Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Eugene Tax Cartography Project Shows Industrial Park Inefficiency

You might remember in August a note in passing about Eugene's Greenhill Technology Park.

According to the Register-Guard,
[it] has struggled­ to attract companies since it was planned in the 1990s by former Eugene mayor and lumber executive Ed Cone.
Lots for Sale at Greenhill Technology Park


Greenhill Technology Park
Fern Ridge path in blue,
West 11th Ave/OR-126 borders on the south edge
It turns out the City of Eugene has recently shared a Strong Towns/Urban3 analysis of property tax value!* Even when lots in Greenhill have been developed for high-tech or other industry, the property tax/acre they yield is basically the same as what single-family housing yields - the same coarse buckets anyway. Big boxes on large parking lots are inefficient!

Here's approximately the same area (tilted a little)
Even where it is built out,
the value/acre is like single-family housing

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Cherrots Finalizes new West Salem Routes

The Cherriots Board meets on Thursday and they look to adopt replacement routes for the Connector, the on-demand "flexible transit" project in West Salem that did not thrive. (Full agenda and meeting packet here.)

The final proposal
The final recommendation is in outline the same as the preliminary recommendation. There are the same three new routes and the same frequency on them.

Some of the details are different. There are a few new zigs and zags on the routes, added in response to user requests.

Monday, September 25, 2017

At the MPO: Public Participation Plan, Safety Targets

The Policy Committee for our Metropolitan Planning Organization meets tomorrow, and the topics are mostly pretty wonky. But they seem worth some passing mention. There's also what may be the first public glance at the schedule for the Commercial Street Bridge retrofit.

Public Participation Plan

Today Salem City Council is looking at three projects to pitch SKATS for Federal funding in 2019-2021. The announcement was public, there is opportunity at Council for Public Comment, and then those project applications will undergo more vetting and opportunity for Public Comment at SKATS.

So from a bureaucratic standpoint centered on following process, there looks to be a robust procedure for public involvement here.

But if you asked members of "the public" how many would say that they felt like there was real public participation in this process?

Probably not very many.

And it is true that a "tier 3" sidewalk project got bumped up to "do it now," and that this leap-frogging is a little mysterious.

(Part of the matter is that SKATS mainly compiles and does not originate projects, and so many problems in public process will stem from the ways that the member governments themselves conduct public process.)

Even more, there is a vast body of substantive criticism on the Salem River Crossing, and yet that process has continued barely impeded, impervious and insensate to critique and adjustment.

So how meaningful is it to talk about "public participation" in this context? Several of the MPO processes seem autonomous, governed by their own internal logic and reasons, and deliberately isolated from real, authentic public process.

SKATS is about ready to release a draft of the formal Public Participation Plan, and it's just interesting to see how it is shaped for the appearance of public participation and for bureaucratic processes more than what citizens might affirm was actual public participation.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

City Council, September 25th - Brown Road and Proclamations

Council meets on Monday and while the proposal for a Sit-Lie Ordinance rightly gets headlines, there are some other transportation matters on the agenda.

The City has assembled a trio of project applications for Federal funding:
SKATS is soliciting for transportation projects that will be ready for contract in fiscal years 2019, 2020, and 2021. The total federal funds available for this solicitation is $5 million....

[the three projects are] for Brown Road NE Complete Streets, McGilchrist Street SE Complete Streets, and Orchard Heights Road NW Pedestrian and Pavement Improvement.
I think this is a result of extra funding from the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program. From back in July at SKATS:
The addition of CMAQ funds for SKATS in FY 2019 to FY 2021 provides an opportunity to review projects in the FY 2018-2021 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) and add projects using federal STBGP-U funds that were not programmed in the TIP. Approximately $5 million will be available for projects for obligation in FY 2019 through 2021. Staff and TAC members need to discuss the project identification and application process that should start this summer.
One of the projects was already funded and needs completion funding. It is identified as the highest priority.
The project will construct sidewalks and bike lanes on Brown Road NE between San Francisco Drive NE and Sunnyview Road NE and add a turn lane at the intersection with Sunnyview Road NE. Brown Road NE is a collector street that provides access to Scott Elementary School, is located on a bus route, and is adjacent to a future park site.

Additional costs were identified during project design. In particular, right-of-way costs are approximately three times greater than originally estimated and hazardous material has been identified that will require special disposal. Because this project already has federal funds, staff recommends that this be the City’s highest priority for additional federal funds. [italics added]
The other two are new:
  • [A project on Orchard Heights] will fill in two missing segments of sidewalk....The first segment is approximately 340 feet long and is adjacent to the Glen Creek Village Housing Authority Apartment Complex. The second segment is approximately 500 feet long and is along the frontage of a City water reservoir. The project will also construct a median at the entrance to the park opposite Parkway Drive to facilitate pedestrian access to the park.
  • In 2016, the City was awarded federal funds for right-of-way acquisition for the additional width needed along McGilchrist Street SE and at intersections, with the exception of the intersection at 22nd Street SE. The intersection of 22nd Street SE and McGilchrist Street SE is an off-set intersection that will be realigned as part of the project. The right-of-way for this intersection was not included in the previous application because of higher costs associated with the realignment. Staff recommends that the City apply for the additional right-of-way needed to realign 22nd Street SE at McGilchrist Street SE.
These are small, incremental projects, and two are explicitly small parts of larger projects. (The whole McGilchrist project at the moment is conceived as a much larger TIGER recipient, and the future of that Federal grant program remains in doubt.)

From the TSP with inset detail from Staff Report,
and added comment on tier 3 prioirty
Interestingly, the segment on Orchard Heights was identified in the "Bike and Walk Salem" update to the Transportation System Plan as only a "tier 3" priority. Maybe there are reasons it should have a higher priority. Adjacency to the public housing is certainly a worthy reason, and part of any argument. But the Staff Report should discuss this and develop the argument in more detail. On the surface it looks like a project that's sliding in above other more urgent needs. If we are serious about our Strategic Planning effort, it should be easy to see how we prioritize projects. Here it looks more like an ad hoc selection process; it is not in fact easy to see how we rank and prioritize these and how they fit into a larger vision of mobility for the city.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Mostly Sunny for Open Streets Salem on Saturday!

The weather pivoted yesterday and it looks like the weekend will have lovely early fall weather.

Open Streets Salem - Sunday Streets v2.0 - lands on Saturday, from 11am to 3pm. It'll run from the Saturday Market at Union and Winter up to Highland School.

It's a car-free event for walking, biking, and other rolling.

Map and schedule via Facebook
There are a couple of notable rides on the schedule. It'll open with Ride with the Mayor:
This traveling event will roll out at 11:15 am from the corner of Union and Winter near the Salem Saturday Market Activity Hub and will travel to Grant Community School. Mayor Bennett, Councilor Cara Kaser, and several others will join the fun. This is a great way to show the Mayor your interest in safe and comfortable cycling for Salem!
A ride from the Market to Grant seems a little short, however, and hopefully they'll extend it out to the full length of the route. (There might be an opportunity, too, to point out to the Mayor that the Salem River Crossing cancels many bike boulevard benefits and threatens to suck up discretionary funding that might instead be allocated to bike boulevard projects. It's a bull in the china shop for sure. We need more bike boulevards and less giant bridge and highway. The Mayor's advocacy for both is incoherent and counter-productive. To put it baldly: It's more important to kill the SRC than to fund and construct a single bike boulevard.)

A second ride offers more commentary and explanation along the full length:
Meet at 2:15pm at the SE corner of the main playground at Highland School Activity Hub and travel to Salem Saturday Market. Your tour leader will be City of Salem Transportation Planner Anthony Gamallo. Come, enjoy the ride, and learn about the proposed design changes that will bring comfortable walking and biking to the neighborhood
See Open Streets Salem and Salem Bike Boulevard Advocates for the latest. (There will be food carts, watermelon drops, and other fun! Here's the latest.)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

History Notes: A Wine Bar for Downtown, Letters to Asahel Bush

The Historic Landmarks Commission meets tonight, Thursday the 21st, and their agenda brings news about a new wine bar proposed for downtown.

They have another interesting item. The Mill's "History in the News" as well as a major project on the letters of Asahel Bush are also worth noting. (All of them grapple in one way or another with the question of how best to retrieve and make lively the past.)

Starkey McCully Block

Proposal for a new wine bar and apartments
At the HLC is a proposal with a varied package of changes for the northmost third of the Starkey-McCully Block, one of the very oldest intact commercial buildings downtown.

Starkey-McCully Block and First National Bank
(The tower and Gerlinger Block on the corner are long gone,
but you can still read Lamport in the sidewalk!)
Image circa 1887, Salem Library Historic Photos
You may remember that the Salem-Keizer Education Foundation bought part of it, the southmost two-thirds, a couple years ago and there was a debate about whether Urban Renewal subsidy should be going to a non-profit that would not be paying property taxes for the "tax increment." (Here, here, and here.)

The ownership of that northern third was separate and was not in the sale to the SKEF, and now either through a different sale or merely that the current owners wish to upgrade, the HLC is looking at a
Major Historic Design Review of a proposal to add new signage, replace the front storefront, and construct a new addition on the rear of the Starkey/McCully Building (1867), a historic contributing resource within the Salem Downtown National Register Historic District...
On the whole, Staff Recommendation is for approval.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Hops are More Important than you Might Think!

Have you seen today's long front-page article on hops?

It's hop harvest time
It's glorious to see more mainstream attention to hops in culture, in history, and in our agricultural economy.

The article's focus is more on the development and late 20th century influence of the Cascade hop, developed at OSU and featured in what some have said is the most influential modern beer: Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale first released in the late 70s, a few years before Oregon's pioneering brewers were starting in the mid-80s.

The pre-history before the Cascade doesn't get much ink, though:
Early Oregon farmers rarely grew hops for beer.

In the 1800s, before Goschies began growing hops, fresh cones were stuffed into pillowcases to lull children to sleep, used as an antibacterial agent in soap, and served as a homegrown antidepressant.

But as beer popularized, so did hops, and harvests became larger and larger. The Goschie family started growing hops commercially in 1904. By then, brewers were the customers.
That understates the local significance of hops and the scope of hop ranching and hop harvests!

It was featured on the now-demolished First National Bank as for a reason.

Hop Harvest on the now-demolished Belluschi Bank,
relief by Frederic Littman

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Debate on I-5 Rose Quarter Project

You might have noticed that there's a new debate over freeway widening in Portland.

Probably the best summary of it is at the Portland Mercury: "Oregon's $450 Million Plan to Widen I-5 Has Portlanders Preparing for War: But Can Activists Kill Another Highway Megaproject?"

Portland Mercury
BikePortland gets into the weeds with the most comprehensive coverage:
The coalition opposing it has a project site, No More Freeway Expansions.

The Street Trust, formerly Bicycle Transportation Alliance, has distanced themselves and seems to be trying to have it both ways: "The Future of the Rose Quarter."

Via the AP, the local presentation at the SJ
Almost certainly the single most important takeaway is the concept of trying out decongestion pricing first. See how that does or does not tame the traffic. And then consider other measures if it fails. But try pricing first.

This story we probably won't follow closely here, but may update this post for reference and to keep a running tally on it as it develops.


Friday, September 15, 2017

Bike commuting Flat in 2016

There are some new census numbers on commuting coming out, and in our era of cheap gas, they are not good.

At 1.3%, Salem's at the top of p.2
Several cities actually show declines. As far as I can tell, Salem's rate remains unchanged, fluttering historically around that 1% to 1.5% level, within the error bars for any assessment.

For bigger cities there is more hand-wringing:
Here the lesson surely is that if we want to see fewer drive-alone trips, we are going to have to dig in more and make more of an effort. Mostly we're adding doilies and trinkets and bikey bric-a-brac on the margins, not making determined structural and systemic efforts to make walking, biking, and busing more convenient and more attractive and less costly than drive-alone trips, especially for short trips.

Our Metropolitan Planning Organization has said
The SKATS MPO -- along with our local jurisdictions and ODOT -- invests in a balance of travel modes: auto, transit, bicycle and pedestrian projects.
And 1.3% is the resulting "balance."

That's not balance. That's tokenism.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Jazz first comes to Salem in 1917

August 8th, 1917
One of the interesting things to come out of reading about Riverside Dip was the fact that once the summer bathing season was over, it also had a "dancing pavilion." And even more interesting than the mere existence of the pavilion was the sudden appearance of "jazz" in Salem.*
Have you heard of the Jazz band and the jazz music and the new jazz dance? While very few of the up-to-date dancers are dancing the jazz dance, never the less the jazz band and jazz music is with us and will make its first appearance next Saturday evening at the dancing pavilion of of Riverside Dip. Lyle Bartholomew, who has charge of the Dip during the afternoons will probably also superintend the dancing pavilion. A jazz band to be a real jazz band must include a piano, xylophone, drums and either banjo or saxophone. All the musical instruments must be of the loud kind in order to make more noise than the walking feet of the dancers. The jazz dance is coming.
The word doesn't seem to have appeared in the paper before 1916. In 1916 it first appears.** The context is baseball, though, not music.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

City Council, September 11th - Bridge Seismic Retrofit

Center Street at Commercial, one-way at present - streetview
Council meets on Monday and they will consider an intergovernmental agreement on the Center Street Bridge Seismic Retrofit.
An Intergovernmental Agreement has been prepared to identify the roles and responsibilities for the seismic upgrade study. Highlights of the agreement are as follows:
  • The cost estimate for the seismic study is $200,000. MWVCOG will provide $179,460 of federal funds; ODOT will provide $15,405 of local match funds; and the City will provide $5,135 of local match funds.
  • ODOT will select a consultant to perform the study and be responsible for overall management of the work.
  • City staff will assist ODOT with the consultant selection process and provide input on key decisions and the final report.
  • The study is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2018.
Additionally, the State of Oregon recently received Legislative approval through the Transportation Funding Package for an estimated $60 million dollars to complete seismic upgrades to the Center Street Bridge. The City will continue to coordinate with ODOT after the seismic upgrade study is complete to facilitate the design and construction of the final improvements.
The proposed IGA is limited, however, and Council may want to consider holding off a little and expanding it.
the Parties agree to cooperate in the preparation of a seismic retrofit study of the Center Street Bridge and connected structures that will produce a plan and cost estimate for completion of seismic retrofit measures for the identified vulnerable elements based on a full (Phase 1 and Phase 2) seismic retrofit approach such that the bridge and connected structures would survive a major seismic event and continue to provide a functioning crossing of the Willamette River...
The plan right now does not appear to give sufficient consideration to movement, to mobility, beyond the structural engineering necessary to make the structure survive a quake. After a quake, presumably the Marion Street Bridge will be toast, and two-way functioning across the remaining bridge will be necessary, at least until the Marion Bridge is repaired or replaced. This is, then, both an immediate problem after quake, and a medium-term one in the aftermath. So there's a case that the formal Plan for Seismic Retrofit should embrace both structural engineering and traffic engineering.

1917 History of Bridges Talks about Funding and Costs

Planked westside approach to first bridge of 1886, detail
(Salem Library Historic Photos)
This is the most comprehensive history I have seen of our first three bridges across the river, the bridges of 1886, 1891, and 1918.

September 8th, 1917
Sometimes a history suggests a comment on the present, but I'm not sure this one does. Conditions are different enough with funding, population, and transportation technology that I don't think there are really any direct and transferable lessons for our current bridge debate. Even with a little bit of Kingwood Park gridded with streets, West Salem was effectively totally rural. This article, then, is more for reference, a curiosity and footnote, than part of any argument we regularly make here against the Salem River Crossing. Maybe you will discern something or read it differently.

West Salem in 1917: Gridded a little, but not built up
Brush College, Chapman Corner, Eola are all rural places
(USGS historic maps)
The headline is about funding. Since the first bridge lasted only 4 years, and the second was hardly 25 years old, it's not so surprising they might not have been fully paid off. (Parallels here might be more like Courthouse Square.) As far as structures go, the Union Street Railroad Bridge of 1912 has been the enduring one.

Indirectly it is also interesting that Polk county opposed paying for a bridge. Note Asahel Bush's role in "bridge" financing! Perhaps if the very first bridge had been a toll bridge, development in West Salem would have been different and we would be having different conversations about "induced demand." In any case, the first bridge was free, and by a great margin, people continue to expect a "free" bridge.

(There are no illustrations with the article, and I have interpolated the map, several photos, and a traffic count that are not themselves part of the article.)

Thursday, September 7, 2017

We all got Eclipse Glasses, Why not a Carbon Tax and Climate Plan?

Most everybody got eclipse glasses, right? Scientific modeling said it would pass over the Salem area and that totality would occur a little after 10:15.

The immediacy of totality in Salem - via Twitter
It arrived on-time, as predicted.

Astronomy has a longer track record, it's true, but scientific modeling also predicts increasing levels of carbon dioxide and consequent climate disruption.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Streetcar Struggles Prompt Protectionist Jitney Licensing in 1917

September 5th, 1917
Here's a story that it might be possible to develop over some time. The decline of the streetcar system in Salem is understood in general terms, and of course it mirrors the decline nationally of streetcar systems. It is also generally assimilated into the story of autoist triumphalism, something like "Cars were of course superior, they were in demand, and so it cannot surprise us the streetcar died out, etc." But there are probably local actions and details, twists and turns, that might be a little interesting, and maybe would even revise some of our understanding.

The City's history of the streetcar system cites Ben Maxwell from mid-century, and quickly summarizes a generation's worth of developments:
In 1905 a contract was signed for construction of a carline from the South Commercial Street terminal to Liberty. Service was promised after January 1, 1906. Early in 1910, Portland, Eugene & Eastern had extended their carline over six blocks on Center and Summer streets. This line was projected to the Fairgrounds but dead-ended in a field before reaching that destination.

A newspaper story published on May 19, 1921 credits T. L. Billingsley, superintendent of Salem's streetcar system, with telling the Marion County Realtors' Association that "the city's street railways have not paid in 30 years." He went on to say that he had been associated with the city's carlines since 1912 and that since that time the Company had not received even operating expenses. He pointed out that the investment in Salem's street rail transportation was $458,000 and that total loss to the operating company in 1920 was $43,000.

Street buses replaced carline service on the Seventeenth Street extension on November 24, 1924. On July 29, 1927, Salem newspapers told of busses operating on State Street. On August 4, 1927, Superintendent Billingsley reported that there had been no hitch at all in Salem's complete switch-over from streetcars to buses.
But it is almost certainly true that the story is more complicated and more interesting, and that there was government action involved in addition to whatever market forces were operating. There were policy and regulatory decisions in addition to market developments.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Before Wallace Marine Park, Riverside Dip

Part of, or just north of, "Riverside Dip"
Wallace Marine Park has been in the news this summer. There has been the tragedy of drownings and the consequent effort to make life jackets available. There has also been the question of how much impact the Salem River Crossing and Marine Drive would have on the park.

In a history of Wallace Marine Park posted to the old City website, the City dates the park to the 1950s:
In 1956, Paul Black Wallace left 24 acres of prime riverfront land known as Wallace Marine Park to the citizens of Salem. Subsequent purchases and gifts have increased the size of the park to 68 acres. As specified in his will, Wallace's two daughters placed a white marble memorial stone at the park entrance in his memory and that of his life-long friend Joseph Albert. Formal dedication of the memorial was made in 1972.

Basic development of the park took place in the late 50's, soon after the Wallace gift.
While public ownership itself dates only to this period, there was activity here more than a generation before the park was established.

It turns out we have seemingly lost the history of an antecedent, an introductory chapter to the modern park.

A bathing beach at the base of the Center Street Bridge on the Polk County side was known as "Riverside Dip" during the late 19-teens.

July 31st, 1916

Monday, September 4, 2017

Few Wobblies in Salem, but the IWW made Big Headlines

100 years ago there didn't seem to be much "wobblie" presence here in Salem, but the Industrial Workers of the World was big news, often on par with World War I for the headlines. This was convenient, too, as the war mobilization effort offered an opening to crush dissent and define a treasonous "other."

These are headlines all from the front page during the summer of 1917.

August 1st, 1917

August 2nd, 1917

August 18th, 1917

September 6th, 1917