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.

Biking, walking, and transit lead comments
Between the fact that the MPO is a strange hybrid beast as far as governmental organizations go, sitting awkwardly between City, County, State, and Federal levels, and that it has been difficult at any level to whip up public enthusiasm for transportation generally, there has not been a great level of public comment on the TIP so far.

From last month's minutes a summary of the outreach in March:
One person attended the Open House held at MWVCOG offices last week. Only 3 written comments were received via the two open houses that were held.
While the one Open House was a bust, the outreach at the Winter-Maple Bikeway Open House reached many more people, it may be that SKATS should think about doing more collaborations and not doing stand-alone events. Maybe using the Library's Anderson Rooms also should be considered.

But those comments, however few, did highlight non-auto travel! (See highlighted clip above.)

In the end, on the TIP itself at this point in the process there does not seem to be a whole lot to say.

Also in last month's minutes there were more details about the "funds swap." It seems like the projects involved in swaps should be similar and that swaps should be used as a way to commit to more non-auto travel. Instead, it used for a piece of the large I-5 @ Kuebler project.
Look for the historic sign
next to the entry
[SKATS affirmed] Resolution 17-2 exchanging $618,500 in federal STP-U funds for $581,390 in state funds from the Union Street NE @ Commercial Street NE Intersection Improvements project to I-5: Kuebler Interchange Phase 2 Sound Wall project.
SKATS is at 100 High St. SE, Suite 200, above Andaluz Kitchen and Table Five 08.

A Footnote on Transit

Last night in moving the TNC ordinance to the second reading in a couple of weeks, Council voted decisively to move forward for permissive ride-booking regulations in Salem. This seems like a great mistake.

If we value transit, we will not promote things that use artificially low pricing to undermine it. But here we are.

From 2014, with data through 2012,
this shows the decline in transit boardings.
The decline has continued through 2017.
From the TIP, there is a good summary of the erosion of Cherriots' ridership (p. 98):
Cherriots ridership grew from 2.7 million trips in 1990 to over 4.3 million in 2000, increasing further to over 5 million riders for the first time in 2003 and peaked at 5.54 million in 2006. Ridership since 2006 have shown decreases every year, which can be partially attributable to service cuts (including removing Saturday service in 2009), fare increases, the regional/national economy (either the Great Recession in 2007-2010 or cheap fuel in 2014 onwards). Ridership in 2015 (the latest available) was 3.2 million trips, which is down approximately 6 percent from 2014. [italics added]
From Cherriots, the latest Performance Report from the second quarter of this fiscal year (deep in the February 23rd Board packet) notes that boardings were down 3%:
Ridership has continued to drop, as it has since April 2015. This is likely the results of the combination of low gas prices, the September 2015 route changes, and reliability issues on some of our busiest routes
We have evidence now from Denver and New York City that TNCs are cannibalizing transit.

Promoting TNCs now is likely to be a choice against transit and to have undesirable outcomes. At the very least, it will contribute to an environment in which it is more difficult to shore up Salem's transit and create a real, functional system for residents.

1 comment:

Mike Jaffe said...

Regarding public participation, past experience has shown that having an open house solely for the TIP draws very few people, although we believe we need to still have one. That is why we look for opportunities to do joint open houses (like the Open House for Winter-Maple bikeway which we attended) whenever possible. We also contacted every neighborhood association (10 invited us to give a presentation at their meetings), and twice had an information table at Chemeketa College, including an Earth Day event at the college. We mailed, e-mailed and handed out over 1000 of our SKATS TIP brochures (which had listing and map of all projects, plus information on how to submit comments [English and Spanish version]) to persons and organizations who have signed up to get our information or who attended the neighborhood association meetings.

Local jurisdictions also used their social media to spread the word about the public review of the TIP. The Keizer Times ran a story about the draft TIP; we did contact the Statesman Journal twice about doing a story but it didn't appear. We also used our Council of Government website and newsletter to inform people about the draft TIP all during the project solicitation process and public comment period. And we have this blog (12 posts in all) to thank for helping to inform people about list of submitted projects, the draft TIP and ways to comment.

The greatest number of comments came through our interactive map of projects in the draft TIP, which this blog described on March 15, 2017. We received 54 comments about individual projects, which are providing to our Policy Committee.

Mike Jaffe
Transportation Planning Director
Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments