Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Congestion Task Force Missing Big Picture

The City still hasn't published any materials from the August 3rd Congestion Relief Task Force meeting. (Update - here's the presentation.) The committee, however, is reviewing a list of possible actions, tens of millions of dollars worth of actions, and preparing to make a recommendation. There is a decided lack of transparency and open debate on this.

Today's front page

Yesterday's front page
Almost like samizdat materials, some handouts are circulating nevertheless, and between cyantoxins, sustained heat, drought, and wild fires, there should be one overarching message, but the fundamental basis for the Task Force expresses exactly the opposite.

August 3rd presentation (unpublished)
and Oregon Global Warming Commission
2017 Biennial Report to the Legislature
(red comments added to both)
The consultant presentation included, and has always included, traffic projections for more and more driving. This is an unquestioned assumption behind everything.

We treat congestion and driving as inevitable
(unpublished, red comments added)
But our emissions goals call for lines with the opposite slope, down and decreasing rather than up and increasing.

This is the fundamental disconnect.

Our system of hydraulic autoism assumes a constant pressure upwards for more and more traffic that must be accommodated. We treat it as some kind of natural law.

But our climate calls for exactly the opposite.

How serious are we?
(2018 Council Policy Agenda)
By focusing on near-term congestion relief instead of improving mobility for non-auto trips, instead of improving land use so less mobility is necessary, and instead of curbing our propensity for drive-alone trips, we choose not to face the real problem.

The question should not be, how do we accommodate 1% annual increases.

The right question is, rather, in order not to have annual increases at all, what do we need to do?

The assumption for 1% (or more) annual increase relies on policy choices - especially on our "asphalt socialism" that subsidizes and incentivizes drive alone trips. (See here and here on asphalt socialism, for example.)

Until we manage to reframe the discussion and analysis, it's just so much rearranging the deck chairs on the sinking ship, and it is not very meaningful to try to discriminate between this action and that one.

Update 2, August 15th

Here's the other handouts:


MikeSlater said...

I think your criticism miss an important point. My understanding is that the Congestion Task Force is a political consolation prize for third bridge supporters and is specifically looking at short and mid-term solutions to car traffic in the downtown/river crossing area. I think the questions and issue you raise need to be addressed during the update to the comprehensive plan.

Anonymous said...

Looks like they posted the powerpoint today...

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Michael, over on FB another person writes

"I totally agree with the blog’s conclusions. However my understanding of the task force’s mission is that they are to come up with short-term, readily implemented, lower cost solutions to bridge/downtown congestion problems. This seems reasonable. We also need to take the steps needed for longer-tem solutions like providing more services in West Salem so people don’t need to travel to east Salem."

and on that note, echoing your comments here, you say

"That's my understanding as well. The task force was not a comprehensive transportation review but instead had a narrow scope of addressing car traffic the downtown/river crossing area."

These things aren't exactly wrong!

But they aren't exactly right either.

Adopting a narrow and autoist view, the Task Force already compromised its results, and this is a topic addressed in detail here over multiple posts.

(A tl;dr summary? The position here is not a misunderstanding of the Task Force; it is a disagreement with the Task Force.)

See discussions in "Let's Talk Demand Rather than Supply" and "City Council, November 13th - New Bridge Task Force" from 2017.

More detailed criticism of the process and consultant recommendations: "Congestion Task Force Meets Friday" and "Congestion Relief Task Force already Skews to a Preferred Outcome" both in April, and "Congestion Task Force Has First Look at Proposed Solution Packages" in May.

You still might not agree with the argument here, but it's not because the nature of the Task Force is misunderstood here. The argument is that the Task Force mandate is structured the wrong way, suffers from errant and autoist methods, and is oriented for a pre-determined and autoist set of outcomes.

As far as the Comp Plan goes, back in the 1980 FEIS on the bridge, we identified a bunch of actions in land use and non-auto mobility. We never did them. Over and over we keep implementing auto capacity measures and deferring other measures. It's a cycle of nearly endless deferral. The SRC was explicitly structured to avoid non-auto measures. We have to break the cycle. You may prefer to try to break it in a Comp Plan update; I would like to break it here in this phase.

If we had a better track record, your suggestion that Comp Plan revisions are a better place would be easier to agree with. But we discarded the "Salem Futures" project of 15-20 years ago now, and the City fought with DLCD on periodic review from 2002 through 2009. We've had several opportunities to make these adjustments, and we keep refusing them.

- and Anon, thanks for the Powerpoint link!

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Added two other handouts as well as the outlined minutes.

Anonymous said...

Word on the street is the task force accomplished nothing and will be making the recommendation to do nothing. The projects identified to solve short term relief would cost over $150 million that would widen Wallace Road and the bridges and in ten years, the congestion will be worse than it is today.

Yet the congestion and developments keep growing in Salem on both sides of the river.