Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Updating the Public Participation Plan: At the MPO

The Technical Advisory Committee for our Metropolitan Planning Organization met yesterday, and they are starting up a review of the Public Participation Plan.

The plan is nearly certain to elide the most significant way the public is shut out. Last couple months the MPO was considering how to apportion COVID relief funds, and a chart on population might be the most interesting detail from that discussion.

Proposed distribution of COVID funds

The Policy Committee that governs the MPO has 8 voting positions, one each for the Cities of Salem, Keizer, and Turner (3 total); one each for Polk and Marion Counties (2 total); and one each for the School District, Cherriots, and ODOT (3 total). 

Even though Salem has 63% of the population in the area covered by the MPO, on the Policy Committee the City of Salem has 12.5% of the vote; even though Turner has less than 1% of the population, they have 12.5% of the vote.

There is a real disproportion and misalignment here! Unincorporated Polk County and the City of Turner are very overrepresented. It's harder to assess the School District, ODOT, and Cherriots, since they cover the whole MPO area.

But however you slice it, the City of Salem is badly underrepresented and Polk County and Turner badly overrepresented. The MPO is supposed to have a "metropolitan" focus, but the composition of the committee is weighted towards non-metropolitan interests.  This is an anti-urban bias, formally institutionalized in the composition and structure of the MPO.

The adoption of unanimous, "consensus," votes on some matters was supposed to mitigate for this, but the bias still will influence the way staff shape presentations, agenda, and total perspective.

A Public Participation Plan might, then, usefully give attention to the unrepresentative way the votes are apportioned by population and away from the urban center of population.

At the same time, when the Feds conducted the every-four-years review of the MPO, and published their assessment in February, they included a formal commendation on public participation and the use of interactive maps:

USDOT liked the interactive maps

So it may be that by the standards of other MPOs, we have better public participation than the average. 

And we are sure to see more maps with social media type commenting functions.

Back in 2016, the review identified corrective actions on Public Participation, so from their standpoint, the MPO has shown definite improvement.

Less complimentary in the 2016 review

Still, the requirement that "a summary...[on] the extent to which public comment influence MTP and TIP development" has not been as fully executed as it might be. The MPO never did explain enough on their Goal 7 resolution, when they chose not to consider greenhouse gas emissions in project scoring, even with many public comments, as well as the City of Salem itself, in favor of this.

Separately, at both MWACT and the TAC in the last month there has been a little bit about a new Active Transportation Needs Inventory.

Discussion in last month's minutes

Pringle Parkway (via map)

It's hard to reconcile "12th Street south of Pringle Parkway" with the map that shows the elbows downtown in the Pringle Parkway right around Church Street.

But yeah, the whole of OR-22 through the city is bad. All the state highways in town have legacy bike lanes that are not adequate to the traffic volumes and speeds. The whole network is substandard, far from an all ages and abilities standard that would meet our climate demands.

Interestingly, the inventory apparently omitted the gap on Cordon Road over OR-22.

Probably ODOT will point to the inventory and then do nothing, saying we lack funding and can't afford it.

No comments: