Thursday, June 6, 2019

Cherriots Seeks Grant for New Long Range Plan

Last month at the Cherriots Board meeting one of the items was authorization for a Transportation and Growth Management grant application to fund a new long-range 20 Year Plan.

Applying for TGM grant to fund a new 20 Year Plan
It's TGM season, and the City's again passing. Since the State Street Study, the City hasn't applied for any new ones, I don't believe, and this seems like it comes from the new City Manager, his emphasis on the Strategic Plan, and the fact that we are far from fully implementing most studies. (This post from 2014 is a little old, but the number of unfulfilled study projects is a little shocking, and the pattern persists. Much of the studies sit on the shelf and do not result in funded projects and the envisioned changes.)

Cherriots has applied for a few grants without success.
SAMTD has submitted applications for TGM grant funds every year since 2016, but has been unsuccessful. However, staff have received positive feedback from TGM program staff from the pre-application submitted on February 27, 2019.
With Our Salem and its update to the Comprehensive Plan, this is a good time for Cherriots to consider an update to their long range plan. This also dovetails with the new funding from the State, which is not automatic and requires project applications.

The long range planning points to two interlocking elements that seem very important. The City of Salem must be an active participant, not merely in an advisory, "stakeholder" role, but as partner. You may recall the structure of Eugene's long-range planning project for arterial corridors. Our Salem and Cherriots' long range plan should be developed in tandem.

Cherriots project will necessarily go beyond Salem, but Salem is the principal entity. And if we are serious about decarbonizing transportation, creating alternatives to drive-alone trips, and improving safety and health, we will include frequent service corridors and hopefully move to bus rapid transit.

EmX Bus Rapid Transit in Eugene
 (image via LTD)
BRT includes these differences from regular bus service:
  • Raised platform
  • dedicated bus lane
  • bigger bus
  • all doors open for entry/exit
  • on-demand proof-of-fare (paying off-board, rather than paying the operator)
  • frequent service (so you don't have to consult a schedule; just walk up to a stop)
But this also requires changes to road striping and design as well as changes in land use, with more housing and employment on and near the frequent transit lines. These require the active participation and planning of the City. Unsupported by changes in land use, frequent service lines and transit plans in general will be inefficient.

Cherriots and the City need to be in close partnership, ensuring the land use and bus lines are totally aligned and mutually reinforcing each other.

Proposal for Core Network, July 2017
(list of corridors added to graphic)
If Cherriots says, "it will be hard to service this area on the edge of the city," the City should pay attention. Similarly, if the City says, we would like denser development here, Cherriots should work so that it is well served by frequent transit. And positively, the City should ask Cherriots, where do you envision the most frequent service, so the City can assign more density there.

And where the City projects increased congestion - those bottlenecks! - the City should plan dedicated bus lanes with bus priority so that non-auto mobility is not penalized by excessive numbers of drive-alone trips plugging up the works.

An effective long range plan for Cherriots cannot simply be layered over the City's own plan. They have to be developed together and aligned.

The City's letter of support is a little tepid. It does not mention Our Salem, does not mention any kind of partnership, and instead seems to see Cherriots in a secondary role, providing a service to the City at the City's direction. There is room here for Council to ensure that there is better coordination between Our Salem any any Cherriots plan. Cherriots should be regarded more strongly as partner and essential component of our 21st century mobility as we face climate disruption.


Susann Kaltwasser said...

"And positively, the City should ask Cherriots, where do you envision the most frequent service, so the City can assign more density there."

You think the City plans growth?

Salem might project growth based on current zoning, but never in all the 30 plus years I have been watching (and some times participating in) city planning, it has never been in the business of planning where growth will happen. That is always determined by the property owners/developers. They look at a parcel and say to the City planners," this is what I want to do with it, what do I have to do to get it approved?"

"Our Salem" is not going to "plan growth" it is going to try to predict growth.... Don't get me wrong. I fully wish that Salem would plan where growth could or should happen, but even if it did, as soon as a property owner would come before them with an alternative idea they would roll over and make it happen. Zone changes happen all the time and once the zone is changed the Comprehensive Plan is altered and things cascade from there.

A factor to consider is that all development in Salem having to do with transportation is reactive, not proactive. Streets get widened when there is enough congestion to warrant it. Buses routes are laid out when the likelihood of passengers is great enough. No one says, hmmmm....I think that we should put a bus route here so that the developers would build some apartments near by. First, the apartments get built and then the Cherriots say, 'looks like we could get enough riders along there, so we should try a route in that area.'

Salem is not going to be building a light rail in our lifetimes, because Portland Metro area sucks up all the revenue, so we need to figure out what to do what we can with what we have, i.e. buses. Besides they are so much more cost effective and flexible.

But I do agree that the City of Salem should be working more closely with the transit company.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

I think we are mostly talking about the same thing, but we differ a little in the level of generality. You are zeroing in on a finer level of detail than I intend.

You are right that the City does not specify the kind of development on a per-parcel basis, and that the variance and zone-change processes allow for a lot of variation.

We don't have the kind of central planning that locks down specific parcels, and that's not what I mean by the City "planning" development.

Even without that more specific kind of planning, our vast swaths of single-family zoning shunt all other kinds of development to a much smaller subset of Salem lands.

It's the binary of single-family/non-single-family that is significant here (with plexes, multi-family, commercial, industrial all encompassed by non-single-family).

And so yes, the way we deploy residential zoning creates the framework that very much shapes growth in and forces it to the remaining spaces. I'm talking about this more general framework, and not parcel-by-parcel determinations. With this framework in the Comprehensive Plan and zoning ordinances, the City does "plan" growth in a more general way.

(As for light rail, there is no reason for light rail here. You will not find arguments for light rail here! BRT is what we should be looking at.)

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Susann, elsewhere you write:

"15 minutes between buses is about as quick as you could wish. You can go from CCC to Winco at Rickey Road in 15 minutes by car and 30 by bus. How do you go faster even in a separate lane when you have stops? Just not stop for anyone but you?"

EmX runs on 10 minute intervals now, and they are planning for 7.5 minute intervals. BRT runs more often than on the quarter hour. The key to frequent service, the average amount people will wait willingly, has been 10 minute intervals. Quarter hour service is not frequent enough, actually. (Cherriots will have to improve this to see the real benefits of "frequent" service.)

As for the bus-only lane, it shines during congestion. Your example seems to assume traffic closer to free-flowing with slack road space. And at those times, the bus stop might indeed slow it down in comparison to a straight-shot drive-alone car trip. But during congestion, the bus only lane is a more efficient use of a lane. It has a higher capacity and it zooms along relative to the cars.

Additionally, BRT stops are spaced farther apart than regular bus stops, so there are fewer of them. If a regular bus might stop every two or three blocks, BRT stops are often more like six or eight blocks, or at other greater spacing as the local geography requires.

For more on BRT, Cherriots' consultant, Jarrett Walker, has written about it quite a bit at his transit blog, and you can read the posts here.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

It looks like the list of awards is out (maybe has been for a while) and it looks like Cherriots did not win this. Curiously, the City of Jefferson did win an award for a TSP update. Trimet also won one for a transit oriented development plan. Here's the full list.) Maybe at one of the Cherriots' board meetings there will be some discussion of any comments on the grant app and suggestions for refinement in a new iteration.