Sunday, March 27, 2022

Jaydriver Leaves Road, Crashes and Kills 4 People near ARCHES

Last night there was a terrible crash near ARCHES. The initial story, and a lot of the response, blamed the victims, focusing on them as camping in the wrong place. But they were not camping in the roadway! They were not even on the sidewalk. They were well away from where a car is supposed to be. (See this long thread on instances of drivers crashing into buildings well off the roadway. Are the buildings in the wrong place?)

The error, a grievous and fatal one, is the driver's. The driver is the one at fault, and reporting and comment should underscore the jaydriving, not the camping. Driving is the act that employs lethal force.

The Mayor even misunderstands the problem, perhaps by design.

The Mayor focuses on camping, not jaydriving

The problem is "unmanaged driving" not "unmanaged camping." If the driver had crashed into a building would the Mayor talk about "unmanaged buildings"?

From the Police:

[T]he driver of a two-door sports coupe was traveling northbound on Front ST passing Union ST when the vehicle left the roadway and crashed into an unsheltered encampment pinning two individuals beneath the car. The camp was located at the corner where Front ST NE intersects with the Front ST business route known as OR99E.

Two individuals died at the scene. Four people from the encampment were transported to Salem Health with life-threatening injuries, two of whom later died at the hospital. The driver, and sole occupant of the vehicle, was also transported for medical treatment.

The exact number of individuals and tents at the encampment is not known.

Officers helped several uninjured campers collect some of their belongings and provided shelter assistance. Three individuals were taken to a local motel. The City of Salem’s homeless advocacy partners were also contacted in an effort to get the members of our unsheltered community connected to needed resources as a result this tragedy....

Enrique Rodriguez, Jr., age 24, was [later] arrested on the following charges:

  • Manslaughter in the first degree, four counts
  • Assault in the second degree
  • Assault in the third degree
  • Reckless endangerment, six counts

There will be more to say, as too many people will choose to talk about "inappropriate camping" and not about "inappropriate driving" and "broad streets that allow or induce high speeds." However distasteful is the camping and its disorder, the fundamental and lethal problem here is jaydriving.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

City Council, March 28th - Getting to Yes

Earlier this month in an opinion piece published in the paper, Planning Commissioner Michael Slater encapsulated our approval process and underscored it was not adversarial:

Salem’s land-use process, which derives from Oregon law, is designed to “get to yes.” The legal and administrative structure is set up to help the landowner gain approval for their application....the city can’t say no. It is required to help the applicant succeed.

Commissioner Slater earlier this month

On Monday Council has three items in various states of process that illustrate this.

The new Staff Report and Recommendation on the revised proposal for the Meyer Farm development immediately expresses the impulse to "get to yes." The revised proposal reduces the total number of lots from 139 to 126 and "results in the preservation of 11 more significant trees." Consequently the Staff Recommendation is to

Affirm the Planning Administrator’s decision approving phased subdivision tentative plan case no. SUB21-09 with the applicant’s proposed modifications dated March 9, 2022 and the additional conditions of approval in this report.

This will not be popular.

No change in concept, just deletion of lots
(yellow added)

The revised plan looks like trying for the minimum. They didn't try to rethink the concept at all. The plan retains the street layout and devotion to lot sizes for single detached housing, and simply deletes a number of the lots that overlapped with significant trees. (But are 126 or 125 lots remaining? There's an oddity in the count, though that might just be the "remainder parcel.")

It will be interesting to see whether Council can find additional reason to press for further modification or whether the requirement, as Commissioner Slater says, to "get to yes" ends the thing now for Council. (Though an appeal to LUBA seems likely no matter what.)

Here are some other interesting notes, but of much lesser direct relevance of course.

Friday, March 25, 2022

City Councilor, Cherriots Board President, Parks vice-Chair Float Protected Bike Lane Proposal

If you don't like high gas prices, you should support bikes!

For kids and for ordinary people

In a press release accompanying a proposal for a network of protected bike lanes, Councilor Virginia Stapleton, Cherriots' Board President Ian Davidson, and Parks vice-Chair Dylan McDowell underscore a message the City should lean into:

A comprehensive bike system would offer a safe, affordable, and carbon-free mode of transportation that is unaffected by fluctuating gas prices.

Climate, equity, and safety have not always registered widely, but high gas prices do. And right now is a moment.

The most resilient, patriotic way to manage high gas prices, is to get off the fossil fuel. The City should make it easier to convert some or all of your trips away from the car.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

A Non-County Road, Kenwood Ave costs Residents - But Bug or Feature?

The potholes on the front page yesterday prompted questions about what kind of piece we would be getting. Would it dive into road funding, development standards, and our property tax system? It was begging for a Strong Towns style analysis.

Yesterday's paper

It got part way there.

One of the most important details was buried pretty far into the piece, though: Did the road belong to the City of Salem, a County, or was it a private road? The initial framing of the piece, the photos, headlines, and introduction with epic potholes and fine citizens who struggled with them, suggested a failure in basic government services. Of course they should have a paved road. These were people being neglected, it seemed.

Appearances were deceiving. The photo caption said "Salem," but the street turned out not to be a City street, and not even to be a County road in unincorporated Marion County. It's a kind of near-private street, formally called a "non-county road."

When the homes on the street were built, Marion County allowed developers to opt to not pay to include their street in the county’s roads system. It allowed the developers to sell the houses for lower prices. But it also required homeowners to maintain the road....

The people who live there now aren’t happy that decision was made. They’re paying for it with headaches, car repairs and explanations about how bad their road is.

Marion County Public Works director Brian Nicholas said there are four types of roads in Marion County: private roads, non-county roads, county roads and state highways.

Kenwood Avenue is a non-county road. That means residents have the responsibility to maintain it. Many don’t find that out until after they move in.

So what looked at first like a story about equity and the City of Salem turned out to be something different and more complicated.

Maybe it is not very fair to expect people seeking new homes to have a detailed understanding of the road type, but they are in fact buying or renting homes in unincorporated County areas in part because of lower property taxes or other benefits the relaxed level of County oversight seems to offer. So it should not be completely surprising that some of the infrastructure is "economy class." There is an element of "you get what you pay for" here. This may be in part a failure of the realtor and landlord system with disclosures, not underscoring to new purchasers and renters that neither the City nor the County will maintain the road.

Stories like this sometimes need to be turned inside out. Instead of stories that focus on the plight of individuals, they should be analysis of the systems that enact the hardships, with individual stories as illustrations of the general problem. Sometimes the focus on individuals hides too much. Though individuals are victims of a kind, the problems are funding and policy choices. These are not one-off, isolated instances to be remedied by bureaucrats being more responsible and giving attention to a neglected problem, or to be remedied by charity, but are features of a system that often requires deeper reform. The system might be working as intended, after all, even if we find some of the consequences unpleasant or unfair.

So here are some ideas for follow-up.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Weighting Climate and Emissions in the New MTP: At the MPO

The Policy Committee for our Metropolitan Planning Organization meets on Tuesday the 22nd, and they'll be considering how strongly to consider greenhouse gas reduction in scoring projects for inclusion in the next long-rang plan.

Notwithstanding our rain today, the larger difficulties of climate-intensified drought remain threatening.

In today's paper

You may recall from the technical committee's agenda earlier this month that new guidance from the Feds might be a little helpful, but it seemed also likely to be swallowed up by other scoring criteria and therefore more symbolic than substantive. (See item 12 in table below from the TAC agenda.)

New GHG criteria and Goal 7 (yellow in original)

Staff underscored that any weighting of this new criterion had not been decided and it remained an open question for debate and deliberation.

Nevertheless, the weighting that is proposed in the Staff Report is not very strong, 8.33% of the whole if all 12 are assigned one point.

1 point possible among 12 criteria

So we'll see. 

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Mark Hatfield, Alice Lane, and the Problem of Encomiastic History

Our eulogies for great public figures have struggled to leave the mode of encomium. We see this most starkly with Asahel Bush. A century after his death, we still don't have a critical history of him in Salem's development and politics after statehood. More recently, our retrieval of the legacy of Elizabeth Lord & Edith Schryver has focused on the art of gardens and left other social history to the side.

June 11th, 1940

This past week the obituaries for Gerry Frank have also been pretty deferential. He was in fact one of the dominant figures in the second half of the 20th century for Salem and for Oregon. But even allowing for the immediate requirements of eulogy, they still leave a sense of being a little uncritical and one-sided.

Perhaps we should not be surprised. Writing in late 2017 about the difficulties posed by the living for assessments of the dead, in the Daily Astorian columnist Steve Forrester noted

Brent Walth — who wrote “Fire at Eden’s Gate: Tom McCall and the Oregon Story,” the most important political biography of this state — will not take on [Mark] Hatfield. When asked by Hatfield alumni to write that biography, Walth insisted that the late senator’s dark side would have to be in the story. That ended the discussion.

Now another impediment to serious Hatfield research has arisen. In “Hatfield’s Senate papers tucked out of view until 2022,” published Dec. 27 in The Daily Astorian, Claire Withycombe of our Capital Bureau [now of the SJ] reported that the senator’s widow, Antoinette, has sealed the papers until she is “in the grave.”

Frank was his own person and had his own life, and yet the center of his history and significance is strongly related to his work and life in relation to Mark Hatfield. Though elevated by his department store fame and fortune, he achieved power not as a connoisseur of cake but as Chief of Staff. The cake and travel fame followed. A full assessment cannot leave the world of Hatfield and of politics to the side.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Daylight Savings Time and a Bibliography on Autoism

A piece at The New Republic, "The Big Winner in the Daylight Saving Time Debate: Cars," discusses the time change debate as a "proxy fight" over our autoism:

[W]hat really sticks out is that the daylight saving debate is, to some degree, a proxy fight over cars and the role they play in American life....

Car hegemony persists even now, in part because so many Americans associate them with independence and self-reliance. But nothing benefits the reign of the automobile over us all than simple inertia—we’ve accepted that our built environment is designed for the benefit of cars so decisively that we’ve forgotten that we built that environment, through policy choices that may no longer make the sense they once did. That it’s easier to debate how to bend time to our will than it is to take back even a small parcel of the territory that’s been given to cars says it all.

via Twitter

Several conversations over the last month or two have yielded a real bibliography on autoism. This is a convenient peg for it.


City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles, by Mike Davis (1990)

Geography Of Nowhere: The Rise And Decline of America's Man-Made Landscape, by James Howard Kunstler (1993)

Fast Cars, Clean Bodies: Decolonization and the Reordering of French Culture, by Kristin Ross (1994)

Down the Asphalt Path: The Automobile and the American City, by Clay McShane (1995)

Asphalt Nation: How the Automobile Took Over America and How We Can Take it Back, by Jane Holtz Kay (1998)

This next is interesting as it and the 2004 Urry article below, as well as other texts, use "automobility." 

This word has seemed to be a neutral modal description, the mere fact of getting around by car, and not the larger cultural system we have been calling autoism here. But some seem to use it for that cultural system also. "Mobility" usually has a positive valence, also. We like mobility. By contrast, the cluster of words marked with -ism and -ist often indicate more negative connotations, and indicate a perspective, orientation, system, or philosophy. So I still prefer autoism as more descriptive. But there is a body of analysis that uses "automobility."

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Our Salem at the Planning Commission: Make it Stronger

The Planning Commission will hold a Public Hearing on Our Salem tonight, Tuesday the 15th. (The Staff Report and materials are split oddly between the Commission page and Our Salem page.)

At this point there is little new to say. Public Comment has focused down to the micro scale. Nearly of all of the comment in February is variation on this form:

I live near/I own such-and-such lot and I love/hate the proposed zoning changes.

That's it. It's all nitpicking or nit-praising. Mostly nitpicking.

Legibility in Proposed Zoning change maps
May 2021 (left), March 2022 (right)

The way the map of proposed zoning change areas has developed really hides the main structure (see the March 2022 map) and makes you zoom in to see fine detail in order to grasp anything. So perhaps it is not surprising that comment has gone this way. The zoning scheme is also way too complicated, and we should have simplified more. At a glance, what does that March 2022 map say?

We need to go back to the macro, to see and assess the plan as a whole. Here are the main points from here:

  1. Attention is now too much on individual trees and we've lost the forest.
  2. Even with the provisions of HB 2001, we still are insulating neighborhoods from change and focusing change on arterial corridors.
  3. If we insist on concentrating change on arterial corridors, we shouldn't leave street reform as an ancillary matter for the Transportation System Plan, but should center it more in Our Salem itself. It needs to be primary, not secondary.
  4. If climate is urgent, but seems too gradual and distant, a war and rising gas prices focus more immediate attention on geopolitical problems of fossil fuel, and we should center that frame in our analysis and debate.

The Forest: High-level Goals and Plan Structure

Whatever happened to our "Indicators" and the "Report Card"? The Report Card was last updated in the Spring of 2019, and there has been a number of changes, many of them deletions and reductions, to the plan concept that was the current draft then.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

In our EV Mania we Miss Mining and Slight eBikes

In the face of rising gas prices, it was timely, of course, to see the piece on the front page today touting electric cars.

EV Mania: Subsidy for cars,
but not for bikes

But in our enthusiasm for them, we are not discussing enough the new costs they embody. Mining for battery metals, at the scale the fleet conversion requires, is going to be a real environmental problem.

Battery metals are bad
LA Times, July 2021

Here in Oregon there are prospects for an extensive lithium operation. You may have read about cobalt also. There are other metals, too.

Friday, March 11, 2022

City Council, March 14th - Easier Speed Humps

Perhaps spurred on by Councilor Stapleton's recent motions for "Twenty is Plenty" and intersection murals, on Monday Councilor Gonzalez proposes to make speed hump installations easier for neighbors who have noticed speeding problems on neighborhood streets.

It is just so great to see the gathering momentum - or momentum for slowing - for safer streets right now!

Installation on Evergreen Ave NE, October 2012

From the Staff Report:

The City’s current criteria for speed humps is:

  1. The street must be a residential street,
  2. There must be more than 600 vehicles per day, and
  3. Over one half of the vehicles must be traveling over 25 mph.

The separate process would be in addition to, and not a replacement of the City’s current process. The alternative process would:

  1. Be for local, residential streets only,
  2. Not require a minimum number of vehicles per day,
  3. Require only 25 percent of vehicles to be traveling over the posted speed limit,
  4. Require the request come through the respective neighborhood association,
  5. Require the City to consider equity in the request and timeline for completion, and
  6. Require for recycled rubber speed humps to be available as an option. If that option is not yet available, city staff are directed to takes necessary steps to make it available.

It will be interesting to see how this proceeds. Public Works has been reluctant to approve and install them, and yet we continue to see so much speeding. Maybe we can make a paradigm shift finally where we see roads designed for the speed we want rather than norms for speeding leading to higher design speed and to forgiving design on roads. We currently have things backwards.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

The MPO asks for Public Comment on 2024 Funding Applications and General Values

Yesterday our Metropolitan Planning Organization, SKATS, sent out an announcement soliciting public comment on a social media style map for evaluating projects in the 2024-2029 cycle and a more general survey on transportation and values.

Comment map for ranking 2024-2029 funding

Planners have used the map exercise before, and it was a real advance on soliciting public comment. So they are doing it again. Apparently word went out early in Turner, and the two Delaney Road projects have already accumulated the hearts. One person spammed the general comments with an intense dislike for biking and busing, as well as more third bridge propaganda. The giant ellipse for the South Salem Transit Center is also a little misleading.

Non-urban interests sometimes overweighted
in the Metropolitan Planning org (May 2021)

But consider taking a moment to "like" or add comments on projects you think are particularly valuable or are not valuable.

The survey has some good questions and is also worth taking the time to complete. It even has a specific response on greenhouse gas emissions.

A ranking exercise in a separate survey

In the introductory materials, they refer to the TIP as a "short range plan" and to the MTP as a "long range plan," and this seems like a useful distinction for conversation in plain language. That's nice to see.

And parenthetically, a couple of studies since we are talking about attitudes and values in the two surveys, and what people say and what they do are not always in alignment:

For previous notes on the project applications see here, here, and here.

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Susan B. Anthony at the Reed Opera House, September 14th, 1871

You might recall trying to chase down details on Susan B. Anthony's talk at the Reed Opera House in 1871. Here, finally, is the way it was received in the Statesman as reproduced in the weekly edition of the paper.

Susan B. Anthony at the Reed Opera House
As reviewed, September 20th, 1871, pp. 1 and 2

On Wednesday the 20th, they reprinted a couple of unsigned pieces from over the weekend. She had given at least one talk on Thursday, September 14th. (Note Abigail Jane Scott Duniway as handling the introduction. The previous week's paper is not digitized, and so the press in advance of the talk is not available at the moment. For another time perhaps.)

From Friday's Daily

The Lecture last night. We are sorry that the time of going to press forbids us giving a full report. The audience present was large and as intelligent as has been our fortune ever to witness on such an occasion. The "Campaign Song" was sung by Miss Clara Duniway with great acceptance. Mrs. A. J. Duniway then introduced to the audience the speaker of the evening - Miss Susan B. Anthony - who began by speaking in glowing terms of the advantages and bright prospects of our young State. Her arguments in favor of Woman Suffrage were both logical and forcible. The speaker maintained that all we lacked as a Nation of fulfilling the hope of our fathers, was the granting of equal rights to all citizens of the Republic, both male and female. She argued that every girl should be educated to work - contrary to the idea that women are to be supported by the men, and that all knowledge of industrial pursuits is unnecessary. She showed conclusively that labor should have its reward whether performed by man or woman. Man, with the power of the ballot, has the chance of rising in the world to places of honor and preferment; woman, without it, must, of necessity, live without hope of rising above mediocrity. The lecture throughout was highly entertaining, fully establishing her reputation as an able defender of the cause.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

New Cherriots Existing Conditions Report Omits Reference to 2014 and 2017 Reports

Some time earlier this winter the consultant for Cherriots' Long Range Plan published an "existing conditions" report. It does not appear to set up the planning for optimal success.

Existing Conditions, December 2021

Just seven years earlier, a different consultant published their version of the same report type. It was much longer.

Existing Conditions, March 2014

An update to any "existing conditions" report is, of course, prudent, but the 2021 version makes no reference to the 2014 version, and completely omits what would be most useful: A section on "what has changed." It's almost like a wilful disregard for or discounting of what earlier consultants and processes had developed. If nothing else there should have been a section reviewing previous plans, like there is in the 2014 report. There's too much reinvention of the wheel and not enough development in new directions.

2014 report longer and more detailed
(comments added)

At a glance, the information design also seems inferior.

Monday, March 7, 2022

As a new Streetcar Proposal is Floated, Close Scrutiny is Needed

Over the weekend Councilor Andersen mentioned a working group trying to revive a proposal for a cross-river streetcar line. (It's only conceptual and exploratory at the moment, do note.)

Streetcar on Commercial at Ferry, c. 1909
Holman Building on left
(Salem Library Historic Photos)

We would like nothing better than a streetcar revival here! This blog looks back with great fondness at many elements of the streetcar era. It was the most genuinely multi-modal period, with real options, in our transportation history. There are definitely elements to retrieve and revive.

The mixed traffic ecosystem a few years later in 1913
Looking south on Commercial from Court

It is interesting, though, to note in 1920 one of Salem's bike dealers advertising off criticism of the streetcar rather than criticism of the automobile. It's a national ad, but still relevant enough to use locally.

July 10th, 1920

A month later another ad read "Bicycles for Progressive Men. The Bicycle Has Long Since Replaced the Streetcar." At least in the early 20s, the streetcar seemed like a bigger problem and more effective foil than automobiles.

Saturday, March 5, 2022

City Includes Protected Bike Lane on Latest McGilchrist Proposal: At the MPO

Next week on Tuesday the 8th, the technical committee for our MPO meets, and there are two pleasant things to note, one small and one middle-sized.

The middle-sized thing is a project design that has been meaningfully improved. Interestingly, the City's not said anything about it.

In the project briefs accompanying the applications for the 2024-2029 funding cycle at the MPO, the City has a new cross-section for the McGilchrist project. It shows on both sides a five-foot, six-inch planter strip with a 10-foot path, half for biking, half for walking.

Separation proposed for bike lane and sidewalk!
(The design is symmetrical, but truncated here)

That is a real improvement, though it will be important also to see how turning movements across driveways and intersecting roads are handled.

Here's the earlier concept.

2017 concept with legacy bike lanes next to trucks

The bike lanes in it are right next to the big trucks and zooming cars.

But do the auto travel lanes really need to be 13 feet wide? Even on a designated freight route that seems wide and a design choice that will induce speeding on a street that at present is already posted for 40mph. Speed likely needs more thought.

Still, the bike lane shift is a genuine improvement in the plan, and something to cheer. (Previous notes on the McGilchrist corridor here.)

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Cherriots and Our Salem should give more Thought to Future BRT

Between the military ambitions of a petrostate autocrat, rising gas prices, and our need to reduce emissions, maybe it's the time we will finally reconsider our relation to petroleum.

Micro scale - via Twitter

And Macro scale - via Twitter

In a side conversation a few days ago, and speaking only personally, the person who is also Board Chair of Cherriots suggested an interest in planning for Bus Rapid Transit in Salem. That was great to see!

Surprising leading candidate - via Twitter

I had thought that Lancaster Drive was the most likely candidate as it had the highest ridership, but he suggested instead South Commercial Street might be the most promising, especially with the prospect of a forthcoming transit center in South Salem.