Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Greenhouse Gas Modeling, Discredited Congestion Report at MPO Yesterday

From the SKATS-TAC meeting packet for Sept 8th
The Technical Advisory Committee of our local Metropolitan Planning Organization (SKATS) met yesterday, and one of the items on the agenda was a politically motivated "study" by the Texas Transportation Institute. The report is an annual ritual of hydraulic autoism that seeks to alarm folks with the supposed high costs of congestion and to build support for more highway and road expansion. It's about an idealized world for cars, not about mobility of people.

A civilian precis of the TTI study in the paper last month
Over at the City Observatory there's a compendium of criticism from multiple sources (and more here). It is symptomatic of the commitment to hydraulic autoism at SKATS that "findings" on congestion have not been modified in light of this large body of counter-evidence and critique.

TTI definitions from the meeting packet
But let's just look again at one part of its definitions and analytical method. It measures delay and congestion from a baseline of "free-flow speeds." However, on both highways and arterial roads, "free-flow speeds" are often 10, 20, maybe even 30mph over the posted speed limit! These "free-flow speeds" are measured at night, when such zooming is especially easy. So the whole study is based on a fantasy standard of impossible and even unlawful conditions. And they know this. They say "Other speed thresholds may be appropriate for urban project evaluations or sub-region studies."

Anyway, above and beyond this the study is a bunch of hooey and horse-pucky, and only an agency committed to hydraulic autoism would waste time with an uncritical presentation of it.

(Much more useful would have been a critique of it!)
ODOT Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety
Implementation Plan (entire here)
More interestingly and usefully, the TAC also looked at an ODOT study that identified especially risky and dangerous corridors in Salem and around the state. (The clips here are taken from ODOT's pdf; in the meeting packet is a second- or third-generation image, a scan of a scan or something, that is considerably less clear.)

Priority Corridors for Walking Safety

Lancaster heads the list for dangerous walking!

Priority Corridors for Bike Safety

Again, Lancaster heads the list!
The roads are many of the usual suspects. Lancaster Drive is at the top of both lists for Region 2, and on the walking side by a shockingly large margin. Other roads include: Liberty, Commercial, Market, Center, N. River Road, Capitol, Silverton Road, Hawthorne. Under a separate analysis, Wallace Road is also included.

The report was for information only, but it will be interesting to see how it trickles down to funding decisions in the next few years.

The meeting also included some back-office administrative details on the application process for the $9.25 Million of "Enhance non-highway funds" for Region 2. This pot of money could fund significant bike/ped projects, but it is also spread thinly among the cities in Region 2, and it's hard to say what the prospects in Salem are. Region 2 includes Lane, Linn, Benton, Lincoln, Polk, Marion, Yamhill, Tillamook, Clatsop, Columbia, southern Clackamas and western Washington counties. So that includes Corvallis and Eugene, for example, who are likely to have strong proposals. Pre-apps are due on September 11th.

Finally, some movement on greenhouse gas modeling. Even though the MPO has steadfastly resisted and delayed greenhouse gas modeling, it is apparently coming down the tracks. The Salem area is not required to do full "scenario planning" like Portland did, and so plans look to be in motion here for a lesser version called "strategic assessment." Some 28 inputs are
entered into ODOT’s Regional Strategic Planning Model (RSPM). The RSPM outputs include expected GHG emissions per capita in 2035, and gives other forecasts about household travel costs, vehicle ownership and operating costs, vehicle delay, fuel consumption per capita, bicycle and walk trips, and changes to vehicle miles traveled and air pollutants.
After running many iterations of the model under different clusters of potential policy actions, it will be possible to identify groups of policy actions that seem most likely to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets. These would be non-binding, but at least theoretically could be used to inform actual policy changes (or of course they could just be ignored).

This will be interesting to watch this fall. Right now a formal presentation by ODOT and DLCD staff is scheduled for the late October Policy Committee meeting.

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