Thursday, March 19, 2020

Science for the Coronavirus, but not for Climate: At the MPO

Because of the pandemic, the MPO has moved to appointment only.
While the MWVCOG offices are not closed, our public access doors will remain locked and no outside guests, members or visitors are permitted inside the COG office without a pre-arranged appointment. All visitors must comply with social distancing. Anyone who is coughing, appears to have a fever, or is having difficulty breathing will be asked to return at a later time.

We are encouraging teleconferencing tools to facilitate meetings. We are taking these steps not only to ensure the health and safety of our employees, but also to ensure that our staff can continue to provide services to our members
The meeting of the Policy Committee on Tuesday the 24th is consequently by phone, and not in person.

Why is the trend of this chart dismissed?
But if the MPO is moving decisively on account of the science and math of our pandemic, it's a reasonable question why they aren't also moving on account of the science and math of climate and greenhouse gas emissions. It is so strange to see science and prudence invoked for one and not for the other. Both of them involve modeling and future projections, but only one is deemed urgent and credible.

Generally, on emissions the tone is trying to evade as much as possible, do as little as possible, and do it as late as possible. The impacts of climate action - and not the impacts of emissions themselves - are always understood as negative and something to avoid. We won't do it until we are required to and we will do the minimum. Can you imagine this attitude for the virus?

The latest Executive Order on the March agenda

Minutes from February on the September letter (slightly condensed)
This is a central and fundamental tension, even incoherence, right now at the MPO. Science for the eclipse and pandemic, anti-science for climate.

So close to seeing the problem!
Also in February, conversation about safety targets seemed to lean towards evasion rather than embrace. If, as committee members seemed to grasp, more driving implied more crashes, then a reasonable inference would be "we should adopt policies to reduce driving trips, driving distance, and driving speed." But the slant seemed instead to be "more driving is inevitable, more crashes are inevitable, therefore we should get a pass on the safety targets. We are helpless."

And again, the preventative actions on the virus are more decisive than preventative actions we might have taken on our roadways. Why do we see one class of deaths as preventable and meriting urgent action, but not the other?

There are many pages of this in the draft TIP
The big item on the agenda is to release the Draft 2021-2026 Transportation Improvement Program. Public review and comment will be taken through May 26th.
Due to the Governor’s request to limit personal contact, staff is proposing enhanced virtual public involvement. Staff will present a proposed on-line Open House that will be made available to the public.
Presumably there will be a more public-friendly version than the pages of tables in the meeting agenda. There might be some new anticipated construction dates in it, but overall there shouldn't be any big surprises, as the project applications have been scored and subjected to a process already.

A Mission Street "Safety" Project
One group of projects to which I haven't paid much attention are signal timing and signal connections. This project for Mission Street from 17th to the I-5 on-ramps is labeled "safety," but any kind of interconnect is going to make freer-flow and higher speeds. Even if some measures might improve safety for people driving, they may degrade safety for others. Always, "safety for whom?" These may be worth a closer look, as some "congestion relief" may get greenwashed or safetywashed.

Finally, there are a couple of letters from the County and City urging on a Cordon Road/Highway 22 interchange. The Mayor writes:
I urge you to work with staff from ODOT, the City of Salem, and Marion County to identify how to best advance this essential project beyond the seemingly interminable planning phase and into tangible design and construction.
The Policy Committee for the Salem Keizer Area Transportation Study meets Tuesday the 24th at noon. It will be conducted by phone. The meeting packet and agenda can be downloaded here.

Teleconferencing instructions

No comments: