Wednesday, October 31, 2018

What should we Expect from a Public Bikes Program?

News has been filtering out that operators of a public bike system will go to Council on November 13th for final approval of an agreement.

story on the front page today
The installation would occur over the winter and bike rentals themselves launch in early spring.

The SJ reports that the concept has been scaled back to about 30 bikes at six or seven stations.

Excitement will run high, but just for context, we should be clear about expectations.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Parking Reform Should Lead Congestion Task Force Recommendations

In advance of the November 5th Council Work Session, the final materials for the Congestion Relief Task Force have been published. (Summary here; final report, which is mostly appendices here. The Work Session immediately follows the Our Salem meeting at the Library.)

A quickie plus/minus assessment
The menu of "short term actions" has 15 items, and on the whole, if Council actually commits to them equally, and does not shuffle some off for inferior implementation or for greenwashy signalling by words only, it's possible to conclude this is a reasonable and balanced compromise. It's far from perfect, and still doesn't address greenhouse gases sufficiently. But if you squint and look at the totality, it's in the range of things on which reasonable people can disagree and has nothing outrageous in it.

Finally, there is a plan on the table
that is responsive to these policies
And, in fact, it looks like something that it should not have taken a decade and a failed process to yield. It looks like a plan that fairly directly follows from policy J.12 on transportation in our Comprehensive Plan:
The implementation of transportation system and demand management measures, enhanced transit service, and provision for bicycle and pedestrian facilities shall be pursued as a first choice for accommodating travel demand and relieving congestion in a travel corridor, before widening projects are constructed.
The proposal here is solidly in the range of the kind of program that should have been first out of the gate during the SRC process! It's what we should have developed between 2006-2008 and started to implement at the start of the Great Recession.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Airport Stories miss on Climate and History of Failure for Subsidies

Back in June, about the time we we in the middle of the cyanotoxins and drinking water crisis, the Chamber and its allies floated a proposal for subsidizing commercial service at the airport.

This week, it looks like the Chamber is cranking up the propaganda machine for another round.

Today's front page,
chart and comment added
A couple of days ago Salem Reporter had a very sympathetic and rather one-sided piece about it, "Salem businesses in pursuit of commercial airliner."

Today's front-pager, also largely sympathetic, frames it up as rivalry - and fear of missing out - with the Aurora airport.

Both pieces minimize the full history of subsidy and failure for commercial service to Salem and, even worse, both pieces utterly miss on climate, passing on any discussion at all.

Friday, October 26, 2018

French Prairie Bridge at Wilsonville Moves Ahead

BikePortland's got a nice post with an update on the French Prarie Bridge project.

That's not something we've been following here, especially as it had seemed more "wish list" than likely, but things are moving along with a little more than $1M budgeted for preliminary engineering, so go read their note and check out the official project page.

There's an online Open House and opportunity to comment, also.

This would help connect the north end of the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway at Champoeg and make for easier transitions across the river to points and trails further north.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Another California Winery Makes Climate Hedge Here in Valley

These stories in today's paper are not unrelated!

Earlier this year
See here and here and here for more on the ways vineyard land is a canary - or klaxon - for us.

Tussle over Field Near McNary High Hides Committment to Autoism

When I first saw yesterday's piece on McNary High and the prospect of eminent domain, I though, Geez, the neighbors just built a lovely new church.

But that land and building isn't in play at all. Instead the conflict is over an undeveloped, empty field.

Current conditions: contested field, top center;
ball field to become parking, lower left
According to the article
The school district wants to acquire about six acres of the church's land, located on the 5300 block of River Road N in Keizer. Their plan is to move McNary's athletic fields and parking lot to address traffic and safety issues near the school's entrance on the southern side.

Officials say this is a necessity because the current setup puts students, pedestrians, bicyclists, drivers and others in danger when entering or exiting the school's main parking lot.

The existing parking lots would be taken out to make way for building expansions outlined in the nearly $620 million capital-construction bond approved earlier this year and more parking would be added in other sections of the campus.
And it's a little hard to see what really is going on.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Council Policy Agenda Town Hall, Planning Commission, Downtown Advisory Board Meet this Week

The City's hosting a Town Hall on Wednesday the 24th to solicit ideas for the 2019 Council Policy Agenda. On Tuesday and Thursday are a couple of other meetings to note.

Council's 2018 Policy Agenda
Our local chapter strongly suggests that we make a Climate Action Plan - to move beyond the "inventory" in the 2018 Agenda - the center for 2019.
Come to this town hall meeting to tell our City Council that we need to stay on track with a Climate Action Plan for Salem. Salem is one of the only major cities in Oregon without one. Development of a Climate Action Plan needs to be funded in the next City budget for 2019-20.
That would be a fine center. Other goals like Safe Routes to Schools, better bike lanes, improved transit, more housing in the city center all fall easily under the umbrella of a Climate Action Plan and follow naturally from it.

The Town Hall's at Broadway Commons, 1300 Broadway St NE, at 6pm on Wednesday the 24th.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Portland to Eugene Passenger Rail DEIS is Out! Open House in December

Did you see the piece on a funny episode of train nostalgia in 1955?

A 1955 ride on the Oregon Electric line
Though it not yet easy to see a path to funding, the project to improve passenger rail between Eugene and Portland is one more step along.

This month they published the draft Environmental Impact Statement, and will hold an open house on December 5th at Pringle Hall on Church Street behind the Hospital at 5pm.


Mostly things seem unchanged since 2014 when we learned about the preferred alternative.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

After Last Meeting Abandoned, City Transit Committee to Meet Again on 23rd

The City Public Transit Committee meets on Tuesday the 23rd, and the reasons might be a little embarrassing.

Agenda and packet
They were supposed to meet on the 9th, but over half of the committee did not show up, and those who couldn't make it apparently had not also let City Staff know with sufficient lead time - or even any lead time - to reschedule the meeting.

Trying to read the "tea leaves" here might be a stretch, and yet it's a little odd that the City published "minutes" like this on a meeting that had to be abandoned. This is out of the ordinary enough to constitute "a message" perhaps.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

For 2020 Library Should Align Salem Reads with Our Salem

Even if the colors aren't quite magnificent, it's still pretty great
Make sure to get out before the rains start!

Poster in the foyer
At the Library the other day, I noticed the announcement for the 2019 citywide reading club selection.

The City doesn't seem to have updated their website, but Library Foundation has some info. About Good Morning, Midnight the publisher says
Lily Brooks-Dalton’s haunting debut is the unforgettable story of two outsiders—a lonely scientist in the Arctic and an astronaut trying to return to Earth—as they grapple with love, regret, and survival in a world transformed.
One reviewer calls it a "sparse post-apocalyptic novel."

So considering the urgency of climate disruption, that's apposite for sure.

Indeed, the Library Foundation says it
sees Salem Reads as an opportunity to increase the Library’s visibility, and act as a catalyst to bring the community together around shared values. The committee selected Good Morning, Midnight because the book has many dimensions that lend to broad community engagement. These include science education, climate change, species extinction, isolation, living in extreme environments, and disaster preparedness.
For 2020 the City and Library Foundation should consider The Death and Life of Great American Cities or, if that's too old a classic, some more recent book on urbanism and urban analysis. If non-fiction's not the thing, there's probably some novel that's appropriate. Whatever they choose, they should give strong consideration to making "the city" and the history of the city the thematic center for the selection.*

"Our Salem" is an important multi-year project to update the Comprehensive Plan, and it could be helpful to extend the set of concepts, vocabulary, and debate beyond the planning nerds, neighborhood advocates, and business interests, and to give people a broader foundation with "shared values" and terms in common for sharper debate and analysis.

* Heck, one of the main characters in Good Morning, Midnight is named Augustine! His namesake wrote on the City, of course, if also in a little different context. Still, that's a bridge, right there.

Postscript, May 16th, 2019

There never was very much chatter or press about the book and associated events, and I wonder how popular it ended up being.

Can we risk semi-spoilers now? The book seemed to rely on a trick ending and an unreliable narrator. It was a little gimmicky, and not wholly satisfying in that way. It also didn't end up having much to do with climate change, also. As an entree, then, to some urgent cultural and political questions, it may not have been very effective.

The Library's compiled a short-list for the 2020 selection, and it doesn't look to have anything to do with Our Salem or with "the city" as an object for thought and analysis.

Friday, October 19, 2018

City Council, October 22nd - Brown Road Park

Council meets on Monday, and the plastic bag ordinance will lead the headlines and interest.

Here, the most interesting item is the proposed master plan for the new Brown Road Park.

Crosswalk and on-street parking at Brown Road Park
Since it will be a neighborhood park, it should be easy to walk and bike to, and it's appropriate not to devote a large space for car storage, and the City's 2013 Parks Master Plan recommends only on-street parking for neighborhood parks. (For larger parks that are expected to draw from a larger area, the City does sometimes recommend off-street parking.)

Additionally, the best place for an interior parking lot would impact a wetland area.

For these reasons the preferred alternative is a widening in Brown Road with a pocket for on-street parking. (There's no striping plan, but it looks like parallel stalls. Some thought should be given to a bus stop also.) This offers better visibility for "eyes and ears" on park activity, at least on the streetside edge, as well as traffic calming from the median and crosswalk refuge.

This seems like a good plan, and is similar to what has been done at Bryan Johnston and Hood View parks.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Gaps at the MPO: Chapter 5 of the RTSP, Goal 7 Also

Just a couple of weeks ago, the technical committee at our Metropolitan Planning Organization started reviewing an all-new draft chapter 5 of the Regional Transportation System Plan. Since then, the authors have expanded the draft by quite a bit, and the Policy Committee will review its latest version. The PC meets on Tuesday the 23rd.

A new map of gaps in the regional bikeway system
Most striking here in the latest draft of the chapter, though perhaps not the most important part of it, is a new map of gaps in the regional bikeway system. I don't recall seeing a map specifically on gaps before. (Do you?) This is a helpful advance in reporting.

At the same time, the map has functional limits. It may be the best a regional agency can do from an overview and aggregate level. There are fairly clean definitions and metrics here that can generate the binary yes/no on a map. But the map's binary scheme does not always match practical riding experience on the road.

Bicycle system gaps in red - downtown detail
Let's look at a few places downtown.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Big Data, Robot Cars, and Mission Street/OR-22 Study at Oregon Transportation Commission

ODOT's board, the Oregon Transportation Commission, meets Thursday and Friday this week in Silverton, and there are several interesting items on the agenda. And there's a bit of a theme: Big Data.

Maybe too much highway because it's simpler...
What about an urban environment with many different road users?
And what are the privacy implications?
The main course on the agenda is a half-day workshop before the main meeting the following day:
Emerging Trends: Innovation, Technology and Sustainability Develop understanding of the potential implications of emerging transportation technologies and explore how they relate to Oregon transportation policies. (4 hours, facilitated by ODOT Transportation Development Division Administrator Jerri Bohard, JLA Associates, Inc. President Jeanne Lawson; Global Technology Leader of Advanced Mobility Systems Brian Burkhard and Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc. Senior Project Manager Kristin Hull.)
This hints at the regulatory capture we are beginning to see with robot cars. It's outside consultants boosting for the products and contracts they hope to secure and see in wider acceptance. (And is Big Data serving us? Or are we being packaged and serving Big Data? The graphic is rightly, but perhaps unintentionally, ambiguous about surveillance capitalism and its use on the roadways.)

But the uncertainty bars here are so big that it mostly looks like a raft of BS packaged up as techno-sales!

On both axes there's a lot of fudge factor!

Monday, October 15, 2018

Safer Crossings Committee to meet Tuesday the 16th

While the new gas station at Madrona and Commercial is all up and operating for a week or two now, as of Sunday, the new sidewalk at the turn lane and the reconfigured crosswalk both remained barricaded and incomplete. Strong young people can negotiate it, but for someone blind or infirm it's a dangerous barrier. The next crosswalks are blocks away at Vista and Browning.

Our priority for cars is clear.

The City's Safer Crossing Project Advisory Committee meets tomorrow, Tuesday the 16th, at noon in Public Works at City Hall.

Mostly it's framed up as "Where do we need new crosswalks?"

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Building Dot Map and Editorial on Climate Report - In the News

Only the buildings are marked (red comments added)
via NY Times
The New York Times yesterday published an interactive map of buildings in the lower 48 states. No roads, no parks. Everything else is an absence, white space.

You can see here the transition from downtown to the areas where apartments are banned and there's a near monoculture of single-family homes. It says something about the inefficiency of the ways we use land in an urban setting. But you can already see that from zoning maps, and so I'm not sure this is dramatically new.

Consequently, I didn't see any "ah-ha"s or anything that crystallized a kind of gestalt shift. Maybe it's more ambiguous than that. Maybe you will have an interpretive angle that sheds new light on something.

Just generally its kindof neat and we might come back to it.

Check it out at the NY Times.

The Limits of our Autoism

Ad and editorial in yesterday's paper
Also yesterday, it was nice to see the editorial in the paper, "UN climate change report isn't recipe for despair or paralysis."

Friday, October 12, 2018

100 Years Ago: No School, No Dance, No Movies - Influenza's Damper on Public Space and Association

A very early ad about it, October 12th, 1918
In early October, influenza came to Salem mainly by the rail corridor from the larger cities and ports on the coast. On October 12th, exactly 100 years ago, Salem ordered its first closures and formal public health actions.

Northern California, October 7, 1918

In Seattle, October 7th, 1918

In Tacoma, October 8th, 1918

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Sustainable Service and Revenue Task Force meets October 15th, Doesn't Look Very Sustainable

The new Sustainable Services and Revenue Task Force meets on Monday the 15th, and they have a very meaty agenda.

This is a real agenda!
(in contrast to the Public Transit Task Force's, for example)
But they might also be tackling the problem in the wrong way.

They are starting with member poll about preferences on revenue sources to investigate further.

An initial poll to rank prospective sources
The Committee should instead back into funding by asking about policy. What do we want to do more of? What do we want less of? We should align fees and taxes so that they encourage things for which we have positive policy and discourage other things for which we have negative policy. The Strategic Plan and Comprehensive Plan should be controlling documents.

Structured as a preference, as the politically popular, or as what the most powerful and wealthy special interests will tolerate, in new fees and taxes we will almost certainly get misaligned incentives and less efficient or less just outcomes.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Salem Falls out of Bicycling Magazine Top 50 Ratings

Salem fell off the list - via Twitter
Bicycling Magazine today published their list of the top 50 cities for bicycling, and Salem fell off of it.

Salem has declined steadily in the ratings over the last decade:
Portland has declined also, to sit at #5, and Eugene climbed from #18 to sit at #7.

About Portland they say
In fact, since we last put out this guide two years ago, Portland has only built 5.2 miles of protected lanes. Seattle and San Francisco built 15 and 18 miles respectively in in that same period.
For Eugene they focused on younger students:
While most cities have some sort of safe routes to school program, Eugene is taking the recruitment of kid cyclists very seriously. “We have three full-time safe routes school coordinators,” he says, adding that there are five roving fleets of bikes that are passed from school to school so every fifth- and sixth-grade student in the area learns how to ride.
If Eugene is #7, that's also a comment on how bad things are. Ridership there has eroded a great deal in the last decade, and you'd think a top 10 city would show ridership increases. Overall the infrastructure still coasts on projects from the 1970s and 80s, and is still catching up to 21st century best practices.

In any case, Salem's previous spots in the top 50 were probably overstated, but the trend is on point: Relative to other cities, Salem is falling behind and only weakly dedicated to improving riding conditions. New facilities like the Minto Bridge and Geer Park are great, but they are not fully connected into a comprehensive system of bike transport. Just getting the Winter-Maple Greenway completed is a slog, and there is no plan yet for a successor, second Greenway. The Union Street bikeway/greenway/whateverway remains fragmentary; while its funding is in place, construction and completion is a few years off. Salem also did not renew their LAB Bicycle-Friendly Community rating.

On discrete projects some cheerleading is plausible, but overall the system is not keeping pace.

Addendum, October 11th

The City's published their "First-Ever Annual Community Report"on the Strategic Plan.

via Twitter
The City features this sweet image of a child learning to bicycle.

Over at Hinessight they note
I searched the report for every mention of "bicycle." There was exactly one. Here it is. LED lamps provide good lighting for bicycles, along with cars and pedestrians. Whoopee.
There's a disconnect here between image and reality.

From White Oak to Blue Oak: Street Tree Transition in Eugene

Friends of Trees is cranking up for the season, and now's the time to start thinking about planting trees!

Beyond their environmental and aesthetic benefits, street trees have useful roles in traffic calming. They are full win all the way around.

This year's schedule
Friends of Trees have offices and staff in Portland and Eugene, and it was interesting to learn more about their work in Eugene recently. A recent tree walk on the southeast side of campus followed part of the Fairmount streetcar line from 1907.

Eugene's Fairmount Streetcar line 1907
On Moss Street between 17th and Fairmount tracks were still visible in much of the street.

Friday, October 5, 2018

City Transit Committee to Meet Tuesday on Draft Recommendations - updated

The City's Public Transit Committee also meets Tuesday the 9th, and once again there's very little information.
October 9th agenda
A draft of the recommendations should be published as part of the meeting packet, but it is apparently secret!

Overall they've been very stingy with information during this process.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

City Council, October 8th - Safe Routes to School?

City Council meets on Monday, and we finally get to see a list of project applications for the new Safe Routes to School funding.

Crossing projects to offset 45mph posted speeds?
The City proposes to apply for a little over $1 Million in funding for several projects. One of the projects is related to one has been around for a while, the one on Macleay (one round in 2016 and another round in 2017 of unsuccessful application for different funding sources*), and the other two are wholly new:
Based on grant award criteria provided by Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), City staff have identified three projects that should be competitive in the next round of screening by ODOT.
  • Liberty Road S: Install a pedestrian median island on Liberty Road S at Liberty Elementary School. Estimated project cost is $175,000.
  • Macleay Road SE: Install missing sidewalk on the west side of Macleay Road SE, serving Miller Elementary School and Houck Middle School. Estimated project cost is $430,000.
  • Kuebler Boulevard S and Skyline Road S: Install pedestrian median islands on Kuebler Boulevard S at Croisan Scenic Way S, and Skyline Road S at Croisan Scenic Way S, serving Schirle Elementary School, Sprague High School, and Crossler Middle School. Estimated project cost is $445,000.
On the location map, shown above, the City helpfully shows the posted speeds.

Scoring Criteria and Draft Chapter 5 of RTSP look more Autoist: At the MPO

The Technical Advisory Committee for our local Metropolitan Planning Organization meets on Tuesday the 9th, and it looks like the current draft of the evaluation criteria for scoring projects in the Regional Transportation System Plan has eliminated most anything related to the environment, bikes, walking, or transit. It's all about cars. Overall, the RTSP may be heading in the wrong direction.

The latest criteria: Avoiding Goal 7 here
Apparently impacting a "CEH resource" - cultural, environmental, historic? - could be a problem, but that's more about paving over a wetland and less about polluting the air. It's about direct impacts to a specific place and not about indirect impacts to whole systems.

Here's the first draft for comparison. On the one hand it's reasonable to want to simplify, but on the other, the current draft is more autoist.

Stop Erasing the Driver in Crashes!

From the paper:
A mini-van crashed into a Salem donut shop Wednesday, injuring a customer standing at the counter.

At around 12:40 p.m., a red Honda Odyssey was heading northbound on Fairgrounds Road NE, when it rammed into the Daynight Donuts shop at 2234 Fairgrounds Road NE.
Where's the driver in all this, the driver who is supposed to maintain control of a motor vehicle???

via Twitter

Columbia Journalism Review
Here's a better example from 2015, identifying a driver error and failure to operate a vehicle safely.

These are not isolated. Here's a post from September 2012 that lists at least 43 crashes into large stationary objects like buildings well off the roadway.

The consistent inability of humans to operate vehicles safely and their propensity to crash, not just into other moving vehicles or other moving people like those on foot or on bike, but into very large buildings, not at all invisible, and far from the roadway, constitute a significant body of evidence that we wildly overstate the safety of cars. Cars are dangerous, and we need to use them less often, use them for fewer miles, and drive them at slower speeds.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Celebrate Hallie Ford Museum of Art at 20

Bike Reflectors!
Detail of "Portals Through Time" - Hallie Ford Museum of Art
There are many reasons to love Willamette's Hallie Ford Museum of Art. It's one of Salem's finest things.

Much more narrowly here, it also has what might be the highest possible expression of the bike reflector, elevated into multivalent signs and symbols and art.

Large 3-page feature
The museum is also perfectly sized. Though staff and artists may wish they had more room, one of the things that is great about it for the public is that it's small enough you don't get fatigued and can engage all the art as deeply as you please. By international museum standards it's a dinky thing, but for ordinary humans who may not already be attached to art, it's a perfect serving size. The virtues of this modesty may not be appreciated enough!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

1914 Knighton at Hillcrest Worth Extra Care and Attention

Since we did such a crappy job with Le Breton Hall at Fairview and Howard Hall at the Blind School (see especially posts from 2013-2015), it's worth thinking more about the earliest building at Hillcrest, the former State Industrial School for Girls. That building might still be an instance of institutional architecture, but the State Architect was William C. Knighton, whom we celebrate for Deepwood from 1893 and the Supreme Court building completed in 1914. Stylistically it might be a minor example of Knighton's oeuvre, but as part of the history of State institutions in Salem, with each round of demolition the surviving buildings, like this one, gain significance.

The first building at Hillcrest was a Knighton
It looks like it could be cleaned-up and restored!

April 13th, 1914