Friday, January 8, 2021

Early Winter Round-up at the MPO

After taking off most of the Fall, the Technical Advisory Committee for our Metropolitan Planning Organization, SKATS, meets again on Tuesday the 12th. There are no big action items of interest here, but some other things, including some preliminary kinds of things, might be worth a short note.

The most interesting item is comment on a "regional safety plan," a proposal and then development I missed late last year.

Writing a new safety plan (October minutes)

They met separately on the 6th and are still in the early phases of figuring out what exactly they are going to do.

But considering the initiative is organized and hosted at the MPO, it is surprising that Safe Routes to Schools, which is embedded at the MPO now, is not represented formally on the committee. The committee membership, in fact, seems weighted with an autoist bias, and they may understand safety as primarily safety for people in cars, and not give enough attention to safety for those not inside of cars. They will say, of course, that they value people walking and rolling, but they may understand safety as more a matter of enforcement for jaywalking and less a matter of slower speeds on every urban street. Congestion Relief may still be too much of a dominant frame in this group.

Membership and agenda for January 6th

The committee's work will be something to watch in 2021.

A draft of the MPO's formal Work Plan is also on the agenda, and they'll begin cranking up the next cycle on the Regional Transportation System Plan process in late 2021, with most of the public action in 2022.

It's possible to read the legacy in other terms also

With former County Commissioner Brentano's climate denialism off the MPO's board, conditions may be better for another run at a stronger Goal 7 for emissions reductions in this next RTSP. 

That will be something for citizens and advocates to keep in mind for later this year.

Project delay

And there's a report on the project delay and the obligation of Federal funds. It says we are "far below the first period target of 45%."  So this will be interesting to watch, as the magnitude of the miss is so great that it seems unlikely that merely "refining" some current processes will bring the obligation rate in order. Some more structural changes in construction project planning, project management, and local governance may be necessary.

The TAC meets on Tuesday the 12th at 1:30pm. See the agenda and meeting packet for Zoom details.


Separately, the local Area Commission on Transportation met on the 7th, and they in the middle of evaluating six grant applications, two of which are for Cherriots: Funding for small buses, and funding for the second try at the South Salem Transit Center.

There's also an item wrapped in bureaucratic jargon that might be interesting to follow.

Resetting the OTC/ACT relationship should be done in the context of socializing the OTC/ODOT 2021-2023 Strategic Action Plan. In light of the equity focus of the plan, the commission may wish to direct the ACTs to review their membership to ensure the groups reflect a comprehensive range of regional voices, both in terms of social equity and in terms of multi-modal stakeholders.

In August 2020, no additional member was desired

Last summer in a conversation about a "Bike-Pedestrian" representative on the committee, members were self-confident, and perhaps over-confident, that they were all "conversant with bicycle and pedestrian needs." 

As climate and emissions reductions grow in importance for transportation planning, it may be that the composition of these committees does need to be adjusted to give less priority to driving more and driving fast, the whole frame of Congestion Relief,  and to give more priority to not driving and using other forms of transportation.

I hope those are ingredients in whatever they mean by "Resetting the OTC/ACT relationship" and "socializing the OTC/ODOT 2021-2023 Strategic Action Plan."

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