Monday, October 31, 2016

November 3rd Meetings: MWACT, Granny Flats, Grant Neighborhood

Thursday brings three meetings of some significance. Our Area Commission on Transportation, the City's committee on granny flats, and the Grant Neighborhood all meet.

MWACT - Area Commission on Transportation

Five Crossing Safety Projects
Final project estimate at $566,220
Our local Area Commission on Transportation, known variously as MWACT and MWVACT, meets on Thursday the 3rd, and a couple of items are interesting to note. (Agenda and packet here.)

Our region's final recommendation list (detail)
On the Enhance Non-Highway funding cycle for 2018-2021, both the County Hayesville bike lanes and sidewalks and the Salem crossing projects made the final cut. Absent an unpredictable melt-down, they're in the bag and they will be funded. (For previous notes and more details, see posts here.)

Friday, October 28, 2016

Lansing-NESCA Neighborhood Plan: Biking and Walking on Election Night

Neglected here in the hullaballoo over the proposed Urban Growth Boundary Expansion for the Salem River Crossing, the project for a new Lansing-NESCA Neighborhood Plan is in the midst of an interesting phase on transportation.

Earlier this month, they talked about buses and cars in the neighborhood.

Anatomy of streets - Buses and Cars Presentation

The presentation moved nicely in the direction of plain language - "buses and cars" - and offered a small primer on some of the jargon and essential concepts the City uses in transportation planning.

So in addition to being useful for the neighborhood iteself, it has some value as a general resource. So check it out!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

More Demolitions: General Hospital and Edgewater Cafe

Salem General Hospital - Maternity Unit, 1980s
(Salem Library Historic Photos)
In addition to the Belluschi Bank, the City has a couple of other interesting demolition permits in the queue.

The Hospital must be getting the old General Hospital property ready for sale and redevelopment, probably hoping to piggy-back on the North Campus at the State Hospital. They have demolition permits lined up for the former Hospital and Rehab building, the former Maternity Ward, and a third building right under the cemetery.

General Hospital buildings to be demolished
(Dome Building at State Hospital on right for context)
Permits were issued on the 11th, and it seems unlikely they'll linger unexecuted. Maybe you will feel otherwise, but they buildings don't seem to have much in the way of historic value; and even though the Maternity Ward looks like it might be in decent enough shape to reuse, it still might be too costly to reconfigure for residences or anything useful.

Even if they were in great shape, as with the North Campus the buildings are set on the interior of a campus too far from the streets, and they don't make sense as urban forms.

From here it is interesting to register the demolition, but not something to fret over.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Third Try's the Charm: Demolishing the Belluschi Bank

Pietro Belluschi's 1946-8 First National Bank:
Demolition permit issued September 1st
It looks this time it's gonna happen. (Or perhaps it's already started? I haven't been by lately, but I haven't seen anything on social media either.)

On September 1st, the City issued a demolition permit for the First National Bank building at 280 Liberty St NE designed by Pietro Belluschi.

It and the building next door (260 Liberty) sold for $1,775,000 and the sale looks like it closed on August 31st.

So they didn't waste any time on the demolition permit!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Origin of the 8% Reduction is a Rhetorical Sleight of Hand!

One of the enduring mysteries about the SRC is how they managed to ratify formally their analysis that walking, biking, busing and carpooling were together utterly helpless to make a dent in river crossing traffic. It has seemed like a bit of magic and sleight of hand.

Buried in the flurry of new materials posted by the SRC team after the Public Hearing is a memo that I don't think was ever published to the SRC website as something made public to the Task Force of the Oversight Team. It is the foundation for the argument that walk/bike/bus/carpool kinds of things won't make a dent in river crossing traffic. But it's not a very strong foundation, and is really a house of cards.

At that foundation is an explicit shift on, and misleading recharacterization of, a preliminary sketch of analysis that was transformed by rhetoric only, without any additional analysis, into a set of firm conclusions. It also begged the question. A truthy claim morphed into a truth claim! (Most of the memos discussed here are collected in the packet entered into the record as "Alternatives Considered but Dismissed (Revised 08-25-10).")

From "Preliminary" Conclusion to Certainty

Back in 2007 the SRC published a "preliminary" study on walk/bike/bus/carpool things. (Here's a note on it from 2008, and one from 2012.)

From "TSM/TDM (Transit and Roadway Efficiency) Concept - Analysis and Results" (August 15, 2007):
The analysis described in this memo is preliminary and is intended to represent conceptual recommendations as to which TSM/TDM elements appear to have the most influence on travel behavior, to help inform the decision on range of alternatives for the project. The memo is not intended to make policy recommendations such as whether or not user fees, or what type, should be used. Also, while the travel model itself is a valid tool for planning purposes, the assumptions used in any given scenario are subject to discussion. Further refinement of the scenarios described in the memo will be required prior to detailed implementation of any of the concepts discussed. [italics added]

Monday, October 24, 2016

Is the SRC Stripping out Their Website?

Just a brief note...the SRC website is either crashing, they're gutting it and removing documents from public access, or just changing things up in an untimely way. The home page is still up, so it looks like it could be gutting, alas. Most (perhaps all) of the pages linked from the home page generate a 404 error like this one for the DEIS.

That would be a full whiskey tango foxtrot.

Avoiding Greenhouse Gas Targets at the MPO

Our local Metropolitan Planning Organization meets on Tuesday the 25th. While there are no significant action items on the agenda it seems, the minutes from last month might be worth some notice.

September Minutes

Greenhouse gas target rule update - "Don't tell me what to do!"

September's Keeling Curve - CO2 earth

CO2 effects known in 1912
"we've been talking about climate change for a long time"
It's hard to know what to say about the ideological conflict here. We have climate change denialists fighting a rear-guard action to baffle and blunt any effort for change.

Our MPO right now "favors the [greenhouse gas] targets for each MPO being set as low as possible...[and fears that the State will] require that the transportation plans must include land use planning/global warming measures prior to being approved by the state." [italics added] That regulatory oversight is kinda the point. The libertarian, small-government urge here isn't about finding ways to do things better than burdensome State or Federal regulations might seem to require; it is instead about flouting and avoiding altogether. It's about business as usual and the ease of doing nothing.  It's not freedom-for, it's freedom-from.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Greenwashing the SRC? Air Quality/Emissions and Energy Analyses may not Match

About the just-completed grape harvest, Chehalem Wines writes:
Our 2016 Harvest began before September, the first time ever on August 30th, and ended one month later, September 30th , never touching October for the first time ever! With this vintage showing earliest-ever Budbreak and earliest-ever Harvest timing and with almost non-existent rain, this could be California! However, it wasn’t all Baja-Oregon in nature, since the heat didn’t bake things as searingly as the last three years....
Note the "first time ever" and "earliest-ever" bits.

Even though the fall so far has been crappy and wet, because the nights haven't cooled off October has still been much warmer than usual here.

October has been 3 degrees warmer than average
via Accuweather
You might have seen this chart floating around, which projects the year-end temperature average based on the January to September temperatures recorded so far. It looks pretty linear, and make it clear that 2016 will be the new warmest year.

It is tiresome to repeat, but also urgent to repeat. We are warming. And the rate of change appears to be increasing.

So it is especially frustrating to read in the latest round of SRC memos an additional note on "Energy Impacts."

Friday, October 21, 2016

ODOT Memo on Highway Plan Policy 1G seems Shallow

Now that the initial comment period has closed, the SRC team is posting a flurry of responses and documents. One of the interesting ones is titled "Salem River Crossing - Oregon Highway Plan Policy 1G - Major Improvements." In it, ODOT claims that
Based on the attached information, it is ODOT's opinion that the Salem River Crossing Project has met the requirements of, and is consistent with, the OHP Major Improvements Policy and Action 1G.1.
So let's look at their case. (The memo is italicized and indented here: Bold italics are in original, regular italics are added. Roman type is commentary and not in the memo.)

As part of the introductory material they write:
Action 1G.1
Use the following priorities for developing corridor plans, transportation system plans, the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, and project plans to respond to highway needs. Implement higher priority measures first unless a lower priority measures is clearly more cost effective or unless it clearly better supports safety, growth management, or other livability and economic viability considerations. Plans must document the findings which support using lower priority measures before higher priority measures.
It seems to me that analysis ODOT offers to support these claims is generally weak and largely not supported:

City Council, October 24th - 245 Court Street

Council meets on Monday, and the Urban Renewal Agency has a one-item agenda, to confirm an Urban Renewal grant for the 245 Court Street project.

Preliminary Concept for 245 Court Street
(Notes added) - via CB|Two
So there's lots to be cranky about right now at the City. But here's some good news.

The Urban Renewal Agency looks to sign off on "$740,000 in Riverfront-Downtown Urban Renewal Area grant funds to partially fund construction costs for a to-be-built 43,000 square foot mixed-use commercial building at 245 Court Street."

Especially in comparison with the Rivers Condos just across Court Street, there's a lot to like about this project:
  • Choices about how to greet the sidewalk are right! The storefronts face Court Street rather than Front Street. The facade at the Front Street sidewalk will mostly be screening for some covered parking tucked under the building. If you have to sacrifice one of the sides to the parking garage, the Front Street side is the right one.
  • There's also a small plaza between the two buildings.
  • The existing Safeway will be modified, basically cut in half for modern storefronts, and not completely demolished.
  • Parking will be accessed off the alley and be screened from the sidewalks by buildings.
Basically this is all you could ask for. (Except for the unrealistic wish for no parking at all!)

And, considering that the City approved a $750,000 grant for a Nursing Home at the Boise site (see below for final approvals on site plan), this is also a better targeting of urban renewal subsidy.

It'll be interesting to learn about any substantive complaints or criticism. Mostly it looks like exactly the kind of project that will enhance downtown.

Pioneer Trust Bank: Mid-rise perfectly scaled here
The 245 Court will be to the same scale
The project is still in a preliminary phase, so there may yet be changes before final approvals. (Previous note here.)

Other Notes
Postscript, Nov 3rd

CANDO transcribed the Mayor's skepticism at Council of the little plaza and what looks like a vision of downtown that is a playground for the wealthy:
At last night's meeting of the Urban Renewal agency, CB2 Architects presented their design plans for a cool new "mixed use" development on the corners of Front and Court Street that will use urban renewal funds and bring 40 units of 1 and 2 bedroom rental housing to downtown. (CANDO officially endorsed this project at its last meeting.) The response was nothing short of enthusiastic, except the Mayor had a concern:
I notice that a landscaped plaza is planned for the open area between the two structures and will provide both private and public open space? Well, being one of the Chairs of the Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative and dealing with so many of the issues of the homeless in downtown, and the many vagrancy problems that we are facing, I'm concerned about any amount of public space...I'm sure you don't want to build it like a fortress with gates and walls, but as a downtown resident, there are moments when I feel like I would like to live behind gates and walls. It's just a reality of the environment that we have downtown.
It seems the Mayor "just wanted to be certain that we weren't imposing upon you a responsibility to provide public space in order to receive grant funds." In response CB2 said, "We have not put any thought into how we are going to control the homeless people."

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

McLane Island probably named after John Burch McClane - also Rev. Obed!

For someone with a pretty straight-forward name in English, John Burch McClane's name sure isn't very stable! I've seen Mclain, McClane, M'Clane, McLane; Birch and Burch; and J. B. in addition to all the combinations of John, Birch, and McLane. (I think we're just missing the variations with Mac-!)

So what shall we settle on?

January 21st, 1892 (that 26th is wrong!)
The obituaries agree on John Burch McClane, so that's what we'll use.

The "Island" isn't very Stable either!

An exact citation to prove that our particular McLane Island is named after him remains elusive, so it may not be possible to state that with 100% certainty - but it seems pretty clear, so we'll go with it for the moment. An "island" is associated with him and has been for a while. In addition to giving McLane Island its name, then, he was an important figure in early Salem history.

The island as we know it also looks like it may be a 20th century creation, possibly an artifact of dredging, channelization, and changed stream flows more than a product changes wrought by flooding. But this remains obscure and uncertain. (Somewhere there must be more documentation! We may circle around this in another post or two.)

Chitwood Bar came off Mill Creek in 1915

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

It's Bike Week at Strong Towns - and a Bike Boulevard Update!

This is pretty great. Strong Towns is devoting the week to bicycling.

They write
As a young engineer, I remember attending a seminar that had a brief section on complete streets and traffic calming. I remember being annoyed. I remember thinking it was a waste of my time. I design streets for cars. Bikes are recreation and they belong on trails....

Join us for Bike Week at Strong Towns, as we examine the highest returning investment a city can make: making it easier for people to bike.
That narrative arc from "bikes belong on trails" to "bicycling is the highest returning investment" is a useful one!

It will also be helpful that some - or perhaps most of it - will be written from the standpoint of people who find bicycling as an incredibly useful and efficient urban mobility tool, but who do not also self-identify as "cyclists." That is, they are ordinary people for whom bicycling is a tool, but not the only tool or the primary tool, in the transportation toolkit. It will be written from the "interested but concerned" perspective more than the "experienced and confident" one.

MassDOT Separated Bike Lane Guide
So far they've got:
Check it out!

Winter-Maple Bike Boulevard Project

The Salem Bike Boulevard Advocates sent out a note with an update and the Advisory Committee for the Winter-Maple project:
The planning process for Salem’s first constructed bike boulevard continues. The City of Salem has signed an Intergovernmental Agreement with the Oregon Department of Transportation outlining the work, traffic counts and data compilation have begun, and October brings the first meeting of the Maple/Winter Family Friendly Bikeway Project Advisory Team. Team members include:
Geoff Darling, Chairman, Highland NA
Eric Bradfield, Co-Chair, Grant NA
Sam Skillern, Co-Chair, Grant NA
Bruce Hoffman, Chair, CAN-DO
Angela Obery, Salem Bike Boulevard Advocates
Eric Cardella, Boys & Girls Club
Kirk Seyfert, Northwest Hub Bike Shop
Tim France, Director of Operations, Salem Alliance
Anthony Gamallo, Tansportation Planner, Salem
Julie Warnke, Transportation Planning Manager, Salem
Scott Mansur, Transportation Engineer, DKS Associates
Lacy Brown, Transportation Safety Engineer, DKS
Jessica Zdeb, Transportation Planner, Toole Design Grp
DKS is a familiar face on Salem Transportation projects: They did the Commercial-Vista Corridor Project and are doing the OR-22/Mission Street project underway now. But Toole Design has not been active recently here. Alta has done most of that kind of work. (They were involved in Bike and Walk Salem and in the Cherriots RideShare Plan.) The graphic above from Massachusetts is one by the Toole Group, and they have been more visible lately on some national projects. So that will be interesting to see if there is a difference in perspective or anything meaningfully apparent from the outside.

It's great also to see Salem Alliance Church involved. They generate a lot of traffic in the neighborhood, especially on weekends, and it has often seemed like asking people to try out a once a week commute by bike for worship might be easier than asking for a weekday work commute by bike. They also operate Broadway Commons, which stands out as a great moment in Salem's urban redevelopment. The Church's engagement could be something interesting to see develop!

Finally, getting the neighborhoods fully on board will be important as a strong bikeway will call for some auto diversion and calming, and if it turns out to be too difficult to prioritize biking and walking in meaningful ways on the streets, the bikeway will be less successful and less broadly useful. There will need to be trade-offs, and those will be political, not technical, problems.

ODOT Working on Public Transit Plan - Meeting Today

ODOT is working on another statewide plan, this time for transit:
The Oregon Public Transportation Plan is one of several statewide transportation mode and topic plans that refine, apply, and implement the Oregon Transportation Plan (OTP).

1997 Oregon Public Transportation Plan (OPTP) (PDF)

OPTP development, guided by stakeholders, is expected to take about two years from when a diverse Policy Advisory Committee (PAC) began its work in April 2016. See the OPTP Development General Timeline (PDF) for details. In addition to the PAC, a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) will participate in the OPTP development to advise ODOT on specific topics.

ODOT’s work began with research on existing conditions and possible plan topics. ODOT conducted interviews with a sample of stakeholders from around the state regarding what may need to be considered in the plan. These stakeholders' initial advice is captured in the OPTP Summary of Stakeholder Interviews (PDF).

ODOT’s research on current conditions and opportunities for public transportation included a survey of public transportation providers and a workshop at the 2015 Oregon Public Transportation Conference, See the summary of themes and ideas from the survey and workshop for what was learned. Survey results can be seen in the OPTP Workshop and Provider Survey Summary (PDF).
They're holding an Open House today at the Chemeketa Center for Business and Industry at 1pm. It's probably too late for that, but there's also an online version (from which the slide above is taken).

The fact that public transportation is not an "integral, interconnected component" and that we have to push that out for another 20 years - well, that tells you a lot about where the project is. It would be great to have a lot more urgency and funding behind it.

The meeting is October 18th, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Chemeketa Center for Business and Industry, 626 High Street.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Two Interpretive Questions: Goal 1 for Part or Whole? What does Implement Mean?

In looking more closely at the Findings Report for the SRC actions, two centers of interpretation jump out.

One is whether Goal 1 on Citizen Involvement refers severally and individually to the parts of a process or whether it refers principally to the totality of a process.

The other involves several policies and requires a determination on what the word "implement" means.

Maybe these are grasping at straws and, especially in compressed time frames, it is difficult for interested citizens to discern marginal side issues from central key issues.

But it seems like an awful lot of the case for the UGB expansion right now depends on a particular interpretation of each of these. If those interpretations are wrong, then it does not seem difficult at all to say delay or even a halt is necessary.

On Goal 1 for Citizen Involvement

In the blizzard of documents the SRC team has posted to the City website, one of the most important is the Findings Report. As I understand it, this is most of the formal legal and technical argument to justify the UGB and TSP actions.So it is worth a closer reading. In fact, it may be the most important document to read, as one important avenue for criticism is to contest directly the claims that are made in it.

That right there should be a prima facie case that there must be reasonable time for citizens to read and analyze the document. Citizens need to have time to absorb and respond to it.

Interestingly, its analysis of Statewide Planning Goal 1 wholly avoids this question, and instead focuses on the entirety of the 10 year process. The analysis trades on a slippery notion that the information has been out there for a very long time!

The NEPA process has been 10 years long!

We mailed notice to people
and created a website!

There is a long history of public involvement!
Even though there's nearly three pages of text here, I see it boiling down to this:
Generally, Goal 1 is satisfied when a local government follows the public involvement procedures set out in its acknowledged comprehensive plan and land use regulations. Outreach and citizen involvement have been a central part of the NEPA environmental process for the SRC project for about ten years....

In summary, there has been a long history of public involvement in the NEPA process for the SRC Project....
The question comes down to other rulings and case law I guess. What does "planning process" refer to in this phrase: "Goal 1: Citizen Involvement - To develop a citizen involvement program that insures the opportunity for citizens to be involved in all phases of the planning process."

If it only or mainly refers to the totality, then sure, the NEPA process has been a decade long. That's true. And the recitation of the "long history of public involvement" may satisfy the requirements.

But if it refers to the specific land-use matter at hand, the proposed UGB expansion and TSP amendments, then the process has been very compressed by design and lacks a "long history of public involvement."

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Mostly-Ignored High Level Consensus to Reduce Drive-alone Trips

In the Oregon Highway Plan, the Salem Area Comprehensive Plan, and the Administrative Rules implementing the Statewide Planning Goals, there is a broad consensus that we should decrease reliance on drive-alone trips and we should improve efficiency before building new capacity. The consensus is clear, it's in plain English, and it is easy to understand.

Yet we do not have practical norms, cultural and political, built around these policies. We flout them routinely as if they did not exist. If we deign to pay them lip service, we offer excuses about why they are not realistic yet and we cannot actually implement them. It shouldn't be this difficult, but it is.

In the Staff Reports and supporting analyses, there are thousands of pages written, thousands of people-hours laboring at the keyboard, all to evade or deny the truths of these policies. The analytical apparatus is designed not to resolve the contradictions but to hide them.

Our autoism creates and reinforces a real blind spot. The SRC is a prime expression of this.

The Consensus: Three High Level Policies for Reducing Drive-Alone Trips

Oregon Highway Plan Policy 1G

Improve efficiency before adding capacity
(Oregon Highway Plan, Policy 1G)

Friday, October 14, 2016

Archaeology Addendum shows Overlay with 1852 and 1861 Maps

Cuz we're all hunkered down for the storms, here's a (relatively) unpolemic note on history and floods.

In the Archaeological Resources Technical Report Addendum Summary there is this great set of overlays with the footprint of the Preferred Alternative's alignment and two historic maps from right around statehood, one from 1852, the other from 1861.*

1861 and 1852 survey maps with an SRC and modern overlay
(if the caption reads left to right, the dates are switched!)
McLane Island appears in the 1852 map (r), but not the 1861 map (l). (It is at least a possibility that McLane Island is not a stable geographical feature, and that pre-settlement flooding would have regularly altered it as a seasonal gravel bar.)

Short DLCD Comments Argue for Incompleteness in SRC Case

I found the second set of comments from DLCD a little disappointing. I was expecting a longer, more detailed critique, a fisking really. But instead of addressing errors, they mostly keyed in on a set of lacunae. It was structured around a notional remand more than anything else.

From the letter (bold italics are in original, regular italics are added):
Goal 12 and Transportation Planning Rules
Goal 12 and the Transportation Planning Rules (OAR chapter 660, division 12) apply to the Salem TSP and UGB amendments, so the comments below apply to both of these actions.

Transportation Need
The findings for transportation need address some of the elements of Oregon Administrative Rules (OAR) 660-012-0030, but the findings are missing some key references.

OAR 660-012-0030(1) requires that the “TSP shall identify transportation needs ... including: (a) State, regional, and local transportation needs.” OAR 660-012-0015(3) requires that local TSPs must be “consistent with regional TSPs and adopted elements of the state TSP.” The findings (Section, page 80) note that the Oregon Highway Plan (OHP) does not identify a need for an improved Willamette River crossing in Salem. The findings include projections of future traffic volumes that would exceed the mobility targets adopted in the Policy 1F of the OHP. In response, the findings say that the “The State proposes to adopt Alternative Mobility Targets.” This implies that consistency with the state plan will be achieved by amending the standards within the OHP, rather than by adding a project to the state plans.

The findings in this section do not include OHP Policy 1G, which calls for improving the efficiency of, or adding capacity to, the existing highway system before adding new facilities. The findings include a cross-reference stating that “consistency with statewide transportation plans is provided in Section 4.2.4.” State transportation plans are actually addressed in Section 4.2.5 (page 168). OHP Policy 1G is included in Section (page 172); however, this section does not contain any findings, and points back to “Section 3.X .” With this circular cross-reference, the findings do not address Policy 1G....

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Driver Strikes and Kills Person Bicycling on Shaff Road near Stayton - Updated

Shaff Road, site of fatal crash this morning
via Marion County Sheriff
From the Marion County Sheriff:
Around 6:30 a.m., this morning, deputies with the Marion County Sheriff's Office were called to a vehicle versus bicyclist crash on Shaff Road SE near Rainwater Road SE near Stayton. When deputies arrived they found a single vehicle had struck a bicyclist killing the cyclist instantly.

Early indications show that the cyclist [Charles Michael Phillips] was traveling east on Shaff Road when an eastbound minivan [Wendy Jordan] struck the bicycle. The area the crash took place has very little shoulder and no lighting. At the time of the crash it was dark, rainy and the cyclist was wearing dark clothing and no light on the bicycle.

The driver of the vehicle remained on the scene and is cooperating with investigators. Identities of the involved will be released once the appropriate notifications have been made. Shaff Road was closed for 2 hours while investigators processed the scene, Shaff Road has now reopened for regular traffic. [map link added]
Let's talk about the asymmetry.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Climate Change Talk Wednesday Conflicts with UGB Hearing on SRC

In an odd instance of scheduling, a little bit of inversion of the "think globally, act locally" credo, Willamette University Sustainability Institute and Chemeketa Community College are sponsoring a talk about climate change and equity at the very same time as the Public Hearing for the proposed expansion of the Urban Growth Boundary for the Salem River Crossing.

On any other day, a talk titled "Achieving Climate Equity through Institutional Change" could be very interesting.

Draft EIS, Chapter 3.4
on Environmental Justice
But there are very real questions about Equity and Environmental Justice posed by the Preferred Alternative, and the latest Energy assessment says it will consume the energy equivalent of 20 million gallons of gas to construct and then every year drivers will consume the equivalent of about 4 million gallons of gas MORE than they would under the No Build conditions.

So the SRC is also very bad for greenhouse gas emissions, and stopping it seems like a worthy goal for local advocates working on climate change and environmental justice.

The scheduling seems just a little strange, then, though you can't always choose when speakers are available, etc., etc.

The talk will be at 6:30pm on the WU Campus, in Ford Hall, Room: 102, the Kremer Board Room.

The next night, Thursday the 13th, there is a panel discussion on local advocacy:
Hear from representatives of five local and statewide groups making a difference, and how you can get involved. The panel will be moderated by WU Economics Professor Emeritus Russ Beaton. Speakers include:
  • Gregory Monahan, PhD Chair, Beyond Gas and Oil Team Oregon Sierra Club
  • Laurie Dougherty Co-Coordinator Salem
  • Tamara Staton Regional Coordinator for the Greater Pacific Northwest Citizens Climate Lobby
  • Shilpa Joshi Organizing Director Renew Oregon
  • Nic Shipley President Students for Divestment at Willamette University
It will also be at 6:30pm on the WU Campus in Ford Hall, Room: 122, the Film Studies Auditorium.

Ford Hall is the copper-clad new building next to Gatke Hall (the old Post Office) and across from the Supreme Court building on State Street.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Cherriots to Reconsider SRC; Notes on Lansing-NESCA, OR-22-Mission Street

N3B reported last week that Cherriots' Board voted unanimously to
oppose the City of Salem’s current land use action to expand the city’s Urban Growth Boundary and amend the Transportation System Plan and to authorize Director [Kathy] Lincoln at the October 12th Joint Public Hearing on behalf of the Board of Directors.
Apparently they are being urged (or pressured) to reconsider.

Bolted onto a Work Session for Monday the 10th is a Special Meeting to reconsider the position. (Agenda and meeting packet here.)

From the GM's Staff Report:
This action was taken based, in part, for the following reasons:

• The City was rushing the action when technical reports are not complete to review on the Salem Alternative;
• Jurisdiction of the bridge has not been determined;
• The Salem River Crossing (SRC) Oversight Committee should have been reconvened to discuss the proposed action. This resulted in the Transit District not being included in the conversation.

Since the Board’s action, the City of Salem published the October 12th public hearing notice on September 22; and on September 29, twelve (12) report addenda and summaries were posted on the City’s website.

In addition , the Board received feedback from other members of the SRC and the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce requesting they reconsider their action. As a result, President Krebs called for a special meeting of the Board to discuss this situation and consider whether or not the action should be rescinded, modified, or left as is.
The three bullet points seem pretty well founded, so there's no real reason for Cherriots to back down. The rushing is even worse than what is portrayed in the Staff Report: The set of memos from September 29th were all deleted, replaced, shuffled, and augmented in the blizzard.

Something they might consider also is that they do have leverage at SKATS-PC, which requires a unanimous vote "by consensus." One of the members of SKATS-PC routinely complains about walking, biking, and transit projects, and frequently enough leaves the room in order to avoid an abstention or a vote against. While this is a kind of "playing along" it's also a power move and represents a threat: Fellow SKATS-PC members as well as staff are on notice that there might come a time when the negative vote will actually be cast, halting a project, and so this has a chilling effect. This promotes reduced ambition for walking, biking, and transit projects. Cherriots could be more assertive about potentially voting against projects that are excessively autoist. Autoist interests may be taking advantage of the politeness of others.

Cherriots' position on the proposed Urban Growth Boundary is one such moment when they might usefully speak out against excessive autoism.

Moreover, since the Chamber has done them no favors, it is an open question what favors they owe the Chamber. (Update - See below for great news on their testimony!)

Memo on Alternate Modes Study, Pt 2 - TDM Badly Underfunded

For the full introduction and part 1, see here.

Moving over to the "Transportation Demand Management" side of the Alternate Modes Study, the overwhelming impression is a set of projects marginalized and underfunded. Most of the programming is solidly "alternate," secondary in most every way, and rarely represents a serious attempt to accomplish something substantial. It's fiddling on the edges in a way that is mostly for show; institutionally as expressed in budgets and FTE there is not enough care whether something actually succeeds. Programming is not actually being positioned for success.
Transportation Demand Management (TDM)

The TDM recommendations are divided into two broad groups, TDM Implementation Strategies and TDM Concepts. The TDM Concepts are further divided into five categories, with some overlap: (1) Multi-Modal Concepts, (2) Bicycle/Pedestrian Specific Concepts, (3) Transit Specific Concepts, (4) Parking Specific Concepts, and (5) Carpool/Vanpool Specific Concepts. Cherriots Rideshare serves as the lead organization for TDM in the Salem area.

TDM Implementation Strategies

There has been some progress on advancing three of the four implementation strategies identified in the Alternate Modes Study.
  • Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator: The City added an additional transportation planner position in 2011, thereby doubling the staff devoted to transportation planning. Both transportation planners cover all aspects of transportation planning. The new transportation planner has taken the lead on managing bike parking and implementing bicycle destination signing, among other responsibilities.
"Both transportation planners cover all aspects of transportation planning." This is not a dedicated Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator yet. The FTE added in 2011 is nice and all, but there is not a dedicated advocate inside the City for walking and biking. We try not to get personal here, but it should be noted that one of the City's planners who "covers all aspects" is the City's lead on the SRC and the author of this memo. A charitable construction on that is there are divided loyalties, and walking and biking consequently suffer. "When everyone is in charge no one in charge" etc. This is an institutional and organizational problem, a City problem with job descriptions and funded priorities, and not any personal failure, of course.
  • Transit Funding: As discussed earlier in this memo, transit district funding continues to be limited. However, the Transit District has proactively worked to improve the effectiveness of their service and this is reflected in the coming changes identified in the Moving Forward plan. In addition, the Transit District has laid the groundwork for expanding service to evenings and weekends when funding allows. This work provides a strong foundation for future funding opportunities.
For last November's ballot measure, the Chamber of Commerce mounted a massive anti-transit campaign and Salem Hospital took $50,000 they received from Cherriots and turned around and donated $50,000 to the anti-transit campaign.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Memo on Alternate Modes Study Shows How Little has been Done

One of the blizzard of documents the City and SRC project team posted to the City's UGB Hearing website is interesting for a couple of reasons.

First off, the "Salem River Crossing Alternate Modes Study Implementation Overview" is addressed to the "Salem River Crossing Project File." It didn't go to City Council or SKATS or any other public body. It was never posted to the SRC's own website as part of the Oversight Team's materials. Instead it was private and internal, and it points to the existence of a trove of non-public memos and analyses. It would be interesting to see what else has not been made public.

Second, the memo is disproportionately lengthy relative to the actual scope of accomplishments. It says "The purpose of this memo is to document actions identified in this study [the Salem River Crossing Alternate Modes Study] that have occurred or otherwise advanced towards implementation in the last five years."

This will be tedious, but we'll go through all of the "actions" and assess them. The pattern that emerges is a consistent ratcheting up of small things in an attempt to make them seem like big things. There is a scattershot pattern of fragmentary actions. Individually they are real things, but together they remain too small, too disconnected, and too partial to make for effective change. They are window dressing more than substance. Until they participate in fully connected networks, they remain weak measures, sometimes more for show than substance.

Some sections of the memo also discuss measures not called for in the Alternate Modes Study. So while it may be true that the City did something with this measure or that, they do not fulfill or complete recommendations in the Alternate Modes Study itself, and to cite them as such is to lard the memo with extras or a bit of a bait-and-switch.

Finally some paragraphs repeat material and might give the impression of more action than is warranted.

(Throughout, memo language will be in italics and mostly indented. Commentary will be in roman type and non-intended. Hopefully this will be clear. For convenience we'll also abbreviate as the "Alt Modes Study" from time to time.)

The Blizzard and the Shifting Sands: City Fails on Statewide Planning Goal 1

Between the massiveness of the document dump and the compressed time lines, the SRC team has failed to observe Statewide Planning Goal 1 on "Citizen Involvement."

The Schedule was Orchestrated

Minutes from July 26th SKATS-PC Meeting
You might remember from the July SKATS-PC meeting:
Due to public and agency involvement requirements, a joint jurisdiction/agency/Interested Party public hearing will likely be scheduled in mid-October. The purpose of involving multiple participants is to ensure that all parties receive the same information along with everyone hearing public testimony at the same time. Confusion is likely to be less if all parties are provided with the same material, information, testimony at the same time.
Minutes from August 23rd Cherriots Work Session
And from the August 23rd Cherriots work session:
Director Lincoln asked how the Board can review the Technical Reports. Ms. Warncke said the reports will be available seven days before the public hearing on the City’s website for land use records.
The schedule was compressed on purpose and information was withheld from other Public Agencies in addition to the general public.

The Document Dump was a Blizzard

Part of the plan was clearly to overwhelm critics and other citizens with an impossibly large burden of reading material.

Here are the total document lists late on Friday the 7th.

26 documents under "staff reports"

Friday, October 7, 2016

SRC Energy Report: Net Increase in Energy, Petroleum Consumption

You probably heard about Kendall-Jackson/Jackson Family Wines purchase of WillaKenzie Estate. In addition to wanting to add Oregon wines to their portfolio, California firms are hedging against climate change: In a generation or two our cool-climate vineyards will be grafted over to warmer-climate grapes, and it is likely that what we think of as Napa and Sonoma will have moved north to the Willamette Valley. Big Wine recognizes this and is executing on long-term moves to keep their businesses going for generations from now.

Climate change in wine: 2003 was really hot,
and was our hottest vintage until 2014 and 2015 eclipsed it.
via Linfield Wine History Archive
Hurricane Matthew promises a huge storm surge in Florida, and between rising sea levels and increased energy for the hurricane's winds and rains, its impact is exacerbated by climate change.

I don't know that there needs to be a whole lot of introduction to the Energy Technical Report Addendum on the Salem River Crossing. The report is clear that the Preferred Alternative does not lessen greenhouse gas emissions by reducing congestion and idling. On the contrary, it "would provide a net increase in energy consumption."

Our greenhouse gases are supposed to go down,
but the SRC causes a 16% increase in energy use
(Notional comment in red added*;
DLCD Greenhouse Gas Target Rule Presentation)
Those who say that the SRC would reduce greenhouse gas emissions because of improved traffic flow are wrong according to the SRC's own analysis.

Any greenhouse gas reduction on SRC-related travel would come from fuel shifts in the composition of the aggregate motor fleet, not from improved free-flowing auto traffic. Because of induced demand, "the increase in traffic volume," the SRC will make things worse.

If our goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we should seek to make driving trips shorter, and to make it easy not to make driving trips at all. The SRC does not contribute to either. In this, the SRC is inconsistent with HB3543, which calls for us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 75% below 1990 levels by 2050.

It is also inconsistent with Statewide Planning Goal 13 "to conserve energy," OAR 660-015-0000(13):
Land and uses developed on the land shall be managed and controlled so as to maximize the conservation of all forms of energy, based upon sound economic principles.
This may be relevant in the approval criteria for the proposed UGB expansion.

From the Technical Addendum, Section 4.2.1 "Impact Analysis, Direct Impacts":
[V]ehicles traveling along the routes identified in the study area would consume approximately 475,132 MBtus of energy per year by 2040. This is the equivalent of approximately 3.91 million gallons of fuel. The preferred alternative would result in a 16.1 percent increase in operational energy consumption in 2040 compared to the No Build Alternative....

The preferred alternative is expected to have more vehicular demand compared to No Build Alternative because of expanded roadway capacity from the new north bridges and extension of Marine Drive to connect Riverbend Road to the north and OR 22 to the south. Despite the increase in traffic volume, the preferred alternative has slightly higher speeds (less delay) compared to the No Build Alternative. This results in higher fuel efficiency but does not offset the increase in traffic volume, so energy consumption will increase between scenarios. Also, the distance of all the segments for the preferred alternative are longer than the distances in No Build Alternative due to the extension of Marine Drive. Since the preferred alternative has more segments and more mileage than the No Build Alternative, it will result in higher energy consumption. [italics added]

City Council, October 10th - The Big Jump

Council meets on Monday, and between the water rates Public Hearing and the SRC Public Hearing on the 12th, there's not a lot of room for other things.

But one item is particularly interesting. The City is going to make formal application for the People for Bikes "Big Jump" project.
The Big Jump Project is a three-year effort to help 10 places achieve a big jump in biking – a doubling or tripling of people riding – by building a network of safe and comfortable places to ride and engaging the community. The goal is also to validate a core concept: that if a city does all the right things, more people will ride and the community will be a better place to live, work and play. The Big Jump team is looking for 10 places that will achieve great things for biking between now and 2020.
The City proposes to focus on
the area generally bounded by Salem Parkway to the north, 12th Street to the east, Bush’s Pasture Park to the south, and the Willamette River to the west. This focus area meets many of the interest areas prioritized by the Big Jump Project, including safety, access to jobs in neighborhoods with concentrations of low income residents, connecting to paths and parks to encourage physical activity, and growing tourism.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Wildlife Addendum Dismisses Heron Rookery: McLane Island Needs more Study

A while back N3B observed that there was a significant Heron rookery on McLane Island and that the bridge and its construction activity would disturb it.
Nesting Herons - via Eastside Audubon of King County
As with the Geology Technical Addendum, the Wildlife report is cavalier and shallow. Other agencies and organizations also echo the notion that the level of study and communication to this point is shallow and incomplete. From multiple sources and angles, not just transportation advocates, there is an accumulating body of evidence that the SRC is being rushed at this moment.

(Which is ironic since it has been going on for a decade! It is likely that elements of rushing and superficial analysis are a product of a bad project: If the SRC was such an obvious good thing, we would see more concise reports with greater clarity in conclusions and more frictionless communication, with longer lead-times, between agencies. It wouldn't all come to this last-minute rush. The lurching and clogging and uncertainty is a kind of epiphenomenon arising out of a dumb idea and poorly designed project. A sound project would be so much easier to process and there would be something closer to a positive consensus.)

Here's what the SRC has to say in the Wildlife Technical Report Addendum*:

Impacts to birds would stem from habitat loss and from increased noise levels. Bald eagles potentially use areas within the API, but nesting bald eagles have not been observed within 1 mile of the ROW footprint since 2006 (ORBIC, 2016). Operation of the preferred alternative could disturb resting or foraging eagles and other raptors. However, raptors using this area are habituated to traffic and anthropogenic noise, and adverse effects are unlikely.

ESA-listed species, such as northern spotted owl, marbled murrelet, streaked horned lark, and yellow-billed cuckoo, are not known to occur in the API, although potentially suitable habitat exists for lark and cuckoo. Consequently, adverse effects on these species are not expected.

Other migratory birds most likely will be displaced from lost or modified habitats, or acclimate to traffic-related disturbances. Among those likely to be displaced are great blue herons reported to nest in a rookery on McLane Island. The MBTA ensures that tree clearing will not interfere with nesting behavior.

The new elevated bridge and viaduct structures over water and adjacent to tree canopies might cause potential bird-strike impacts. Birds typically fly in evasive trajectories during daylight hours with high visibility, but may not be able to see fencing, netting, railing, lighting, or other features of the elevated structures, or vehicles, as well during periods of low visibility and at night, particularly during migration, when their flight trajectories may be more haphazard, and collisions may be more likely (Dirksen et al., 2000). In addition, birds are known to fly at lower elevations during migration when weather is unfavorable, increasing collision risk (Richardson, 2000). Birds tend to be attracted by, and disoriented by, bright white lights, especially during migration, at night, and during poor weather or fog (Avery et al., 1976; Longcore et al., 2008). Disorientation during flight will be minimized by dark-sky lighting techniques.

Some birds may use the new transportation structures for nesting or perching sites. For example, swallows may nest in the bridge and viaduct, and birds of prey may benefit from the nesting swallows. [italics added]
It seems pretty clear that this was an "arm chair" investigation, conducted by desk, and that no actual wildlife survey or other field investigation for birds was conducted!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

ODOT's Careless Approach on US20 Project Echoes in Geology Report for SRC

Maybe you will know otherwise, but I don't see any language about "earthquake" or "seismic event" in chapter 660 of the Oregon Administrative Rules that will govern the decision on the Urban Growth Boundary for the Salem River Crossing. There is Goal 7 about "Areas Subject to Natural Disasters and Hazards," but I couldn't find any corresponding rules. (Do you know where they are?)

So the fact that the SRC is proposed for unsuitable soils may not be directly relevant to the approval criteria of that Hearing. From here, for a non-specialist, it's hard to fit into the framework of the UGB decision.

Still, the Geology Final Technical Report Addendum is out, as are all the other addenda, and posted to the City website late last week.

It does not inspire confidence. And it seems relevant nonetheless.

ODOT's Big Project on Unstable Soil was a Disaster

"Ground Anchors" on an unstable hillside,
for US20 on the Pioneer Mountain to Eddyville segment
The other day you might have heard about the "Play on the Grade" event to commemorate the forthcoming opening of the Highway 20 Pioneer Mountain to Eddyville project.

But that's a big happy face on an embarrassing and costly mess for ODOT.