Sunday, October 9, 2016

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.

  • Individualized Marketing Program: This recommendation is for an individualized marketing program for trips between west Salem and downtown. While this has not been implemented, Cherriots is currently in progress with a similar marketing program for two other neighborhoods in Salem (NEN and Grant). The results of this program may create momentum to launch a program for west Salem.
"An individualized marketing program for trips between west Salem and downtown...has not been implemented." With 583 residents participating in the NEN/Grant program, the pilot yielded a reduction of a little more than 7% in drive alone trips: 2.5% trips shifted to bicycling, 1.9% to walking, 1.5% to transit, and 1.3% to carpooling.
TDM Implementation Concepts
  • One-Stop Website for Alternate Modes: Cherriots Rideshare is finalizing a Strategic Action Plan (Summer 2015). One of the key short-term recommendations (Year 1) is to build a new website. The new website would be designed to improve program efficiencies by increasing awareness, reaching a broader geographic audience, providing electronic resources, and promoting social media tools.
Cherriots is in the middle of transitioning
from "RideShare" to "Trip Choice"
There has been talk of the new website, but it has not been publicly released. The website is currently in an awkward transition phase.
  • Acknowledge and Reward Commuters: Cherriots Rideshare offers various reward programs, often in conjunction with other rideshare entities in the Willamette Valley. For example, Cherriots Rideshare was a sponsor of Carpool Karma, a carpool challenge in western Oregon that ran between February 1 and May 1, 2015.
It seems telling that there are no numbers here. In the Rideshare Strategic Report for 2015 (written after the date of this memo, it should be noted), it says there were 571 participants - in seven counties! Cherriots concluded "While this campaign raised awareness of the DLC tool and the advantages of carpooling, the resources used seem disproportionate to the result. For that reason, it is not likely the partners will engage in this type of campaign again, unless advances and improvements are made in Drive Less Connect or a new tool is implemented."
  • Education on Bike/Transit Integration: Cherriots has information online with instructions on how to load your bike on the bus, including a brief video tutorial. In addition, they periodically bring demonstration racks to public events for people to practice putting a bike on the bus rack.
But is this specifically targeted to West Salemites as a way to avoid drive-alone trips across the river? See note on individual marketing above.
  • Employer Bicycle/Pedestrian Programs and Facilities: Cherriots Rideshare supports employer bicycle/pedestrian programs through its network of Employee Transportation Coordinators.
This is pretty vague. The ETC programming has not seemed very robust.
  • Bicycle Encouragement: In 2013, The City of Salem launched Salem Sunday Streets. This annual event promotes healthy and active living by opening up city streets for people to play, explore, and build community.
Three City of Eugene Staff work on Sunday Streets
Salem Sunday Streets went on hiatus in 2016 and there seems to be little real enthusiasm for it at the City. Eugene is the same size as Salem, and they have three City of Eugene staffers working on the project. Salem seems to think it can be a mainly volunteer effort, but it seems clear that the lead must be provided by City Staff. This seems clear operationally - but also as a matter of priorities and values. The City should be saying "this is important to us." Budgets are where we see values.
  • Bicycling and Walking Information Distribution: In 2012, the Salem area bike map was updated through a partnership with the Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments, Cherriots Rideshare, and the City. This was the first update since 2006. The bike map covers the Salem-Keizer metropolitan area as well as the surrounding three-county region (Marion, Polk, and Yamhill counties). This map is distributed free of charge at area bike shops, traveler information centers, and at events. It is also available online. An updated version is scheduled for 2016. In 2015, Cherriots Rideshare worked with a group of students from Willamette University to create a walking map of downtown Salem. Cherriots Rideshare will be printing the map and making it available free of charge.
While the walking map was not very good, the bike map continues to be a bright spot and solid accomplishment.
  • Parking changes: The last five years have seen significant review of the City’s parking management policies. This review has led to several increases in parking rates. Parking meter rates were doubled in 2013 (from $0.75/hour to $1.50/hour). Parking permit rates in City-owned parking garages increased based on demand, with the highest increase being 44 percent at Liberty Parkade between 2010 and 2015. Parking fines have similarly increased, with increases ranging from 25 to 300 percent.
Alternate Modes Study
Right-priced parking is one of the most important actions the City (and employers!) can make, and it continues to be contested by folks who want subsidized, free parking. So far, downtown remains committed to free on-street parking. The "review" is working on the margins, but has had to leave untouched key centers and structural changes.
  • Drive Less Connect: Cherriots Rideshare participates in Drive Less Connect, Oregon’s secure, easy-to-use online ride-matching tool that matches users with rides. In addition to providing online ride matching for carpools and vanpools, it can also help users find a biking partner. The number of users in the Drive Less Connect system has increased substantially in recent years, from 948 users in 2011-12 to 3674 users in 2014-15.
It has seemed that the three county area of Yamhill-Polk-Marion, the Drive Less Connect program attracts about 1000 new users each year. That seems like a rounding error. About the software, Cherriots says: "Staff will continue to promote and utilize the tool; however, its limitations such as lack of reporting features, inablity to manage team challenges and cumbersome user experience are impediments to its usefulness."
  • Emergency Ride Home Program: Many area employers are registered participants of the Cherriots Rideshare Emergency Ride Home program. This program provides users of alternate modes with a ride home in the event of an emergency.
This program has 320 registered users. Again, a rounding error.

So how'd we do?

Alternate Modes TOC on TDM
 The SRC memo has nothing directly on:
  • Develop a Transportation Management Association
  • Incentive/Challenge Programs to Encourage Bicycling and Walking
  • Conduct Targeted Marketing Recruitment
  • Reduce the Direct Cost of Transit Passes to Employees and Commuters
  • Switch from Monthly to Daily Fee Parking
  • Disourage Parking at Peak Periods
  • Price Parking to Recover the Costs
  • Apply a Tax to Parking Spaces
  • Provide Parking Cash-Outs to Employees using Alternate Modes
Something that is interesting, and probably significant, is that the memo's bullet points on biking and walking closely followed the headers in the table of contents of the Alt Modes Study. Here on the TDM side, the memo's bullets do not follow the headers as closely, and it looks like a rhetorical move to evade the facts of very little progress. If the memo followed the headers more closely, especially using their level of detail, there would be many more blanks or sentences of "no progress." The disjunction in level of detail is clearest on Parking issues, I think.

The overwhelming impression from this list is that "we haven't tried very hard yet." The programming we have done is very limited and it is nearly certain that we haven't applied enough financial and staff resources on projects to position them for success. It should not surprise us that our desultory institutional efforts have yielded limited success. Since we haven't tried very hard, we also cannot draw conclusions about any failures.

(It must be said that most of the funding for Cherriots RideShare/Trip Choice comes through SKATS from Federal sources - STP-U and TAP-U, see chart in this discussion - and that at least theoretically, SKATS could shift spending from autoist road widening projects to TDM projects. This is funding separate from Cherriots' bus operations. And, again, the level of funding represents a statement of our commitments and values.)

In the end, we have taken baby steps only on implementing the Alternate Modes Study. In order to achieve the 8% reduction the SRC traffic modeling assumes, we will have to make "aggressive" steps, not just baby steps. It is possible that we discover those steps are more effective than we supposed - again, we need to try hard - and confirm that spending $5 million or $50 million on walking, biking, and busing is way more effective than $500 million on a new bridge and highway.

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