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.

Goal 6 on multimodal choice

And goal 5 is one of the more incoherent, eliding the nature of the trade-offs. Efficiency for people on foot and on bike is inefficient for those in cars. Efficiency for those in cars degrades conditions for those on foot, on bike, or in bus. Anodyne claims about supporting all modes and supporting personal choice means nothing really changes, and non-auto travel remains disadvantaged.

Goal 5 on efficiency (yellow in original)

SKATS Staff are also writing a memo on the possibility of a Citizen Advisory Committee. That will be presented later to the technical committee and to the Policy Committee, and there will be more to say on that when it is published.

Meeting info: In-person or by zoom now

SKATS PC meets Tuesday the 24th at noon. The agenda and packet can be downloaded here.

State Street looking southwest from Court House
on alley between High and Church, c. 1925
WHC 2016.090.0001.018

As a footnote, the Mill recently published a photo on State at High from just before construction of the Bligh/Pacific Building, in which SKATS/MWVCOG has offices. While there are photos of Cook's Hotel (the mansarded building behind the pole in the center of the image; see below) there aren't many that show the buildings on State Street very well.

Same section of State Street earlier, c.1900-1910
(detail, Oregon State Library)

Here's an earlier one taken from the Grand Theater of the same half block on State Street. The trees are nice, but they hide the buildings.

And a close-up of the mansarded, Cook's Hotel on the corner, even earlier.

Cook's Hotel, c. 1890 (Oregon State Library)

Currently the Bligh/Pacific Building is a pleasant, though not necessarily outstanding, masonry commercial block. The Capitol Theater next door was of course demolished and is now a surface parking lot. The argument here is that there is always a dynamic and generally useful churn in city development. What we celebrate now as "historic" was almost always itself a redevelopment. Because the older wood-frame buildings were replaced immediately by the masonry commercial buildings, there was no net loss. We don't, in fact, miss them. The real loss is when something like the Capitol Theater is not replaced and there is only a void filled with car storage. That building we miss very much. Some buildings are of such outstanding character and significance they do deserve preservation, but we should reserve those efforts for quality, not quantity.

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