Monday, May 18, 2020

Climate Office, Every Mile Counts, Blueprint for Urban Design: New ODOT Initiatives

ODOT's got a new "Climate Office," and apparently associated with last weeks OTC meeting, they announced some new bells and whistles.

One of the items buried in the links on the Climate Office page is a new program, "Every Mile Counts."

From the Every Mile Counts brochure (highlighting added)
Its first objective is "reduce vehicle miles traveled per capita." It would be better to say just reduce total miles traveled, but this is a start. ODOT has been very shy about saying "reduce VMT" in any form. Their preference has been to electrify the fleet - those "cleaner vehicles" - and not to mess with driving trips, trip frequency, or trip length. That's handled under "options," and not anything fundamental. The paradigm so far has really been to keep autoism intact.

So for once this looks like responsible strategy. If this is evidence for an actual pivot then, seriously, this could be something to build on. It is superficially promising and could lead to more.

Climate Office presentation to OTC, May 2020
Lead with cleaner fuels, and no mention of VMT reduction
Alas, in the actual presentation to the OTC, there's no high-level mention of reducing vehicle miles, and it leads with clean fuels and electrification.

So we'll see. The presentation to the OTC represents a somewhat older layer of planning, and the "Every Mile Counts" project is much newer. That is why it is possible to hope it might represent a pivot. Once ODOT curtails planning and funding highway expansion, then we'll know something's real. We have to see things at the level of budgets and funding commitments. At the moment, the approach to climate is still just words, Potemkin virtue-signalling more than substance.

Related to the Climate Office there's supposed to be a survey and opportunity for public comment through June 15th, but I don't see a link to a survey, a place for comment, or exact list of materials on which they are soliciting comment. (We'll update here if that materializes! - Update below!)

ODOT Blueprint for Urban Design, vol 1, vol 2
 Related, ODOT's announced a webinar:
Come hear from Susan Peithman, Jessica Horning, and Amanda Pietz as they share information about the new ODOT Blueprint for Urban Design, ODOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, and ODOT Climate Office! In 2016 the Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan (OBPP) established a vision, goals, and policies to improve walking and biking across Oregon. This session will share the progress ODOT has made during four years of OBPP implementation, including development of: Active Transportation Needs Inventory; Blueprint for Urban Design; expanded funding for Safe Routes to School; updated performance measures; and ped/bike data framework. Our speakers will then dive into one of these initiatives, the Blueprint for Urban Design (BUD), in more detail. The BUD provides design guidance for ODOT’s urban roadways, supersedes the current Highway Design Manual in urban areas, and creates a wholesale shift in the ODOT design process. Planners and engineers are now required to identify the land use of the project and design the roadway to guidance developed for six specific urban contexts. Additionally, ODOT project teams must evaluate trade-offs in determining modal priorities, physical and fiscal constraints, and meeting the community needs. Finally, we will learn about ODOT’s new Climate Office, just announced this Spring.

The webinar will take place on May 26, 2020 from 12p.m. – 1 p.m. PDT and is free to join for all.
There might be more to say in a follow-up post about the "Blueprint." It could be great. Let's hope!

Update, May 19th

Here's the solicitation for public comment:
After I read them, there might be more to say in another update or even a separate post.


Susann Kaltwasser said...

Reduce travel distance by outlawing cul de sacs in subdivisions unless there is a geographic barrier like a creek or cliff!

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

I'm not sure the design guide will drill down that far into local standards and small neighborhood streets. That may still wholly be left to city codes.

Here, cul-de-sacs are mostly avoided. Here's one example, a decision and set of appeals from nearly a decade ago for Mountain Vista Avenue, just a block north of Bryan Johnston Park in far South Salem, and the current satellite map that shows it built through between Box Canyon and Horizon View, and a cul-de-sac avoided. (It does dead end to avoid multiple connections on Liberty Street, however.)

This is to say I am not sure cul-de-sac prevalence is a very big systematic problem here. Do you have a count of recent cul-de-sacs you think were improperly or unwisely allowed?

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Separately, re: the Climate Office and OTC, City Observatory has a note, "Oregon DOT: The master of three-card monte," criticizing ODOT budgets and the way they starve operations and maintenance in order to continue highway expansion.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

(A coda on cul-de-sacs: I should been explicit that I understand Susann's note to be about current design standards, and not about legacy cul-de-sacs from the last century, of which indeed there are too many.)

Evan said...

Comment/survey link in right-hand bar on Every Mile Counts web page.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Thank you! Updated with links.

Evan said...

And note: Every Mile Counts is a four-agency effort (ODOE, DEQ, DLCD, ODOT).

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

(Further comments on the work plan itself and link to survey in a new post here. That, as Evan points out, it's a four-agency project likely means ODOT will need extra prodding.)