Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Story on Climate Friendly Rules Misses Mark

While the new land use and transportation planning rules provisionally adopted last week are worthy of more in depth discussion, today's front page article leans too much into the frame of "increasing density" and not enough into reducing emissions and reducing the cost of housing. It appears neutral, but slants towards the NIMBY.

It is also likely distorted by the Statesman Register Journal Guard Today's desire for one story to serve multiple papers.

Front page today

When it cites local opinion, it quotes the supportive letter from Cherriots, but instead of also quoting the letter from the City of Salem, which was also generally supportive (though a separate letter from a group of Mayors with Mayor Bennett's signature was more critical), it quotes letters from Eugene and Springfield. It fails to point out the those cities have the most robust culture of NIMBYism in the valley. Eugene has been a hotbed of opposition to HB 2001 for middle housing and to ADU legalization a couple of years earlier. Of course they have complaint! A better story would give more context for this opposition. Without that context and analysis, it leans into the prevailing bias of the Eugene area, and has a hidden implied audience, suggesting the story was also written for the Register Guard. It short-changes Salemites of a proper local analysis that dovetails with Our Salem and the current debate over the proposed bond package.

The story is paywalled, but it's worth reading even with the shortcomings. (See brief discussion from last week here.)

We are "dramatically off-track" - DLCD summary

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Open House and Survey Commences on Cordon Kuebler Study

The County's published the first survey and open house for the Cordon-Kuebler Corridor Study, and it's a little awkward.

It's a map and as I used it, I first went to the pushpins on the top navigation. It's really structured around an atomic notion of discrete hotspots that require attention.

The survey is a map

It also requires agreeing with "terms and conditions," but they didn't display them. Who knows what you might be agreeing to, and what level of privacy this offers. It is, after all, a third party website. These seem to offer new modes of engagement and ways to gather and analyze information, but they also represent leaky privacy.

The Terms and Conditions are not "set out below"

The survey itself was concealed a little in what looked like a map legend on the left side navigation in green.

No. 4 is pretty autoist

Some of the questions are more-or-less mode neutral, but some of them seem biased for car travel.

Monday, May 23, 2022

A New Consideration of Goal 7 and the Rest: At the MPO

The Policy Committee for our Metropolitan Planning Organization meets on Tuesday the 24th, and they are beginning to discuss and review draft chapters of the new Metropolitan Transportation Plan. Though it is a long-range plan with a 20 year horizon, it gets updated every four years, and the next one will be published in 2023. 

The review starts off with the goals chapter, and they have cued up a more in-depth discussion of the whole regulatory framework, including some real tensions between competing values in regulations with which the MTP must be compliant, and discussion of the goals themselves. The aim is more clarity on evaluation criteria for projects to be included in the MTP.

Back in the previous cycle, the City of Salem asked for a stronger statement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and the MPO resisted. There is opportunity again to strengthen it. The current version, even with a proposed new addition (in yellow), remains tepid.

Goal 7 on environment (yellow in original)

Goal 6 is also very tepid, only calling for a theoretical "supportive of moving goods and people by the mode of their choice." It misses latent demand for non-auto travel suppressed because conditions for non-auto travel remain sub-standard, and auto travel enormously subsidized with free parking, free road access, and institutional support and capital investment for congestion relief. "Support" for choice generally means leaving the autoist hegemony intact.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

City Council, May 23rd - Eco-Earth and Civic Center Historic Designations

It turns out the big Public Hearing and action on Our Salem will be scheduled for June 13th, so Monday's Council agenda item on Our Salem is just one long throat-clearing in a "first reading."

The preliminaries are broken into four agenda items formally:

There will be more to say later instead of now. Most of the new things are small, technical amendments. Several parcels have been removed from any new designation because they have current land-use applications in process under current designations and code. The Housing Needs Analysis might be more interesting, as I had not seen that directly addressed before. Additionally, on Friday LCDC temporarily approved a suite of administrative rules (previous note here, OPB's news report from yesterday, and a piece at Sightline from today, which points to a letter signed by several mayors, including Mayor Bennett, asking for delay) slated for final adoption in July, that could impact development code. It will be interesting to see how these might alter Our Salem.

So instead of talking about Our Salem we'll digress a little into a side matter, which is not absolutely all that important, but which is interesting and an ongoing theme here.

Council will consider initiating formal designation of the Eco-Earth Acid Ball as a Local Historic Resource. You might recall when it came to the Historic Landmarks Commission at the request of the Public Art Commission. The HLC endorsed it unanimously. 

The nomination is bifocal, for

its association with the Oregon Pulp and Paper Mill and Boise Cascade as well as for significance as one of Salem’s first community projects that adaptively reused an industrial structure.

This is an interesting and rich web of significance. 

Curiously, there is a pretty robust amount of public process for this designation, with full moments at the HLC and Council.

By contrast, there is no public process for a separate proposal that is proceeding nearly in secret, and which may carry implications much more significant!

An early image of the courtyard at City Hall

The City has submitted a draft Nomination for listing the Civic Center complex on the National Register of Historic Places. This has not gone before the HLC and does not appear headed for any Council agenda. It is a wholly independent process, conducted without any public review at the City. The draft Nomination will be considered instead by the State Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation at their June 24th meeting.

Friday, May 20, 2022

City Council, May 23rd - Next Steps on Bond

Council meets on Monday, and final adoption of Our Salem will be the big thing. At this point it will be a done deal, and there may not be very much to say. So that will be in a second post this weekend.

Most interesting is the next steps on the proposed Bond. The Staff Report has a troubling approach, proposing to diminish valuable projects and using the old "divide and conquer" strategy. It is interesting to see what is considered untouchable, and what is very much touchable.

In response to the overwhelming popularity of the the protected bike lane proposal (which is great to see), the City tries to say "look at what we are already doing!" and also says we have to wait on the meat of the bike lane proposal.

The Steering Committee recommendation [already] includes two total miles and approximately $10.9 million of protected, off-street, or buffered bike lanes, including missing links in the currently planned network. These links include the Pringle Creek Trail Connection, a multi-use path connecting Marine Drive and Wallace Marine Park, and bike lane facilities as part of the McGilchrist and State Street projects. Areas proposed for protected or buffered bike facilities not included in the Transportation System Plan (TSP) require a TSP amendment and a public outreach process as additional lane width may impact other policy decisions relating to street tree canopy, planter strips, on-street parking, and right-of-way acquisition from private property. Salem’s TSP is set to be updated with public outreach and engagement beginning in July 2022.

Perhaps the most salient fact on the protected bike lane proposal is that it is for busy streets rich with commercial destinations and for straight-line connections between commercial districts. But that's not what the City is talking about here as they deflect to projects currently proposed for the bond. The Pringle Creek Trails is a meandering parks trail. Marine Drive is an alternative to Wallace Road, and few non-park destinations will be on it initially. State Street is a short segment of four blocks only. It is an urban upgrade, a 4/3 safety conversion, not a bike lane project (remember, $14 million for four blocks). The current design for McGilchrist is the only one here that really meets the spirit of the protected bike lane proposal for a functional network. This answer by City Staff is only partially responsive to the underlying problem.

After the Work Session, a knowledgeable advocate wrote to Council with related concerns:

I found myself discouraged this evening when listening to the presentation related to “Upgrades to Existing Roads” as related to bicycle facilities.

Bike lanes “that meet the current standard” are not helpful in a city hoping to encourage more residents to choose active transportation. Using the “current standard” so as to avoid additional costs and efforts is not helpful for a city seeking to offer safe and comfortable transportation options to people who want to ride their bicycles. The “brave and the strong” are on the road and will stay there, but we “interested and concerned” ask you to not be fooled by paint and “current standards.” In this case, “current” means that they are in Salem’s Transportation System Plan. In this case, “current” does NOT mean a standard that is modern, popular, leading-edge, or even up-to-date.

In the Staff Report, the City also proposes to reduce funding for crosswalks and sidewalks.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Cordon-Kuebler Corridor Study Already Hinders Climate Goals

The City's teased the first Open House on the Cordon-Kuebler Corridor Study, which will start on the 23rd.

The study area in teal

The whole is classified a "parkway" and currently intended for four auto travel lanes and high speed as a near-highway. This study is very likely merely to refine that and also to green it with a multimodal wash. At the moment, it does not appear consistent with our climate goals.

Current City of Salem Parkway standard in TSP

The "parkway" classification calls for
four auto lanes and highway auto speeds
(photo from project site, comments added)

The City frames it up as "planning for future growth" and improving "current conditions, safety, and capacity concerns." The post is very popular with lots of sharing and comment. The algorithm selects "Cordon road need to be a 4 lane road with middle turn lanes and not reducing the speed limit" and puts this comment at the top. At a glance, all but one comment share this basic frame. A need to widen Cordon is an article of faith for many.

via FB

However, now that we know the proportion of emissions from driving, and we know we need not just to electrify the fleet but also to reduce total auto miles driven, it makes no sense to plan for this large capacity increase with the old assumptions.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

New State Climate Rules on Transportation and Land Use look for Adoption this Week

Over at our Strong Towns group, they've posted a note about what could be the final adoption of new rules on climate, transportation, and land use.

We are "dramatically off-track" - DLCD summary

The focus here is on the City and MPO, and so it was good to be reminded of state-level action.

The Department of Land Conservation and Development has been working on new climate rules for planning in the "Climate-Friendly and Equitable Communities Rulemaking" project.

On Thursday the parent board for DLCD, LCDC, meets and looks to adopt the final version.

Sightline yesterday published an article about the subset of rules on parking, "Oregon Has a Chance to Sharply Cut Urban Parking Mandates."

Parking mandates aren’t the main reason we have parking lots, of course. We have parking lots because cars are useful and, in many cases, necessary. And Oregon isn’t considering a ban on parking lots, new or old.

But the effect of mandatory parking lots is to keep cars necessary. By forcing buildings apart and driving up the cost of adding homes, shops, and offices to walkable areas, parking mandates make it illegal for cities to ever voluntarily evolve away from auto dependence.

Parking mandates ban new Main Streets by requiring each new 2,000-square-foot cafe to be surrounded by 5,000 square feet of parking lot. They keep buildings vacant. They drive up the rent in new apartments by hundreds of dollars a month and kill the incentive of landlords and employers to save everyone money by coordinating shared cars or discounted transit passes. They induce deadly heat islands and, by forcing new buildings to be spread out, literally cast modern auto dependence into stone.

Since Council just adopted some parking reform already, I am not sure how much more these new rules will change things right here. That will become clear soon enough. And even if we successfully anticipated most of these state-level changes (and we may not have done so), that's not a reason to oppose them statewide. They will be helpful regardless of how much additional compliance Salem will need to add.

In their most recent comment, the City of Salem only asked for more time to complete a task they would be assigned, and did not seem to criticize the new rules otherwise.

City of Salem: More time for Scenario Planning

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Reassessing Asahel Bush and the 1922 Election: Our Problematic Legacies

The front page column today in the Sunday paper could not be more timely, unfortunately.

Front page today

Given his role in Salem history, only a little less mythic than Jason Lee but so much more definite in the prelude to Statehood and then in the second half of the 19th century, Asahel Bush has to be better understood as a real person with real power and wealth and with real bias. His personal sentiments were not merely privately held, but could be made public and structural. They had real effects on the lives of Salemites.

It's a great piece and should be widely read and discussed. (It's paywalled now, and hopefully they will find ways to circulate it more widely.)

Another legacy that the paper should give more attention to is our 1922 election and its immediate aftermath.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Travel Salem on the Move Again

Travel Salem is on the move again. The City's published a Notice for a change in use on the old bank building on Center Street at Church Street.

Travel Salem moving to old bank on Center at Church

Notice for "change in use"

They've had a peripatetic existence. They had been in the Livesley Tower until a recent move to temporary space in the Grand Hotel lobby, and had before that been in the Central Stage Terminal and Hotel annex to the Grand Theater. Now they look to be moving again. Maybe this will be more permanent.

As a tourist agency, they are in a position to promote walking and biking, and their location will affect how well they are able to do that.

Though this new building might lack a bit in ambience, especially as it is sundered from the Historic District downtown as well as the hotels, there are several ways this might be an improvement on their previous sites. On a good bike lane on Church Street and just a block from the lower-traffic route on Chemeketa Street, this location of Travel Salem is the best for any bicycling. When they were on High Street, there was no bike lane, and the site on State and Liberty as well as the Grand Hotel site are not bike-friendly at all. They'll also be adding new bike racks right at the main entry of this new building. Even though this is not at the center of downtown, it is very near the transit mall. If the rental bike system gets back up, this is an easy bike ride from the Amtrak depot with docking stations at each end. And it will have its own parking lot for the reality of driving visitors. Given the current state and constraints of Salem transportation, this seems like a better location for modal flexibility and pointing out choices. Though, again, it's not exactly at the center of things. Hopefully it will lure people to walk through downtown from the hotels, and not seem too distant from them.

But in the Notice, there is some absurdity, as it includes

one adjustment to retain the existing number of parking spaces on site, resulting in a 31% reduction in required parking spaces...

Shouldn't maintaining or decreasing parking stalls be the default, and the adjustment instead be to increase them? Having the maintain/decrease be the exception means our default framework still is to increase parking. In the next round of parking reform we should think more about what we consider default or by-right change, and what conditions and change truly should be the exception and require process.

In absolute terms where Travel Salem is located is not that big a deal, but it has been interesting to note how they do and do not effectively promote non-auto tourism. Hopefully this move onto a good city bike lane will prompt more. (See previous notes on the Travel Salem bike routes and maps from 2016: here, here, and here.)

A Week Ago Driver Struck and Killed Person on Lancaster Drive

A person driving on Lancaster Drive stuck and killed a person on foot last week.

This release is a week old, and I missed it at first. There has been no follow-up releases, and it does not now seem likely there will be one. 

There has emerged a pattern of people difficult to identify or people who, once identified, do not receive the same regard and follow-up as others killed. This often has meant they were low-status and camping, wandering, or otherwise without permanent housing. The circumstances here suggest this may be another instance in that pattern.

5 auto lanes, posted for 35mph
600 block of Lancaster between Auburn and Center

From the Marion County Sheriff:

On May 6, 2022 around 10:25 PM, deputies and emergency personnel responded to a single vehicle crash involving a pedestrian in the 600 block of Lancaster Drive NE in the unincorporated area of East Salem. Arriving responders located the pedestrian who was pronounced deceased at the scene.

This area of Lancaster Drive NE was closed for about three hours while members of the Marion County Sheriff's Office CRASH Team conducted an investigation. Investigators determined a 2012 Kia Sorento was travelling northbound when the pedestrian was struck in the roadway. Investigators do not believe speed was a contributing factor in the crash. The 50 year old male driver remained on scene and was cooperative with investigators. No citations or arrests have been made at this time.

The identity of the pedestrian, a 34 year old male, is not being released at this time pending notification of next of kin.

Investigators are asking anyone who may have information about the crash to call our non-emergency number at 503-588-5032.

As always, it is wrong to say "speed was [not] a contributing factor." Of course it was. Impact at lawful speed of 35mph on a person walking is often lethal. A crash at 20mph is infrequently lethal. What they mean is ticketable "speeding" more than 10mph above the posted speed was likely not a factor.

Maybe there will be more to say later, but at this point there may not be any more information published.

Friday, May 13, 2022

City Council, May 16th - Bond Work Session

Council meets on Monday for a formal Work Session on the proposed bond concept and project list. They could move forward and proceed to place it on the November ballot, or they could ask for further revision.

Streets and sidewalks categories
(revised from City numbers)

As we noted last week, from here the streets and sidewalks portion is not persuasive, hardly responsive to climate and our need to reduce miles traveled by car.

The Pringle Creek path really should be under parks

There is a fake "bike/ped" category in it whose projects fit much better in other categories. State Street should be an urban upgrade rather than "bike/ped" project. The path project belongs in the parks portion with other paths, and does not fit as a "street" or a "sidewalk." The bridge railings does seem to have been reassigned. Between a new street and those "urban upgrades," there is too much capacity increase, about 2/3 of the subtotal. The City could also make better use of urban renewal funding for the McGilchrist project instead of using bond proceeds. Altogether the current proposal does not make significant progress on reducing driving and making walking, biking, and busing, or other non-auto travel easy and attractive. It's improvement on the edges only, not yet structural and anything to meet our climate needs.

Why isn't there better alignment on climate?

There are other reasons to question the whole, not just streets and sidewalks:

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Learn about Hiram Gorman in the 1870s and 80s at Bush Barn Lecture

We'll never find out enough about the Gorman family. A few years ago the Corvallis house of Hannah and Eliza Gorman was placed on the National Register. Hannah had come to Oregon as a slave, claimed and gained her freedom, and achieved modest prosperity.

Hannah and Eliza Gorman House, Corvallis
National Register of Historic Places Nomination

The Sunday paper had a small notice about another member of the Gorman family, Hannah's son, Hiram. At Bush Barn on May 15th there will be a lecture titled, "The Statesman and the Freedman: Asahel Bush, Hiram Gorman, and Black Exclusion in Oregon."

A capsule biography gives us an outline,

Hiram was well known in Salem for his beautiful home on the corner of Liberty and Chemeketa streets and his prized vegetable garden. But he was best known for being the operator of the steam powered letter press at the Oregon Statesman. For twelve years, every paper printed by the Statesman passed through Hiram Gorman’s hands.

May 25th, 1877

This note about bringing early potatoes to market is striking because it is not racialized. Most of the time Hiram Gorman is tagged in racialized ways, as in this note year later about fostering an abandoned child.*

Saturday, May 7, 2022

City Council, May 9th - Street Art Process

Back in January Councilor Stapleton initiated a process for street art and intersection murals. On Monday Council will consider the next steps with some revised code and a Public Hearing.

Examples of "intersection murals"

The package at Council has a couple of other elements tucked into it. It seeks

to create an approval process for “Street Paintings” in Salem, to provide an exemption for temporary banners regulated by a City-issued permit, and to provide an exemption for City-authorized signs in the public right-of-way....

the amendments addressing City-authorized signs in the public right-of-way will allow for the replacement of the Salem welcome sign on Portland Road NE, as requested by Northgate Neighborhood Association. The sign code does not currently provide an exemption for placing signs in the right-of-way and the welcome sign, and similar signs, are unable to meet the standards in the sign code, which are designed to address signs on private property. [link added]

It is a little amusing that the current "welcome sign" is non-compliant.

The rules have a lot of red tape, and also resolve a considerable discretion onto one person, named "the Director," who I assume is the Director of Public Works:

Street paintings as defined in SRC 15.010 are allowed in the city, subject to rules and requirements as determined by the Director. The Director shall promulgate rules to administer the time, place, and manner that street paintings may be placed on streets within the city.

Hopefully we can get at least one rolled out this summer and can start assessing and iterating, with luck to loosen some of the red tape and make them easier to create.

Neighborhood solutions

Perhaps related to this, one of the brand-new projects in the Capital Improvement Plan the Budget Committee just looked at a little over a week ago is titled "Neighborhood Solutions," described as funding for things "to preserve and enhance neighborhood livability and safety....funds will be sued to construct engineering measures that address vehicle speed and volume." These could be the speed humps Councilor Gonzales proposed or this street art. It will be interesting to learn more about this.

Friday, May 6, 2022

Some Bike History in Salem Reporter

It was nice to wake up this morning and read in Salem Reporter a piece by the late Sue Bell on some bicycle history in Salem!

It was interesting especially as something produced by a person who did not seem to have any great interest in bike transport. 

She led with an image of progress, a kind of "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" trope, the idea that kids growing up recapitulate the progress in transportation and independence we have made as a society:

Who hasn't, as a youngster, asked Santa for a bike all their own? It's almost a rite of passage into independence that young people learn to ride a bicycle.

In this reading bikes and bicycling are an inferior stage, and full adults move past it.

Consequently, a focus in the piece was municipal effort to regulate scorching and bad bicyclist behavior. Immaturity is aligned with bike use, on this view. She cites the Statesman criticizing

outrageous behavior around town and their lack of courtesy in cursing within the hearing of young women attracted to their antics.

And then shifts to the exceptional feats of long-range bike trips, and not on changes in city transport.

In the end, the piece is entertaining as a cabinet of curiosities, but does not really help us place the bicycle in Salem history. And maybe it doesn't need to.

Still, there is so much more, and the piece's omission of the first bike bill in 1899 for a statewide system of side paths has to be at the top. It was not a success, but at the time it was a big deal.

February 21st, 1899

If you are interested in more:

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Salem Heights Proposals offer Bike Lanes and Sidewalks, but no Taming of Speed

You might recall back in 2019 the debate over the Wren Heights subdivision on the north side of Salem Heights Avenue.

Salem Heights lacks sidewalks and bike lanes, but nonetheless is designated a "collector" street. It is not built to current standards. There is also a problem on it with speeding. A citizen commented that a City study from August 2018 found "average" speeds between 32 and 35mph in a 25mph zone. (Whether this is actually a 50th percentile speed is not clear; even if it's an 85th percentile speed, there's a documented problem.)

Now the City has a formal project for an urban upgrade. They are running a survey on three design options.

Option 1, with multiuse path

Option 2, with sidewalks and uphill bike lane

Option 3, one sidewalk only, and uphill bike lane

The framing on the options focuses on accommodation for walking and biking, but sets that against tree loss.

Every effort is going to be made to preserve existing trees regardless of which alternative is eventually chosen. The street and bike/pedestrian facilities can be made to meander within the right-of-way to preserve trees. These are high-level concepts and not engineering designs.

Not discussed in the framing is the problem of speeding. 12 foot travel lanes here are too wide, and there is no reason on a residential street for anything wider than a 10 foot travel lane. The designs with wider travel lanes will continue to induce speeding. Downhill sharrows on a street with a documented speeding problem also do not meet any family friendly standard.

We need to think more about bringing design speed into alignment with intended, posted speed.

Plus, going from 12 to 10 foot lanes means an additional four feet for trees. That could make a real difference.

Apart from the problem of speed, it will be interesting to see what people, especially those who live on or near Salem Heights, prefer for the sidewalk and bike lane. The demand is meaningful, but not high, and I am not sure any one design is objectively superior to the others. A multiuse path does not seem to offer prospects for much conflict between those on foot and on bike, and the separation it offers might be best. At the same time, perhaps neighbors will want a sidewalk on both sides of the street, though there are real disadvantages to sharrows in this kind of situation.

More to come!

Previously in 2019:

Monday, May 2, 2022

Break the Annual Cycles of Bike Month

The all-hours vignettes in the Bike Week ad of 1922 are very cute, but with Bike Month in 2022, and with ever increasing urgency on climate, it is clear we need to think more about "Drive Less" and "Don't Drive." Bike promotion itself has proven insufficient. It's time to break that annual cycle.

Bike Week in 1922

The ad in 1922 is a little breathless but basically is true and accurate. Bike travel is merry.

"Ride a Bicycle!" The sum total of economical, zestful transportation, of health-building, muscle-developing, and merry-making in the wonderful outdoor world, where Nature welcomes you as one of her own and makes you glad to be alive!

"At all times ride a bicycle"
Bike Week, May 1st, 1922

Contemporary studies echo this. Here's one from 2019.

Why the happiest? Let us tell you.

Salem doesn't seem to have much going on for Bike Month, but in cities nearby here are a few interesting events. Perhaps others will surface.

It would be nice to have more enthusiasm here in Salem for Bike Month, but it is clear that we will not reach our goals for improved bicycling and numbers of bicycle trips until we get more serious about reducing our subsidies and incentives for cars and car travel. No amount of cheery contests, bicycular amusement and bike culture, advertising and educational programming will sustain a shift to bikes until we quit artificially propping up cars.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Streets and Sidewalks in Proposed Bond do not Align Strongly with Climate Plan

The City's published the recommendation for the big Bond Measure. Salem Reporter also has a summary and overview. Council has scheduled a formal Work Session to discuss it on May 16th, and there will be more to say then.

The allocation (from Budget Committee materials)

At the moment, here's the streets and sidewalks portion in outline taken from the City's description. Comments here are in italics, regular script is quoted from the City summary.

If there is a theme here to the initial impression of the proposed bond, it is the lack of a big idea and total shape. The bond is a list of projects, a grab bag, and not something designed with a vision for climate or some other high value. What is the theme and narrative for the bond? The City calls it a "Community Improvement" bond. From here, that is vague and not super compelling. You might see the lack of a big idea, that it is not structured "top-down," as a feature rather than bug, however. It will be interesting to see what others have to say.

SF Chronicle (l) and Oregonian (r) this month

But if this is the big bond for the next ten years, as we look back at it from 2032 or 2035, will we be happy with it? Will in 2035 the projects for "community improvement" seem bold, merely adequate, or badly underpowered? We have some important targets coming up in 2035.

Except for Marine Drive (below), the City doesn't list dollar amounts in the summary so we know the relative weight of investment without drilling into the spreadsheets buried in the subcommittee's meeting agenda. Dollar amounts here are rounded to the nearest half-million and taken from the spreadsheet in the April 4th meeting packet.

The City leads with a "bike/ped" list, but the three projects are mere fragments, small segments, not at all part of a great increase in total network connectivity. They are also awkwardly placed in the category. 

Bicycle / Pedestrian Improvements (almost $20 million total)

  • State Street 13th St NE to 17th St NE Bike Lanes and Pavement; Pavement rehabilitation and striping reconfiguration to one travel lane in each direction with a center turn lane and bike lanes.  Includes a pedestrian crossing at 15th Street and streetscape features.  Also includes a new traffic signal at the 17th Street intersection with NB and SB right turn lanes on 17th Street. (About $14 million. If we assign the whole project to "bike/ped," that's really expensive for three blocks of connectivity! But of course there is a lot of car stuff in this also.)
  • Pringle Creek Path - Civic Center to Riverfront Park (half funding, anticipate grant for other half); Construct a pedestrian bridge crossing of Pringle Creek under the Commercial Street bridge, construct a new path along Pringle Creek from Commercial Street under the existing railroad bridge to the Riverfront Park.  Includes creek overlooks and art wall. (About $3.5 million)
  • Liberty Street NE and Church Street Bridge NE railings - replacement concrete railings, matching historic style at bridges over Pringle Creek. (About $2 million. Fixing the railings might be necessary, but this doesn't increase connectivity at all.)

The whole "Bicycle/Pedestrian" category is a little misleading. State Street is a 4/3 safety conversion, and it might be better categorized as an "Urban upgrade," along with McGilchrist, Fisher, and Pringle below. The bridge railings were originally a "Bridge Rehabilition" project but after April 4th got stuck in this "bike/ped" category. The Pringle Creek Path is really a Parks project. This category is not descriptive and doesn't work very well. It appears more for PR value, I think, so the City can say it has something big for walking and biking.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

A Better Parking System might have kept Whitlock's Downtown

In the Sunday paper was a piece about a long-time downtown business moving out. It is an interesting case, but since the story genre was a little nostalgic and a kind of business feature, a column more than straight news story, it did not need to be particularly analytical. But peeking through is perhaps a way to thread the needle on our parking debate.

This week both the Downtown Advisory Board and the Citizen Budget Committee have parking on the mind, and the business and its move might be a good case study for the way we have thought about parking and better ways to think about it in the future.

Blaming parking

Vacuums and sewing machines are awkward and sometimes heavy. If it is reasonable to ask most customers to walk a block for a meal or cup of coffee or for light retail items, it is more difficult to make the same request of people lugging a heavy item to repair or one just purchased.

This is a business that has a reasonable need for a supply of car parking near their front door or by a service entry.

Monday, April 25, 2022

More Detail on Commercial at Division, a Letter on Balky Rail: At the MPO

The Policy Committee for our Metropolitan Planning Organization meets on Tuesday the 26th, and there are several interesting items.

Though it is not the most important for them, most interesting here is more detail on the TIP amendment for the project on Commercial near the new UGM shelter and Police Station. (See previous notes from the technical committee earlier this month.)

Sidewalkification on Commercial St.

The sidewalkification is driven not by logical connections for people on bike, but by the wish to privilege car travel and car speed on this state highway segment. The "bike lane" is fit in awkwardly in leftover space and on the edges.

Traveling southbound, at D Street a person on bike is supposed to leave the bike lane and go up onto the multi-use path on the right. At Division this person is supposed to cross in the crosswalk in two phases to the left hand side to a new segment of multi-use path.

Rather than one consistent line of travel, there is swerving and weaving, and non-auto travel is clearly very secondary. And rather than inconvenience for those in cars, the sidewalkfication inconveniences those foot. If we are going to start hitting our climate goals, this is all backwards.

A little self-sabotage by Cherriots?

Another item that seems odd is the newly visible insistence by Cherriots, a kind of rebranding I guess, that the South Salem Transit Center is going to be a mobility hub that includes places for TNCs. I guess this like the mob code of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer? The TNCs want to eat transit. TNCs also increase miles driven rather than decrease them. TNCs do not contribute to the goals of transit or to our climate goals, and it is hard to understand why Cherriots is heading into this embrace.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

City Council, April 25th - Disconnects on Policy to Statute

Several items are of interest on Council agenda for Monday. A theme in several of them is a disconnect between general policy language and its effectiveness and applicability in particular situations.

Blowing Past Speeding

On a Council review for a subdivision on Robins Lane, as with streets in and near the Meyer Farm, there are questions about the way we manage mid-sized streets. The Staff Report acknowledges a problem, but hides its magnitude in non-specific language, and ultimately dismisses the problem.

Along Robins Lane it is common for vehicles to exceed marked speed limits, for pedestrians to cross the street in unmarked areas, and for vehicles to park in bike lanes.

Staff Response: Robins Lane SE is designated as a collector street. It is posted 25 MPH with one sign approximately 100 feet Commercial Street SE for eastbound traffic and the other sign is located near the entrance to the Oak Hollow manufactured home park for westbound traffic. In September 2021 the City collected traffic data at two locations on Robins Lane SE. One near the intersection with Commercial, and the other east of Terrace Lake Blvd SE. The data shows there were about 2,500 vehicles per day on Robins Lane near the intersection with Commercial Street. The other count location shows there were over 1,000 vehicles per day. The data also showed the 85th-percentile speed of the vehicles on the road was over 30 MPH. Speeding vehicles cannot be attributed to cut-through traffic. Because Robins Lane is classified as a collector, it is not eligible for speed humps. [italics added]

This is language designed to evade the problem and protect the City. Total CYA language.

via Twitter, citing NY Times

Council should think more about all people who use roads, not just those driving cars on them. With a TSP revision coming up, we need to think more about ways we prioritize speed on our streets, especially mid-sized and larger streets, not just in a one-off way, but in a systemic way, so that neighbors who correctly identify a problem with speeding don't have to suffer this BS. The City likes to talk about safety, but when they get to granular examples like this, they turn away.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Undermining Earth Day with Airport Mania

With the location, staging, photo ops, and direct comments, the President expressed an underhanded dismissiveness to climate for this Earth Day.

Front page today: Airport mania

The framing was all about investing in airports and celebrating costly and polluting air travel. Not about shoring up support for future climate action, but expressing retrospective worries that "you're not appreciating me and my party enough" as the midterms approach.

Maybe the demands of the election really require this, but it seems like a real failure of nerve and vision, a refusal to meet the moment.

More locally we have our own version.

At Council on Monday there is an update on our own airport:

The airport has received a letter of interest from a regional commercial air carrier, and is expecting letters of interest from at least one, and possibly two additional air carriers in 2022....

The airport will also be required to develop and seek approval for an updated Airport Security Program (ASP)....If commercial air services return, the FAA will upgrade Salem Airport’s operating category from Category IV (no scheduled air service) to Category I (scheduled air service), placing additional requirements on existing airport operations and maintenance staff.

Approval of an airport fee waiver program to support new startup airline service, and which is standard practice at airports. A fee waiver policy has not previously been approved by City Council. FAA allows for up to 24 months of fee waivers of the direct costs to airlines including landing fees, terminal space rental fees (if any), and ramp parking fees (if any). These fee waivers will be of minor significance to the airport budget and are likely to be offset by increased parking and fuel flowage revenue. [italics added]

More subsidy, more greenhouse gas pollution. No sense that any kind of climate analysis is part of this decision.

This is not the right direction.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

United Way Advances Cottage Cluster Project

A year ago, you might recall, our local United Way purchased some discounted land from the City for a cottage cluster project. The land was surplus at the conclusion of the realignment of Market Street at Swegle Elementary School, and United Way intended to build affordable housing for low-income seniors on the wedges.

Concept drawing via United Way

Since then United Way advanced the project and gave it a name, calling it "Cottages United." The City also completed the HB 2001 code compliance package legalizing middle housing forms.

Now, there is new progress with applications for adjustments at the City. They are going before the Planning Administrator for administrative approval on small adjustments to setbacks. The cases do not require the full apparatus of a formal Public Hearing.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Attempt at Grant Historic District Bears Watching: At the HLC

The Historic Landmarks Commission meets Thursday the 21st and they will consider a "Reconnaissance Level Survey" of buildings in a portion of the Grant Neighborhood.

The survey developed in the conclusion to the debate over the 1928 German Baptist Church. From the interim City Manager:

[T]he City of Salem entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) regarding the renovation of the Evergreen Presbyterian Church for the purpose of constructing a 19-unit multi-family affordable housing complex at 905 and 925 Cottage Street NE, Salem, Oregon. The MOA required an update to the existing SHPO Historic Sites Database to reflect current physical characteristics of the properties in the Grant Neighborhood.

Much of the neighborhood had already been surveyed in 2006, and though the report is vague on overlap, it appears that some of the area in this survey may not have been included in 2006.

From the survey:

The City wishes to use this baseline historic resource data as a basis for preservation planning and policy decisions within the survey area, with an objective to decide if the Grant Neighborhood maintains sufficient historic resources with integrity to be eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) as either a historic district or for inclusion in a Multiple Property Document (MPD)....

[The consultant] surveyed nine city blocks defined by the following boundaries: on the north by the centerline of Market St. NE; to the south by the centerline of D St. NE; to the east by Cottage St. NE; and to the west by 5th St. NE. As this survey was completed at a reconnaissance level only, the survey assumed eligibility under Criteria C for Architecture, and Criterion A for Community Planning and Development, with a period of significance of 1890–1972, a period capturing all architectural resources within the survey area that meet the 50-year age threshold defined by the NRHP. Of the 108 resources included in the RLS, 70 (65 percent) are recommended eligible/contributing (EC); 36 (33 percent) are recommended not eligible/non-contributing (NC); and 2 (2 percent) are recommended not eligible/out of period (NP)....

[The consultant] does not recommend the City pursue an MPD for resources within the Grant Neighborhood, as assessment as a district seems more appropriate for the resources.

Here is the map of the area surveyed. The church is in the lower right quadrant, at the corner of Cottage and D Streets. Buildings in black are regarded as potentially "contributing" to a historic district, those in crosshatch are out-of-period or remodeled so much they lack "integrity" and are "non-contributing," and buildings in white are new construction. (No building is awarded the status of "significant"; "contributing" is the highest status here.)

Map of survey area in Grant Neighborhood
(Four buildings highlighted from survey notes)

Four buildings are highlighted with details from the survey. Two of them have been named and surveyed already. Yet what gives the buildings significance is age and siding material. In the survey method we have a great bias for visual appearance, for aesthetics.