Thursday, May 30, 2019

Making a Cherriots-City Collaboration more than Bells and Whistles

Last week at the Cherriots Board meeting there were a couple of items that seem worth some brief notes.

Between the recommendations from the Congestion Relief Task Force and the Public Transit Committee, the City has suggested that it sees a need for greater collaboration, consultation, and coordination with Cherriots.

In the Cherriots Board packet was a brief memo about a meeting and prospects for more collaboration.

Cherriots and the City: more collaboration
The memo itself was preliminary and did not seem very informative. There are details to be worked out.

Trip Reduction goals
But one thing that is interesting is that while the City wants to stress the trip reduction programming that is currently being done by Cherriots Trip Choice (previously Rideshare), the quarterly report from Trip Choice showed ways that there might be a considerable mismatch at present in goals and metrics.

The presentation led with "awareness and understanding"

Managing to personal contact and social media metrics
The current goals and metrics for Cherriots Trip Choice are very small, small enough that 26 social media posts and 120 "engagements" over three-month period seemed significant to report.

Alas, this rounds to zero. This will not make the smallest dent in the problem of 100,000 daily car trips across the Willamette River.

This is a real problem of scale. Trip Choice is not funded in a way that scales to statistically meaningful change in the aggregate mix of Salem transportation. Trip Choice is funded to be mainly decorative. It does not have enough resources to make a serious dent in our autoism and to convert large numbers drive-alone trips.

There is also the problem of focus. Social media may very well be part of the means to an end, but social media is not itself the aim and end. Social media is merely instrumental for other, more important ends.

Our Salem walking and biking trip metrics
The end goal should be to shift trips from drive-alone to walking, biking, and busing and to reduce the total of drive-alone trips. This is city-level change measured with city-level metrics.

Isn't this, or a similar metric, that to which Trip Choice should be managing, and not instrumental and much smaller ones like in-person and social media contacts?

But because the Trip Choice has only very modest funding, and because we are not yet serious about system-level changes and policy like right-priced parking and land use around transit, Trip Choice has to make do with goals and metrics that are not very ambitious. They are literally bells and whistles, blinky lights and maps.

We do not position Trip Choice to be very successful.

This is a structural problem that the City and Cherriots will both need to face more squarely if they want to be serious about trip reduction and about leveraging the Trip Choice activities.

Open Streets Salem Note

Separately, in the Trip Choice report there's a brief note about this year's Open Street Salem route. If the Transit Mall and Aldrich Park (Bush School) are involved, this sounds like it might run through the Willamette Campus also. Though at one time the route was described as in "South Salem," this would be just a few blocks south of State Street and still very much near downtown. It might satisfy a strict definition of "South Salem," but not really in spirit.

Out to Aldrich Park
So far Open Streets Salem has shared publicly very little about how this year's program is shaping up, and this might also be an instance of programming that lacks resources to make a real impact.

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