Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Open House for Two Highway Widening Projects June 1st

Our local Metropolitan Planning Organization is holding an Open House, Wednesday the 1st, on two proposed projects and the associated amendments to the Regional Transportation Systems Plan and the Transportation Improvement Program.

The projects are expensive highway widening, but they would mostly use funding restricted to and intended for that end.

Still, we should remember that a few years back, Transportation Planners in Portland observed:
The estimated replacement cost of Portland’s entire 300+ mile bikeway network—acknowledged as the best in North America—is approximately $60 million ($2008), which is roughly the cost of one mile of four-lane urban freeway.
Here in Salem, we're talking about the same order of magnitude: A mile or so of I-5 widening for $48 million. You could fund a lot of sidewalks, bike lanes, and bike boulevards for $48 million.

So there's two frames here:
  • Realistic, on the merits: There's probably not a lot to criticize when you consider the proposals narrowly on the merits and details of the projects and funding programs behind them as they exist.
  • On the vision, strategy and high-level values: The projects do not contribute, and indeed may detract from, the directions we need to take for the future.
From the Open House packet:
Two projects are proposed to be amended into the SKATS 2015-2035 Regional Transportation Systems Plan (RTSP) and the SKATS FY 2015-2020 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). As a result of the most recent federal surface transportation legislation, FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act, new funding became available to ODOT.
Location for proposed I-5 widening

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Parking Craters and the Buildings that Preceded Them

With that 1961 aerial in mind, here are 10 downtown buildings we have lost to demolition, often a loss from fire. They weren't rebuilt and are car parking now. (Just a sort of now-and-then photo essay for the moment.)

Downtown historic district with several
parking lot sites numbered
The Chemeketa Parkade
(Sites 1 and 2)

SE Corner of Chemeketa and Commercial, then and now
Then: Eldridge Block circa 1940, Salem Library
Inset, today: Chemeketa Parkade
(Click to enlarge)

Hotel Argo (Salem Library Historic Photos)

Same site today - streetview

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Hot Take! City adds Epicycles to Accessing Council Agenda

On Social Media the City announced a new database and website for Council agenda.
To get City of Salem Council materials out to you earlier, we're using a new tool for sharing City Council agendas and meeting materials. Beginning with June 6 meeting, to access Council meeting materials, you'll still click on the "Meeting Agendas".

What you'll find is a list of upcoming meetings and links to meeting materials, audio, and video. Those upcoming public hearings, Council work sessions and future agenda items will be featured at the end of the agenda - instead of the beginning. And, you'll still be able to find materials from previous meetings in the old system while we're moving them over to the new.
The first impression is that this adds layers and makes it more difficult to find and access Staff Reports and other agenda items! It's a little like a Ptolemaic epicycle.

Internally it might be easier to load and publish Staff Reports - as a "content management system" it might seem to offer advantages, especially for internal city staff.

But as a move for better communications, as it faces outward to the public it looks clunky rather than elegant - an "improvement" only a software engineer would love. While it may be more organized in theory, in practice it is still looks labyrinthine.

There's a new url for the calendar and hopefully this will not complicate searching - or break old links.

You have to click through to the "meeting details" for a Council agenda.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

New City Interactive Map shows 1961 Aerial, Parking Craters, Torn Urban Fabric

Well, the City's got some new narrative mapping toys from ESRI, and they've put together a feature on the redevelopment of the Riverfront.
For many years, the City of Salem and Salem's Urban Renewal Agency have been working to reconnect downtown Salem with the Willamette River. This work began in 1975 by establishing an Urban Renewal Area (URA) to provide a dedicated funding source, clear goals, and objectives. This work to create a connection continues today.
It's interesting, but at least from here seems like it is still too much oriented towards folks who already have an interest in urban renewal. If it is meant to be popular, it may not be written broadly enough for a general audience. But if it is meant for those who, say, are already active in neighborhood associations and some familiarity with City policy and policy-making, it's likely much more useful. 

It is also possible to draw different or even counter-narratives from it.

One of the most suggestive features is an overlay of a 1961 downtown aerial map with a circa 2014 (pre-Howard Hall demolition) aerial map.

(There doesn't seem to be a way to link to an internal chapter heading. So you'd navigate to it by the sixth button/chapter on the far right-hand scrolling set-up.)

From here it's much more interesting to look at the mostly intact urban fabric of 1961 - though there have already been some demolitions and surface parking - and to see the way fire and demolition have created our lattice of parking craters, the erosion of surface parking lots that suck the life of the city.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Vineyards and Climate Change, Scott Bike Rodeo, Slow Roll - Newsbits

Transitions in vineyard land might seem unimportant, especially on a bike blog, but they're really an indicator, and yesterday's front-page piece missed on an important element there as well.
It framed up the vineyard sales this way:
The rebound in the economy, combined with the rising profile of Oregon Pinot Noir around the world, has created a hot market for vineyard properties, wineries and vineyard-suitable land.
Later in the piece there was more about the challenge of succession- and estate-planning, passing businesses on to a next generation, unknown or unknown.

In many cases people or businesses from out of state are buying up the properties:
"Californians are again moving up into Oregon," said Pattie Bjornson, winemaker and co-owner at Björnson Vineyard. "Judy Jordan bought Eola Springs Vineyard, Larry Stone has a large planting and is building a winery on Lone Star Road NW/Hopewell Road NW, and we just sold 80 acres of our 245 acre property on Perrydale Road to a couple from California"...

According to SFgate.com in California, Jordan sold her Sonoma-based company J Vineyards and Winery to E & J Gallo and then purchased Chehalem Mountain Vineyard in the Willamette Valley.
There's an important reason for this, but it's not in the article!

Climate change.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Governor Talks past Salem for #BiketoWorkDay on Social Media

After a period when Salem seemed spurned as a home for the Governor, a year ago in March Governor Brown made a pleasant fuss about living in Mahonia Hall.

And it has seemed that, as much as is possible for a person with statewide duties, she has consistently acted as if Salem was actually a home. People routinely report seeing her in banal, ordinary hometown activity.

So it was interesting - though not really very surprising - that her remarks today on Bike to Work Day talked past Salem and instead seemed to address primarily a Portland audience.

via the Twitter
She tweeted out a link to bike counts on the Hawthorne Bridge and showed scenes from somewhere that is not Salem and seems certain to be in Portland. (Do you recognize the location or event?)

You can't really fault Governor Brown here. She's got an election coming up, and there are lots of reasons why a politician might want to speak to Portland more than to Salem. That's where the bikey audience really is, and where key voters are. But still...

City Council, May 23rd - Cherriots TGM Grant Application for Sidewalks

Council meets on Monday, and the first public announcement about one of this year's TGM grant applications leads the agenda here.

New Councilors-to-be Sally Cook and Cara Kaser
Join Councilor Tom Andersen with big smiles
(via Sally Cook for Council)
But first, we had an election! A second ratifying vote is necessary in November, and new Councilors won't be sworn in until January, but as you already know some significant change is on the horizon. As N3B and Councilor Andersen have already written, there is now a substantial bloc of 4 votes for a more rational and truly balanced transportation policy here, and it seems very possible that in that group Mayor-elect Bennett will find congenial company sometimes, perhaps even often, yielding some 5-4 votes (or better!) for more transportation options in Salem. This in turn may have upstream influence on how our MPO, SKATS, and our local area commission on transportation, MWACT, approach some topics and decisions and allocations of federal and state funding.

(At the same time, we may find ourselves with Mayor-elect Bennett acting like Justice Kennedy on the Supreme Court, where all argument is effectively tailored to him, and he alone becomes the main decider on 5-4 splits. Something to watch.)

And second, a housekeeping detail. We have a new format for Staff Reports!

Looks like it's generated from new software with automated fields or something. For us, it's more legible, and it will be interesting to see if it makes any additional improvements on the user/citizen experience.

So Cherriots wants the City's participation on a TGM grant application to support analysis of sidewalk gaps on and near key transit corridors.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Proposed Mitigation Plan for State Hospital Demolition at Historic Landmarks Commission

The Historic Landmarks Commission meets tonight, Thursday the 19th, and there's some awards, the new storefront for the Gray Block, as well as a discussion of the North Campus of the State Hospital.

A Digression

But first, a very pleasant historical digression!

1899 Bicycle Tax Register, Yamhill County (detail)
via State Archives
A couple of days ago, State Archives posted a picture of one of the pages in the Bicycle Tax register of Yamhill County from 1899.

This, Oregon's first Bicycle Bill, was supposed to fund a system of dedicated sidepaths along County roads.

It was a bust.

Marion County surveyed 10 routes, started construction on a few of them, but abandoned things quickly after payment, compliance, and collection all were problems. As with projects today, initial construction wasn't the hard part, but subsequent maintenance a great problem. The dirt and gravel paths deteriorated quickly.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Oregon Transportation Commission Considers Bike-Ped Plan, Vision Panel

The Oregon Transportation Commission meets tomorrow, Thursday the 19th, and there's lots of relevant matter on the agenda.

The OTC is a little like ODOT's board of directors. At the same time, as we saw with Catherine Mater's removal not so long ago, its real purpose seems to be to rubber-stamp, and not to exercise independent judgement and oversight.

So it's not exactly clear always what to say about it or how best to try to lobby or advocate for change. In some ways its purpose seems to be to mystify power in order that the real source of it can remain concealed!

Still, on the agenda are three items of interest here:
The Bike-Ped plan is the most directly relevant, but we've already said plenty on it. This image from the executive summary seems to capture its essence:

The person is riding in street clothes like a commuter or errand-runner, they're not all spandexxed-up with a road bike. They aren't dressed like a traffic cone in high-viz and they shouldn't have to be. It's a little more inclusive this way.

But they're on what looks like a two-lane rural highway with a standard 1980s bike lane, still very subject to zoomy car traffic. As illustrating "safety" it's limited; as illustrating comfort for "interested but concerned" cyclists it's even more limited.

It seems to me, though, that the image fairly accurately represents where the plan is - and is not.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

ODOT to offer Alternatives to #WorkZoneWTF on Wednesday?

Maybe you will have a different reading of all this, be able to make sense of it, but when the ODOT press release about a Work Zone Safety event for people on foot and bike came across the newswire, my first reaction was: They've still got some things backwards.

A bit of a head-scratcher.

If you look at the configuration (above) in the press release materials, you see a high-speed, two-lane road with a temporary, plastic barricade system:
In early 2016, ODOT introduced a new category of bicycle-specific safety device – the “Bicycle Channelizing Device. ” It is a lightweight plastic barrier system that guides cyclists along a pathway, keeping them from entering into active work areas or coming into contact with workers or equipment.
It's an improvement on this, it's true:

A plastic barricade is an improvement
on these cinderlock footings (via BikePortland)
The plastic barricades have a narrower profile than cinderblock footings for chainlink fencing. But there's still the auto traffic on the right, and that road is rural-ish and high-speed, not a built-up urban street.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Commercial Vista Corridor Study Back from Dormancy, at Planning Commission Tuesday

Normally personnel isn't a topic here, but last summer you may have noticed that Judith Johnduff left the City's transportation planning group. This impacted staffing for the Commercial Vista Corridor Study, and it went a little quiet.

Final report cover

But the Study is back, and will be at the Planning Commission tomorrow with an informational presentation on what looks like the final report.

It may be necessary to revisit this later this week, but at the moment it doesn't look there are any major changes - but it does look a little smaller, like it has been dialed back some to be more modest in totality, and it may be useful to compare the final recommendations to the draft ones in finer detail.

The big things strike me as still being retained.

There's the buffered bike lanes for Commercial.

Buffered bike lanes on Commercial
(yellow highlighting added)
The crossing and continuation for south-bound bicycling on Commercial at the "dysfunction junction" with Liberty is retained.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Draft City Budget and Neighborhood Associations this Week - Newbits

Did you see Steve Duin's column today in the Oregonian or over the weekend online?
Yet change is more necessary and less intimidating than some might think.

If we want to strike the right balance in the daily commute, we may not need that inbound passing lane on Northeast Broadway. We may need the traffic dividers on Southeast Clinton, even if they simply divert auto traffic a block or two south onto Woodward.

If we hope to see our parents and children age gloriously in the neighborhoods where we live, we may need zoning changes that support new triplexes and duplexes in Buckman. We may not be able to afford the three-car garage.

Like the planet, we may thrive if we walk to work with our neighbors, seek our community on the sidewalk rather than our laptop, and consider change an opportunity, not an affront.
It was a measured take on city and transportation change, and Duin's writing itself is always a great pleasure.

The Budget Forecast

The City's arrived at a draft budget. Part of that is a forecast. Here it is on transportation:
The primary funding source for Transportation Services is the City’s monthly allocation of state highway fund revenues, which include motor vehicle fuel taxes; heavy commercial vehicle weight / mile taxes; and title, licensing, and registration fees from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The state highway revenue represents 67 percent of the Transportation Services Fund total current revenue. The statewide motor vehicle fuel tax is currently 30 cents per gallon of retail fuel sold. The City’s allocation is based on a per capita distribution of the portion allocated to cities. Salem’s current share of the city apportionment is 5.80 per cent. Fuel tax revenue is sensitive to economic factors such as the regional price and availability of fuel, incorporation of fuel-efficient vehicle technologies, and consumer behavior. [italics added]
A couple things to note. First, in round terms, the gas tax is funding only 2/3 of the Public Works budget.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Mid-Month Bike More Challenge Update

Ready for a mid-month update on area Bike More Challengers?!

500+ Staff

Maybe the most interesting observation of all comes from the largest category for firms and groups with 500 or more staff.

Leading the pack overall is OHSU, Oregon Health Sciences University. They have logged 90,750 points.

The second place firm, Daimler Trucks, has only 49,170. OHSU is lapping the field!

Unfortunately the Challenge doesn't report a per employee ratio in the summary standings, which might be interesting to compare in addition to raw totals. If you drill into the company profiles, you can see OHSU reports a 2.8% participation rate, but Daimler shows an 8% rate, and Daimler is a much smaller company. So there's that.

Anyway, down here in Salem, Garmin leads the way with 6% participating with Willamette closely behind at 4.4%

And the observation that seems most interesting is that Salem Hospital, who aligned with OHSU recently, doesn't seem to be participating in the Challenge, and bridging the differences in corporate culture on commuting and healthy living seems like a surprisingly big challenge. OHSU is a gold-rated Bicycle Friendly Business and has a very robust transportation options program. By comparison the Hospital is in the dark ages of Eisenhower-era autoism, still committed to building new, large parking lots and opposing an expansion of transit. The spirit of wellness at OHSU is supposed to be contagious!

There's also a lot of sets and subsets and supersets from entities, and so Garmin, Willamette University, and many State agencies have sliced things up in multiple ways, and if you're outside of each business, it's hard to know how best to look at the slices - but not in the end very important to understand.

200 - 499 Staff 

And hey look, it's a City of Salem sighting! Public Works is holding down second place and they've got a 1.4% participation.

It doesn't appear, however, that the City as a whole is participating, and while our new City Manager may have too much still on his plate this year, there is, it should be said, an opportunity to set an example for all City Staff and to make a stronger City commitment to this kind of Encouragement activity, starting at the top. (It's not too late!)

More interestingly, we should probably be talking a lot more about Corban University. They're out in the hinterlands in the former State TB hospital. (It's one of our best stories of repurposing a former State Institutional building, by the way!)

Friday, May 13, 2016

Twitter Q and A shows Double-Bind in Enforcement and Engineering

Scorching is still a problem sometimes,
but biking on the sidewalk per se is not illegal today.
(May 3rd, 1903)
Yesterday the Salem Police held a Q&A on twitter. Mostly these things are a nice, low-pressure environment in which to educate and be educated.

But as we think about "Traffic Safety Week," and "Bike Month" it's important that we're on the same page.

One of the answers yesterday didn't quite look right. There might not be enough information to make a definitive right-or-wrong ruling, but at the very least it is an over-simplification that in some instances could be misleading.

They asked:
True of false: You can ride your bike on the sidewalk even if a bike lane is available.
And said:
FALSE, you must use the bike lane when available.
I believe this is at least partially wrong.

While Oregon does have a mandatory sidepath law that requires you use the bike lane when you are on the street, there is no such requirement if you are on the sidewalk.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Public Art Commission goes for Alley Walk on Friday the 13th

Will it be a walk of shame, a walk of horrors, or just a plain walk?

On Friday the 13th the Public Art Commission will check out our alleys downtown.

Despite hopes from 1984,
it's not the "big box" ones that are thriving
They've long been a source of fascination and an attraction for improvement schemes. Back in 1984 the Salem Tomorrow plan made some proposals.

The City did act formally on the alleys just a few years after the report came out.

Salem downtown alley improvements from the mid-80s
But we still haven't fully leveraged that investment.

The most successful of public art installations on the downtown alleys are almost certainly the Grasshopper and Fly from 1988. They're at least the most charming. About them a person wrote, "I used to work across the street from the fly, but I never knew the story behind it or even the existence of the grasshopper." There's quite a mural on side of the alley opposite the Grasshopper, and still people don't travel the alleys or look around enough to notice them.

Grasshopper from 1988 - North side of Court St
between Liberty and High (Salemis and Sarah Evans)
The problem with the alleys isn't the amount of public art and decoration in or on them.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Bike Businesses in the News Underscore Weakness in Green Certification

Did you see the Sunday article about South Salem Cycleworks in the Business section of the paper? It doesn't seem to be online.

The piece is also in some ways advertorial for the County's "Earthwise" certification program:
Just the fact that bike shops promote bicycling is enough to call them "green."

But South Salem Cycleworks gives new meaning to the term "earth-friendly business" with the dozens of ways it recycles, reuses, and reduces its environmental footprint.

The business has been Earthwise certified since 2014, although owner Michael Wolfe has been making the environment a priority since the shop opened in 1991.
South Salem Cycleworks also won "Recycler of the Year" at the Green Awards in 2015, and you might recall a profile of Wolfe back in 2013, which also highlighted much of the greenery.

Northwest HUB "Green Service of the Year," 2016
This year at the Green Awards, another bike shop, the Northwest HUB, won "Green Service of the Year."

There's a substantial love for the bikes and those to provide and service them!

But the Salem Airport is also an Earthwise certified entity. And an airport ipso facto is profoundly harmful and not at all green.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

MPO to Consider Bridge Seismic Study, Other Projects for 2018-2023 Cycle

This is interesting news. Our Metropolitan Planning Organization's Technical Advisory Committee meets on Tuesday the 10th and the list of projects submitted during the pre-application phase for part of the 2018-2023 cycle of Federal funding has some good ones.

We're starting on the 2018-2023 TIP
Near the top of the list should be funding for planning the seismic retrofit of the Center Street Bridge.

There are several other worthy projects for better walking and biking that also deserve strong support, including a proposal to complete the Union Street Bikeway to the Esplanade.

After the preliminary vetting, the committee will forward a priority list to the Policy Committee for the final decisions.

Friday, May 6, 2016

City Council, May 9th - Traffic Safety Week

Council meets on Monday and the Mayor has a proclamation:
WHEREAS, the protection of Salem pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists is fundamentally important to the safety of our community; and,

WHEREAS, Motorists and bicyclists are required by Oregon law to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians crossing streets in marked and unmarked crosswalks, and are reminded when at a crosswalk, they must stop for pedestrians, and wait until the pedestrian clears the lane in which the vehicle is traveling or turning, plus the next lane, before proceeding; and,
But will our hydraulic
autoism and engineering
catch up to our words?
WHEREAS, Pedestrians are encouraged to be crosswalk smart-cross at designated crosswalks or intersections; stop and look left, right and left again before crossing; and watch for traffic as they cross the street; and,

WHEREAS, Motorists and bicyclists are required to share the roadway with one another and pedestrians, and utilize their vehicle turn signals or signal with their hands, to indicate their intentions as they drive and ride through the streets of our community; and are urged to stop and scan left, right, and left again for pedestrians before exiting driveways and alleys; and,
Be a traffic cone: "Wear bright and reflective clothing"
(via @rightlegpegged)
WHEREAS, Pedestrians and bicyclists are recommended to wear bright and reflective clothing or bracelets, carry a flashlight or other lighting devices to increase their visibility at night; and,

WHEREAS, Bicyclists and skateboarders under the age of 16 years are reminded Oregon law requires the use of safety helmets in any public street and sidewalk; and,

WHEREAS, Motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists are reminded to stay alert, and avoid distractions from cell phones or other mobile devices, and keep their eyes and ears on traffic.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Anna Peterson, Mayor of the City of Salem, do hereby proclaim the second week of May, 2016.


I ask all community members to join me in recognizing the importance of pedestrian, bicyclist and motorist safety. I urge community members to discuss traffic safety because increasing awareness is positive prevention toward keeping our community safe.
So it's great that there's this proclamation, it's not nothing, but "asking" and "urging" and "reminding" only go so far. The equality of "Salem pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists" sounds very democratic, but it's a false equivalence and misses asymmetry in speed, power, and lethality. Bright clothing in and of itself is not dumb, but our autoism that increasingly shames those who don't use it and thereby seeks to make it compulsory is victim-blamey and dumb. We have more than just a few bad actors; we have system problems.

For comparison, contrast the proclamation's tone with this from 1921, which does recognize the asymmetry:
It is conceded on all hands that a motor vehicle is a dangerous instrumentality, and that its operation upon a public highway must be attended with great caution and prudence, especially with reference to pedestrians, as a collision between a motor vehicle and a pedestrian would not endanger the vehicle but in all probability be destructive of the life or limbs of the pedestrian.
A proclamation is fine enough as "Encouragement," but it could also could be an announcement about new initiatives in "Engineering," "Enforcement," "Education," and "Evaluation." There's no funding here; it's all about good will.

You may see this as a half-full moment, but from here it looks more half-empty. Your mileage may vary, as they say.

For more see:
Also on the agenda there's some housing, rental assistance, and HUD stuff, and maybe over at CANDO, where they have been following housing and homelessness, they'll have more comment on that part.

Other than that, there's not a whole lot. In the administrative purchases is the annual renewal of the "red light enforcement program" with Redflix Traffic Systems for $175,000. There's also a bunch of engineering, design, and project management contracts for roads and bridges with "not to exceed" limits.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Jane Jacobs, Cherriots, CATC - Newsbits

Did you see yesterday's google doodle celebrating Jane Jacobs?

No high visibility clothing!
(photo credit unknown)
In so many ways we work in her shadow and in the light she also cast. In her opposition to Robert Moses and his plans for Manhattan expressways she is our patron saint in opposing the Salem River Crossing. Her thought is involved in the creation and institutionalization of neighborhood associations and in the modern planning profession.

Lots of news and commentary sites devoted one or more articles to covering her and her legacy (and some criticism, too). Hopefully you saw some of it. If not, she's definitely worth some research and reading. Her legacy and thought is far from being fully absorbed: It's a blend of conservatism and progressivism with an important element of libertarianism, and the whole evades easy categorization. It is rich, but too often gets stripped down and flattened out, even co-opted. City planners who today tout mixed-use developments might also elide the fact she was skeptical of top-down and master planning initiatives.

She will not be boxed in by our tired cliches!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

City Video on Bike Safety Joyless, still has too much Autoism

The pernicious spirit of high-viz and victim-blaming.
Is this really the vision for our streets?
In observation of Bike Month, the City and Police Department have put together a short video on bike safety. It's short and sweet and mostly it seems sound.

And yet...

To make my point, I am going to exaggerate bit. Probably you will want to dial back the criticism some. But the problems will still be there, I think.

What the video is not is a celebration of #BikeMonth and #BikeMore. It's not "yay bikes!" 

Instead it's bicycling is dangerous and a constant source of misbehavior and lawlessness. If you are going to undertake this dangerous enterprise, make sure you are blameless. It's a dumb thing to do, but if you're going to do it, here's some things to protect yourself.

It comes at bicycling from a seemingly benign perspective of a concern for safety that actually masks the real threat from cars. It recycles the "lawless cyclist" trope and privileges hydraulic autoism and frames people on bike as the disrupters of normal street functioning. They are a regrettable compromise - but if they behave, we can manage. It's scolding and treats lesser causes of death and mayhem as the main cause.

It leads with "the most important thing is to wear a helmet."

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

De-bricking the Brick: More Restoration at the Gray Building

I don't know if there's actually a rivalry now, but with the restoration of the McGilchrist and Roth building on the northeast corner of Liberty and State, the overbearing awning and ahistorical brick work on the Gray Building of 1891 on the northwest corner is looking increasingly dowdy. (If there is a little competition, who wants to argue?!)

The awning and brick looks to be removed
So it's great to see the Hearing Notice for what looks like a de-bricking of The Brick!

It's not a huge deal, but every time I look at it, that brick veneer on the corner and running along the lower wall where it meets the sidewalk is such a jarring moment against the small splendor of the older building. It's just wrong. A refresh and reset of the building facade will make a perceptible difference on the mood at that corner.

The demolition and restoration requires a "Major Historic Design Review" at the Historic Landmarks Commission. They'll be meeting the 19th about this.

On the surface, it sure looks like a slam-dunk, and hopefully there will be no complications.

(But then you have to wonder if The Brick restaurant and bar is also going get an update?)

As a footnote, it should also be noted that in the Hearing Notice, there are two historic photos. The reproduction in the Notice isn't very good, but one of them shows people biking downtown and again shows the mixed transportation ecosystem and lively sidewalks we used to have.

Two people biking downtown at State and Liberty

Monday, May 2, 2016

Fire Response Times and Land Use on the Edges

Emergency response times in Salem - via Kailuweit for Council
Here's an interesting post over on Jan Kailuweit's election page. He cites it as evidence we need to reopen fire stations and raise emergency staffing levels.
ALARMING GRAPHIC. The Salem Fire Dept. responded to 20,000 calls last year, mostly medical emergencies. But for many Salemites the average response time is over 6-8 min. If cardiac arrest patients receive help within 1-2 min. the survival rate is 90%, at 7 min. it is 30%. Let's support our firefighter and work toward reopening at least one of the two closed stations....

I believe Salem needs to add back the public safety positions that were cut during the recession. It’s not ok that parts of Salem have no adequate police coverage at times. This also means working towards re-opening the two closed fire stations.
But, you know, there's another way to read this evidence.

Development and growth on the car-dependent edges
(from the May EOA-HNA slide deck)
The "red zones" of slow response time overlap quite a bit with vacant, buildable land on the edges of our urban growth boundary. Are we sure we need to spend lots of scarce resources to improve service times on super-low-density edges?

Sunday, May 1, 2016

This May Day, Think about our Asphalt Socialism

Pedaling Revolution
Happy May Day!

And here's a seeming paradox for you.

A Transportation Revolution will not be Motorized! Revolutionary Forces will need to end our commitment to Asphalt Socialism and reintroduce Market Forces. While cars may look like a paragon of American individualism, in many ways they participate in a profoundly Soviet system.

"The Market" and deregulation too often introduces new problems, it's true. Transit deserves more subsidy, not less.  Just and effective markets need oversight in order to ensure they produce the outcomes we desire.

But right now our "transportation market" is all effed-up because it has too much invisible subsidy that has led to problematic outcomes. Free parking, underpriced gasoline, and our transfers from housing to road building all need to be curtailed and even to end.

Over at LoveSalem, they're teasing the May 17th showing of Bikes vs. Cars.

The 17th is the night of our election, unfortunately, so at the very least attention will be divided.

But the film deserves more attention and discussion than it is likely to get.

From the film's blurb:
BIKES vs CARS depicts a global crisis that we all deep down know we need to talk about: Climate, earth’s resources, cities where the entire surface is consumed by the car. An ever-growing, dirty, noisy traffic chaos. The bike is a great tool for change, but the powerful interests who gain from the private car invest billions each year on lobbying and advertising to protect their business. In the film we meet activists and thinkers who are fighting for better cities, who refuse to stop riding despite the increasing number killed in traffic.
I have mixed feelings about the frame of "bikes vs. cars" and the idea the people biking are so imperiled that they're quitting the bike left and right.

On the one hand, a century ago, there was a kind of war on non-car users, and car users won. There is a symmetry today in saying that there needs to be a war on cars, that there is a bikes vs. cars battle and that we'd be better off if cars lost. Car pollute, their geometric requirements rob cities of life, and they kill as many people as guns each year.

The former New York City Transportation Commissioner is also using the same basic trope of war or conflict in her new book, Streetfight.

It's an easy, common rhetorical move right now.

It seems, though, like it might move too far in a direction that minimizes conversation and debate, and focuses instead on fixed, entrenched positions. "Share the Road" has been found too irenic, but there's probably a middle position of negotiation more fruitful than fight or share.