Saturday, April 27, 2019

SKATS RTSP Map is Helpful, also Overwhelming, and Maybe Buggy

As part of the public outreach and as prelude to an Open House on May 1st and the Public Hearing on May 28th, our local Metropolitan Planning Organization published earlier this week a map of all the planned projects through 2043.

They want comment.

It's like ALL the projects!
Tell us what you think!

Salem-Keizer Area Transportation Study (SKATS) invites you to comment on the 2019-2043 Regional Transportation Systems Plan (RTSP). Comments will be accepted from now up to the public hearing scheduled on May 28, 2019.

The Regional Transportation Systems Plan (RTSP) provides a comprehensive, long-range look at the Salem-Keizer region and how to meet the anticipated transportation needs. Projects that have a reasonable certainty of being funded and address mobility and safety needs and enhancements to the regional system or provide new service are identified in the plan.

Draft documents are available on the MWVCOG website, and there is an interactive map of the projects where you may enter comments. An Open House will be held May 1, 2019 from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the MWVCOG offices located at 100 High St SE, Salem, Oregon. We welcome your feedback.

The Policy Committee will receive all comments and hold a Public Hearing at noon on May 28, 2019 at their monthly meeting (at MWVCOG offices). For more information or to comment, contact Ray Jackson at or 503-540-1607.

Thank you for your interest!
The first window over the map itself says:
Welcome to the SKATS 2019-2043 Regional Transportation Systems Plan Interactive Map!

The map of draft RTSP projects will open in a new window and allow the viewer to see the location and details about each project or program.

You may leave a general comment by choosing "General Comments" and you may leave comments on any of the individual projects by choosing them from the list. You may also indicate your favorite projects by clicking on the heart icon below the description.
The Map is Overwhelming and Hard to Grasp

So what to do with this thing?

It's a strange thing, however, and aside from the big list in the sidebar, one of the first things to notice might be the colors: Lime green, yellow, and red. What do these mean?

There is no further legend on the map, and it's not obvious what these mean.

Something is not quite right here:
A 2007 project in a 2019-2043 plan?
One of the green segments, one on Portland Road, says it was to be built in 2007. (Since the map was published and that clip taken, this date field appears to have taken out of the sidebar display, and it makes you wonder what it means.)

But if you click on all the green things, they are all "ITS-Signals," so it looks like the colors represent a category of project (and not a go-caution-stop traffic light scheme!):
  • Green: ITS-Signals (technology)
  • Red: Roads and Bridges
  • Brown/orange: Bicycle and Pedestrian
  • Lavender: Transit
That might be helpful, but there are a bunch of projects that are already funded and committed and even done. Why is the MPO soliciting comment on them?

Is this the intersection work? If so, it has been done for a while!

This phase is already funded and planned

So is this phase
The first phase on Union Street is already constructed. The second two are not yet constructed, but since they are in the "committed" part of the RTSP, projects with funding commitments already firmly attached, and already having gone through a scoring and vetting process, it is not helpful to solicit a new round of comment on them. There is no debate about doing them; the only debate might be on design details.

Plus, they clutter the map. You can see how many projects there are right downtown.

Maybe there's a reason for the "committed" list to be on the map, but it seems more like the purpose of the map embraces the broader group of "included" projects, the wish-list of projects for which a stronger sense of priority would in fact be helpful.

Overall, the execution on the map is a little muddled and not as helpful in soliciting thoughtful public comment as it could be.

Is it buggy? It crapped out and would not load!
(It also timed out on me this morning. Could be an ISP interruption, but I had trouble more than once.)

Root out Vestiges of the SRC

So how to approach it? Well, the first thing that comes to mind is of course the SRC.

You might remember:
For the RTSP update in 2019, three projects that were part of the Salem Alternative LPA [locally preferred alternative] are identified in this financially constrained Plan: constructing Marine Drive from Glen Creek Road north to bridge ramps at Hope Street NW (S297), widening and realigning Front Street between River Road North and Norway Street NE (S096), and including $20 million for use in preserving and purchasing right-of-way associated with the bridge (R001).
This project needs to be disconnected from SRC or deleted entirely
Size inflation: Collector or Arterial?
Collector or Arterial? Also disconnect from SRC
As far as I can tell, there is no map element for $20 million slush fund on the SRC right-of-way.

Since the final Environmental Impact Statement will be for the "No Build" alternative, these projects should not be in the RTSP in this form. They need to be decoupled from the SRC and probably deleted from the RTSP. If a new bridge project arises that has real funding commitments, the MPO in the future can reintroduce them as projects. They are harmful vestiges right now. We should remove them from the RTSP.

The Map Needs Better Filtering and a Focus on Included Projects

Still, there are so many others! Since the project list is so large and since it goes out so far to 2043, this is a speculative beauty contest: Pet and neighborhood projects will get boosted, but it may not generated a useful holistic sense of priorities.

Here are some suggestions for SKATS:
  1. Add a map legend with more explanation
  2. Eliminate Committed projects that are already funded
  3. Also allow voting on classes of projects: By region or neighborhood; by type or category of project; by cost of project. Let people filter so they are not faced with "all the projects." General statements of value might be more useful than comment on unfunded projects. (In later vetting rounds there will be opportunity for detailed comment!)
Maybe I'll come back and highlight some sidewalk and bike lane projects, but it seems like the more useful message is not to zoom in one a particular bike lane or sidewalk, but to tell the MPO that greenhouse gas emissions are rising, and we need to encourage non-auto travel generally. It's the high-level message that is most important. (See previous notes on the draft RTSP here.)

Everything must be read in its shadow - via NOAA

No comments: