Tuesday, December 29, 2020

2010s and the Decade in Review: Stagnation

2020 has been a rotten, terrible year, and the moments to highlight seem obvious. Probably with some distance, some things that were overshadowed by the Pandemic will appear with more significance under different light. But that'll take a little time and perspective.

So what about the decade just past? That might be a more interesting unit to review right now than the past year.

I have the Union Street Bridge as the greatest unambiguous success, and the "no build" decision on the SRC as most important success, though a deeply mixed one in important ways.

It's glorious on it and below it! (2013)

The biggest failure is that over the course of a decade, we've made no real improvement in biking and no meaningful progress on reducing drive-alone trips. "Congestion relief" - making it more convenient to drive - stubbornly remains as the primary problem and primary frame for solutions. In that regard it has been a decade of treading water and futility. We have failed in important ways.

This is one perspective, of course, hopefully a strong one; but you may see it differently, have different criteria or values or perspective, and identify a different list.*

The Big Win: Union Street Bridge

Front page on the Union St Bridge opening
March 15th, 1913

Union Street Bridge is for me the most wonderful thing, landing at the very top of my list of favorite places in Salem.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Local 350.org Chapter Comments on Our Salem and Climate Action Plan, Centers Driving

Last week the City blurbed all the sustainability features at the new Library.

via FB

In addition to the seismic engineering, they said "We're striving for LEED Silver level for sustainability and energy efficiency." It's all about rooftop solar, insulation, more efficient light fixtures, low VOC building materials, and low-flow water fixtures.

Those are good things. But as is so often the case, we have erased driving from "sustainability." (LEED stops at the building envelope, and does not include how a building functions as part of a city or neighborhood. It's atomic rather than relational.) 

Over at City Observatory, they wrote about this in "Sustainability is about more than electrification," introducing the notion of a "car island," a new subdivision greened-up with all kinds of neat solar installations and associated gadgetry, but utterly car-dependent.

We must look beyond energy use to consider how people move and accomplish life’s daily needs. A car island is not human-scaled or sustainable. For too long, we have focused on building height when thinking about “human-scale” development. Yet, this is the wrong reference point. Human-scale development is about distance, not building height.

If you have to use a 2-ton vehicle [whether internal combustion or battery electric] for every need, it’s not human-scaled and not sustainable. And even EV cars have a ton of embodied energy/emissions.

Previously we have noted this at the new Fairview developments, which have focused on green building, driveways, and garages, but essentially remain dominated by single detached housing and have no walkable commercial redevelopment yet.

And in the digital sticky note "visioning" exercise, a couple of people called for less compact housing, is if it were in fact more sustainable, and confounded a literal reading of "green" and the metaphorical reading of "green."

Instead of turning green spaces into housing, how about keeping them as green spaces and growing more trees. Despite protests from neighbors, a large part of the green space around Oregon State Hospital was turned into a housing lot. We can't keep doing this.

Require more space between homes in new developments and less impervious surfaces.

We have a real blind spot at the moment.

Another Salemite Dead after Hit and Run

A family got the worst kind of holiday news last week. 

After striking and killing Hermilo Mata Jr. Tuesday evening on a residential street, a driver abandoned their car and fled the scene.

From the Salem PD, with edits:

On December 22, 2020 at approximately 6:45 p.m. Salem Police officers responded to the 3700 block of Kingdom Way NE on the report of a pedestrian struck by a [person driving a] vehicle.

Officers located the victim, Hermilo Mata Jr., age 63 of Salem, in the roadway. Mata was transported to Salem Health where he was later declared deceased.

The [driver of the] vehicle that struck Mata fled the scene but [the car] was later located and seized by investigating officers. The driver of the vehicle has not been located.

This is an ongoing investigation, and as such details will not be released until the case has been updated.

Anyone with information please call the Salem Police Tips Line at 503-588-8477. [link added, rhetoric erasing the driver modified]

Saturday's rewrite in print

This post may be updated.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Proposed National Climate Team Seems Promising

Yesterday President-elect Biden announced a Climate Czar and nominees for closely associated Cabinet positions, packaging them as a "climate team." Much will depend on who is confirmed by and what bills can pass a obstructionist Senate. But at least as announcement and intent it seems promising.

Interior, Energy, EPA, Climate

It has been wonderful to see this beat-up old rock club rather than a hotel conference room or office building suite as the stage for these pre-Inaugural speeches, introductions, panel talks, and other public activities.

There's a beat-up glory to The Queen theater - twitter

If you're not into national politics and policy, except perhaps for Kerry these are essentially unknown figures, so it's helpful to see Bill McKibben approves.

via Twitter

This is not something we'll follow closely here, but it is nice to note at the moment in the gloomy rain.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Christmas in 1920: Vick Bros. Building, Music, Appliances, Santa

The old Vick Bros. Building on High and Trade, interesting especially because of its relation to the history of cars here, observed its 100th anniversary this month. Western Oregon University purchased it last year, renovated it, and it looks to have a new life in education, taking it into its next century.

Vick Bros., 1920, by Fred Legg (2013)

They threw a big party on December 21st in 1920 to celebrate the opening. It was the first major building constructed in the period during the war and immediately after, and it took a couple more years for the regular pace and churn of building downtown to return. In absolute terms it might not be first-rank or especially notable, but in the context of 1920 it was very much worth noticing.

December 5th, 1920

December 18th, 1920

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Santiam Bicycle Reopens, Revisiting the 1971 Bike Bill, and Return of Mayor Pete

Yesterday brought a news of an important reopening and of significant bits of non-local transportation news.

Santiam Bicycle Reopens

Painting at Santiam Bicycle, late September - via IG

Back in April a fire next door to Santiam Bicycle closed the shop for extensive recovery and remodeling, much complicated by the conditions imposed by the Pandemic.

On Monday they announced they were back open for business!

They'll be open 10am to 5pm, seven days a week at least for the holidays. 10 people at a time in the shop, masks required. Never a bad idea to call ahead - (503) 363-6602.

Return of Mayor Pete

President-elect Biden announced his pick for Transportation Secretary, and transportation advocates are generally positive about Mayor Pete in that role.

Mayor Pete at the DOT

Maybe there will be more to say, but he would likely bring to the Department of Transportation more focus on "fix it first" and maintenance over expansion, better support for non-auto travel and safety, and a real interest in vibrant city streets. Some have noted his lack of larger government experience, but philosophically as a former mayor he seems to be in a good place.

See notes from January at Streetsblog on his plan when he was an active candidate for president and this thread by a South Bend resident and urbanist on his projects there.

Revisiting the Bike Bill

BikePortland breaks the news in a fascinating piece that The Street Trust will pursue a major amendment and expansion to the 1971 Bike Bill

What a great 50th anniversary present that would be!

The proposal envisions

boosting the legal funding requirement to 3% [from 1%], removing vague language from the bill, creating clear design standards, and setting up an advisory board and performance metrics to make sure ODOT stays on course.

Senator Prozanski of Eugene will lead the Legislative effort, and this is something we will want to lobby our own Representatives and Senators on. At a minimum: Senators Courtney and Patterson; Representatives Evans, Clem, and Alonso Leon. (Maybe the others, but they seem unlikely to be receptive. It's crazy that the original was a creation of our once-great Republicans.)

Read BikePortland for the full discussion. We will be revisiting this for sure in the winter and spring!

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Stealth Update on Marine Drive at Planning Commission Tonight

At tonight's Planning Commission meeting, the City's giving something of a stealth update on Marine Drive.

Staff Report to Planning Commission still shows
disputed section of Marine Drive along
Wallace Marine Park

The Staff Report, alas, does not seem very illuminating. It speaks blandly rather than frankly.

One detail to note is that the City continues to assert a length of Marine Drive along Wallace Marine Park and connecting with a Second Street extension. (Previous notes on the Marine Drive saga here.)

In a more frank Staff Report, the City would address criticism of this segment and state clearly why or why not they intend to proceed with it. Here they just show it and don't say anything beyond that.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Bush and Geer Park Updates Have New Open Houses Online

The City's got updates to three important park plans going right at the moment. One just wrapped its second Open House, and two others have Open Houses that just started.

Bush Park and Deepwood Management Areas
December 2020

The most noteworthy is the "Cultural Landscape Management Plan" for Bush Park and Deepwood.

They've got a new Open House on sections of the park, proposed uses and changes. They've also published results from the first Open House, and even among the self-selected group of survey respondents, there's not much bike transport to the park.

More than half of respondents drive a car to the park (56 percent), while 40 percent walk or ride a bicycle (34 percent and six percent respectively).

Unsurprisingly, Yew Park doesn't have an identity separate from Bush and Deepwood.

Yew Park is generally not well known and most people had no opinion but mentioned noise as a factor at that location.

As we are shifting Open Houses from in-person to online, the City and various consultants by design or by accident are testing out a number of different software/web developers. I find this one difficult and non-intuitive to navigate. Once you get in to the survey, there is a funny pop-up map and you have to click on the web page behind it, a second image of the map, not on the pop-up itself, to access the questions. It's a little awkward.

On the map, each area in Bush Park has some recommendations for you to assess. There are lots of things about plantings and activities and such, and here are three of particular interest for mobility.

Friday, December 11, 2020

City Council, December 14th - Stuck on Connecting Fairmount and Candalaria

The agenda for the final Council meeting of the year is light, and there is not a lot to say. But updates on the cemetery and public art are worth a little comment.

A report on the prospect of a path connecting the Fairmount and Candalaria neighborhoods via one of the cemeteries is on the agenda, but it does not seem to advance the issue in any meaningful way. Mainly it's a restatement of old themes, a recapitulation of the problems we already know exist. It does not read like City Staff tried to advocate for it and find a creative solution. It reads instead like conflict-averse Staff said, "Are you at all interested in a path connection?" the cemetery representatives said, "No, we are not," and City Staff concluded, "Well, ok then, that settles it. We'll just write up the report." Maybe someone will find something promising hidden within, but it seems designed for Council to throw up their hands and say, "Look, it's just too difficult."

Mark Wigg asks: Why the redundant drives?
(See no. 3 below in the summary of his proposal)

Even though City View had continued to express a lack of interest, since they have seemed to have deferred maintenance issues at the Mausoleum, it seems like there ought to be a way to find a win-win that yields a path connection and some money for maintenance. 

The questions to ask the cemetery representatives, both at City View and Friends of Pioneer Cemetery aren't in the form of "Do you want a path?" They're always just gonna say, "no." 

The questions to ask are, "You've said you still have problems with vandalism and theft. What additional resources do you wish you had?"

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

City Publishes List of Forthcoming Projects for Walking and Biking

The City's published a potentially helpful guide to forthcoming crosswalks, sidewalks, and bike lanes.

December 2020 promo tile

The full list would be helpful for reference and we'll post it here. It would be nice for the City to keep it up and publish it regularly, and not simply use it as part of the PR response to recent catastrophe.

December 2020 list of projects

But it's also not clear they've fully edited the list and it may not in fact tell us very much useful.

Monday, December 7, 2020

A Gas Station Preceded Lipmans, on Costco, and Harmful Tire Dust - Bits

The Sunday paper had a nice historical note about the Cinnamon Bear and downtown Lipman's store, now remodeled into the Liberty Plaza.

On Lipmans and the Cinnamon Bear, Sunday paper

But what was there first? Like other downtown corners, it had a gas station at one time.

The corner Liberty and Chemeketa
before Lipmans, 1939
(Salem Library Historic Photos)

In Before/After sets you can also see the moderne remodel of the Steusloff building and the Electric Apartments.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

City Revises Intro to Visioning Exercise, Misconstrues word Practical

Clearly seeing the concerns about the focus on "resilience" and adaptation in the development of a Climate Action Plan, the city and consultant team have revised the intro to the current visioning exercise. (Previous note here.)

Revised intro to "resilient Salem"

The first version, avoiding the central matter

But the changes seem more cosmetic than substantial.

A bit defensively perhaps, in this new introduction they reiterate:

Creating a practical vision of the future is the first step in our climate planning process because it depicts a destination at which we plan to arrive where emissions have been reduced and Salem residents are protected from extreme weather events.

This still seems very wrong. 

Friday, December 4, 2020

City Council, December 7th - Time for "Twenty is Plenty"

On Council's agenda for Monday is a suite of applications for the State's All Roads Transportation Safety funding. The City proposes a couple of enhanced crosswalks at important intersections.

Between Eola and Glen Creek,
Doaks is a high speed rural road with hills and curves

But the City should think bigger about safety on all roads. On FB an advocate said this week:

With the recent tragic high-profile traffic death on a high speed-limit road (Doakes Ferry is signed for 40 mph), it's long past time Salem follow best safety practices and move to 30 mph or below on all high-traffic streets, and 15-20 mph on neighborhood streets.

via Placemakers

Lawful travel at 40mph is still too fast for any urban street where there are other users of the road not in automobiles. 

Eugene's "twenty is plenty" campaign

A citywide "twenty is plenty" campaign would be a good response and tribute to Selma Pierce.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

ODOT Priorities for the 2024-2027 Funding Cycle Deserve More Attention

ODOT has been considering ways to slice up the funding pie for the the forthcoming 2024-2027 State funding cycle. It has seemed like small changes on the edges and not yet any fundamental reconsideration of how ODOT operates in our climate emergency. 

Instead, we've focused here on the MPO and its processes for project vetting and project selection within the constraints ODOT first sets.

The differences have seemed minor

But maybe that is not right this time, and the process may be worth more attention. Ignoring it as less than perfect or excellent might be neglecting the ways it could be an actual improvement.

BikePortland has been following the process. They note that the current approach badly fails to meet climate goals.

On climate and non-auto travel
ODOT gives itself D grades
via Twitter

Several advocacy groups have suggested that out of four possible scenarios for slicing up the funding, the "non-highway" option is clearly superior and deserves support. See BikePortland for a longer discussion. Eugene Weekly also advocates for the "non-highway" option, a little more poetically, in "The Road Less Traveled: Time for climate leadership on Oregon’s roads." 

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Driver Strikes and Kills Selma Pierce While Walking in West Salem

Selma Pierce died Tuesday, December 1st in a crash after David Holmes, driving a Chevrolet SUV, struck and killed her.

Passive voice and erasing the driver

Consistently the coverage talks around or away from the violence in our autoism, using the passive voice in variations on the "she was hit by a car" formula as it it were a tree limb falling from the sky.

The First Set of Reports

On erasing the driver - Columbia Journalism Review

The first reports depend on the initial release from Police, and the template Police use mystifies rather than clarifies, even when avoiding the language of "accident," displacing agency from a human driver to a car. From Salem Police:

[This evening] at approximately 5:00 p.m., the Salem Police and Salem Fire Departments responded to Doaks Ferry RD NW near Hidden Valley DR NW on a report of a vehicle colliding with a pedestrian.

The pedestrian, identified as Selma Pierce, age 66 of Salem, was declared deceased at the scene. The driver of the Chevrolet SUV that struck Pierce remained on scene and is cooperating with the investigation.

The preliminary investigation indicates Pierce was in the roadway when she was struck. The investigation is still ongoing, and no further details will be released at this time.

Drivers Struck and Killed Octavious Calloway on I-5 Last Month

Two weekends ago Octavious Calloway died on I-5 while on foot. There were many uncertainties, and I was hopeful more information would come out. Best practices for safety and livability we should demand for urban streets also often do not extend to access-controlled, high-speed interstates, even when they have been built through existing neighborhoods and other urban contexts. The whole thing is difficult and sad.

Apart from all that, a lingering problem with our autoism is the way we erase drivers.

In the absence of information from police, an early version of the story erases the drivers. From the SJ a week ago Monday morning, the 23rd:

A man was killed after being struck by two vehicles on Interstate 5 in Salem Sunday evening.

Emergency crews were called to a crash involving a pedestrian near milepost 256, the Market Street interchange, at about 5:50 p.m., according to Oregon State Police.

An investigation found the man was struck by a Dodge pickup and then a Toyota SUV while trying to cross the southbound lanes. He was pronounced deceased at the scene.

The identity of the deceased was not yet released.

Two lanes of the interstate were closed for about three and a half hours.

In sharing the manufacturer and style of the cars, the reporting totally exemplifies writing about cars rather than people.

On erasing the driver - Columbia Journalism Review

With more information, the story in print still reproduces the personality of the cars and erases any drivers.

In print on Wednesday the 25th

There are many reasons a person might make what otherwise seems to be an unwise decision to be on foot on the interstate:

  • Their car broke down and they were working on it, or walking to seek assistance. 
  • They were unsheltered and were crossing to or from an encampment.
  • They were fleeing a dangerous situation

There are other possibilities, too, and we just don't know what was happening on the highway. 

The framing in the stories too often disadvantages the dead and sees them as the most blame-worthy, sometimes even seemingly deserving that ultimate punishment because of "poor life choices," never recognizing fully that drivers, even when operating lawfully and prudently, still employ lethal force and power and are responsible for the safe operation of a motor vehicle. And they might not have been operating lawfully and prudently. But the framing schema assumes driver innocence and pedestrian culpability.

This post may be updated.