Monday, September 14, 2015

CAN-DO and NEN: Full Agenda for Downtown and Englewood Neighborhood Associations

Here's a reappraisal for you.

It's been a while since I've really looked at the "short-term (within 10 years)" recommendations from the Downtown Mobility Study, and you know what? With the exception of the proposed two-way conversion on Cottage (brown on the map), it looks like it is strongly likely that most of this will get done within the intended window of the decade. Funds are programmed for much of it and with the bike boulevard grant, there's momentum there and it hardly seems impossible to get the phase one of sharrows done - maybe even more.

Yes, the bulk of it is still out a few years, and some of the proposed designs could use some further refinement. There's a cluster planned for 2018-2019, for example, and the auto travel lane widths for High and Church are quite wide.

But while I wish things could be done more quickly, on its own terms this first phase of the study is en route to completion. We should still want to do it faster, but it looks like things unambiguously rate "on target" at the moment.

That's a win.

10 year vision:  Sharrows on Union and Winter, bike lanes on
High and Church, two-way conversion on cottage
At CAN-DO on Tuesday the 15th, neighborhood advocate Curt Fisher will talk about the status of bicycle and pedestrian safety and access in the central area. Readers here will remember many of his smart comments and be aware of his advocacy on the Blind School redevelopment. He's sure to have an interesting take on the projects.

Looking forward, the task now looks like building support and urgency for the 15 and 25 year phases. The initial phase was the tactically and politically easy parts, relatively speaking, and the next parts will involve more strategic and structural change. These include full two-way conversation of several streets and even protected bikeways that start building access beyond serving those who are already biking in downtown. These may be a harder sell, especially as they could impact curbside parking.

And key will be doing it faster. It shouldn't take a quarter-century, a whole generation, for this stuff.

State St Bikeway out on 25 year horizon
CAN-DO meets tomorrow, Tuesday the 15th, at 6:00 p.m. at First Christian Church on 685 Marion Street NE

For all notes on the Downtown Mobility Study see here. City project website here.

NEN Meets Also

We're in something of a transition now. There are two fundamental approaches to walking safety jostling against each other right now. One focuses on the actual fact that cars are heavy, move fast, slow to stop, and will kill you, especially on roads designed to prioritize auto through-put. In a real way this is the "might makes right" approach. Its focus is on the "traffic cone theory of walking," that people on foot need to be walking traffic cones, should invest in special pedestrian safety equipment, and take extra care to stay out of the way of cars. Metaphorically, they are prey and have to hide and evade.

Too often our de facto approach: Stay out of the way of cars
The other focuses on the legal and civilized claim that people on foot deserve a full share of the public space we call "a road," recognizes a fundamental asymmetry in vulnerability and power, and asks drivers and road designers to assume a greater burden of due care for more vulnerable users like people on foot.

New ODOT materials with a new approach
On Tuesday at NEN in the Englewood neighborhod, Nicole Charlson, from the Oregon Department of Transportation, Region 2 will talk some about "Traffic Safety and Pedestrians."

ODOT's focus has too often been on defensive walking and the walking traffic cone, asserting that the primary burden for walking safety falls onto the person walking, rather than on the person driving.

Especially in light of the new "every intersection is a crosswalk" materials, it will be interesting to see if there's a shift in emphasis at ODOT. Last week the Surgeon General announced a new walking campaign - and maybe there's some legs on the trend now.

Step It Up graphic and campaign
(via Just Walk)
Also on the agenda is an update on the State Street Corridor Study.

Over on a Salem booster Facebook site, there is a different case for the study than we have been making here:
The real opportunity is to build value for current home owners, and bring a new pool of prospective home buyers into the adjoining neighborhoods, from 12th to 25th, Mission to D.

Price compression exists around this corridor, and, the number of homes not owner occupied appear to be a reason the prices and desire ability is lower than it should be....

The potential buyers to the area represent a sweet spot between property prices and income, where there is a generative effect from many incentives from the State and federal incentive programs for first time home buyers.

The value proposition is emerging... for young, smart, creative persons and couples...stay here, stay near the down toe and Riverfront core, leverage your opportunity of time and money, build equity, invest in making better the place where you live better!
It is frankly the case for gentrification and indirectly for displacement, for creating private value and an exit strategy for current property owners.

It's not like it's 100% wrong. There will need to be private investment as well as public investment, and what will attract private investment is the market prospect of profit.

But from here that way of framing the case for the study also seems unbalanced and potentially even unjust.

If the project doesn't also create value for people who currently live there and who want to stay, and create value for the traveling public, then it will have only served property speculators and developers who want to flip rather than stay and reinvest. Crucially it won't have served the greater interests of "the City" and the public at large, who desire a more vibrant city.

This aspect of the study will deserve close watching, and it will be interesting if as part of it, there is any transparency about institutional or other larger investors - how much property here is owned by Willamette University, for example? What about all the rentals? What stakes do these larger investors and property owners have in the study? What are potential or actual tensions between private interests and public interests?

(On the State Street study, City site here, all blog posts here.)

Finally, there is also an update on the Winter-Maple Bike Boulevard project.

NEN meets tomorrow, Tuesday the 15th, at 6:30pm in the Salem First Church of the Nazarene, 1550 Market Street NE.

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