Thursday, April 27, 2017

Design Review for 245 Court at Planning Commission Tuesday

Here's a nice, short thing to observe! The Site Plan and Design Review for the mixed use project at 245 Court Street is at the Planning Commission next week on Tuesday the 2nd and, as these things go, the Staff Report is brief, finds no problematic elements, and recommends a straight-forward approval.

Storefronts along Court Street
A screened parking garage area along Front Street
The whole quarter block from above
There's a five-story, 40-unit apartment block on the corner along Front Street, and a single-story storefront on Court Street and the alley. Along Court Street the apartment block has a leasing office and lounge. All the parking is in back or under the apartment block, and is accessed off the alley. Bike parking is split between private, secure storage inside the building, and public racking in the little courtyard between buildings. At the Court Street sidewalk the buildings greet the street with windows and activity, and the screened parking area is along Front, which is the much less pleasant sidewalk anyway.

Really, you couldn't ask for anything more. This is a terrific project for downtown. (Previous notes, including some history of the now-demolished Safeway building, here.)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

At the MPO: Public Hearing and Final Adoption for 2018-2023 Project List

Today, Tuesday the 25th, our local Metropolitan Planning Organization will hold a Public Hearing and presumably formally adopt the 2018-2023 SKATS Transportation Improvement Program.

SKATS graphic on the TIP process
(comments in green added)
(See previous notes on it hereProject website here.)

The document is a primarily a compilation from ODOT, Marion and Polk Counties, the Cities of Salem and Keizer; SKATS, our MPO, originates no construction projects themselves, and as compilers they are not the primary drivers of what is in and out of the TIP. They do have scoring and prioritizing phases for particular funding programs, and meaningful numbers of projects do get dropped from the "funded" lists. The real opportunity for public comment therefore is earlier in the process during the project application process, when the member entities of SKATS are compiling their candidate lists and submitting applications, and during the vetting processes when the Technical and Policy committees rank the candidate projects in an order of priority.

So it is an interesting thought experiment to consider what level of public comment would be sufficient to substantially alter or even delete a project at this stage. It would seem to require extraordinary proof of error or public outrage.

The Public Hearing then is mostly a formality, and it expected the TIP will be adopted unaltered.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

City Council, April 24th - Three Letter Problems: TNCs and IGAs

Council meets on Monday and in three-letter acronyms the future of transportation is front and center.

Our propensity to be seduced by shiny tech utopianism
(unknown source)
The Public Hearing for ride-booking regulations is on the agenda, and right now the case against them is much stronger than for them.

Earlier this month we saw a study from Denver that found they added congestion and cannibalized transit. The same is happening in New York City.

From Unsustainable? The Growth of App-Based Ride Services and Traffic, Travel and the Future of New York City. It's about Manhattan, of course, but Salem is really only quantitatively different, not qualitatively so. You may say "but Salem's not like a big city" and you will be right of course, but we are facing smaller versions of many of these same problems and are likely to face more of them in the future.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Celebrate Earth Day with a March for Science

The paper's got a ringing endorsement of the March for Science tomorrow. That's nice to see.

They write about the current administration's retreat from knowledge in their claim that "global warming is an elaborate hoax":
Almost five decades after Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. senator from Wisconsin who founded Earth Day and launched generations of environmental activists, it's worrisome that our federal government seems to be taking steps backward instead of forward with the stewardship of the Earth....We hope you'll carpool, walk or ride a bike.
Tomorrow on Earth Day, Saturday the 22nd, the March for Science will rally and march at the Capitol:
Various community organizations will be available to connect with at exhibitor tables. They will be around before and after the rally and march to allow marchers plenty of time to make those connections. Exhibitor hours will be 10:30-1:30

The rally [at the Capitol] will begin at 11. Speakers will include South Salem teacher Jason Niedermeyer and his student Sarah Suh, Kathie Dello - Associate Director-Oregon Climate Change Research Institute, Letha Tawney- World Resources Institute, and Trevor Phillips, a practicing Board Certified Emergency Medicine Physician at Salem Hospital.

Afterwards, we will begin our 1.25 mile march, doing a loop and returning back at the Capitol.
At the Federal level right now, two senses of "know nothing" - as epistemology and as politics - are recrudescent and combine in a dangerous mix.

October 16th, 1922
Here's an editorial from 1922. It's hard to say that history "repeats itself" exactly, but it sure rhymes.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Cherriots to Consider Special MPO Taxing Districts on Monday

Early next week there is a cluster of substantive policy discussion at all levels of local government!

In addition to the City Council meeting, which looks to have especially juicy matters in both the proposed Intergovernmental Agreement on the Salem River Crossing as well as discussion of ride-booking regulations, Cherriots and our Metropolitan Planning Organizations have meetings.

A couple of readers have mentioned that Cherriots meets on Monday the 24th in a "special meeting" for one topic only:
  • Legislative Proposal for MPO Taxing Districts as Part of State Transportation Bill
This subject is also an agenda item for the SKATS meeting on Tuesday the 25th. (There will be a separate post for the other agenda items at SKATS, which is our MPO.)

In the Cherriots packet is an April 13th letter from SKATS staff to MPO committee members:
Of particular relevance to SKATS is the proposal from Senator Boquist about a new excise tax on new vehicles sold in Oregon. The funds from the excise tax would go into a State Infrastructure Fund to be used for congestion/modernization projects in the Portland MPO area and other parts of the state. A 1% excise tax raised $73 million per year. Senator Boquist also supports establishing taxing districts for all MPOs in Oregon, to fund major congestion-relief projects. The Senator's idea is that the state-designated MPO area taxing districts - with an added fuel tax and/or vehicle registration in the district - could produce revenue in order that ODOT and MPOs share in the cost of major transportation projects....

This cost-sharing paradigm is moving forward in cooperation with the Portland Metro MPO area. The Portland MPO is willing to impose on themselves additional fuel taxes and registration fees to pay for half the cost of three major congestion projects (I-5 Rose Quarter, I-205, and Highway 217). The total cost of these three projects is about $1 billion, with Portland and the state each paying half....

In [staff] discussions with the Portland and Central Lane MPO transportation managers, they would like to have OMPOC [ie, a consensus from all Oregon MPOs] support for the MPO area taxing districts.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Main Street Open House at Ike Box on Thursday the 20th

Over at Strong Towns in a note "Cargo Cult Planning," they observe sarcastically that free parking isn't going to save us:
The mall has abundant free parking. If we have abundant free parking we can be as successful as the mall. Let's tear down a large percentage of our city and dedicate it to parking.
This is one kind of main street,
But not the one we need.
Still, from 1937 this remains our ideal - via NYRB
On Thursday the 20th, the nascent Salem "Main Street" project is going to have something of an Open House at the Ike Box.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Climate Change at Film Series on Tuesday

Leonardo DiCaprio talking about Before the Flood
(via St Mary's College of California)
Tomorrow, Tuesday the 18th, the Salem Progressive Film Series will show "Before the Flood."
If you could know the truth about the threat of climate change — would you want to know? Before the Flood, presented by National Geographic, features Leonardo DiCaprio on a journey as a United Nations Messenger of Peace, traveling to five continents and the Arctic to witness climate change firsthand. He goes on expeditions with scientists uncovering the reality of climate change and meets with political leaders fighting against inaction. He also discovers a calculated disinformation campaign orchestrated by powerful special interests working to confuse the public about the urgency of the growing climate crisis. With unprecedented access to thought leaders around the world, DiCaprio searches for hope in a rising tide of catastrophic news....

Before the Flood presents a riveting account of the dramatic changes now occurring around the world due to climate change, as well as the actions we as individuals and as a society can take to prevent the disruption of life on our planet. Beyond the steps we can take as individuals, the film urges viewers to push their elected officials in supporting the use of alternative energy sources such as solar and wind power.
Salem Weekly has more.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

West Salem Neighborhood Association Proposes Change to Marine Drive

The West Salem Neighborhood Association meets tomorrow, Monday the 17th, and they're advocating for a significant change in Marine Drive.

Over at N3B they've got a note about a proposed maneuver at the Budget Committee on Marine Drive.

The West Salem Neighborhood Association wants to build a different, more northerly segment of Marine Drive and for the City to reduce its width to be a local street instead of a collector or expressway.

Proposal to build a different part of Marine Drive
 Here's their proposal from WSNA meetings in March and April:
Amend the City of Salem budget to remove $3,542,920 of funding from the Project No. 711503 to construct Marine Drive from Glen Creek Road to Cameo Street and redirect the funding to Project No. 61463 to purchase right-of-way and begin construction of Marine Drive from 5th Avenue to Harritt Drive.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Mid-Century Modern at the Historic Landmarks Commission next Thursday

Maybe you need something to distract you from the sabre-rattling of the moment.* It looks like DOCOMOMO, Documenting and Conserving the Modern Movement, might be giving a presentation to the Historic Landmarks Commission next week, on Thursday the 20th.

The agenda item's a little vague, and maybe it's just a topic for discussion and not a formal presentation - "Docomomo Oregon & Association of Preservation Technical Workshop." No matter. It's a timely topic.

Post's Carnegie Library (1912), Belluschi's YWCA (1952),
and Belluschi/Doyle Pacific Telephone and Telegraph (1930)
Buildings are generally eligible for the National Register of Historic Places after 50 years. Right now that's 1967, believe it or not.

But for most of us, Historic Preservation's main context has been for buildings from before World War II, especially those from the 19th century. That's a legacy from the previous generation's pioneering work.

It's time to think about mid-century modern - even as autoist as it often is!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

New City Video for Crossing at Union and Commercial Sells it Short

The City's got a new video about the improved crosswalks and bike crossing at Union and Commercial.

They don't really show the problem the project seeks to solve
Making good video is hard and speaking on camera is hard. So there's a real question about what standard is appropriate for judging a City communication. It's not fair to expect the standards we would bring to Hollywood or national network news. There are also questions about audience and message framing. The City has to talk to multiple audiences, who don't always share the same values, hopes, and expectations. There's a balancing act involved. And crucially, the City is not staffed up with a full production team, on-camera talent, and studio. This is not, and should not be, a core business for the City!

Still, without necessarily saying these elements are "wrong" or "bad," as the City might have perfectly good reasons for the choices they made, here nonetheless are some observations about what the video says and the values it encodes.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Club and Event Ride News: Monster Cookie and a Citizen-Initiated Citation

A year ago at this time we'd already had two days of 80+ degree weather, and several more in the 70s!*
Monster Cookie, 2011
This year even mid-60s has seemed like a stretch. It's been a wet and gloomy winter.

So there hasn't yet really been a day about which you can say "wheeling season is here!"

Prepping for the Monster Cookie, 2015
( New City Councilor Hoy on left in helmet, via SBC)
But the first big ride is almost here, on Sunday the 30th.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Schools: Board Candidates at SCAN, Safe Routes at Legislature Wednesday

There are a few interesting meetings tomorrow, on Wednesday the 12th. Schools figure significantly in two of them.

Safe Routes to School Hearing

Are you in Rep. Evans district? He's on the House Committee for Transportation Policy, and they are conducting a Hearing on the Safe Routes to School bill in the morning.

From the Street Trust:
Safe Routes to School gets a hearing! Please join us in Salem on Wednesday, April 12th at 8:00 a.m., as we testify in support of HB 3230, which expands Safe Routes to School programs across all of Oregon.

What are we asking for on Wednesday?
  • $6 million for Safe Routes to School education and encouragement programs;
  • $10 million for street safety projects within a one-mile radius of schools; and
  • A transparent and accountable process for allocating Safe Routes to School funds, including an annual report.
Another significant bill on the agenda for Wednesday is HB 2682, which would enable Portland to set lower speed limits on some streets without the cumbersome ODOT process, which requires ODOT approval on local decisions for neighborhood streets. This will also make it easier to enact "twenty is plenty" local speed limits on bikeways and other walking streets. Unfortunately other cities are shying away from this, but if Portland can pilot it and show results, other cities may want to join in. (BikePortland has more on the compromise and sausage-making.)

Here are the committee members from the Street Trust. Let them know you value safe walking and biking to school and support local control of speed limits.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Yet More on a Bolt-on Footbridge over Wallace at Edgewater

Several readers have emailed or commented to say "the Edgewater path is great!" and that  a footbridge across Wallace at Edgewater bolted onto the OR-22 ramp and berm system would solve a great problem in connectivity for West Salem.

They are not persuasive. Not yet, anyway. Here's why.

The path behind Edgewater is isolated and disconnected
We recently learned that the Crooked House Bistro is closing  and will transform into something else. But that's just the kind of destination along Edgewater a person might want to bike to.

You can't get there from the Edgewater path. The Edgewater path is not conceived as a way rich with connections!

City Council, April 10th - To Cannibalize Transit?

Council meets on Monday, and the lead item is the debate on ride-booking regulations. The Staff Recommendation is to move forward with the ordinance process and schedule a Public Hearing on April 24th.

Uber and Lyft cannibalize transit
Just in time for us, a PhD candidate in Denver has published a study on ride-booking's effects on the local transportation mix.

From Streetsblog:
Ride-sourcing companies like Uber and Lyft add tons of traffic to Denver and Boulder streets, and make the transportation system less efficient by cannibalizing transit, biking, and walking trips. That’s according to a study by Alejandro Henao, a PhD candidate at the University of Colorado....

About 34 percent of people surveyed said they would have either taken transit, biked, or walked instead of using the car service.
Council should be very cautious about adopting a regulatory scheme that encourages ride-booking to cannibalize transit, biking, and walking, in addition to harming local taxi companies and inducing more auto traffic. Seriously, where are the municipal benefits?

Saturday, April 8, 2017

JC Penney Celebrates 100 Years Downtown

The paper's got an early version of a nice piece about the 100th anniversary of a JC Penney store downtown.

Salem's original JC Penney Storefront
in the now-remodeled Metropolitan Building at 160 N. Liberty
circa 1918, via Oregon State Library
The piece is focused on the mid-century stories of two old-timers, and places less emphasis on social history and urban development, things we might find more interesting here. (It may be worthwhile to circle back for a more developed post!)

Unfortunately, they didn't share the storefront picture from the State Library. The photo seems to be from 1918, just two years after the Hughes-Durban building was erected in 1916 (though in the past year, two buildings along here in the historic district have been re-dated, so this 1916 date may not be certain). In the photo there are at least a couple of interesting details and tangents!
  • Wigan, Richardson are hop merchants who gave their name to Wigrich, the area and road on American Bottom, southeast of Independence, that Rogue has repopularized. Wigan, Richardson was a British firm dating back at least to 1766, and this shows something about the international scope of the hops trade.
  • On the right is Ye Old Liberty Theater, perhaps Salem's first movie theater, and something swallowed up by the history of Fred Meyer and Engelberg Antiks.

Teasing the next day's opening!
JC Penney Opened April 11th, 1917
April 10th, 1917
The store opened on April 11th, 1917. In the piece, they claim that Penney's is the second-oldest downtown business, but there's a few they missed.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Distracted Driver in Walking Death was Initially Held Blameless

The headline about our first distracted driving conviction clearly states the important main text here.

While uploading photos from her phone to a cloud application a woman was also driving, and struck and killed James Alton as he attempted to cross Chemawa Road in Keizer.

A kind of justice was served: She could have been sentenced up to 10 years in prison with a $250,000 fine, but her plea agreement requires 180 days of community service, three years of supervised probation, and her drivers license was permanently revoked.

But there are several other notable subtexts.

The first: Even for a careless cause of death, no prison time is involved in the sentence. It's just too easy to kill people by car, and socially we accept it too easily.

The second: You've probably seen a spate of articles about distracted driving, as if that mainly was to blame for the increase in death. But this doesn't exactly square with something in the piece:
In Oregon, on average, more than 11 people die in distracted driving crashes each year, and over 2,800 are injured, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation.
Front pager on traffic violence
If Oregon had 467 deaths, and careless drivers killed only 11 people, that's 2% or 3% of deaths. Maybe it's the driving itself that is lethal, not so much the distraction.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Read about our Entry into WWI - 100 Years ago Today

This isn't about transportation and it's not local. But the anniversary of the US entering World War I seems worth noting. Here's how it was received in Salem exactly 100 years ago.

April 6th, 1917
You may remember that Harvey Scott closed his shop in 1918 because of the war. He also advertised the patriotism of riding a bike.

Army of Bicycle Riders, May 25th, 1918

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Area Commission on Transportation Learns about Bike/Walk Liaison at ODOT

Our Area Commission on Transportation meets tomorrow the 6th, and while there are no particular action items to note, there are some informational items that look interesting.

The ACTS are a regional branches, as it were, of the Oregon Transportation Commission, which is the "Board of Directors" for ODOT. From here, they sit awkwardly between the urban level of the Metropolitan Planning Organization and the State. In many ways they seem formulated for rural interests and to focus on the highway system. Yet they weigh in on urban matters and vet urban projects. But the MPO is mainly a Federal creation, responsive to the requirements of each Federal Transportation Bill, and the ACT is a State creation, reporting to the OTC and participating in the STIP, and so there is something of a dueling power structure. Maybe there's an important check-and-balance function here, but the ACT seems like a redundancy in many ways. Its members, even, overlap considerably with the MPO's. The ACT is just an odd duck.

Part of the inaugural agenda, 1997
Anyway, on the 6th, they will be celebrating their 20th anniversary. The meeting packet includes a reproduction of their first agenda from 1997. This is hardcore "inside baseball"!

Mostly it seems like cheer-leading, but there could be something more self-aware and reflective. How well, really, does the ACT work? It would be nice to see more self-assessment and even criticism on this anniversary. Certainly, for the interested public, it has been much easier to see things at the MPO that deserve comment and criticism and advocacy. But the ACT rarely seems very important or relevant. Insiders may say that the ACT has a critical role on some matters, but for outside observers, these have not always seemed very important at all.

ODOT Management Review
Another item on the agenda is the somewhat infamous "management review" on ODOT. (Some previous notes here and here.) ODOT personnel will be reporting on it, so it is likely that the ACT will receive the most favorable interpretation of its findings, and that its omissions and criticisms of ODOT will be minimized.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Half of Bush's Pasture Park Deeded in 1917

100 years ago yesterday, Salem City Council rejected a deed to Bush's Pasture Park.

After some negotiating and rewriting, later that fall in 1917, the City did accept the donation, and about half of today's park was committed. It took another few decades for the Park formally to become public, but in a way, the charter for Bush Park - as it seems most often to be known today - can celebrate its 100th anniversary this year.

Area of Bush's Pasture Park (looking east)
1905 Birdseye Map, Library of Congress
A theory here is that Asahel Bush was not a very nice person and that his influence and power shaped Salem in ways that were not always for the good. His nickname was Ass-a-Hell, after all! Unfortunately, this is mostly speculative since there is little official history of Bush, his business enterprises, and his legacy.

One of the nominees for this year's David Duniway Lifetime Historian Award is Barbara Mahoney, who has probably done more work on Bush than anyone else.
Mahoney is a historian whose interest in Oregon began when she moved to Salem with her family in 1976. She has contributed a number of entries to the Oregon Encyclopedia and is the author of Dispatches and Dictators, a biography of Oregon Native Ralph Barnes, who was a foreign correspondent in Europe in the 1930s. Her next book, The Salem Clique: Oregon’s Founding Brothers, will be available later this year.
About the Clique, advance press for her book says,
Led by Asahel Bush, editor of the Oregon Statesman, the Salem Clique was accused of dictatorship, corruption, and the intention of imposing slavery on the Territory. The Clique, critics maintained, even conspired to establish a government separate from the United States, conceivably a “bigamous Mormon republic"....many historians have concluded that its members were vicious and unscrupulous men who were able, because of their command of the Democratic Party, to impose their hegemony on the Oregon Territory’s inhabitants.
Her article, "Asahel Bush, Slavery, and the Statehood Debate," was in Oregon Historical Quarterly a few years ago, and talks about Bush's sympathies for the South and for Slavery, even when he was more-or-less for the Union. A pro-Slavery Unionist, he was complicated!

More Talk about Bolt-on Footbridge for West Salem and at Grant

Just a few items to note in passing at the neighborhood associations this week.

(Also, all the City links are going to be screwed up sometime today as the City rolls to the new site and changes the urls. Sorry about that!)

West Salem

WSNA meets today, Monday the 3rd, in the minutes from last month there is a large grid of comments on the SKATS TIP from the Land Use Subcommittee. As it's not always clear what they are commenting on in particular, they are a little hard to understand.

Bolting on to existing OR-22 ramp at Edgewater
doesn't enhance connectivity very much
But they do keep pushing the idea of an overcrossing on Wallace at Edgewater in place of an undercrossing along Second Street and the RR path route.