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.

That's water under the bridge now, as they say.

But for success the program requires a kind of commitment, more political than technical.  If Council decides, for example, to fund lane widening and crosswalk closing before implementing robust parking management and commute trip reduction programs, then it will be less effective and even possibly render the menu of proposals something of a sham. The lane widening and crosswalk closure will induce more travel and traffic, and we'll be back where we started. Drive-alone trip reduction, not capacity increase, should be primary.

The best way to ensure that everything gets done is to do the less popular things first, and use them then to trigger the popular things. Staging and sequence is important here.

And there's no better candidate for the first action than parking reform. Once we do that, other things fall more naturally into place.

Parking reform also fits neatly with the Public Transit Committee's recommendations. Now that both committees have landed on a formal set of recommendations, Council should take care to set them side-by-side and see if there are any additional synergies or complementary actions that will boost one or both efforts. Equally, they should make sure there are no proposed actions working at cross-purpose. (And if there are latent tensions or outright contradictions, Council should lead in talking about them. Too often we shuffle off the trade-offs rather than making explicit our choice and its costs.)

Back in July, Marine Drive scored low
Other than the question of staging and triggers as a way to ensure there is level implementation of all these measures, it is interesting that Marine Drive (#7 on the map) has returned.

Based on the assessment presented in July, "solution packages" with Marine Drive were eliminated.

There might be good reason for its return, but it would be good to see a more detailed analysis and discussion of why. As it is, its reappearance seems to trade on the idea that we all "know" it's a good idea. But the project's own analysis seemed to suggest it was an inferior solution. What's going on here? Is it just simply a bone for pro-traffic advocates?

Back in August they discussed closing ALL the crosswalks
In the final recommendations, the crosswalks on Front Street would be impacted in two ways. Fortunately this is scaled back from an initial concept to close all the crosswalks on Front, but there are still meaningful consequences for people on foot:
  • Increase delays for people on foot, especially during rush hour
  • Close the north crosswalk for north-bound traffic on Front at Court (and using the west-bound bridge on-ramp) in order to make right-turns from Court without waiting for people walking in the crosswalk.
With parking reform and a strong commitment to a commute trip reduction program, this could be a defensible trade-off.

Without parking reform and a commitment to commute trip reduction, closing a crosswalk as well as using signal timing to increase crosswalk delay as well is just simply hostility to walking, a high-level pedestrian displacement scheme.

It's possible to quibble with some of the other menu items, but really it comes down to commitment and sequencing: With a real commitment and logical sequencing, the whole 15 item program of "short term actions" can be embraced.

But if there's a lack of commitment, or if autoist sequencing comes to prevail, then it likely to become a phony and ineffective program.

1 comment:

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Here's the Staff Report for the Work Session.

It slightly modifies the summary hand-out. Now the list is not "short term" but is "Short- and Medium-Term Recommended Projects, Policies, and Programs."

It also adds one recommendation to the original 15 item list:

"16. Develop a Comprehensive Growth Management Plan."