Monday, July 24, 2017

Talk on Downtown Value, State Street Open House, MPO - Tuesday

Tomorrow, Tuesday the 25th, has one talk, one open house, and one committee meeting of interest.

Don't forget about Joe Minicozzi at the Library tomorrow morning at 8:30. (More on it here, and two video clips here, here.)

Via Strongtowns and CNU Public Square

State Street Study Open House

Last month the City and consultant team published a set of draft concepts and is soliciting further comment.

Alternative 2, Road Diet overview
The alternatives included a typical safety redesign.

Alas, the City is not embracing it, and with that tone established, some preliminary comment from the Advisory Committee is also dubious.
[The team] presented the three street design alternatives for the State Street corridor and how they performed against the project’s goals and objectives. The alternatives are: Alternative 1 – Improved Four Lane, which retains four travel lane and widens the sidewalk; Alternative 2 – Road Diet, which reconfigures the street into two travel lanes and a center-turn lane and provides bike lanes and wider sidewalks; and Alternative 3 – Hybrid, which combines the Road Diet alternative west of 17th Street with the Improved Four Lane alternative east of 17th Street. [They] stated that the alternatives have been revised since they were presented last year. Specifically, they each extend beyond the current right-of-way to provide improved pedestrian facilities. The Road Diet and Hybrid alternatives also include bike lanes in line with City policy.

City staff’s recommendation for a street design alternative was the Hybrid alternative. [They] explained that the Hybrid provides improved pedestrian facilities, wider sidewalks, throughout the corridor, and pedestrian safety was clearly a priority based on public input. The alternative also provides bike lanes that would at least connect to the bike lanes on 17th street as well as the bike routes on Chemeketa and Mill streets via 14th Street. In addition, the Hybrid aligns well with the economic analysis that found greater redevelopment potential on the west end of State Street, responds moderately well to public input, and could be phased in implementation. [They] stated that the Hybrid alternative was essentially a compromise between the Road Diet and Improved Four Lane alternatives.
The lack of clear municipal priorities for bike lanes and others not making drive-alone trips hampers discussion and allows people to chip away with expressions of doubt:
It seems like the City’s policy to include bike lanes on major arterials could create problems on State Street. The City could change that policy.
  • It is the City’s policy to prioritize bike lanes over on-street parking. If the City does not put bike lanes on State Street as part of the Road Diet or Hybrid alternatives, there could be implications in terms of trying to add bike lanes on other streets in the future.
  • State Street is a unique thoroughfare where buildings are built right up to the right-of-way. The main concern from the public has been pedestrian safety, but now we are trying to accommodate pedestrians, bicycles, and cars on State Street between 13th and 17th street. The City’s policy could be in conflict with the goal of increasing pedestrian safety while still allowing cars to get through.
  • Any policy could have an exemption. If you have bikes whizzing by, you have the same safety issues as if you have cars whizzing by you.
  • Having bike lanes instead of on-street parking affects the redevelopment potential of properties. You need parking for retail uses.
But the Comprehensive Plan is not very ambiguous about goals. As we see here, however, in "fulfilling" them our steps are usually very timid and tepid, and the City allows doubt to chip away and half-efforts to flourish. 
The City could embrace these standards more passionately
Cut-through traffic was also a concern:
Would the Road Diet alternative impact Chemeketa, Court, Center, D, and other streets?
  • The model shows impacts on major streets, not residential local streets. Diversion was shown on parallel routes.
  • The model looks at the quickest path for vehicles. It is questionable as to whether people would actually divert to Mission Street SE given its already congested.
  • There is concern that the Road Diet alternative would put pressure to open up Court and Chemeketa streets to through traffic. We do not want to have negative impacts on neighborhood streets.
  • There will be diversion through the neighborhoods.
  • That is a concern that needs to be addressed. Cut-through traffic needs to be limited. One way could be to install mini traffic roundabouts.
"The model," "the model," "the model" - we have a total idolatry of the model here! As we have seen on the Salem River Crossing as well as in most if not all of our 1980s modeling on major projects, the modeling failed and there should be significant error bars on the outputs of our current rounds of modeling. The City's approach to the modeling ascribes to it a totally false sense of precision. This is wrong.

Moreover, instead of designing and planning for the city we want, we are designing and planning for the city we fear we might get.

But if we don't want large amounts of auto traffic, let's design so we don't have it. If we design because we fear larger amounts of auto traffic, and we plan to accommodate it "just to be safe," we will be more likely have that traffic.

And of course, parking:
Redevelopment will be more viable if less parking is required.
  • The project will likely recommend reducing parking requirements for multifamily development from 1.5 spaces per unit to 1 space per unit.
  • The project will also recommend allowing off-street parking spaces to be located 800 feet away from the use it serves. A property owner could lease space in an existing parking lot on or near State Street. There are a lot of parking lots in the area now. By leasing space, a developer can use more of his or her property for development.
If we want more housing and more affordable housing, investing in good transit, multi-modal streets, and reducing parking requirements will help greatly. The more we dig in on autoism for drive-alone trips and for land devoted to car storage, the more difficult and expensive it will be to supply the housing that we want.

The Open House is Tuesday the 25th at the Court Street Christian Church at 1699 Court Street NE, Salem. It runs from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.

(For all notes on the State Street Study see here.)


Our Metropolitan Planning Organization, SKATS, meets tomorrow also. They mostly have administrative kinds of things on the agenda, and there is no important action item or decision to highlight.

There is a final report on the OR-22/Mission Street project, and the MPO will get an update and summary on it. The recommendations are going to be circulating, and I think there will be other opportunities to comment on it. It doesn't look like it has evolved much from last fall - but perhaps as there is more time to drill into it, other details will emerge. Just in general terms, it accepts too readily highway speeds of 50 and 60 mph inside of an urban boundary. Most of its other defects follow from this autoism. It's not truly urban and multi-modal. (Unfortunately, the summary doesn't actually summarize it very well for non-experts! There is no overview graphic, for example. The project website hasn't published the summary reports, either.)

Simultaneously more promising and mind-numbingly tedious, there is talk of some new administrative rule-making by the State:
Last year, [the MPO] were members of a Rulemaking Advisory Committee (RAC) regarding updates to the Oregon Greenhouse Gas Reduction targets for MPO areas. That RAC also developed issues and potential recommended actions for amending the metropolitan transportation planning requirements in the Transportation Planning Rule (TPR). At their July 20th meeting, the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) is expected to direct their staff to form a RAC for the specific rulemaking changes in the TPR. This RAC will include representatives from affected cities and counties inside of the seven metropolitan areas in Oregon (but not including the Portland Metropolitan area).
The appointment process is a little unclear, but it should be pointed out that our MPO embraced the appointment of a climate change denialist to a committee on greenhouse gas reduction. That move was to foil, baffle, slow down, or deny meaningful implementation on greenhouse gas reduction.

It would be helpful for our MPO to embrace the appointment of someone who actually believes in the project, and not one whose primary aim is to work against it.

You'll recognize OAR 660 from the SRC/UGB case!
There are lots of details in the proposal, and I am going to cherry-pick. As we are seeing on the State Street study, and have seen on the Salem River Crossing:
  • Mobility goals and congestion standards often conflict with land use goals.
  • There is a lack of data to monitor performance.
  • Reducing vehicle miles traveled is difficult, and alternative measure requirements are vague.
  • Changes in geography and modeling tools limit the ability to track progress over time.
These are real problems. Much of the City's case for the SRC has depended on ways that the current rules offer too much fudge factor, and it has seemed possible to meet the requirements by means of rather empty gestures.

The MPO could help the conversation by supporting the project, or could seek to hinder it by supporting the appointment of one or more committee members who are committed to autoism primarily.

So this will not probably be a very interesting process to follow, but it will be something to follow.

The rest of the agenda seems mostly like house-keeping, and extends conversation on issues raised last month and in this month's technical advisory committee.

Look for the historic sign
next to the entry
You can download the agenda and meeting packet here.

SKATS Policy Committee meets Tuesday the 25th, at noon. SKATS is at 100 High St. SE, Suite 200, above Andaluz Kitchen and Table Five 08.


Susann said...

In Corvallis they chose to make a parallel street (Highland Drive) near 9th Street into the bike path rather than put them on that heavily travelled street. That could work in this case as there is a clear parallel road two blocks away from State Street using Ferry Street. When I was a kid I rode my bike in the area and used either Ferry or Mill Street, because it was so much safer....still is.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Though popular, this is bad idea. (It's a variation on a "pedestrian displacement system," a bicycular displacement system!)

There are - and even more importantly will be - destinations on State Street. If you want people biking to by-pass State Street, then I guess ok. But if you want to make destinations on State Street accessible to all travelers, then we need safe and comfortable facilities where the destinations are.

We need both parallel low-traffic alternatives, and safe and comfortable provisions on high-traffic main streets.

Here's a discussion at People for Bikes."Bikes belong on main streets because bikes are not primarily for commuting."