Tuesday, July 26, 2022

City Council, July 28th - Airport Mania

Council meets for a formal Work Session with two topics on Thursday the 28th.

Eugene welcomed a new airline in August 2021
via FB, Keeling curve added

One of the topics will be Salem's hope for something like this, welcoming a commercial carrier and service with great fanfare to the Salem Airport.

The Staff Report talks about considerable cost for necessary remodeling.

To cost millions of dollars

But it doesn't discuss at all the cost in increased greenhouse gas emissions.

The refusal to evaluate policy like this in terms of climate impacts is just thumbing our nose at the Climate Action Plan, ensuring it is symbolic only and never substantial.

Editorial and inset article from June, 2018

The other topic is an update on the Policy Agenda. Two items are of interest here.

One is the forthcoming update to the Transportation System Plan:

As an interim step to completing the Transportation Systems Plan, this fall staff will bring policy questions to Council with traffic slowing initiatives like: speed hump requests, 20 is Plenty, and stop signs.  A more detailed City Council discussion of this policy question and integration of neighborhood traffic management tools is anticipated for September 2022. 

That sounds promising!

Front page today, unusually direct about climate

The other is less so.

Following City Council acceptance of the Climate Action Plan in February of 2022, a Climate Action Plan (CAP) Committee was convened to review early implementation efforts under this new plan. Monthly meetings of the CAP Committee began in May. Staff will provide an information report update to City Council in September 2022.

The City of Salem Climate Action Plan includes 183 strategies to increase the community's resilience to climate change and to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions in Salem. The Climate Action Plan Committee meets monthly to discuss and make recommendations on strategies for early implementation of the plan. Many of the strategies generally focus on those that will have high potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and provide community equity co-benefits with relatively low cost to the City. Other potential early strategies demonstrate leadership by the City, establish governance for the Climate Action Plan, are in-process or ongoing actions, required by new and pending state rules, or are already planned to start within two years.

So far the Committee has not seen much of any strategies with "high potential." Nor much "leadership by the City." The keys instead have seemed to be "low cost to the City" and leadership by other agencies and jurisdictions. (See notes from the July meeting, "Climate Action Plan Committee: Transportation and Passivity.")

For our Climate Action Plan to be successful, it needs to be a stronger thread and overarching theme through all policy discussion and analysis, including consideration of the airport.


Jim Scheppke said...

The staff report says commercial air service in Salem would be a winner for the climate. It says it would result in "reduction of carbon emissions by alleviating vehicle traffic to/from Portland and Eugene airports." Oh really? Did they actually do some real analysis of that? I doubt it. How about when most of us will be driving EVs? How can we get to net zero by 2050 if we have big jets landing here?

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

I suppose I should have addressed that head on. It is at least theoretically possible that reduced emissions from car travel to Portland or Eugene would offset increased emissions from increasing flight. But better rail and transit connections could also accomplish that without new commercial service from Salem. As you suggest, the fleet conversion from gas to electric will also reduce emissions from car travel to Portland or Salem.

They key, however, is that this claim in the Staff Report is impressionistic and quite possibly wish-casting. The City has published no formal and public greenhouse gas assessment, including emissions from changes in car travel and emissions from the increase in air flight. As you say, no "real analysis."

Donald said...

Perhaps this money would be better spent making WES come down to Salem and increasing it's frequency

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Over on FB a person contests criticism of the airport. They write

"One flight with 50 people on it means as many as 5000 vehicle miles not driven... I think the carbon footprint issue is far from a slam dunk. Research has been done on this.

I recall vividly how a number of vocal progressives in our community (BTW: I am a progressive myself, so I am not name calling) were vehemently opposed to the Conference Center being built. It was "not needed" and it was a "waste of taxpayer dollars". In reality, it has brought money directly into the city coffers every year (operating at a profit) not to mention all the money it has indirectly brought into the community through food, lodging and entertainment dollars spent.

Sometimes you need to spend money to make money, and some investments are long term.

One assumption they make is that the amount of travel is essentially constant and fungible and can be satisfied with car travel or with air travel. But this ignores induced air travel from the increased convenience of a Salem airport. It also ignores that we need to reduce air travel generally, whether from Portland, Salem, or Eugene. And that we need to reduce car travel generally.

But regardless we should have a serious analysis of the emissions impacts of no build and build conditions for a Salem airport with commercial service. This would include sections on emissions from driving to Portland or Eugene that would no longer occur with a Salem airport. That is a reasonable thing to analyze.

As for the Conference Center, I gave up on trying to track this, but I found City statements that suggested operating losses at the Conference Center of

-$334, 794 in 2012
-$337, 518 in 2013
-$374,797 in 2015

Someone with real accounting chops should look at it more closely. I think the City has a buffer fund it uses for some hocus-pocus to say the Conference Center always operates at a profit.

But also, part of an analysis of the Conference Center would include opportunity cost. What else might have been built there, and what would its benefits be?

Separately, as for WES, the Oregon Passenger Rail project found the main line was better suited to passenger rail than the Oregon Electric line. (See the documents at the Oregon Passenger Rail page and a few notes here.)

Evan said...

The whole thought that saying "oh gosh we saved 5,000 miles driving" seems like a lot. But the flights from Salem are likely to be short-haul, so a larger % of the trip is take-offs and landings, which is the most polluting part of the trip (about 1/4 of all emissions).

We're increasing the % of flights that are polluting, saving a relatively tiny bit of driving, and inducing more consumption of one of the most polluting forms of travel - flying.

There's really no way the convoluted math means this is a win for climate.

Donnie said...

WES should be a yes, and project.

The more connections there are, the more people might find a way to mode shift.

If you look up the fastest way to get to Salem by 730 am (a reasonable buffer for traveling from Portland on transit to arrive to work by 8 am) Wes to 1x route would save time by not having as many transfers