Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Transit Advocacy, Climbing Traffic Counts, ODOT Criticism, Trees and the State Hospital - Newsbits

Tree Removal at the State Hospital

Over at SCV there's criticism of the City's decision to allow removal of a bunch of trees in tandem with the demolition work for the North Campus of the State Hospital.

People really seem to think that more of the current buildings should be saved.

But the way they are deployed on the campus is fundamentally inimical to good urban form.

Even if we converted all of them to low-income housing, which seems like a virtuous thing, the concentration and lack of circulation or connectivity with the street grid and sidewalks would almost certainly lead us to resent them.

Pruitt-Igoe housing project - via Wikipedia
The form of the buildings in Pruitt-Igoe and other similar projects totally rhymes with Eola Hall! They all retreat from the sidewalk and fail to promote good circulation and connections with the street grid.

Eola Hall on north campus of State Hospital
(via University of Oregon)
The Dome Building and Yaquina Hall are being saved, and we should embrace the opportunity to create a vibrant mixed-use project on the resulting "shovel-ready" canvas.

January 2014
It's true that the State has not been at all generous in collaborating with the City and its neighborhoods in developing a plan or a vision. There is a real risk that the outcome will be cookie-cutter particle board three-story walk-ups set on a lake of parking lot.

Typical Particle Board Three-Story Walk-up Apartment Block
But there's also a chance it would be an amazing mixed-use project with a mid-rise block, row houses, and neighborhood-scaled retail and commercial enterprise.

Changing Transit Advocacy

A couple of interesting notes in the transit world recently:

A couple of days ago the National Association of City Transportation Officials announced that New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority would be the first transit agency member. NACTO is a professional organization more urban in focus than more traditional and highway oriented groups like AASHTO. Expanding membership for transit is a big move and really cements their position as a "people-centered" mobility organization, one also that stresses streets rather than roads. (See the Strong Towns typology on the difference.)

On Thursday, Cherriots Rideshare will present their quarterly report to the Cherriot board, and they are rebranding. No longer "Rideshare," they will be known as "Trip Choice." It will be interesting to follow that evolution. New graphics!

This fits with the BTA's move to rebrand as the Street Trust and to include walking and transit in their mobility advocacy.


Here's a depressing graph that was circulating on the twitter recently:

via Twitter
It will be interesting to see what are the numbers on the Marion and Center Street Bridges.

This points to one of the weaknesses in what has become the principal part of the criticism of the Third Bridge: "We don't need it."

via Wall Street Journal
But if the plateau on VMT has ended and it is starting to increase again, and if robot cars "fuel suburban sprawl," then it may be that there is more driving, not less.

And then "we don't need it" won't be a very persuasive reason to oppose a Third Bridge. It will not be difficult for fans to say, "we need it after all."

The main reason to oppose a Third Bridge is because one would be harmful, not because it is a neutral thing or a beneficial thing that would just be superfluous or extravagant or too costly. Even a "free" Third Bridge would be a profound mistake at this point in Salem.

We need to be aggressively building for non-auto mobility, not for more cars. There is plenty of wasted capacity for car users. It's everybody else who is shorted.

More Criticism of ODOT

You may recall the kerfuffle earlier this month on the faulty selection process for an audit of ODOT.

A couple of recent pieces in the Oregonian have piled on:

The unfairly deposed former Chair of the OTC, Catherine Mater, an engineer herself, had this to say:

From where I sit, no more dire yet hidden issue for Oregonians exists than the poor conditions of our transportation infrastructure and its ability to function in time of disaster. When (not if) the subduction earthquake occurs, access to food and a potable water supply would be by air only — for months on end. Access to even the most basic medical facilities would be restricted for more than a year....

Having the Transportation Department direct its own audit to resolve credibility problems appears ludicrous. Having the agency select a contractor that has won prior agency projects is uniquely ill-advised. Yet this is precisely the type of internal "solution" the agency is both known for and, frankly, has been encouraged to continue either by affirmation from the highest levels or by lack of challenge from the commission — or both....

An audit needs to be conducted and managed by the governor's office independently of the agency and the governor's transportation advisor.
And former METRO Chair, David Bragdon, had more:
Oregon's transportation finance system fails because, by "formula," state government automatically siphons off roughly half the transportation taxes paid by Oregonians, even though the state government itself may or may not represent half the need for justifiable expenditures. This guaranteed allocation, like an annuity, creates a culture of entitlement impervious to executive branch or legislative branch oversight.

The Transportation Department gets half the tax money whether it builds projects with a good return on investment or builds projects with a bad return on investment — and whether it is inefficient or efficient. Meanwhile, city and county governments own four times the road mileage that the state government does and must make do with the funds left after the state serves itself. That's why you see city and county roads and bridges in disrepair even as state highways are being expanded. Priorities are inverted because formula rather than strategy allocates funds....

The state highway agency should be called what it is and right-sized, delegating local concerns to local control.

PBOT on a truly Multi-Modal Speed Zone Scheme

Here's an interesting thing to add.

The Portland Mercury has news that the City of Portland is supplicating ODOT to allow a modification to the way the ODOT assesses reductions in posted speed limits.
For the first time ever, Portland’s about to take pedestrians and cyclists into account when adjusting speed limits.

On August 16, PBOT pitched a proposal to the state’s Speed Zone Review Panel, a five-member body that has final say in whether speed limits on any road in the state can be changed.

For decades, the state has only analyzed automobile traffic patterns in making those calls. Now, PBOT is arguing that Portland should be looking at more than cars. The bureau is asking to pioneer a new system where it considers the entire road—including how much foot traffic there is, and how closely bikes and cars intermingle—when asking the state to set speeds.
You can see the PBOT application here. (The technical details of it didn't seem that interesting here.)

The Merc also referenced an ODOT pamphlet on speed zones.

Setting Speeds
From the pamphlet:
Speed zoning reflects a reasonable balance between the needs of drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists using public roads for travel and for those who live along these roads....

speed zones that are unrealistic are often disregarded by a majority of motorists who are normally careful and law-abiding drivers...

Recognizing that most motorists are generally safe, the speed at or below which 85 percent of the drivers travel is one nationally recognized factor proven by repeated studies as a fair and objective indication of safe and reasonable speeds.
A chunk of that verbage is outright false and autoist!

The "reasonable balance" is between the needs of drivers and the needs of drivers. There's no way the actual needs of pedestrians and bicyclists are given equal weight in any kind of balancing gesture.

Also interesting is the way autoists speeding are given a pass with compliance if the speed zone is "unrealistic." ("Twenty is Plenty"? Oh, that's "unrealistic.")

Finally, if the operation of a motor vehicle kills as many people as guns do each year, claims about "generally safe" are overstated.

Though it has a wash of bike- and pedestrian-friendly rhetoric, the pamphlet is thoroughly autoist.

Maybe PBOT can change things. It's insane that a State agency has so much power over local speeds on city streets.


Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

(Edit: Added note on PBOT Speed Zone application.)

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

City Observatory ties driving to gas prices:

More Driving, More Dying