Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Downtown Sidewalk Plan Open House Wednesday

The downtown sidewalks plan will hold its third Open House tomorrow, Wednesday the 18th.

The City and team have posted no additional materials, so it's hard to say anything about it. (They have been very clear about avoiding anything between the curbs in the street, so it seems more accurate to call this a "sidewalk" plan rather than "streetscape" plan, and we'll probably use that going forward.)

Some of the feedback on the previous Open House and associated materials might be worth comment.

On the "social spaces" poster, there's a clear split on parking. Too much zoomy traffic likely compromises the appeal of parklets and the associated sidewalk expansion they propose to offer. At the same time, despite plentiful free parking in our garages, many want to keep on-street parking.

The demographics of those responding show more people bike than you think - though people who bike might also self-select to respond. Bus riders are surely underrepresented here. Latinx respondents are also badly underrepresented. Probably the age proportions would be better if they ignored "under 18" and recalculated shares for the buckets of 18 and over. It tells us nothing that a quarter of Salemites are under 18 and yet only a half-percent responded to the survey. That's just junk data on toddler non-respondents, and it distorts the other buckets.

In light of rhetoric at Council about "balance" it was interesting to read this submitted comment:
Please keep parking availability or wayfinding in mind; Portland is hard because it feels OVERLY bike and pedestrian friendly, which seems to increase the transient population. Balance the traffic / pedestrian access, please!!! :)
From here it is clear that there's a sense in which people seem to think balance means measured inconvenience for everyone except those making drive-alone trips. The implied sense of balance here is nonsense.

A few years back, MPO staff cited the project selections as "a balanced mix of project[s]" and asserted "The SKATS MPO -- along with our local jurisdictions and ODOT -- invests in a balance of travel modes." (In fact it's possible that SKATS is a center of the this idea of "balance.")

If we have a system in which 1% - 1.5% of commutes are made by bike, do we in fact have a balanced system? What are appropriate metrics by which this balance might be assessed? And if we find we are "out of balance," what gestures are necessary to restore balance and how would we recognize attaining a "balanced" state?

The rhetoric of balance seems to exist in an autoist world only, untethered from the empirical details of actual reality.

The Open House will be Wednesday the 18th, in the Senator Hearing Room/Courthouse Square, 555 Court St. NE from 5:30pm to 7pm.

(The project page is here. Some of the recent documents have links, but they go to 404 Errors, and do not appear to have the right url. Previous blog notes are here. If posters or other materials are posted in advance of the Open House, this post may be updated.)

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