Sunday, March 21, 2021

City Council, March 22nd - Library Parking and Mildred Lane

Council convenes on Monday and while there no big action items of interest, a couple of smaller items deserve notice. Of the most interest here is the thinking behind the resolution for free parking at the Library.

Poverty and carfree heatmaps
(2017 Cherriots Needs Assessment)

Pedestrian Injury and Social Equity in Oregon
(ODOT, January 2021)

The move is supposedly for "equity" and the Library Advisory Board, as well as some Councilors, appeal to poverty:

Why is free parking so important? Poverty rates in Salem were rising even before COVID-19 - and have surged....For impoverished households, many times there is no discretionary money. If there is no money to pay the meter and a fine is imposed then again there is no money to pay the ticket, fines, and the household could risk car impoundment. These are households without credit cards and other advantages that many take for granted.

But free parking doesn't help those who do not drive or do not own a car

A more honest assessment might say, "for impoverished households, many times there is no car." And then the City and Library would think instead about better ways to support low-income Library patrons, especially those for whom the lack of a car in our autoist world is a greater barrier to books than the cost of parking.

The move for free parking is really for the convenience of people who can afford to pay for parking and who expect an autoist subsidy for free parking. 

The 88% of people who reported not liking paid parking at the Library were not broken down by income, and it would be more helpful to see how attitudes about free parking correlate with income and car ownership.

In absolute terms, this may not be that big of a deal, even though the annual revenue from paid parking is about equivalent to one FTE. Councilors can make the case that the parking policy at the Library should be the same as the on-street parking policy downtown. On the face of it, that is a reasonable claim. Then, when we decide finally to get serious about parking reform, we can move them in tandem. So this move for free parking at the Library is not worth too much of a fuss. But the reasoning behind it is a little specious and we should be critical of it.

If we are going to meet our climate goals, we will have to have a real conversation about the way free parking is a subsidy for driving and induces car trips and their pollution. This includes trips for things as wonderful as libraries.

via FB

More happy to note at the Library, the City shared an interior showing the new stair configuration, and that was very exciting to see! The old stair really interrupted the main floor area, and tucking it like this is sensible. Also, already the light seems to be brighter and more even. The whole project will be fascinating since the budget, mainly for seismic, was not very large at all really, and so it is an exercise in creativity under constraint.

August 2020

There's an information report on Hearings Officer's denial of an application for a driveway on Mildred Lane, a minor arterial, which generally are intended for access at side streets only.

Mildred Lane at Bryan Johnston Park (2013)

Mildred Lane seems to need more attention. It is built to the end state of a 4/3 safety conversion, our standard urban configuration with sidewalks, bike lanes, two car travel lanes, and a center turn pocket. There are enhanced crosswalks with median refuges. And it still has problems with speeding and hill hopping.

From the Hearings Officer's decision:

Testimony from [neighbors] raised concerns about the safety of this driveway approach entering traffic travelling at speed on Mildred Lane SE. The Hearings Officer finds that as the the subject property has direct street frontage onto Flairstone Drive SE, which is designated a Local street on the Salem Transportation System Plan, direct access to a local street is available. This direct access to a local street would avoid any concern about traffic hazards and safe turning movements related to the driveway access.

This is mostly good and true, and a driveway connection on the local street would be better. 

But maybe we should also pause and consider that "traffic traveling at speed on Mildred Lane" is dangerous and too fast. If the traffic is a problem for a person protected inside of a car, what about people biking, rolling in a wheelchair, or walking? 

(This situation on Mildred Lane may be similar to that of 17th Street, whose 85th percentile speed you may recall is 36mph. These streets have similar cross-sections and still need more traffic calming. Our current urban standards are still too permissive and still induce too much speed.)

Other Items

Pretty fall colors at Minto

Council will see the annual Tree Report (the ice storm losses will be in next year's) and a City Proclamation for Arbor Month. Tree advocates may have more to say on it. Late last week they noted contractors at the Costco project had started moving the Oaks and they were watching that closely.


Associated with the new State Police offices, the City finds construction costs were much less than estimated, almost half, and propose to reduce the fees for a Reimbursement District. Presumably there will be no meaningful criticism of this.

(Parenthetically, and not at all on Council agenda but relevant generally in light our own audit, today's New York Times has a survey of reports from multiple cities analyzing police response to last years' protests. It highlights overmilitarized policing and unnecessary escalation.)

There's another purchase for Marine Drive, but I'm not sure there's anything to add. At some point the City will have accumulated all the parcels and there will be more to say on design. The alignment along Wallace Marine Park remains contested and unresolved.

As part of revising the Comprehensive Plan in Our Salem, there is a new subcommittee with Councilors and Planning Commissioners:

The Mayor has appointed Councilors Chris Hoy, Virginia Stapleton, Trevor Phillips, and Jose Gonzalez and Planning Commissioners Chane Griggs, Ian Levin, Joshlene Pollack, and Ashley Schweickart to the Our Salem Zoning Subcommittee.

The City proposes "to modify the City’s Wastewater Industrial Pretreatment Provisions to help prevent introduction of pollutants into the City’s wastewater collection and treatment system." At least on the surface that sounds great.

The Legislative subcommittee met on Friday, and SB 395 to grow the Bike Bill was on the agenda. If an update on Legislative positions is added to the Council agenda on Monday, we may see a position on that bill, and we'll update this post. Cherriots has already indicated formal support for it, and the City should join them.

Finally, another way that we are not thinking about climate is that a proposal for new above ground petroleum storage tanks has been approved. We should just stop with new fossil fuel infrastructure.

Addendum, Monday

Indeed, the City has added some Legislative Positions to the agenda. They include support, a little tepid, for SB 395 to expand the Bike Bill. They are concerned it will "divert funding...from preservation, maintenance, and other needed safety projects."

"support with amendments"

This is spun with a bit of willful misunderstanding. If it diverts funds, it could be from carbon-polluting road and car lane expansion, not from preservation and maintenance.

More and better bike lanes and sidewalks are also "needed safety projects" and would represent a net gain in safety.

Bike lanes and sidewalks are also easier and less costly to maintain than auto travel lanes.

There's a real autoist bias and a little bit of malarky here. (See also BikePortland's note about the hearing on the bill earlier this month.)


Jim Scheppke said...

The Salem Public Library has a big "equity" problem that won't be solved by free parking. Unlike other cities Salem's size we have only two library facilities and both are located proximate to some of the most affluent populations in town. Can we say "white privilege?" Portland is somewhat less than four times our size, granted, but they have 15 branches in the city -- one within a few miles of all of their residents. Salem needs a branch library in north, east and south Salem. They could be leased facilities in retail spaces, at least to start, to keep the costs affordable. The Library is embarking on a strategic planning process and branch libraries need to be at the forefront fo their development plans.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Yes, take the books closer to the people! Totally agree on a branch system.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

(Just as a parenthetical, some have questioned the words "autoist" and "autoism." The coinage isn't exactly a neologism, as it is an attempt at a revival, albeit with a slightly different emphasis. Here's a recent post, "Back-in Parking Valued in 1920" with a headline from 1920 using the word. It occurs regularly in the 1910s and 20s. And here's the original post sketching out the concept, "What is Hydraulic Autoism? Why it's our Mobility Paradigm!" It applies to the whole cultural and engineering paradigm for traffic, travel, and even land use.)

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

And updated with note on SB 395

Jim Scheppke said...

Meant to say "Portland is somewhat more than four times our size." It's what a friend used to call a "braino" (like a typo, but when your brain misfires).