Saturday, May 6, 2017

City Council, May 8th - Ride-booking Finale

Just the latest - via Twitter
On Monday Council will entertain the second reading of a ride-booking ordinance.

Council and ride-booking fans (the paper still chooses not to follow the AP stylebook, and misleadingly calls it "ride-sharing"!) have not taken seriously enough its unfortunate tendency towards undermining public transit and the extent to which ride-booking's current value to consumers is underwritten by extraordinary levels of loss-leading venture capital. Today's "good deal" can't possibly last in its current form. And we should have seen in the "Public Transit Work Group" subcommittee in the Strategic Planning process more discussion of ride-booking's impacts. The City should grapple in a forthright way with the implications for transit of their preferred ride-booking policy.

Advocating ride-booking as transit replacement
Anyway, critique of TNCs seems like a lost cause at this point, and it is possible that the total number of users in Salem will still round to a small number. But the rush to embrace them still seems rash, and the prospect of unwanted and unintended consequences seems quite likely. (See the last note with a list of criticism here, and all the notes going back to 2014 here.)

Also at Council there is a proposed Position on funding in a "transportation package" at the Legislature:
Based on the scope of current discussion regarding transportation funding options at the State Legislature, the Committee recommends the City take the following positions:
  1. Support a mechanism for new transit funding, including a statewide employee payroll tax which may result in as much as $6.5 million annually for Salem-Keizer Transit, bringing much-needed evening and weekend bus service to Salem. The transit component of a potential transportation package would likely be funded by an employee payroll tax of .1%, or one-tenth of one percent. At that rate, a full-time, minimum wage worker would pay $0.38 per week. The tax will generate $107 million annually, and the distribution of funds would be based on payroll-tax base. Salem-Keizer Transit would receive $6.4 million annually. This would be enough to begin weekend service, and improve evening and rural service.
  2. Support adding transportation funding tools to improve local transportation congestion, including establishing taxing district authority for local metropolitan planning districts (MPOs). The Committee discussed the regional nature of many congestion relief projects and that this type of a funding mechanism could provide a source to solve regional needs. To-date, two possible MPO-wide taxes have been discussed: an excise tax on new vehicle registration or a gas tax. Citing concerns with property tax compression locally, the Committee supported precluding MPOs from assessing a property tax.
  3. Advocate for lesser share of local jurisdiction’s congestion relief project costs, outside the Portland metropolitan region. To help fund congestion relief projects, a statewide 1% excise tax on new vehicle registration is being discussed. As proposed, the local MPO could match as much as 50% of the total cost of the significant congestion relief transportation project. Citing concerns with most local jurisdiction’s ability to match at 50% the total cost of a significant project, the Committee supported advocating for a lesser share, such as a 25% local/75% State ratio.
It would be ironic if the Legislature imposed a statewide payroll tax that the Chamber defeated locally in 2015. (Update - See comment for an important qualification to any irony; the comparison isn't as strong as it seemed.) The prospect of the MPO taxing district is interesting, and it would be good to reduce subsidies and shift more of the funding from house and property value to user fees like vehicle registration or gas tax. The last one is more difficult: If we want to solve congestion in road expansion, we should pay the costs of it. #3 is about seeking State subsidy for inefficient road expansion: If the local jurisdiction can't make the 50% match, maybe the project doesn't pencil out and isn't so important after all - a "want" more than a "need."

The ordinance for short-term room rentals will have a Public Hearing between the first and second readings.

SCAN has offered the most comment and criticism of it. It has seemed like the City's proposal is a reasonable compromise and balances competing interests. But if you have followed it more closely, you might have better things to say.

In the one transportation element - on parking naturally! - the City contests SCAN's recommendation for "requiring a minimum of one off-street parking space to meet the required parking need." Staff responds that
No minimum off-street parking is currently proposed for accessory short-term rentals in order to ensure that residents in older areas of the City that may have been developed without off-street parking are not precluded from operating accessory short-term rentals. Because accessory short-term rentals are intended to be operated as an accessory use to a Single Family or Two Family use, requiring parking beyond that of a single family dwelling or two family dwelling has the potential to result in larger parking areas needing to be developed which could have the potential of detracting from the residential character of neighborhoods.
On-street parking is public space, and we need to shift the paradigm from considering this to be private space "owned" by adjacent residents. This is a largely hidden element of subsidy in our autoist system.

On other matters about taking homes out of the long-term housing supply, about the difficulties of non-responsive absentee landlords, and about inspections and safety the proposal seems to offer reasonable compromise positions. Again, you might have more to say.

Soon to be affordable housing - more history here
Other items (some of them on both Council and the Urban Renewal Agency agenda):
On the Urban Renewal Agency agenda only are items forwarded from the WSRAB meeting last week:
  • $30,000 to Study an Overcrossing at Second Street. The Staff Report says "the majority of the project complexity and cost [is] tied to the under-crossing structure [and] estimated at $20 million." So that's a real escalation from the initial $8 million, and maybe does make prohibitive any undercrossing concept, even without it being wide enough to connect to Marine Drive.
  • Urban Renewal fund support for lead abatement at 576 Patterson
  • And changing the scope of projects eligible for support more generally to include "environmental clean-up." We we create Enterprise Zone tax abatements or provide other subsidies for business development, retention, and recruitment, we should give more serious attention to whether they are likely in the future to require environmental abatement and clean-up. We need to consider full lifecycle costs, otherwise we are knowingly incurring future liabilities.


Jim Scheppke said...

"It would be ironic if the Legislature imposed a statewide payroll tax that the Chamber defeated locally in 2015."

If I am understanding this correctly, it's different. This is an employee payroll tax, not an employer payroll tax like what was on the ballot here in 2015 That's why business interests are not freaking out about it. Not sure what I think about it. I would hope it would be progressive (e. g., not have any loopholes for higher paid "employees" and business owners). Maybe lower income workers should be exempted.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Oh, good catch! Thanks for pointing that out.