to walk, and stroll, and shop, and enjoy downtown, we will have to make a 180-degree turn and attend more to the rivers of cars that suck the air and life out of the sidewalks.

The problem isn't that the sidewalks don't have enough neat furniture or things to look at.

The problem is all the cars.

Remember Ada Louis Huxtable's words:
Some day, some American city will discover the Malthusian truth that the greater number of automobiles, the less the city can accommodate them without destroying itself. The downtown that turns itself into a parking lot is spreading its own dissolution.
Until we grapple with the cars, and the space they consume, we'll be more than a little like Flatlanders contemplating the Cube.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Minto Park Master Plan Open House, MWACT on Bikes and Quakes, NGRAB on Ethics

This winter the City's been working on a new Master Plan for  Minto Brown Island Park. One of the public meetings is tonight.

Detail from new map
Please come to a public meeting and give us your thoughts! There are four meetings scheduled, and each will be located at Pringle Community Hall, 606 Church Street SE. There is parking available. Dates and times are listed below.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014, 6:30 p.m.
Tuesday, January 20, 2015, 6:30 p.m.
Tuesday, March 3, 2015, 6:30 p.m.
Tuesday, March 31, 2015, 6:30 p.m.
You might recall the third survey, which is still open. The other questions in it are important of course, but this one is especially important for people who would like to continue to be able to bike occasionally in the park. And if, as seems like a mighty good idea, the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway is rerouted through downtown and through the park, and routed to get off of a section of River Road, the questions may become even more acute.

A key question in Minto Park survey
Here's the full Master Plan process site.


(Every time this gets me! ODOT calls it "MWVACT" but the agenda and most speakers I have heard call it "em-whacked"* or "MWACT" - on an analogue system like a card catalogue this would be easy to manage, but via the google one search doesn't yield up references to the other! They're in different countries, it seems.)

The Mid-Willamette Valley Area Commission on Transportation meets on Thursday the 5th (full agenda and packet here).

There will be bikes!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

In the Neighborhood Associations this Week - Building Support for Bikes

Lots of things to note in the neighborhood associations this week!

West Salem - Monday

Five years ago, when so much seemed possible:
City and UO/SCI Staff talk bike access
at Union St. Bridge path dead-end.
The West Salem Neighborhood Association has on the agenda a nice group of green things:
  • Keizer Rapids (Regional) Park and the Big Toy Project - Marion County, Commissioner Janet Carlson
  • Bicycle Boulevard Networks – Gary Obery
  • Energy Conservation and Solar - Jeff Lewis, Salem Electric
And at last month's meeting they adopted goals, which include some nice transportation goals:
WSNA Transportation goals for 2015
The West Salem Neighborhood Association meeting is at Roth’s West, Mezzanine level, at 1130 Wallace Rd NW on Monday the 2nd at 7pm.

NEN - Tuesday

Though there aren't any items on the agenda to note, the minutes from last month's NEN meeting are awfully interesting.