Tuesday, August 29, 2017

New Warehouse Jobs Avoid City Center

Are these really innovative?
The big news this week is the announcement about a thousand "innovative" warehouse picking jobs at a new giant facility on the edge of town. In an "Enterprise Zone, it is estimated that
the new $90 million building would be eligible for a $1,235,800 per year tax abatement for three years. After that, the tax bill for the building will be about $1.2 million.
Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!

In the excitement it is perhaps not easy for City Staff and other leaders to be critical about how this fits into the big picture for Salem.

At best, it seems like a deeply mixed bag.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Eclipse and a Delightful Fullness in Downtown

The energy downtown was great!
Did you make it downtown for any part of the eclipse? The energy was terrific, with lots of sidewalk life!

On the lunch hour sidewalk seating at the restaurants was busy, but not uncomfortably crowded, and it was so great to see and feel the activity downtown.

At least in the informal aggregate assessment of the total bump in business done by the paper, it sounds like Friday and Saturday were mostly a bust, however; Sunday was better, and the post-eclipse crowd on Monday the best.

It's hard to say off-hand how it compares to other events, though, like an especially good First Wednesday, On Your Feet Friday, or the Hoopla. This would be nice context also to have. In absolute terms, it sounds like a disappointment and really undershot projections.

Monday was best
In any case, walking around downtown after the eclipse was wonderful, and the sidewalk life, with many tourists and residents, jazzed with vibrant energy. It was stimulating.

But it is possible that with all our attention directed towards the sun, we missed out partially on the full social dimension of the event.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

City Council, August 28th - Ice Rink and Amphitheater - Updated

Council meets on Monday, and they'll be thinking about two big ways to juice activity in Riverfront Park.

Amphitheater Concept 1 - CB|Two
There is an update on the Rotary Amphitheater project, including sheets on each concept.

Probably in part because of the lovely, moody lighting represented in this moon scene, I have kept returning for several weeks now to the first concept by CB|Two. Apart from the mood, I like its asymmetry, the graceful swoop of its lines, and especially the ramp and secondary level on the right side, towards the river and slough. There may be practical considerations that limit it as a performance space and municipal amenity, but as an instance of public architecture, it swells with the most possibility and energy it seems to me. Anderson Shirley's concept is plainer and draws less attention to itself, and that has merit too. The other CB|Two concept belongs at Pickathon! It doesn't seem right for here. And the AC+CO concept looks like a wind-mobile and weather station, all decked out with vanes and other ornament. It is too baroque and does not seem like it would age very well. (What are your favorites?) (And Update: See bottom for details on the winner.)
Final concept renderings from architectural firms are due to the Design Committee in early September. The Design Committee will select a “Preferred Design” on September 21, 2017, which will be forwarded to Salem Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and City Council for final approval in October.
There is also a proposal to pilot an ice rink in Riverfront Park during the winter. The group applying for it has operated one in Modesto with success apparently.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Hurricane Harvey, Catastrophe, Car- and Gas-dependence

Writing at Grist:
About one-third of U.S. refining capacity lies in the path of Harvey, and operators are starting to shutter operations in advance of the storm. Any sustained outages could cause a temporary nationwide surge in gasoline prices. Patrick DeHaan, an oil industry analyst, told Grist that catastrophic flooding could prevent refiners from getting back online quickly.
Deepwater Horizon
As Emily Atkin writes in the New Republic, the pollution consequences of the storm could be immense. Harvey’s floodwaters could seep into massive underground gasoline storage facilities, potentially dislodging and floating the tanks.
These are costs of our autoism, all exacerbated by the drive for cheap gas.

And another strong reason to stop digging in on more auto capacity, and to work instead on increasing mobility that doesn't depend on gasoline and drive-alone trips.
Presentation to Oversight Team in 2014

We should embrace these standards more passionately

Kmart Closure Chance to think more about 25th and Mission

That's a whole lotta nothin at 25th and Mission
You probably have already seen the news that the Kmart store at 25th and Mission is going to close.

That's a high traffic intersection, and you'd think that it would support more business, more activity, more something.

But it was already a void with too much parking lot, and it's emptying out even more.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Eclipse and Carmageddon Chance to Think Critically about Capacity

Maybe the gridlock will materialize, maybe not.

However it shakes out, the prospect of the eclipse of our current auto capacity today or on Monday is going to be a great time to think about the geometric limits of auto capacity.

Simply put: Cars are space hogs.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Windows into History at Moore Building of 1924

from 1948
The Historic Landmarks Commission meets this evening* and they will consider a proposal to replace windows on the Arthur Moore building. The Staff Report recommends approval, and it doesn't seem like there's anything important to say on that matter.

New Windows for Arthur H. Moore Building on High Street
However! Arthur Moore is of special interest here because he was an important early bike dealer. (He provides a "window" into transportation history!)

You can read more here and here.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

State Street Study has Consensus on Zoning, but not on the Street

The meeting summary and presentation boards for the State Street Open House last month have been out for a little while. There are no real surprises, but it might be worth visiting a few points.

The summary of comments suggest there is the outline of a consensus on zoning, but not on a street redesign.

Consensus on zoning, but not on the street
But before we talk about substantive matters, there is one tiny comment, buried deep in the summary, whose tone is arresting and which leaves me with the sinking, queasy feeling that it is a more dominant sentiment on the project than our polite society is usually willing to say:
  • Preferred alternative should focus on excluding low-income, transient populations and ensuring a better class of shoppers, tenants, and homeowners
Is that really the key to a lot of other criticism of the plan's concepts?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

World War I Prompts Changes in Retail Transportation

Here's an interesting moment in transportation.

World War I Propaganda
US Food Administration Poster
via National Archives
(But also: Immigrants!)
At the same time as Herbert Hoover* was building out a system of price controls and food rationing for the United States Food Administration in August of 1917, Salem merchants were advertising the shift from a delivery system with credit to a "cash and carry" system that required customers to transport goods from store to home, business, or field.

August 15th, 1917

Monday, August 14, 2017

Eugene Parklets Show Mixed Results; New Mill Race Path Skirts Industry

Thanks to an expert guide, beyond the desolate industrial park and the new bridges to EMX on the Fern Ridge path, there were a few other things to highlight from a recent visit to Eugene.

One of them was an opportunity to see the winning parklets installed on the street.

Three of the four winning parklets in Eugene
"Vivid Summer," on the left, is full; the other two are empty
Three of them were on Broadway just west of Willamette. This was an area that used to be fully closed to auto traffic and part of the downtown pedestrian mall. SW Oregon Architect has notes on the competition and plans and on a visit to the installations.

Though empty in this image, "Vivid Summer" was sometimes full
via Southwest Oregon Architect
On his visit he lamented that
during my quick stroll-by I found all to be unoccupied, despite plenty of passersby on a busy Saturday afternoon. They appeared forlorn and all too quickly forsaken.
This was not what I saw the weekend before, or what I heard about the weekend of Sunday Streets a week prior to that. I saw and heard that one of the parklets - but not all four of them - seemed to enjoy consistent visitors. That was the "Vivid Summer" project.

It may have offered better seating, better chances to mingle and socialize, and a more dynamic set of levels.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Headlines Erase Subject in Attack by Car

Yesterday a man in Charlottesville, Virginia drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one. The driver was later arrested and charged with "one count of second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and one count of hit and run with injury."

How it appeared in the Statesman, via USA Today
Most of the headlines, both locally and nationally, treated the car gramatically as the actor, the responsible agent and grammatical subject, in a probable crime.

Friday, August 11, 2017

City Council, August 14th - Commercial-Vista Plan

Council meets on Monday, and it's likely that the biggest matter will not be on the agenda - what to do about the do-over on the SRC required by the recent LUBA decision.

There are several other transportation matters of interest on the agenda.

Council will formally consider the Commercial-Vista Corridor Plan and whether to
accept the recommendations contained in the Commercial-Vista Corridor Plan project report and direct staff to seek funding to implement the recommendations and to incorporate the recommendations into the Salem Transportation System Plan at the next amendment opportunity.
Buffered bike lanes and enhanced crosswalks at Waldo Ave
Some of the project has been funded already, including:
  • Buffered bike lanes on Commercial Street SE from Oxford Street SE to Winding Way SE;
  • Pedestrian crossing islands on Commercial Street SE near Waldo Avenue SE and Triangle Drive SE; and
  • Bike signal on Commercial Street SE at the intersection with Liberty Road S, including adding protected left-turn phase from northbound Commercial Street SE to westbound Alice Street S.
This general approach is something we could consider extending farther south to the area on Commercial where a driver struck and killed Shatamera Pruden as she attempted to cross Commercial Street, where it is posted for 40mph, and 85th percentile speeds and design speed mean traffic routinely approaches full highway speed.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

LUBA Tepidly Remands SRC Decision back to City

By now you will have already heard that LUBA remanded the Salem River Crossing UGB expansion back to City Council.

The decision, however, is not a strong one, and it is interesting to see the autoist bias expressed in affirming procedural and technical details.

If the "spirit" of the law is to reduce drive-alone trips, LUBA makes no attempt to evaluate by the intent or spirit of the law, and instead finds that any fig leaf for compliance will do in order to protect autoist interests.

The matter that has seemed most interesting here is the question, "what does it mean to 'implement' something?"

LUBA finds that the need to implement things other than highway expansion first "is not as absolute as petitioners argue." They also find that as long as the benchmarks or standards are vague enough, there is nothing to challenge.

On "implement" and Policy 1G

On benchmarks
As a consequence, our advocacy task is to beef up our standards and benchmarks. For example, our milquetoast adopted standard is bike lane coverage on 70% of designated streets by 2030. Apparently a more solid appeal procedure would have pointed to a specific failure to meet this or other adopted standards.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

New Eugene Footbridges Will Connect Paths and Bus Rapid Transit

New footbridge across Amazon Creek at Buck Street
(Yeah, that's a paceline in the background on the Fern Ridge path)
With the Minto Bridge in the news this past week, it seemed like a good time to consider a somewhat similar bridge project in Eugene.

It was the top ranked bike/ped project:
Eugene's bridges connect streets and bike paths to transit
You may remember a few years back that Eugene and the Lane Transit District had put together a ConnectOregon application for lottery funding on three footbridges across Amazon Creek to connect neighborhoods, commercial areas, and the Fern Ridge path system to the westside expansion of EMX, Eugene's Bus Rapid Transit system, which opens September 17th.

The bridge project hit some kind of magic multi-modal trifecta, scored very highly, and secured funding easily.

Two of the three bridges are now complete, and this summer construction is proceeding on the third and final bridge.

Friday, August 4, 2017

SJ History Piece features Transportation Walking Tour

Though it'll appear in print on Sunday, last night online the paper posted a walking tour of some old Salem transportation sites circa 1917. (Map here.)

A favorite among the images was this stables business where the Liberty Parkade is today.

Club Stables at site of Liberty Parkade,
looking east along Ferry
(Willamette Heritage Center Collections, X2012.016.0872)
In the Library's collection, there's a somewhat later image of the same building. Its business model had transitioned from horses to cars.

Club Stables as Service Station circa 1930,
looking north along Liberty
Salem Library Historic Photos
And the site today is still dedicated to car storage.

There might be more to say after Sunday. The constraints of a newspaper column mean that there's lots that had to be left out. Nothing on bicycling, bike dealers, and their related buildings for example! The Vick Bros garage is still around as a few other early garages. Anyway, more in an update later perhaps. (Here are posts tagged "Wheeling: Old-time Biking," including notes on Harry Scott, Watt Shipp, Paul Hauser, Otto J. Wilson, Arthur Moore, Ben Taylor, and Myra Albert Wiggins.)

Update, Tuesday

Here it is...

Thursday, August 3, 2017

New Funding may Boost Safe Routes Planning: At the MPO

The Technical Advisory Committee for SKATS, our local Metropolitan Planning Organization, meets next week, and they'll be talking about Safe Routes to Schools.

The Legislature just funded Safe Routes with $10 million annually. That's statewide, though, and competition for funding will be very competitive. It will be interesting to see how far it actually goes. While the Street Trust and others have been quick to trumpet the feat and funding level, as a practical matter I think it is going to be disappointing when we see how thinly it ends up being spread statewide. Still, that funding level is effectively a huge jump from nothing - that's an "infinite" increase!

Locally, you may remember that Hallman Elementary has struggled with a Safe Routes program, and that the whole Bike and Walk Salem project was supposed to generate a city-wide Safe Routes plan. Here and there, there have been little spurts of Safe Routes planning and even programming, but nothing like a sustained and coordinated effort.

At the SKATS meeting there's no specific action on the agenda, but it's very nice to see "the discussion of how to prepare and coordinate to apply for these funds."

Maybe we are at an inflection point and this will change.

Even if we aren't successful in securing funding from this particular source, the planning for it will yield actionable plans that can be funded by other means. This should take Safe Routes planning here locally to another level.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Sizzling Temps Move Minto Bridge Dedication; Open Streets Needs Volunteers

Though it's hot now, remember the rain and gloom:
About 4pm, December 19th, 2015
It's hard to believe the two-year construction project on the Minto Bridge is finally coming to an end.

Sun, glorious sun: Last night just before sunset
Because it's gonna be hotter than Hades for the formal opening ceremonies Wednesday the 2nd, the City's wisely decided to move things to earlier in the morning:
Due to the Extreme Heat Advisory August 2, the celebration has been moved to 9 a.m....

The Wed, Aug. 2 celebration begins with a community parade that starts in Wallace Marine Park​ at 9 a.m. The parade route crosses the Union Street Railroad Bridge and continues through Riverfront Park. The parade will be led by the Willamette Humane Society Rescue Dog contest winner and include a bagpiper, honor guard, government and community leaders, and community groups. The community parade will end at the Riverfront Park​ Amphitheater.​

At 9:30 a.m., a formal dedication ceremony in Riverfront Park Amphitheater will feature presentations by Mayor Chuck Bennett, Senator Peter Courtney, and Friends of Two Bridges. A ribbon cutting at the Bridge will follow to complete the ceremony.

The First Wednesday event has been canceled​ due to the weather.
Open Streets Salem

Map and schedule via Facebook
Earlier in July, Open Streets Salem posted the route and preliminary schedule for Sunday Streets v2.0. This time on a Saturday, and renamed Open Streets Salem, it features the proposed Winter-Maple bikeway, runs through the Grant and Highland neighborhoods - where people actually live! - and is anchored strongly by hubs at the Saturday Market, Broadway Commons, and two schools, Grant and Highland.

In every way this is an improvement on the the emptiness and low-energy of the Capitol Mall area in the prior versions of Sunday Streets!