Thursday, March 29, 2018

State of City Speech, Survey on Regional Plan, Decongestion Pricing - Moments in Autoism

SRC: "stalled"
In his "State of the City" speech yesterday, the Mayor gave a public and fairly unambiguous assessment of the current state of the Salem River Crossing, saying it was "stalled."

This was nice to see, and it will be interesting if other agencies and entities attend to the cue, or if it remains part of the public process theater in which people say one thing and do quite another. I am not super optimistic. By our inability - or refusal - to articulate a general critique of autoism, and then to act on it, we are stuck with the idea that other autoist solutions are necessary or helpful. We need to change the paradigm, to get outside of our autoism, and at the moment that shift isn't there. I'm going to jam together three topics that might seem unrelated, but they really all participate in the same unwillingness to critique our autoist preferences.

USGS quads, 1975 and 1986
In the Mayor's speech, and perhaps offered as an element of complaint, he noted
Salem’s street system was designed for between 60,000 to 80,000 people, whereas the city’s population is now closer to 170,000.
That's basically two generations ago; the 1970 census says the city's population was 68,000 and the 1980 census, 89,000.

At about the same time, for the 1980 analysis of the bridges, planners made some recommendations:

  1. A substantial increase in use of transit, carpooling, bicycling and walking, and perhaps the introduction of peak-hour shuttle systems between downtown Salem and West Salem.
  2. More attractors (employment, shopping, entertainment, schools) west of the river
What the Mayor said about the map is basically true. The hub-and-spoke model we are using is very much a product of what was built out mid-century. (But how significant really is this? What about Manhattan? Don't most economically vibrant cities have road systems from a mid-century build out or earlier?)

The more primary problem is that we have defined, and continue to define, mobility as essentially drive-alone trips only, and we have made sure there is no pricing mechanism to match supply with demand, especially at moments of peak demand. We socialize road access for drive-alone trips. Everything else is very fringey, alternative, and secondary. Therefore we can never have enough peak-time road capacity to accommodate the ever-increasing demand for drive-alone trips. And by our actions we induce more drive-alone trips.

Induced demand - via twitter
We have plenty of road capacity to move people - if we are willing to conceive of space as accommodating movement other than drive-alone car trips.

We just insist on moving people by the most inefficient and space-hogging way possible.

Vancouver, BC ranks capacity and efficiency
As long as we insist on a willful blindness to other kinds of mobility, our obsession with drive-alone mobility really hobbles us and forces us to suppose only a single solution: Widening for additional drive-alone capacity. In his comments, the Mayor disparaged the Congestion Relief Task Force as a poor substitute for widening (though he speaks truth, when he says a third bridge won't solve congestion!):
So the mayor has pivoted from the bridge proposal, instead convening a downtown bridge-congestion subcommittee of the Salem City Council to create “specific projects” that will start to relieve traffic congestion affecting downtown and the two Willamette River bridges.

Congestion “is a problem that’s not going to be solved by a third bridge,” Bennett said. “That is stalled right now.” Still, “we will continue, as this town has for 50 years, to talk about a third bridge,” he said.
Survey for the next Regional Transportation System Plan

Our local Metropolitan Planning Organization is starting to write the next Regional Transportation System Plan for 2019 and a couple of decades out. It's starting with a general policy review, and they want to ask the public about the plan's formal goals:
  1. Able to meet the accessibility needs of the region for the next 20 years;
  2. Multimodal and comprehensive, supportive of moving goods and people by the mode of their choice;
  3. Preserved in good repair (and replaced at the end of their useful life, as necessary) and maintained to be usable to protect the region’s investment;
  4. Designed with the safety of all users in mind;
  5. Equitable for all users: that the benefits and burdens of the transportation system are not disproportionately distributed but rather are equally spread in the region;
  6. Efficient to use: this refers to a system that provides the greatest benefit to the users of the system and does so with projects that are cost appropriate;
  7. Planned to minimize the impact to the natural and built environment;
  8. Developed and maintained with the funds available to the region; and
  9. The result of an open and continuous dialog with the public, other stakeholders, local jurisdictions, and agencies within the SKATS area.
Yesterday the MPO published a survey and are asking about them. Let them know what you think!

And consider telling the MPO they should:
  • Listen to Salem City Council and quit wasting time and money on the SRC final Environmental Impact Statement
  • Support greater transportation choice in the region and boost Cherriots Trip Choice
  • Build more bike lanes and sidewalks
  • Dig in on Safe Routes to School planning and programming
  • Support better road pricing - tolling, value pricing, decongestion pricing
  • Support Amtrak along the I-5 corridor
  • Talk more about "free" parking and the way we subsidize auto use
  • Support greenhouse gas assessment and "scenario planning"
  • Think more about integrating land use and transportation
  • Support slower urban driving speeds, especially a "twenty is plenty" kind of campaign
You might think of other things.

Just generally, if the MPO thinks that they are in fact "Multimodal and comprehensive," that let's people move easily "by the mode of their choice," then they are profoundly wrong. The SRC is not a project that would arise in a truly "multimodal" system. The SRC also fails to meet most of the other goals. We don't do a very good job of meeting these goals in a direct and obvious way. Meeting them requires spin and creative interpretation.

In particular if only 1% or 1.5% of trips are by bike, that's not letting people truly go by the mode of their choice. By what measure does that count as "success"? That's multimodal in name only. What we have is subsidized autoism that makes a drive-alone trip the first choice and default choice.

Take the survey and ask for a better 21st century system.

Pricing Signals

In response to questions from the West Salem Neighborhood Association, candidate for City Council in Ward 8, Micki Varney, says something that is commonplace and is generally wrong.
Tolling is regressive; it will disproportionately impact students and low-income families and seniors that are already struggling to just get by day to day on their current incomes.
You know what's worse? Requiring students and low-income families and seniors to have a car! Cars are friggin expensive! A progressive transportation policy supports car-free living. (And it should be noted that both demographics and topography suggest what is true for West Salem in Ward 1 may not also be true for Ward 8.)

AAA Your Driving Costs
What is deeply regressive is our current system of compulsory autoism. You may say that the AAA estimate is biased towards newer cars, but even old clunkers that are fully depreciated consume gas, insurance, and higher repair bills, especially ones that arrive unpredictably.

Combined with enhanced transit, walking, and biking facilities, decongestion pricing is actually the progressive solution.

See Michael Manville's post, "Is congestion pricing fair to the poor?" and Lisa Schweitzer's response "Michael Manville’s Medium piece on congestion pricing"
And at StrongTowns, Chuck Marohn's "Toll roads hurt the poor?" and Joe Cortright's "Transportation equity: Why peak period road pricing is fair."

Because tolling is unpopular, a path to election in Ward 8 looks to embrace opposition to tolling. On this debate we aren't going to make any headway during this election cycle, so it's not probably worth a lot of time or energy.

But saying tolling is regressive is misleading policy position, and we should instead move towards a plan for decongestion pricing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Here's another one for you, this one about NYC: