Monday, September 12, 2016

Car Violence and Preliminary Project Rankings at the MPO

The Technical Advisory Committee for our Metropolitan Planning Organization meets tomorrow the 13th, and they will continue early-stage draft ranking of projects for the Federal 2018-2023 funding cycle. They'll also be talking about yearly safety targets.

Detail from preliminary scores and ranking
In the meeting packet is a preliminary ranking of the 17 candidate projects for the Federal STBGP-U and TA-U funds for the FY 2018-2023 TIP. The ranking is "for discussion purposes only" so it's important to regard it as an early-stage draft, subject to revision and not something formal yet.

Nevertheless, there are some odd things about it.

A part of the ranking is pictured above, and you'll see that funding for the seismic study of the Center Street Bridge is #2, and some members of the TAC ranked it as low as 7th, 8th, 9th, even 15th.

The highest ranking project is for Delany Road in Turner!

It seems impossible to envision anyone seriously claiming that extra funding for Delany Road is more important strategically and regionally than reinforcing the Center Street Bridge for the megaquake we know is coming. In what world is this an utterance that makes any sense?

But plainly for several members of the committee, it does seem to make sense.

So that's something interesting. A need for supplemental/completion funding appears to have bumped up a couple of projects in the overall rankings, preliminary as they are.

Here's the full ranking. There is a rule drawn between numbers 9 and 10, probably signifying the cut-off for funding on this list (a reordered list would have a line in a different place, since it is the sum of dollars, not project count, that is important).
  1. Supplemental Funding for Current Delaney Road Project Turner $56,100
  2. Center Street Bridge Seismic Retrofit Study ODOT/Salem $200,000
  3. 12th Street SE: Hoyt St. SE to Fairview Ave. SE Salem $700,000
  4. 45th Av : Silverton Rd to Ward Dr E Side Urban Upgrade Marion County $1,938,770
  5. River Road N. Traffic Signal Interconnect – Keizer Keizer/Salem $1,060,000
  6. Union Street NE Family Friendly Bikeway Salem $ 3,500,000 $1,500,000 $ 2,000,000
  7. Silverton @ Hollywood Traffic Signal & Turn Lane Marion County $868,700
  8. Hilfiker Ln SE at Commercial St SE Intersection and Signal Upgrade Salem $1,805,000
  9. Fixed Route Transit Bus Replacements SAMTD $4,234,927
  10. Verda Lane Bike/Ped improvements Keizer $2,730,000
  11. Hollywood Dr: Silverton Rd to Salem CL Urban Upgrade Marion County $2,496,335
  12. Keizer Growth Transportation Impacts Study Keizer $185,000
  13. Kuebler/Cordon Corridor Study and Management Plan Marion County $200,000
  14. Oregon Household Travel and Activity Survey for the SKATS area SKATS $350,000
  15. Lancaster Dr: Auburn to Center Urban Reconstr. Marion County $2,318,400
  16. McGilchrist Street SE – Complete Streets Project Salem $3,500,000
  17. Transit ITS Replacement and Upgrade SAMTD $2,145,000
It's interesting that there was a consensus on McGilchrist scoring so poorly.

Zooming out, in the big picture this seems like a reasonable list - it's not important for funding itself that the Center Street seismic study is second rather than first. Ditto for the Union Street bikeway. The only important thing is that they score highly enough to secure funding. Silver and Bronze medals count!

The decision will wind on for a bit. From a staff comment in May:
In November/December (specific date tbd), the Policy Committee (elected officials from the jurisdictions of SKATS) will review the TAC recommendations, make any changes they feel is needed, and ask MPO staff to release the draft 2018-2023 TIP for public review and comment. MPO staff will be preparing a public outreach plan for the draft TIP, following the guidelines in the SKATS Public Participation Plan. In February or March, MPO staff will summarize all the public comments for the TAC and Policy Committee to review, and will also schedule a public hearing. Following the public review process and public hearing, the Policy Committee will make their final decision on the projects to include in the FY2018-2023 TIP.
(Previous notes on the 2018-2023 cycle here.)

Car Violence, Safety, and "Fatality Targets"

Which trend line should we choose?
Statewide traffic death projections
There are a couple of interesting questions about the safety discussion on the agenda.
  • Will we treat the uncertainty and margins of error in projecting traffic violence and death any differently than we do when we are projecting vehicle miles traveled or bridge crossing trips? (Our modeling failed to predict the plateau starting in 2005 or so; and equally it has failed to predict the current uptick.)
  • It's great to have projections - but what will we actually do with them? How will they inform budgeting? Will we be serious about trying to reduce traffic violence?
From the memo:
The recent 2016 FHWA Final Rule on National Performance Management Measures established five safety performance measures for Federal-aid highway programs....

The safety targets that must be established by MPOs are:
1. Number of roadway fatalities;
2. Number of roadway serious injuries;
3. Roadway fatalities per vehicle miles traveled (i.e., fatality rate);
4. Roadway serious injuries per vehicle miles traveled (i.e., serious injury rate); and
5. Combined number of non-motorized fatalities and non-motorized serious injuries.

FHWA requires States to report their safety performance targets each year when they submit the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP)....Starting in 2020, FHWA will be making determinations whether a State has met or made significant progress toward meeting their 2014-2018 targets. This cycle of setting and submitting targets for States and MPOs – and of FHWA making assessment of progress--repeats each year.

States will have to demonstrate progress toward meeting the targets in the appropriate annual reports. For safety, progress is made when four of five targets are met or performance is better than the prior year. If targets are not met or progress is not made, states will be required to spend all of the HSIP funds only for highway safety improvement projects and submit an HSIP implementation plan.

The Federal rule also requires MPOs to establish performance targets....

Nationwide, there has been an increase in the number and rate of traffic fatalities in 2015 and 2016. The National Safety Council (NSC) recently estimated that motor vehicle fatalities rose 9 percent in the first six months of 2016 compared to 2015, and 18 percent compared to 2014. At this rate, 2016 is shaping up to be the deadliest year for driving since 2007. Staff has been keeping track of the fatalities within SKATS as they occur (newspapers, etc.) and have noted that the number of SKATS fatalities for 2015 and 2016 have also increased, consistent with the national trend.

MPOs are given the flexibility to either support the state HSIP target or establish their own target for all of the performance measures or any combination of the two approaches. The next step is for the TAC to have a discussion and to provide guidance as to which direction the MPO should proceed....
One thing that might be good for safety is to send traffic planners and road engineers out as part of the crash investigation team when there is a fatality.

We say "troubling"
but really, how troubled are we?
We try to normalize traffic violence by saying it is mainly the result of bad actors and that it arises as an "accident," an incidence of randomness, unpredictable. The more neutral language of "crash" is becoming more widely adopted, it's true, but the logic of crash prevention still lags.

There's a whole autoist system of 85th percent speed, too-high design speed, contempt for jaywalking, car marketing with skids and cookies, inadequate continuing education and licensing - we have an large autoist system that tolerates a baseline level of death and car violence, and which makes car violence statistically more probable.

We may not be able to predict any individual instance of car violence, but we certainly know some things about what makes car violence more likely.

Moreover, all these tables and charts partially erase the fact that loved ones perished unnecessarily. The data is important, but it is also distancing, and we should stop fleeing the grief and loss: The objective analysis tries to scrub it, to make it untroubling. But our analytical moves should also to be in the opposite direction, to remember how profoundly troubling it is for those who face the loss. The costs of our system should be clearer, not obfuscated by the tables and charts.

The analysis has to be bifocal, of course, since making the narrative of a single death, or even a group of deaths, emblematic of the whole pattern and system is problematic in its own way.

We need to be able to see clusters and patterning in the aggregate data, and that means effacing the stories of individuals in that view.

But we cannot make this the only view, and lose the fact that most of these deaths were preventable, and that families and friends suffered tremendous loss, and that our current approaches enforce a certain callous disregard for the loss.

Killed in 2016:
Look for the historic sign
next to the entry
Killed in 2015:
SKATS Technical Advisory Committee meets Tuesday the 13th at 1:30pm. SKATS is at 100 High St. SE, Suite 200, above Andaluz Kitchen and Table Five 08.

Postscript, September 16th

BikePortland posted the whole pdf and has a story about the draft Portland Vision Zero plan. In it is a graphic that names the dead as well as a diagram of a "dangerous street," the general nature of which should be quite familiar to Salemites.

The dead are named, not just numbers and stats
"Anatomy of a Dangerous Street":
Our stroads like Wallace, Commercial, Lancaster!

1 comment:

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Updated with a couple of graphics from the draft Portland Vision Zero Plan.