Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Erasure of "Hit by a Car" In Dashney Obituary

It is sad to read about the death of John Dashney in the paper today. He had led a full life and was an author, and the newsy obituary rightly emphasizes these things.

But it fails to give the right weight and emphasis to the crash that significantly impacted the last few years of his life.

The piece merely notes in passing that he was "severely injured...after being hit by a car." Even with an enumeration of injuries, this is an inadequate description of events. There are space limits, of course, but the passive voice mystifies too much.

From a September 2012 Statesman-Journal piece:
The woman who hit him, Rose Litherland, was high on methamphetamine and marijuana when she barreled through the intersection of 17th and Chemeketa. She did not have a valid driver’s license and is legally blind herself. She has been sentenced to nearly six years in prison.
The median and crosswalk
where Litherland struck Dashney in 2012
You can see the crash investigation paint

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

It's Sneckdown Time! Pedestrian Safety Committee Should Notice

The snow didn't really stick around on the roads long enough earlier this week, but this morning it's sticking, the schools are closing, and it's time to look for sneckdowns again.

Take pictures!

From the City traffic cameras, here on 12th & State:
Lanes could be narrower, corner bulbs even larger
South Commercial just north of Madrona - SJ video clip (2018)
See here and here for more on sneckdowns.

The City "Safer Crossings" Committee met yesterday, and they're apparently operating - by accident or design - largely in stealth mode.

Neighborhood advocates noted that the SDC committee never posted minutes. But at least they published a few of the slide decks that went with presentations.

Bare bones agenda only!
The Safer Crossing Committee has only a bare bones set of agenda published, no meeting materials, and no minutes.

Only the participants will really know what they are up to.

This morning's snow is an opportunity for field study! They must have generated a list by this time of prospective crossing sites, and the snow gives an opportunity to take pictures of slack road space that could be used to shorten crossing distances for people on foot.


There is sad news this morning, and it is a terrible comment on our autoism, and the sensationalism around any kind of traffic "impedance," that the "snarl" has more priority than the death of an important statesman.

The area allocated to each story is mis-prioritized (about 830am)

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Bike Parking and Sidewalk Connections at the Planning Commission Tonight

The Planning Commission meets tonight, and they will have a formal Public Hearing on "clean up" code amendments that touch on sidewalk connections and bike parking.

The details have seemed minor, and the bike parking was discussed on more detail here before a work session. The changes mostly seem like a small improvement. But they aren't a very great improvement, either, and with the SRC and other things coming to a full boil this Winter, they did not seem worth a great amount of attention or energy. (But it's also a little dispiriting that such small things can't be pushed farther along without advocacy - we might have to fight on the SRC, that's a big thing, worth a fight, but do we also have to fight on very small things too?)

The explanation from the Staff Report
The sidewalks changes look a little more substantive, but yet also incremental and neither worth criticizing in detail nor lauding in excess. From the Staff Report:
This code amendment establishes a clear standard for developments to provide pedestrian connections to and throughout their development site. The proposed standards do not apply to single-family, two family, or multifamily housing. Multiple family developments are already required to provide pedestrian connections through the City’s design review process.

The proposed standards require a pedestrian connection from public sidewalks to the main entrance of buildings and through large parking lots. If there is a transit stop along the development site, at least one pedestrian connection must connect to the street within 20 feet of the stop. In addition, pedestrian connections must be established between buildings on a site and between a development site and abutting properties if a vehicular connection is provided. When an existing or planned path is identified in the Salem Transportation System Plan or Salem Comprehensive Parks System Master Plan as going through the development site, that path must be constructed, or a public access easement or dedication for future construction must be provided.

Currently, pedestrian connections are required in some zones or overlay zones but not others. The pedestrian connections are also required through the City’s Class 3 Site Plan Review criteria, which calls for safe and efficient traffic circulation into and out of developments and safe and efficient pedestrian movement through parking areas. This code amendment establishes a clear and objective standard for pedestrian connections in areas of the city where existing pedestrian standards do not apply. This removes ambiguity in pedestrian connectivity requirements and ensures that pedestrian connections are applied throughout the city. This change also responds to the City Council and community’s desire to increase pedestrian safety in Salem.
Maybe other advocates will have more to say on these things.

In other matters the Commission will consider a request to "Decrease the minimum parking requirement for the 140-unit senior living facility from 285 parking spaces to 165 parking spaces." That's a clear instance of our parking minimums being excessive.

The Commission meets tonight at 5:30pm in Council Chambers at City Hall.


There's some additional changes that either I missed or were posted late.

One of them incorporates a suggestion made here back in November.

Pictures! There will be illustrations for good bike parking
They also carved out some exceptions for public rental bike stations.

Notes on Wednesday's Multifamily Design Workshop

On Wednesday the 27th the City is holding a Public Workshop on multifamily design standards.

Eugene's "Working Flats," a very fine 1909 Craftsman 4-plex
on the National Register
According to the City's "background" blurb, it seems to be aimed at "missing middle" housing:
The existing design standards are generally geared toward large, suburban-type projects and are therefore not well suited for smaller multifamily housing projects. The standards have thus been identified as potential barriers to development.
The City's image: Cookie-cutter three-story walkup and parking lot
But the image they chose to illustrate the project page is a large, cookie-cutter three-story walkup set on a large parking lot - that "large, suburban-type project." So it's not wholly clear what is the focus here.

From the City again:
The community is invited to a public workshop on the design of multifamily housing on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. at the Salem Public Library, Anderson Rooms, 585 Liberty Street SE. The public will have the opportunity to provide input on ways to improve the City’s housing design standards.

The workshop is part of the Multifamily Housing Design project, which seeks to update the City’s regulations on housing developments with three or more dwelling units. The project aims to help meet Salem’s housing needs by removing barriers to multifamily housing development and ensuring new development is compatible with neighborhoods.

The City kicked off this project in December and has since held focus groups with neighborhood association representatives, City officials, and developers. Based on this feedback, initial concepts for updating the City’s multifamily housing regulations are being developed and will be presented at the Feb. 27 public workshop.
So I guess we'll see. There are no documents published to the project website yet.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Safe Routes to Schools at the MPO

Our local Metropolitan Planning Organization meets on Tuesday the 26th, and mostly they've got a bunch of administrative housekeeping on the agenda. We've talked about project scoring for the 2019 RTSP, and that debate and analysis continues, but I'm not sure there's anything new to say. (See previous notes from the Technical Advisory Committee and discussion.)

For all the mania the MPO has had for the Salem River Crossing, it's crickets now! Maybe it's merely a superficial observation, but it's interesting that on the agenda there is nothing about the finality of Council's vote on the SRC earlier this month. Maybe there will be informal conversation - or maybe there is only secret plotting now. The silence is a little strange and seems worth noting.

What is on the agenda and new, is a proposal to support Safe Routes to School personnel.

The agenda item

The end of a draft letter to Cherriots
Why is SKATS telling Cherriots about Bend?
And it too is a little weird.

As I read it, the tone and language is less about supporting an existing application for funding, but is rather more like a pitch to Cherriots to make the application. It doesn't actually read like everybody's on the same page quite yet. Instead they're trying to talk Cherriots into making this "non-infrastructure grant" application, which Cherriots has already once declined to do. The whole things just feels a little unsettled rather than firm. ("Come on, Cherriots, you can do it!" It's also not clear yet how much of a committed partner is the School District. The McNary/St. Edward mess suggests the District remains committed instead to autoism and to larger parking lots. A District fully invested in Safe Routes would have managed the problems at McNary very differently.)

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Latest YMCA Plans Show we are Failing with Chemeketa Street Downtown

In the paper today is a story about reduced ambitions for the new YMCA downtown. They have some funding commitments apparently in hand, but the total amount means they have had to make the building and total plan a little smaller. Instead of a three-story building, it's now two stories. Where the IKE Box is, they were going to put in housing to replace the Court Apartments, but that's postponed further and perhaps even deleted now.

Here's the previous, three-story corner view
 - via CB|Two

Saturday, February 23, 2019

City Council, February 25th - New SDCs, Fairview, HLC

Council meets on Monday, and they'll have a new scheme for System Development Charges to consider.

New proposed SDCs
Changes to the schedule of System Development Charges require an interlocking set of agenda items:
But, dang, they remain opaque! Perhaps it was a mistake not to have followed this more closely from the start. Now, taking the proposal in absolute terms, without any notion of the debate and underlying analysis, and without any comparison to other possible schemes, it's very hard to say how much of an improvement this proposal really is. The rhetoric probably oversells the benefits, and it's hard sometimes just to take the language at face value.

On transportation there's some split with a majority report and a minority report, but to outsiders the way it's presented is not very meaningful. Transparency on the support, saying who voted for which proposal, would have shed more light. Here is a situation where potential bias or ideological preference would illuminate helpfully as citizens evaluate the proposal.

Why wasn't variable pricing/incentives
included across the board?

The transportation fees
It is a little disappointing not to see more variable pricing. The transportation burden of a multi-family dwelling in downtown on a redeveloped lot near the transit center is very different from the burden imposed by a single-family dwelling on new greenfield development near the city limits. And the burden of a new multi-family development on a greenfield near Cordon Road very different from that redeveloped lot downtown.

It seems like we could make SDCs a stronger policy instrument, better aligned with planning goals, to incent development where we want it, and make it more costly where it is less helpful or is explicitly a luxury development.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Wire Sports Story Shows How to Improve Crash Reporting

A piece buried in the sports section today shows more accurate rhetoric in reporting a crash that killed a person on foot:
Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim struck and killed a pedestrian while driving late Wednesday night.
The headline, with active verbs, even says "pedestrian walking along highway." It could have been "person walking along highway," but it's still an improvement.

In the body of the piece, it says "Boehem, the driver of that vehicle, struck Jimenez as he stood near the side of the road."

Here we have most of the pieces:
  • Active voice. Verbs are active, and a person is the subject of those active verbs.
  • No robot car. The people, not some mysterious force in the car, have agency and are responsible for the safe operation of the vehicle.
We could probably do more to get rid of the word "pedestrian," but that's less important.

Contrast this story with a recent one here. (Why is a national sports desk doing a better job with crash reporting?!)

Last Friday, on the front page with passive voice

Thursday, February 21, 2019

When Minstrelsy was a Central Part of Civic Culture

Blackface and minstrelsy have been in the news this month. Following up on the Governor Northam story in Virginia, today USA Today published a large piece on college yearbooks from the 70s and 80s.

April 22nd, 1918
They found scads of images, evidence for a widespread racism that was casual and comfortable.

Front page of USA Today
(the photos are cropped out)
The Editor in Chief, even, found herself involved in images from a late 80s Arizona yearbook, and she had to recuse herself from the project and examine herself in a very public way.

The Editor found herself part of the story
The 70s and 80s are not the period of interest here. But early 20th century history is, and there's plenty of evidence for the same kinds of things, even more intensely expressed.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

First and Second Wacondas Show Transportation History

The Station at the Second Waconda,
on the Oregon Electric line in 2010
In the Sunday paper there was a nice piece on the history of Waconda.

It turns out there were two of them! This is alluded to in the Library's online history piece, but mainly in passing, and you might not have fully registered it:
Waconda was an old name in the Willamette Valley, originally applied to a community about a mile south of present-day Gervais. However, that little village disappeared, only to be resurrected in the name applied by the Oregon Electric to one of its rural stations.
Two Wacondas: Oregon Electric Station on left, original on right
(USGS Mt. Angel quad from 1920s)
The Oregon Electric Waconda is the one that still hangs around on maps and has an old ruin you can visit. It's the one that stays in mind. (It's great little bike ride!)

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Son of SRC Still Misses on Greenhouse Gases

It's framed more about distributing funding costs
and continues to talk past the central matter
It's not like funding the SRC was a non-issue. The concept was costly and risky, and Salemites asked to bear too much of any total cost. Funding was a great issue, and any real, durable solution would need to grapple with it in a better way.

But new talk about Rep. Evan's legislative concept for a multi-county task force seems to treat the cost and the distribution of costs as the primary problem. It treats the politics of funding as the main thing.

This misses our central need to reduce driving. As long as we take as an article of faith that driving, both in trip count and in total miles traveled, must always be increasing, we will self-sabotage our greenhouse gas goals. Bridge fundamentalism - we need a bridge because we need a bridge - interferes with our 21st century needs.

Friday, February 15, 2019

City Council, February 19th - Our Dull Downtown Sidewalk Plan

Because of the holiday, Council meets on Tuesday for a couple of work sessions. One of them is on the downtown sidewalk plan, the so-called "Streetscape Plan."

After an odd period of quiet, it's out for the public again.

It's about sidewalks, not streets
There's nothing about streets in it, however, and it is more accurate to call it a sidewalk plan.

At this point, it's been ground down to be a style book. It's the Chicago Manual of Style for sidewalks! It's a bunch of guidelines for what to do, where to do it, and what it should look like. It's useful, and it will make things nicer, but it's nothing visionary or transformative.

All the interesting things are punted down the road. Our autoism and mania for free car storage has interfered with many of the ideas.

Paving Debate Swamps Talk about Gas Tax in 1919; More on Roosevelt Highway

In the run up to the gas tax, it was all about paving. It has remained very interesting how little the gas tax was contentious or merited press.

February 13th, 1919
Debate on patented pavements and pavement royalties dominated everything. There are  many more articles, usually two-column spreads on the front page, and they are longer and get bigger headlines. (I'm not very interested in the history of paving technology or the history of the paving business, so there's no attempt here to interpret the sweep or significance of the debate. Though it does seem significant that at least some of the rhetoric participates in Progressive Era criticisms of trusts, monopoly, graft, and big business.)

January 20th, 1919

Thursday, February 14, 2019

An Arid Garden? No Love for Lord and Schryver at the Mill!

"Romance: Stories of Love and Passion"
Teasing the new collaborative show at the Mill, featuring contributions from area historical societies and museums, last month on social media they wrote:
Come see "Romance: Stories of Love and Passion in the Mid-Willamette Valley" to experience a close look into the romantic and passionate lives of those who came before us.
Very clear, right? Romance and passion. Valentine's Day is the implied peg.

Certainly that's how the paper interpreted it in today's piece on the show.

They even start with the word:
Love is in the air as you walk into the gallery on the second floor of the Thomas Kay Woolen Mill, with pieces of history are in every corner of Willamette Heritage Center's current exhibit.

Toward the middle of the gallery lies a black telephone, and the faint sound of piano is audible before it's picked up.

Love songs written by members of the Bush Family play through the receiver, located next to the actual sheet music.
So it is very strange to see the way the Lord & Schryver Conservancy interpreted the directive and theme.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Autoism and Land Use at the School Board; Debate Needs to be Connected with Our Salem

Last night the School Board voted to approve a plan for redrawing school boundaries.

Mostly it seems like it is regarded as a problem in allocating kids: Are we directing the right number and mixture to the right schools? Do we need more bussing? (And the associated bond question: Are we allocating the right proportion of bond monies to each school? See stories at Salem Reporter, the SJ for more.)

Our system of compulsory autoism is not fair via Twitter
We may not give enough attention to the underlying issues in land use and transportation. These are out of the School District's purview, but they are important "fundamentals" underlying the problem and any solution. We need to ensure the debate there is not siloed, and informs our thinking as we look at the new Comprehensive Plan, the "Our Salem" process.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Salem wins Safe Routes to Parks Grant

Parks in South Salem from the 2013 Parks Master Plan
Here's some good news. The Safe Routes to School National Partnership announced a round of "Safe Routes to Parks Activating Communities" grants, and Salem is on it!

This will be interesting to watch. SLF has managed Open Streets Salem the last year and they are a faith-based group. The announcements for other cities also have photos, and it's a little hard to say what all the project will entail.

The grant is for $12,500 if I understand it, and it's hard to imagine they'd spread this over all 30-some parks. It seems likely a subset of five or so will get special focus. But maybe there's a different approach here.

This is all very preliminary and it will be exciting to watch!

At the MPO: Scoring the RTSP Candidate Projects, SRC Aftershocks

The Technical Advisory Committee for our local Metropolitan Planning Organization meets today, but there's really not very much here to say on the agenda.

But - guess what?! - there's probably lots to say about last night's Council action.

Actually on the agenda, they're still talking about the scoring plan for evaluating candidate projects in the 2019 RTSP.  There's a new iteration that weighs "safety" the most. But we see how it's still shaped by autoist biases and "all other criteria," including anything on greenhouse gas emissions in the still-contested Goal 7, is minimized. It's clear it's going to take some work to reframe the whole assessment scheme for a properly 21st century transportation system. There's a whole lot of retrograde engineering and planning inertia to purge.

The latest scoring plan
As evidence for the need to purge and completely reorient? The news coverage of last night's vote is a good body of evidence: "Salem City Council on Monday night voted against helping..."

That's not a very neutral description of events.

Updated in print
In the SJ, the tone is elegiac, full of regret for the loss of a good thing:
The third bridge in Salem is dead.

The long-discussed and debated third bridge over the Willamette River in Salem died by a 6-3 vote of the city council Monday night, bringing an end to 13 years of work on the Salem River Crossing proposal and 50 years of discussion about the possibility.

“There is no other bridge than this one that will be on the table for the next 20 to 30 years,” Salem Mayor Chuck Bennett said.
There's an aphorism about journalism that's floated around quite a bit:
If someone says it's raining, and another person says it's dry, it's not your job to quote them both. Your job is to look out the window and find out which is true.
So far the journalism on the Salem River Crossing has seemed bound by autoist horizons, the assumption a new auto bridge is a good thing, that its loss is problematic. It has been content with a surface narrative of "balance": Supporters say this, opponents say that. It has been less interested in trying to determine the truth of the matter, let alone find out anything meaningful about the critique of the Salem River Crossing.

A 21st Century transportation system has to get out of the autoist frame and truly see mobility in a multi-modal way that also takes into account greenhouse gas emissions and environmental justice.

Monday, February 11, 2019

100 Years Ago Today: Harry Scott Reopens Around the Corner at 147 South Commercial Street

You might remember that Harry Scott had closed the shop on 252 State Street the end of June in 1918. He had to report to the Army on June 30th.

He mustered out, returned to Salem, and reopened the shop on February 11th, 1919.

Since then, without break, Scott's has been open at that location. That's an anniversary worth celebrating!


Cherriots Retreats and Regroups on South Salem Transit Center - updated

December 13th update on South Salem Transit Center
Back in December, in the Board Meeting of the 13th (from the January 24th meeting packet), there was a brief update on the South Salem Transit Center. Cherriots and Walmart had reached an impasse and, apparently even with Eminent Domain proceedings, Cherriots would have missed ConnectOregon deadlines. So they've called a strategic retreat for the moment, and are giving up the ConnectOregon funding.

Concept for the South Salem Transit Center -
Slices a strip of parking lot from Walmart (December 2015)
The whole ConnectOregon grant has been problematic - maybe it was doomed from the start! Of course that might be what you get when you make a highly political funding source that is based on lottery proceeds. It's not very clean money, really. You may recall the mess in 2015 that made Cherriots eligible for the funding. It involved coal, allegations of low-dealings by the former chair of the Oregon Transportation Commission, who had been forced to resign, and other messiness and drama, including resentment that Eugene won a big project for walking and biking, which contributed to later limits on using ConnectOregon funding for bike/ped projects.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Mill's Romance Show Unwittingly Features Tie to SRC

You might know that The Mill has a Valentine's theme, "Romance," for their annual collaborative show with displays from area historic and cultural institutions.

You might not know that one of their featured images has ties to our current SRC debate!
Hedda Swart at his Wedding
from the Mill's "Romance" Exhibit
(WHC 0063.001.0062.001.007)
Here's Hedda Swart as a young man.

Apparently a Third Bridge
was his idea!
(from a January, 2017 SJ piece)
And here's Heda Swart a couple of years before he died (the photo's from 1952).

It's got to be the same person, right?!

Friday, February 8, 2019

City Council, February 11th - Showdown on the SRC

Well, here we go. Maybe this is it. On Monday Council meets and it is possible that they will take definitive and final action on the misguided and wildly expensive Salem River Crossing project.

There are also a couple of other interesting and important matters, but the SRC swamps them all.

Council should adopt a resolution embracing a No Build Record of Decision.

One of two possible letters on the SRC
(Comments in red added)
If you already "know" we "need" a bridge, if a new bridge is already one of your priors, then of course none of this makes sense. You will read criticism and opposition merely as wrong-headed, retrograde obstruction. (But this position also is usually mystified as a posteriori, arising from a reading of the analysis and facts, when it in fact is wholly a priori, a previous commitment prior to any of the arguments! The case for the bridge really boils down to a tautology: We need a bridge because we need a bridge.)

But if you did not come to the debate and analysis already with a commitment to a new bridge, it's impossible to read the evidence in a way that suggests a new bridge is anything close to the best solution to the range of problems.

There's a lot of badness here!
(from the Jan 30th presentation, notes added)
Apologists for the SRC have twisted a very weak case into a set of claims that are certainly very doubtful and in many cases almost surely false. There are also virtually no claims for it that are unambiguously positive or unambiguously probable.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Green New Deal Worth Cheering; Needs more on Land Use and Transportation

In USA Today, but not the SJ

Front page of the Register-Guard
I didn't pay much attention at all to Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) during her race and the run up to the Election. Since then, it's become clear she is quite talented, perhaps even a generational political talent.

Her Green New Deal concept came out today, and if you wanted something national to cheer about, here you go. (Given its scope and ambition, as well as its importance, this is a national issue we'll follow at least a little here.)

Concept for A Green New Deal

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

North Salem Urban Renewal Board Looks at 10-year Project List on Thursday

The North Gateway Redevelopment Advisory Board meets on Thursday the 7th, and in the meeting packet is an interesting list of short- and medium-term projects for the North Gateway Urban Renewal Area.

There's not much of an explanation or other memo with the list, and it looks like the list should be taken as draft concepts for discussion, not anything adopted and formally programmed. It looks more like advanced brainstorming, still.

But it's very interesting, and the projects are far enough along that they are all plausible. Maybe they are farther along and the main question is timing and how they fit into the tax increment income flows for the district. They are ones to follow for sure.

Several of the projects relate to a parcel that the URA was going to purchase a year ago (and presumably did purchase).

The Urban Renewal Agency proposed to buy an awkward wedge
at 2640 Portland Road

Document those Sneckdowns Today! Look out for Excess Street Space

With the snow here this morning, it's a great time to think about documenting "sneckdowns" around town.

As you're out and about (but not while driving!), or if you have a view from above, look for intersections and lanes with intact zones of snow that tires and car heat haven't driven off. Those are "sneckdowns," temporary curb extensions and lane narrowings caused by the snow. They are evidence of surplus lane width, and of other unused or unnecessary area in the roadway.

The zones with snow could become bike lanes, wider sidewalks, pedestrian medians or other road space reallocated for users other than those in cars. They are evidence for ways we have overengineered and overdesigned roadways for car travel and for too-high speeds.

Here are two from December 2016:

Court and High from Courthouse square - via Twitter

South Commercial just north of Madrona - SJ video clip
The Commercial-Vista Corridor study already plans buffered bike lanes and narrower auto travel lanes on this part of Commercial.

The snow lines show why these were not only possible but were good ideas.

Many other streets might be good candidates also, and imagery from snowy periods could be presented to City Council in support of requests for reallocating carspace to support safety and to create more usable space for people walking and biking.