Monday, January 30, 2017

Ask for Walking and Biking Projects at Open House for Strategic Plan

Liz Meyer
Right now it probably seems like national politics and national chaos swamp everything. These are dark times. There's hardly any room for anything else in our brains.

If you haven't done so already, consider writing, calling, or visiting our Senators and Representative in Congress.
  • Sen. Wyden - 707 13th St., SE Suite 285, Salem, OR, 97301, (503) 589-4555
  • Sen. Merkley - 161 High Street SE, Suite 250, Salem, OR 97301, (503) 362-8102
  • Rep. Schrader - 530 Center Street NE, Ste 415, Salem, OR 97301, (503) 588-9100
But local politics is where we can actually have the most direct impact.

There are many ways to approach the Open House for the "Strategic Plan" on Tuesday.

It feels right now like there's a flyswatter just off camera
Housing costs and homelessness are sure to lead the way for many.

Community Priorities Telephone Survey (and throughout)
A rational and thrifty transportation policy is another.

The Memorandum of Understanding recently published by the City offers a very specific way to approach transportation.

In the agreement is a provision that the
City will commit to allocate a reasonable percentage (to be determined in the IGA referenced in Section D of this MOU) of the next transportation bond to develop and construct pedestrian and bicycle specific capital projects, and improvements that support SAMTD operations. [italics added]
That's something that will be hammered out within 90 days. There is lots of wiggle room in just what exactly constitutes "a reasonable percentage" and that will be in many ways a political, rather than technical, solution.

So here's a very specific ask you could make at the Open House. (Even though it's not really strategy, it is an actionable policy for right now, and the Open House a forum for the City to accept comment.)

Ask the City for a maximum percentage, a majority even.

Impress the City also with the fact that it says "pedestrian and bicycle specific capital projects," not just a side order of standard sidewalks and bike lanes when it widens a road. Those things should constitute a floor of expectation, and are not amenities or special features, things to be called out as extra. They are a baseline and norm. Every project should have them, and we should not pad our totals of "bike/ped projects" with them. A bike/ped project is something like the Union Street Railroad bridge and family-friendly bikeway. We should not be content to count as "a bike/ped project" something that is merely legacy remediation, like standard bike lanes and sidewalks on Brown Road. That really deserves a separate bucket that we straight-up call "legacy remediation" or something similar. It's not an "urban upgrade," it's remediation.

This is still an uphill ask. Devoting the bulk of funds to more widening remains a popular choice.

But the fact is, investment in widening doesn't work. 

Spring 2016
Newly widened roads fill back up with induced demand and the increase in driving doesn't help with safety or emissions. The best way to do help with congestion, safety, and emissions is to make it easy for people to drive less or not at all.

The Open House is Tuesday, January 31st, 5-6:30 p.m., Broadway Commons, Grant Room, 1300 Broadway St NE


Anonymous said...

The summary statement in this posting is the most compelling: commuting less or not at all. This obviously isn't possible with the recent uptick in newly allocated Salem residents.

Therefore, the investment of bike lanes and designated bike routes should be paramount. Imagine if more people were aware of their poor health just by their commute. They would realize that the bike commute is actually good for themselves as well as the community at large.

Jim Scheppke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jim Scheppke said...

Sorry SBOB, but I can't agree with your strategy. You are making too many assumptions here. You are assuming that there wlll be an Intergovernmental Agreement between the City of Salem and the DLCD on the 3rd Bridge. Don't bank on it. It might be better for the new City Council to vote the sucker down and put the 3rd Bridge in chaos (now I am assuming Chris Hoy will be the new Councilor). You are assuming there will be new transportation bond measure in the near future. Maybe not. We have other, greater needs (new police station, seismic upgrades of City Hall, the Library, the Center St. Bridge, probably a new school bond). So my advice to folks is to go to the meeting tomorrow night and deliver a simple message — shut down the Salem River Crossing project. Stop throwing good money after bad. It's a failed planning project. It has failed several times (when the SRC Task Force failed to find a consensus, when the SRC Oversight Team altered the Salem Alternative beyond recognition, when the OT could not come up with a viable funding plan). The SRC is a failed project just like the Columbia River Crossing was. The only difference is that the CRC got some adult supervision and was shut down before more money was wasted. The same thing needs to happen to the SRC.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Well, certainly this was a "what can we accomplish within the existing system" kind of post rather than "let's protest" kind of post. So yes, for the moment it assumes the framework of the IGA - without also saying the IGA/MOU is a good thing.

And apparently we disagree somewhat, maybe a lot, on the probability of a new transportation bond or other local transportation funding package.

But showing support for walking and biking projects, and urging the city to commit to a greater proportion of them going forward, is not at all mutually exclusive with saying "stop work on the SRC." Indeed, they could be considered reciprocal stances! There is no wrong answer in either stance.

(You're point about the CRC is confusing, by the way: They spent nearly $200 million on it before it was shut down; $7 or $8 million on the SRC is dwarfed by that.)

Jim Scheppke said...

Re the SRC and CRC: Leaving the money aside, the CRC project began in 2005 and was thankfully shut down in 2013 after it was clear that it was a failure. The SRC began in 2006 and it is still going and could easily stretch on to 2018 or longer at the rate it is going. In 2016 the SRC project spent $78,549 per month on consultants alone. That's real money in Salem. This year the City has probably already hired some fancy land use attorneys that will add to the cost. It's insane. It has to end.