Friday, December 29, 2017

Downtown Streetscape Open House Summary: Tame the Cars!

This week the City posted the summary from the Downtown Streetscape Open House.

The link on the City site is busted, however, but it was not difficult to figure out the right directory structure from the other documents that had correct urls. (Update - the link is fixed on the project website now.)

A busted url: It's in the folder
So, for the record, here's the link to "Downtown Salem Streetscape Plan Kickoff Open House Summary."

Here are two top-level clips.

It's really interesting how broad is the consensus on Court & Liberty as the "heart" of downtown. The Reed Opera House has something to do with that, as the earliest "big" institution downtown around which other things clustered. 

The red: Broad consensus on Court & Liberty = Heart
Maybe there's a real way to leverage that. That will be an interesting invitation to creativity for the Landscape Architects.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Final Winter-Maple Bikeway Plan Envisions Sluggish Implementation

Last week the City released  a final draft of the Winter-Maple Bikeway Plan. Overall, it points to ways our current formal planning paradigm is sometimes too focused on technical solutions and fails to give sufficient attention to the politics of actually realizing a plan with funding and construction.

final draft of Winter Maple Bikeway Plan
Back in May when we all got our first look at the draft concepts, you might remember a set of key challenges:
  1. Parking reduction (and potential loss of meter revenue) from angle to parallel. Will the City and State and other neighbors embrace this?
  2. How will the two businesses on Norway at Fairgrounds receive the idea of closing that small section of Norway to cars? Are they on board yet?
  3. And difficulty with the railroad in securing permission for the reconfigured crossings on Maple.
Most of the other details seemed like details too small to fuss over. The incremental difference between an 80% solution and a 90% solution is rarely all that important, and just doing something is almost always better than the status quo. In any case, there is not much change from the May draft concepts to these December final concepts.

So how the final recommendations managed these three moments will be central to an opinion of the overall plan.

Implementation does not seem very Urgent

But first, there is one overwhelming impression from the final published study.

It's not clear how serious we are. Towards the end of the plan, there is a table with a staging plan. A lot of the pieces are envisioned as "long-term" for completion five or more years out.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Article on Driving in Rain Slips on Speed

We're in the holiday doldrums, a between time when there isn't always something interesting to say.

A funny press release made for a front-page article today about the dangers of driving in the rain.
With 55 crashes directly caused by rain, Oregon ranked fifth among the most dangerous states for driving in the rain in 2016.
Sounds ominous, right?

The total number of reported crashes for 2016 wasn't immediately at hand, but the number for 2015 is 55,156. This will give us an order-of-magnitude comparison.

That's one-thousandth of the crashes directly caused by rain, a tenth of 1%!

It's hard to think of any analytical framework that would conclude rain itself is a pressing matter for systemic road safety efforts above and beyond our existing standards for stormwater drainage.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

TransitCenter Publishes Field Guide for City Leaders

The cover is perhaps a little underwhelming, but a recent TransitCenter publication is very interesting. "All Transportation is Local: A Field Guide for City Leaders" looks like something that could be a basic text for the City Council Public Transit Committee as well as the new bridgehead congestion Committee:
This handbook outlines practical steps that local elected officials can take right away to improve their transportation systems and make their cities better places to live, work, and visit. This how-to guide has four sections. “How to Make the Most of Your Time in Office” and “Alliances That Get Results” deal with the human dimensions of leadership, and “Make the Most of Your Infrastructure” and “Rewrite the Rules to Boost Growth, Not Traffic” deal with the physical and policy dimensions. No single formula fits every single jurisdiction, so elements from each of these sections can be selected as appropriate to your own circumstances. The important part is to find the combination of recommendations that work best for you and your residents.
Cherriots' own consultant also recommends it:

via Twitter
Anyone, not just Electeds, interested in Salem transportation would probably find something of use in it. So if you're looking for some transportation policy reading over the break, you might consider this!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Salem Area Driving May Double GHG Pollution from Incinerator

via Twitter
This past week the Federal Highway Administration seemed to exult in setting a new record in gas consumption.

And Salem Weekly followed up on some social media posting to note that our Brooks garbage incinerator is a huge greenhouse gas polluter.

But there's an element of comparison that might be missing. (The goal here is to sketch out an order-of-magnitude estimate, a back-of-the-envelope calculation. If you know of a more precise reckoning, do share it!)

Here are the top five polluters from the article with the number of tons reported as emissions:
  1. Covanta Marion, Inc. 160,517
  2. Kettle Foods, Inc. 8,491
  3. Bruce Packing Company 8,152
  4. Oregon State Penitentiary 7,127
  5. Norpac Foods, Inc. 6,659
The incinerator wipes out the pack by two orders of magnitude!

But even the incinerator emits less than our daily driving.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Plans for Housing and Shelters Need to Account for Walking and Biking

There's been lots of talk about the non-opening and then opening of warming shelters in Salem.

New UGM site:
The corner of Commercial and D Streets is hostile
to anyone not in a car
With the prospect of the UGM's move north (a preliminary matter was before the Hearings Officer a couple of days ago) across from the new site for the Police Station on a very zoomy stretch of Commercial Street, it should be an occasion to consider walking and bicycling there.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Uncle Sam Buys Bicycles: A Patriotic Christmas Ad from 1917

Without diving in too deep at the moment, here's an interesting pair of ads from the Capital Journal's Christmas supplement of 1917.

Arthur Moore's father was a Justice on the Oregon Supreme Court, and he took over his brother's business after an untimely death. (More on Moore here and here.)

Bikes and Patriotism during War - December 19th, 1917
(For more on the Pope Manufacturing Company's Columbia brand and military models, here's a couple of sites with lots more - one, two.)

"you are all entitled to the joys of life"
And here is a car ad that makes an explicit appeal to - or might even partially constitute - a kind of autoist entitlement! (The rhetoric of "entitlement" has generally not seemed useful here, as nowadays it's usually employed as a partisan way to insult a chosen out-group, but it's impossible not to notice it in this ad.)

Homer Davenport Cartoons Rhyme all too Well

A couple of Homer Davenport's late 1890s Gilded Age political cartoons seem especially relevant today. (We're going to have an "Uncle Sam" theme today.)

Now for Prosperity - top

Now for Prosperity - bottom

A National Hold Up
(A modern reprint of his cartoons is available here!)

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Bike Lanes in St. Paul and Austin, Urbanism with Doug Macy, Vera Katz - Newsbits

Places for Bikes released their annual "top 10" list for bike lanes, and a couple of them in the downtowns of capital cities seem worth a mention.

Jackson Street, St. Paul - Toole Design Group

Third Street, Austin - City of Austin
Check out the full list as well as those of previous years. There's so much more we could be doing!
And heck, we'll just continue with a bit of an aggregation theme here. (Also mourning, it would seem.)

Doug Macy
Walker|Macy is the firm doing the Downtown Streetscape Study, and here's an excerpt from an interview with founder Doug Macy, who just passed away last month.
A final thought on what matters most in urban design?

The evolution of open space and the contribution of open space to the city-- I don’t mean just parks and gardens, I mean the street. If you look at the amount of land tied up in your street system and the power of that street system, it is the most important public open space in the city because there’s more of it than anything else, maybe with the exception of the river, but you don’t walk around on the river... Think about the street system. Whether it’s a 60’ right of way, an 80’ right of way--those street systems occupy a huge amount of space that we travel up and down in our automobiles, we ride transit in them, takes cabs in them, we walk alongside them, and ride bikes in them. You spend more time in a street environment as an open space framed by buildings or framed by vistas that look over Mt. Hood or up to the West Hills, that, to me, is the most important urban space. The spaces we set aside are important, too, they’re precious, but they are a small percentage of our open space. If we don’t take care of our open streets, we don’t treat them properly, well, that’s another lesson for cities to learn. In a city, your streets are your greatest asset.
Vera Katz in 1972
BikePortland has a thoughtful encomium on Vera Katz and her leadership style:
  1. Urbanism is a practice not a vision
  2. Leadership requires chutzpah
  3. Lead like a mother
People talk about how visionary Katz was but I’d argue her ideas about what would make Portland livable were informed less by Utopian ideals of the great city and more by her experiences growing up on the streets of Brooklyn. Like Jane Jacobs, who also spent many formative years in mid-century NYC, Katz was intimately familiar with dense, walkable neighborhoods connected by mass transit and understood the dynamics by which human-scale design fostered community.
Also, her obituary in the New York Times.

Monday, December 18, 2017

West Salem Neighborhood Association to Talk Development and Driveway

In light of the Amtrak derailment and catastrophe between Olympia and Tacoma, it's hard to think about smaller, local things.

But the West Salem Neighborhood Association meets tonight and they've got a few items of interest on the agenda. 

There's a proposals for an apartment complex, identified in some of the drawings as "The Reserve West," on the old Lindbeck Orchards site above Orchard Heights Park. It looks like a compound, a gated community, all enclosed by a six-foot fence. That'll make Orchard Heights seem more zoomy than it already is! Can't we integrate apartment complexes into our neighborhoods better than this?

Concept drawings for "The Reserve"
(detail notes added)
Separately, there's also going to be some talk about a driveway on Glen Creek. I haven't been by lately. Does this exist already? If so, it's odd they didn't do a right-in, right-out only treatment. With traffic zooming down the hill, and the tricky bike lane transition also coming downhill, left turns either in or out of this driveway would seem especially problematic.

A problematic driveway on Glen Creek (from the agenda)
In the minutes from last month, of the SRC the Mayor said "we are not at a point where the current city council is in support of completing the environmental impact study at this time."

Saturday, December 16, 2017

2017 in Review: LUBA and the Legislature

The beginning of 2017 brought lots of "dumpster fire" memes on social media. By year's end, the meme was exhausted and 2017 sometimes seemed too perilous for jokes and memes.

So it seems appropriate in a way that the two most important moments in 2017 here involved civic/political institutions and the law they generated.

LUBA decision on the SRC
The appeal and subsequent decision on the Salem River Crossing by the Land Use Board of Appeals brought a slow down on the Salem River Crossing - though SRC fan fiction insists that it is not on hiatus, but it is very murky how a final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision happens without the Land Use matters being settled.

Mid-November update to SKATS
The disagreeable matter of a rogue and intemperate City Councilor was resolved with a resignation and the new election of Councilor Hoy for Ward 6, and his position was key in a 5-4 bloc against immediately revisiting the contested Land Use matters. Instead, Council created a new Task Force to look at near-term actions on congestion by the bridges.

Omnibus Transportation House Bill 2017
At the Legislature, House Bill 2017 provided funding for the seismic retrofit of the Center Street Bridge and new transit funding that Cherriots will be able to use finally for an expansion with weekend and evening service. (The legislation also includes a $15 excise tax on bicycles, but while annoying and dumb, it did not seem like a game-changer in the way funding for transit was or as big a deal as the seismic retrofit. As we get serious about greenhouse gas pollution and wanting to align incentives with outcomes, taxing bikes should be increasingly obvious as counter-productive. Fingers crossed, anyway!)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

DMV Crash Reporting Thresholds to Rise

The Oregon Transportation Commission meets on Friday the 15th, and there are several bits on the agenda about House Bill 2017 and settling details on the State 2021-2024 funding cycle. We'll probably come back to some of them as they filter down to the MPO level. If you are interested in more detail, here's the full agenda and links to the meeting materials and presentations.

One item in the consent calendar stands out.

The OTC will formally approve a change in Oregon Administrative Rules on crashes that must be reported to the DMV:

Raising the threshold of damages for reporting
I think this is a direct consequence of Senate Bill 35.

Things to note:
  • ODOT and the DMV here continue to use the language of "accident" rather than "crash." This is a symptom of minimizing the extent to which many or most of these are preventable, and not in fact random "acts of God."
  • Only high-end bikes have a value of $2500 or more. For ordinary bikes, the value of "a totaled bike" is equivalent to a "fender-bender." A kind of routine bike catastrophe is not reportable and therefore unimportant. This underreporting skews data that ODOT collects, and which cities and MPOs use formally in Safety Plans, in addition to making insurance claims more difficult. 
  • So this is a detail in the way that ODOT enacts a systemic bias against people who bike, and is an ingredient in the perpetuation of the more general autoist system.
Also, the Salem Public Art Commission meets today (full packet here), and the Cherriots Board meets tomorrow (full packet here). They mostly had routine or on-going things on the agenda, and it didn't seem like there was anything interesting to say about them. But if these are your particular interests, do check out their agenda.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Public Transit Committee to talk a little about Parking

Finally, at least a little talk about parking subsidy
The City's Public Transit Committee meets tonight, Tuesday the 12th, and they'll at least touch on the problem posed by our parking subsidies and the way this incentive for drive-alone trips erodes interest in transit.

The vast surface area with subsidized car parking:
Downtown Surface Parking Lots in Red
Parking Garages in Solid Brick Red
On-street parking stalls not included
(click to enlarge)
The conversation looks to be a little limited, however, and hopefully committee members will want to expand its scope to talk about the total system of parking subsidy we have: Required minimums for all development, a municipal commitment to "free" downtown parking, and the general cultural expectation of free parking all the time for everyone.

Fiddling with a City bus pass program is small change on the edges compared with the structural changes that are possible in our development code and in a greater policy for smart parking.

The Committee meets tonight, Tuesday the 12th, at 6pm in Public Works on the third floor of City Hall.

Monday, December 11, 2017

At the MPO: Technical Committee on Project Requests, Rulemaking

The Technical Advisory Committee for our Metropolitan Planning Organization meets tomorrow, Tuesday the 12th, and there are some things to note in passing. They are also meeting at Courthouse Square rather than the MPO offices.

The committee is continuing work on vetting projects for a slice of funding from the 2018-2023 cycle:
SKATS received eight applications for consideration for funding in the latest update to the FY 2018-2023 TIP with requests totaling approximately $9.3 million. Approximately $5.5 million is available, so the projects will need to be prioritized to determine which projects (or partial projects) to fund.
In the minutes from last month about some of these projects:
[On Brown Road] new federal ROW regulations are responsible for the increase in ROW costs...[which therefore] are significantly higher than originally anticipated....

[T]he Center Street project is Marion’s County’s highest priority of their projects submitted for funding. [MPO staff] asked if the Connecticut Avenue project is highly ranked as a Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS) project. [County Staff] responded that she believes the project has a pretty high SRTS ranking. Concerns related to the Connecticut Avenue project include how to address ADA (Americans with Disability Act) issues....

[T]he city of Keizer is unsure of its vision for Wheatland Road and has revised their project application. [Keizer staff] passed out a new application. The city would like to do a concept corridor plan with public outreach to determine the direction for Wheatland Road improvements.
The current agenda packet includes the first pass at scoring the projects:

First round of scoring
Completion funding for Brown Road leads the pack. In second place is the Center Street project, but the County Staff response that "she believes the project has a pretty high SRTS ranking" doesn't actually sound very confident at all. Do we actually have a SR2S plan that ranks County projects? Or is this just sales talk and BS? Additionally, there are real questions about the Center Street project's proposed design elements, which seem squarely autoist at the moment.

The bottom three look quite reasonable. Keizer is confused about Wheatland Road; it's hard to see regional significance for a Turner project; and the Orchard Heights thing is over-ambitious, a little messy, and remains a "tier 3" priority in the TSP.

Given the projects that were submitted (so, that is to say we might wish different projects were submitted, but we're looking only at what was submitted), the scoring looks like it's heading in the right direction.

Friday, December 8, 2017

City council, December 11th - Fisher Road and 85th Percentile Speed

Council meets for the last time in 2017 on Monday, and while I was expecting a sleepy agenda, it's surprisingly packed with interesting bits.

Not probably the most important, but maybe the most illuminating here, there's a discussion of Fisher Road NE. It offers a good entry into the ways that prevailing engineering standards are totally misguided.
Residents have expressed concerns about pedestrian and vehicular safety on Fisher Road NE. There was a pedestrian fatality in March 2017. Traffic volumes are increasing, and there is concern that vehicle speeds may be excessive. On August 28, 2017, Council directed staff to prepare a report on options to improve pedestrian and vehicular safety on Fisher Road NE....

The 85th-percentile speed is used to determine the speed at which a “reasonable” driver is comfortable traveling. This speed is used by the Oregon Department of Transportation for setting the speed limit of a road. A traffic speed count was conducted on Fisher Road NE south of Empress Way NE. The 85th-percentile speed in this posted 25 mph zone was 33.2 mph southbound and 33.9 mph northbound.

a. This 85th-percentile speed indicates speeding is an issue. The City could use this information to request a higher speed limit, but staff do not recommend changing the speed limit.
I just want to draw your attention to this logical chain:
  1. "speeding is an issue" (therefore)
  2. "the City could...request a higher speed limit."
That right there in a nutshell is how utterly effed up is our approach to design speed, posted speed, and 85th percentile speed.

If speeding and safety is an issue, the proper response is a suite of actions, both in posted speed and in road design and engineering, to reduce speed.

But nope. The current engineering dogma is that we should keep raising posted speed until it coincides with actual user speeds. It rewards speeding!

As a matter of philosophy and general approach, this is a very great ingredient in why we keep killing people on our roads. (And why the Pedestrian Safety Study whiffed and missed.)

Update and addendum - In a comment Jim rightly points out that the Staff Recommendation is for some mitigation:
All-way stop signs will be installed on Fisher Road NE at Beverly Avenue NE and at Devonshire Avenue NE.
Speed radar signs will be installed on Fisher Road NE, for both northbound and southbound traffic, between Beverly Avenue NE and Sunnyview Road NE.
These seemed band-aid-y and temporary, and inconsistent with the thrust of 85th percentile analysis. But as he suggests, it was misleading to omit them entirely. See the comment thread for more on that.

2017 Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan

The Natural Hazards Mitigation Plan also deserves more attention and discussion than it will likely get. It's a little buried here.

Has Crossing Commercial at Union Street got Easier?

Have you crossed Commercial Street on Union Street with the new light?

A reader reported trouble last month on Monday the 20th:
This morning east bound on Union I sat at the bike light for two full cycles on the lights at Division and Commercial and Marion and Commercial with no change in the Red east bound light on Union. There were no cars going east or west on Union and no pedestrians using the cross walk. So I on a bike had no way to activate the light. Luckily a city worker and one of the contractors were there, so I stopped to talk. I asked what it takes to activate the intersection on a bike. The city guy said it is not working yet. He said there will be a light to detect bikes and activate the system, but it won't be activated until March. So for now I'll still have to run the red light when it is safe or make my way for the pedestrian plunger confusing everyone involved at the light....The current situation feels more dangerous than no light at all. Oh and in the evening cars traveling south bound on Commercial still block the intersection.
From the dashboard, posted November 15th
to a pro-Third Bridge Page, skeptical of the light's value
Elsewhere on social media, a person posted the picture above from November 15th, and it definitely showed south-bound cars blocking the intersection. On the left-hand margin, there's a light-colored car directly in front of a bike's through-lane going east.

So that's two data-points and evidence for some difficulties here.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

SAIF Work Brings new Bike Lane on Church Street

I haven't been following the project at SAIF very closely, so it was a surprise to discover that the work included - or coincided with - an additional segment of new bike lane on Church Street between the bridge on Pringle Creek and Trade Street.

Start of a new segment of standard, door-zone bike lane
On the one hand it's great to see this as a partial connection and continuation to the buffered bike lane north of Trade Street.

But it reads a little like a perfunctory treatment consisting of a vintage 1980s standard bike lane. The designers may not have given enough thought to how it logically connects with Church Street on the south and north. So much more could have been done!

It starts, pretty much ex nihilo, just north of the bridge at the pump station on the corner of Bellevue.

There is curbside parking and it's pretty tight. If drivers don't hug the curb, they really encroach on the bike lane.

Encroaching on the bike lane
The center medians look like they are enlarged, and there's a new crosswalk.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Area Commission on Transportation and State Bike-Ped Committee Meet

Our Area Commission on Transportation as well as the State Bike-Ped Committee meet on Thursday, and there are perhaps a couple of things to note in passing.


Planning for the 2021-24 funding cycle continues and at the last Oregon Transportation Commission meeting, they appeared to be heading towards allocating a little less to "fix it first," like the Legislature said to do, and a little more to widening and "enhancement":
While public opinion and the Commission’s policies favor focusing on maintenance, increased congestion in the Portland metro region is negatively impacting freight mobility and the economy of the whole state, pushing toward additional investments in congestion relief. Due to increased congestion, the Legislature directed $672 million in HB 2017 toward specific enhance projects in the 2021-2024 STIP, and the Commission asked ODOT for options to direct additional resources to addressing congestion.

In response, ODOT unveiled a variation on a scenario called “Scenario 2+” that held maintenance funding steady while directing additional money to congestion relief—contingent on receiving federal funding above the level in ODOT’s conservative financial projection. “Scenario 2+ directs the first $40 million in additional federal funding into a Strategic Investment Program that may be used on highway enhancement opportunities chosen by the Commission,” said Travis Brouwer, ODOT’s Assistant Director. This strategy is similar to the $50 million the Commission set aside for strategic investments in the 2018-2021 STIP. The Commission can choose to use it for congestion relief projects or for federal grant leveraging opportunities.

Under Scenario 2+, Enhance Highway funding will increase from $124 million in the 2018-2021 STIP to over $700 million in the 2021-2024 STIP when HB 2017 funding is included — a nearly six-fold increase in Enhance Highway funding.
There's just a consistent belief that the only way to engage congestion is by widening and increasing capacity. It's still not sinking in that we need to think about the mobility of people who can choose - should choose sometimes - other than drive-alone trips and to reduce the total amount of driving.

California is phasing out autoist LOS analysis
for miles traveled - via Twitter and Streetsblog
California is making one important regulatory change that will help with this. It is likely that Oregon will get there also - but only after much kicking and screaming.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Downtown Parking Debate Heats up in 1917

A century ago debate heated up in downtown Salem about a formal on-street curbside parking ordinance. While the ordinance was not adopted at Council on December 3rd, 1917, it had a very serious discussion, and the matter had been percolating all summer and fall.

Back-in, angle parking on a two-way State Street at Commercial
circa 1925 (Salem Library Historic Photos)
This news piece is interesting in many ways, and worth citing nearly in full. You can see in it the lively flavor of the old newspapermen, but also the haste in writing and typesetting. The piece was not edited closely. They reported in more detail, but did not fact-check and verify as much. Contemporary journalistic standards show different trade-offs. Probably also Council meetings were more raucous and chaotic than they are today. In the story, the problem of assessments for street improvement also comes up.* Finally, note the speed limit.

We're really reading in a key period when the policy and regulatory environment for this new technology, the automobile, and a cascading set of changes it sets in motion, is being debated and shaped. Consumer behavior has got out in front of City Council, and they are having to react. Powerful interests push for a bias in one way or another. It is easy to see that different choices might have been made, and that our current patterns of and exceptions for auto use are the result of deliberate policy choices and intent - and we can change them again.

The headlines in 1917 were nuts!
City Council, WWI, Russian Revolution
From December 4th, 1917:

Assessment Against South Commercial Property Owners Objected To

The new automobile traffic ordinance and the bill calling for the assessment of abutting property to cover the cost of improvement of South Commercial street were the two chief matters of importance to receive the attention of the city council at its session last evening.

The traffic ordinance was in an extremely precarious situation for a time After its introduction Alderman Wilson proceded [sic] to go at it with long, sharp scissors and it soon became apparent that certain sections of the ordinance would receive no mercy at the hands of Mr. Wilson. Aldermen Johnson and Kigdon then came to its rescue, and the fray was soon joined by Alderman Ward. Sections were stricken out entirely, then reconsidered and reinserted. Amendments were offered pro and con, until there was some doubt in many minds as to just what was left of the ordinance. Motion was made that it be referred to the ordinance committee to be gotten into shaps [shape] for consideration at the next meeting, and Mayor Keyes voiced the sentiment of the majority of the aldermen when he stated there were parts of the ordinance he would really like to give further study.

WanderWalks for Grant-Highland Area Makes V2.0 a Vast Improvement!

The newest WanderWalks map for Grant and Highland
Last month Cherriots*, OSU Extension, and WVP Health Authority released a new WanderWalks map for the Grant and Highland neighborhoods.

The first Wander Walks map - lots of arterial walking
You might remember that the first version of WanderWalks was a collaboration with Willamette MBA students, and its routes went along many of our busiest, most unpleasant major arterial stroads. It was a great first effort, but it fell short in crucial ways.

It's hard to fault this new one in any meaningful way. It's pretty great.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Nice Profile of Chief Traffic Engineer in the Seattle Times

Today's Seattle Times Front Page
From the Seattle Times:
Seattle isn’t building many new streets these days. Chang, along with dozens of engineers and technicians, works to make the streets we have function better, rejiggering speed limits and lane lines, trying new ideas to make the streets more welcoming and more efficient.

The results, like them or not, are apparent: Seattle’s not getting easier for drivers anytime soon. But it’s one of the safest cities in the country for pedestrians. And while downtown neighborhoods have added 45,000 jobs in the last six years, the rate of drive-alone commuters has declined, and transit use has spiked....

...the Seattle Department of Transportation has changed the signal timing on dozens of traffic lights throughout the city to give pedestrians a jump start.

“It’s really about making our city more livable,” he said. “We don’t want people to get to the destination as fast as possible, we want our streets to be efficient, and sometimes efficiency is actually going slower”....

“A longstanding city traffic engineer can really be the one holding back better design for people,” said Dale Bracewell, the manager of transportation planning for Vancouver, B.C. “Dongho is really one that’s embraced the new way, that we want to be thinking about all types of transportation, a less car-centric view.”

Friday, December 1, 2017

City Council, December 4th - Lansing-NESCA Plan

Council meets on Monday, and there's not much to note here.

The apartment complex on appeal last week at Council
met Policy 3.1, but apparently that didn't matter
to the neighborhood association.
The Lansing-NESCA Neighborhood Plan is starting the process for formal approval and adoption, but it is interesting to note that the apartment complex the Lansing Neighborhood Association appealed last week at Council had already satisfied policy language in the Plan!

So the Plan isn't legally binding, and when there is new development proposed consistent with the Plan, neighbors still complain.

Why bother? What is its real, effective function?

I just can't wrap my mind around what is the real role for these neighborhood plans. They don't have any real kind of power - they have neither persuasive power to shape opinion, nor legal power to shape development and City regulation.

Between the cemetery and Madrona by Croisan Scenic
Another development will be on appeal, and one reader last month suggested that there were some real issues with slope, drainage, and excavation. This one might have more merit and deserve closer attention. The area is too hilly and remote ever to be easily bikeable and walkable for all ages, so it will be essentially car-dependent and it doesn't seem worth fussing over on that account.