In the decade of the 2000s, extending to about 2013, traffic flattened and it was easier to make an argument against the bridge based on demand. Demand was flat, there were at the time reasons to think about structural changes in miles traveled and trips taken, changes that are now more difficult to assert, and so it was possible to make a credible argument that based on demand "we don't need it." We don't need to add to road supply to relieve congestion and accommodate drive-alone trip demand.
There was a real opportunity to focus on the demand side of things.
|Bridge traffic, 1993 - 2016|
So does this nullify this part of an argument against this SRC or does it merely require that opponents of the SRC adjust and refine their arguments?
Separately, on the State Street Study, the current preferred alternative is a half-and-half beast, half road diet, half status quo. It arrived at that solution in no small part because the dominant question to be answered was, What will be the future car traffic demand and how can we accommodate it while maintaining level of service? How do we need to adjust road space supply to meet demand?
Inflexible Demand, Flexible Supply?
On both the SRC and on State Street, the dominant analytic mode has been concerned with satisfying some future projection of demand for driving trips. We propose to add road supply - expensive road supply! - to satisfy future demand.
We treat demand and rising traffic counts like the tide, like an inexorable force rising upward or outward, something that must be relieved or drained. It's another expression of hydraulic autoism.
|Some self-identified "cyclists" even say only car demand counts|
(In Salem, recreational cycling generally has been
more important than utility cycling*)
More generally we do not ask, Is that traffic demand a good thing? And, if not, can we reallocate demand and better utilize existing supply? Can we move people by means of mobility other than drive-alone trips? Are we truly locked in to this paradigm of drive-alone trips and traffic as fixed quantity of fluid?
It's just fascinating that in any number of areas in life we do not hesitate to say we must moderate our appetites and adjust our demand to a fixed supply. In these areas we see that demand is more easily adjusted than supply. We accept supply as an inflexible constraint.
But with cars and roads the default and norm is that demand is inflexible and that we must adjust our supply to accommodate appetite and demand, however costly is the move to increase supply. (But indeed it's inflexible only at morning and evening rush hours. We mostly ignore the time-dimension here.)
Why is that? We humans are so creative about so many things, and yet we aren't able to act at all creatively about altering our patterns of demand, obsessing instead about adding supply.
Inflexible Supply, Flexible Demand?
|The City could embrace these standards more passionately|
But for a variety of reasons it has not seemed politically feasible to take this language very seriously; instead, in very official, earnest, and sober bureaucratic prose and speech we wink and nod ironically at it. We spend more effort on meeting autoist levels of service for 2035 and 2040 than on reducing reliance on the SOV. We obfuscate instead of clarify, and punt the task to another generation. We do the very minimum the laws require instead of trying for the maximum, or even just something more enduring and substantial than the bare minimum.
It's important to say also that we had a window in the 2000s during which we might have done more. With traffic counts flat during that period, the political task of focusing on demand instead of supply would have been easier. We really blew that opportunity, and now it will be more difficult.
It looks like one big project to come out of the Strategic Planning effort will be to revisit and thoroughly revise the Comprehensive Plan. Even though our policy language heads off in a different direction, professing to value "alternative modes" and "decreasing reliance on the SOV," our de facto policy is to prioritize drive-alone trips and automobile levels of service, and to fit in "alternative modes" as secondary considerations, mainly when it is convenient for greenwashing, branding, or other signalling. They are signs, not act; alternative, never primary. If we are not going to be serious about reducing drive-alone trips, let's bring our policy language in line with our actual practices. Let's stop the charade.
On the other hand, if we are going to be serious about the urban harm created by subsidizing and encouraging drive-alone trips, if we are serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector, if we are serious about reducing death and serious injury on our roads, if we are serious about the fiscal costs of increasing road supply and of our maintenance obligations, the City should be bolder about saying we need to drive less. They will say we are not going to subsidize drive-alone trips, instead we are going to invest in and support other forms of mobility, and we will bring our land use practices into harmony with this.
Here anyway, the answer is clear. To rising traffic counts the answer is to say we need to change the demand, not to say we are helpless to change demand and instead have to increase road supply.
- "What is Hydraulic Autoism? Why it's our Mobility Paradigm!"
- "State Street Study Already Hamstrung by 20th Century Mobility Standards?"
- "Demand Management Report Shows Disconnect with Public Works"
- "Memo on Alternate Modes Study Shows How Little has been Done"
- "Memo on Alternate Modes Study, Pt 2 - TDM Badly Underfunded"
- "The Mostly-Ignored High Level Consensus to Reduce Drive-alone Trips"
- "Two Interpretive Questions: Goal 1 for Part or Whole? What does Implement Mean?"
- "ODOT Memo on Highway Plan Policy 1G seems Shallow"
- "The Origin of the 8% Reduction is a Rhetorical Sleight of Hand!"
- But LUBA says we don't have to take demand management very seriously at this time, "LUBA Tepidly Remands SRC Decision back to City"