Thursday, August 27, 2015

Cherriots Board to see new Rideshare Strategic Plan

The Cherriots Board meets tonight, Thursday the 27th, and while there aren't really any new action items of interest, some items in minutes and reports scattered in the meeting packet are of great interest.

Most exciting? The new Cherriots Rideshare Strategic Plan!

Rideshare Staff will be presenting the Plan to the Board. (Here's the report and slide deck. The Plan itself is not yet published to the web, so we'll update the link later.)

This is important because the Rideshare program is potentially really powerful, but it is also tremendously underpowered right now. It has a large tri-county coverage area, and it is woefully understaffed and underbudgeted. It's thin, thin, thin.

Cherriots Rideshare covers a very broad service area

Institutionally it is marginalized:
understaffed and underbudgeted
And its meagre funding has no small amount of irony to it: At a time when Cherriots, and the region generally, continues to advocate for a $500 million bridge and highway, it is absolute insanity that Rideshare's budget is measured well below $500,000 annually - right now fluctuating if I recall rightly between $200 and $300,000 a year. That's less than 0.1%, more like 0.05% of the current (and badly underestimated!) cost of a new bridge and highway.

Imagine if Rideshare's budget was 1% of the cost of a bridge, $5 million a year, or roughly 11% of the annual debt service of around $45 million for the bridge. That would offer much better return on the investment!

Cherriots is doing a lousy job talking
about how its activities relates to the bridge
Our priorities and proportions are all out of whack, though.

And it is telling that the Strategic Plan also omits any discussion of how a strategy with Rideshare dovetails with a strategy on the bridge. In fact, the Salem Willamette River Crossing Alternate Modes Study, which had a large role for the kinds of TDM/TSM projects envisioned in the Rideshare Plan, is nowhere to be seen.

From here, anyway, quite apart from the magnitudes of cost, this is not a trivial omission: Any strategic plan that involves TDM/TSM for the region simply must discuss the biggest infrastructure project proposed for the region, especially when that project is so thoroughly oriented towards drive-alone trips. That's the regional transportation strategy and a hugely important part of the context and puzzle.

It simply has to be there.

So the absence is an important detail and the silence on the bridge a real flaw in the Rideshare Plan.

Aside from that, there's a lot of great stuff in it.

In a survey of 15 other similar agencies or groups embedded in larger agencies, bike education turned up in the "best practices," so that was nice to see.

Elsewhere, best practices include bike education!
And this, along with other kinds of activities, is formalized in a shift in mission, from principally focusing on commuters to connecting "with all travelers for all trips" and becoming the place where "people look...for transportation option solutions."

That's a major shift.

Strategic shift from "just commuting"
This includes more collaboration with the bike club.

More Partnerships with Orgs like the Bike Club
In addition to the preliminaries, context, and methods, the Plan organizes activities into four phases, spread out over one decade.

Plan Table of Contents with Four Phases
They are easier to see in the slide from the board presentation.

The Four Phases from the Presentation Slides
One notable project is envisioned to be an expansion of the "individualized marketing" program currently out in the Grant and Englewood/NEN neighborhoods.

Year 1: Plan to Expand Individualized Marketing Initiative
This could look something like the City of Portland's "Smart Trips" group. Building out this programming could be terrific.

There's also a clear need for new performance measures.

Also Year 1: New Metrics
The currently available numbers, which will also be presented to the Board in a separate agenda item, are very limited and have not told much of a story. Here's the year-over-year comparison, but Cherriots hasn't developed this analysis or any other. Right now these are just nearly random factoids. Who knows what they mean?

Drive Less Connect Numbers for Q4, 2014-15
April - June 2015
Rideshare Q4 and year-end summary

Drive Less Connect Numbers for Q4, 2013-14
April - June 2014
Finally, it's great to see a plan for Safe Routes to School programming in Salem! This has been a substantial void here. It is envisioned for implementing in years three to five.

Years 3-5: Safe Routes to School!
There are of course many other things that you might find interesting.

While the plan proposes expansion, there is no revenue stream identified for that expansion, so right now this is crucially more a wish than a plan. In a reallocation of duties and adjustment of job descriptions for year 1,
As the Rideshare Coordinator spends more time forwarding the program’s strategic direction, they will be able to seek new funding opportunities through the MPO or other potential grants that come available.
Right now, our MPO seems little inclined to invest substantially more in things that undermine the supremacy of drive-alone trips. Hydraulic autoism totally prevails there. So that will be a real job.

Other Items

In other news, in a couple of subcommittee meetings there were was the first report on the new flexible transit service in West Salem, "The Connector." One interesting detail? One of the PSU students who authored the flexible transit study has been hired by Cherriots to implement the program. From his subreport on the June boardings:
A performance summary for the month of June was provided for the West Salem Connector pilot project.

There were a total of 444 trips; an average of [about] 20 one way rides per day and 59 unique riders.

The service was most used between 1:00 - 4:00 p.m. with the highest use at 3:00 p.m. The Glen Creek Transit Center was the most used connector point by 85% of the riders. The stop on Edgewater at the Safeway shopping center had the second highest usage.

No trips were scheduled to or from the Burley Hill and Eola Drive connector point and only one from Burley Hill and Whitetail Deer Drive; however Customer Service has received calls for service at SalemTowne where there is no connector stop. [paragraphing added]
59 uniques is not going to make a dent in bridge crossing traffic. A fundamental question for Cherriots is whether they are just going to abandon West Salem.

New Route Map Summary
There's also the wind-up to the big schedule and route changes on September 8th. That might merit a separate post.

In minutes on a special meeting contained in the consent calendar, there was an interesting exchange over the scope and nature of the Citizen Advisory Committee. Apparently some on the Committee had an expectation that the Cherriots Board would formally consult with them before moving to place the payroll tax measure on the ballot. This occasioned then some conversation about whether the CAC's role included conferring on "political decisions" in addition to "transit service and customer relations." More relevant here, there was also the tidbit that the Chamber had proposed Cherriots "look for lottery funds to pay for operations."

This is the context in which Rideshare will be seeking funding, alas.

The Salem Area Mass Transit District Board of Directors meets Thursday, August 27th, at 6:30pm, in Courthouse Square, the Senator Hearing Room, 555 Court St NE. There is a reception beforehand at 5:30pm for the bus stop painters and planners.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

To the comment in this post "Right now, our MPO seems little inclined to invest substantially more in things that undermine the supremacy of drive-alone trips. Hydraulic autoism totally prevails there."

The SKATS MPO -- along with our local jurisdictions and ODOT -- invests in a balance of travel modes: auto, transit, bicycle and pedestrian projects. Safety is major criteria for the projects that are funded. To see what projects are being funded in the SKATS area, go to SKATS 2015-2020 TIP Brochure

Mike Jaffe
Transportation Planning Director