Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Radburn as Dead-end, Pedestrian Displacement System, and Super-Sized Cottage Court

via Rockefeller Archive Center

There's some talk again of Radburn, New Jersey, and it's worth considering what it does and does not actually accomplish.

"Downtown" Radburn - strip mall and 4 lane stroad

As it reaches us today, modified by successive layers of development, the small commercial district doesn't connect very well to the path system. So you can't go end-to-end anywhere meaningful on the path system.

No path connections in the "downtown" part

Instead, it dumps you out onto standard stroad development. There are busy four lane stroads that make a crossroad where the commercial district is located. Most of the buildings are strip mall type with parking lots.

Didn't include enough commerce
(Rockefeller Archive Center, note added)

At inception, the small business district was formulated by a command-and-control model and central plan, and is also not sufficient for a real town. That strip mall at top was a public square in the first concept plan.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Open House on Parking Reform Tuesday at the Library

Together the Climate Action Plan from the City of Salem and the new Climate Friendly and Equitable Communities rules from the State call for reassessing our mania for free parking everywhere all the time.

In 2013, PNW cities often required 1.5 stalls
for each 2 BR home (via Sightline)
That is going down, but parking uses lots of space!

As part of the "Salem in Motion" update to the Transportation System Plan, the parking reform project will hold an informal, drop-in Open House on Tuesday the 31st from 4:30pm to 6pm downstairs in the Anderson Rooms of the Library.

Parking Reform proposal

At this point there does not seem to be anything new to say about it. Reducing parking requirements meets our moment, and offers a cascading chain of benefit:

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Black History Quest on Albert and Mary Ann Bayless Fascinating

Did you catch last night's "Black History Quest" on Albert and Mary Ann Bayless, with Kylie Pine from the Mill?

It was fascinating!

Here are four moments, but you should just check out the whole.

Pine located a reference to an early shop at the new Police Station site. She wondered if the archeological investigation that preceded construction turned up any relevant discoveries. Her tone suggested the Bayless site was not known about before the dig and that there is not yet a final report on the dig's findings.

Early shop at site of Police Station

Other evidence located a shop one block east on High Street, so there some uncertainty on this. 

Maybe there will be more information and certainty later.

Reverend Obed Dickinson celebrated the Bayless marriage and that's another sign he really needs more attention in Salem history. There were other names in the document to follow up on also.

Marriage Certificate signed by Rev. Obed Dickinson

She also located the Bayless house and shop on the edge of Piety Hill, the current location of the State Revenue building. (North is basically on the right, so rotate the map 90 degrees left for North to be at the top.)

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Climate Committee sees new Emissions Inventory and 2023 Work Plan

I missed the first meeting of the Climate Action Plan Council subcommittee on Monday. Our 350.org chapter has already commented on the new inventory the committee saw for the first time.

The slide deck or any formal report has not been posted to the committee's website, and was not included in the agenda and meeting packet, so these are clips from the video.

A new firm was engaged, and they used updated methods. As 350 Salem pointed out, the proportion from transportation went from 53% to 42%, not because of any great change in transportation, but because of a different analytical method.

New pie chart

Method change on transportation

Detail on the analytical change and data source

It would be interesting to have a more direct apples-to-apples comparison between a value for the 2021 estimated travel demand model from SKATS and the value from the Google Environmental Insights data. Is this a source of empirical data we should be using instead of that travel demand model? Or is it data that needs to be incorporated into the travel demand model?

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

A Caution on Roundabouts, Avoiding Culture War on Vision Zero - Bits

There's been a flurry of posting and enthusiasm for roundabouts on social media, and they were even mentioned a little last night at Council in the conversation about Vision Zero.

Getting on 20 years ago now, Springfield installed what might be the first modern roundabout in Oregon. It is terrible! More contemporary designs avoid some of the problems with it, but it is worth looking at as a caution. 

Roundabouts fundamentally are designed for car flow. One slide in the social media posts even highlighted "no stop." 

Roundabouts offer convenience and improved safety for those inside of cars, but they still too often make insufficient provision for the walking and rolling public. They also do not fit very well into a genuinely urban fabric.

An early roundabout in Springfield, c.2006

The one in Springfield:

  • Uses a huge amount of space. Space in the center is unused. Space on the rounded corners have very large setbacks with landscaping. It's in a mode of very suburban land use.
  • Slip lanes lengthen the crosswalks and make for chunks of out of direction travel in multi-phase crossings. Pedestrian travel is inconvenienced.
  • Bike lanes just simply disappear, and to continue a person on bike has to use the sidewalks.
Bike lane ends on the approach to the roundabout

People arguing for roundabouts are often - not always, but often - still arguing from a fundamentally autoist perspective: The roundabouts keep car travel flowing, get pesky people on foot and on bike out of the way, and make the driving more convenient. Consider the way they are featured in the OR-22/OR-51 proposals from ODOT, as well as the one for 99W and Clow Corner Road near Independence. Even the lauded roundabouts in Bend force people on bike up onto the sidewalk and into crosswalks, for a real deflection from straight-line travel.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Swerving Away from the True Cost of Autoism: At the MPO

On December 19th at about 2:30 in the afternoon, a driver struck and killed Denise Marie Vandyke as she attempted to cross State Street at the intersection with High Street, just below the offices of her employer, our local Council of Governments, which also staffs and hosts our Metropolitan Planning Organization, SKATS.

The Policy Committee for SKATS meets on Tuesday the 24th, and so far the MPO is largely silent on any public acknowledgement of Vandyke's death, and on the ongoing road safety crisis that precipitated it and provides context for the cause of her death. There was a brief quote in the Salem Reporter piece, but no statements on the COG website, social media, or MPO meeting agenda. In a monthly email earlier this month they posted a job notice, which is, I believe, to replace Vandyke. Even in a pro-forma, ritual way, there was no acknowledgement of the loss and reason for the job posting. The announcement of the annual dinner for the COG has no note of a special tribute or anything.

The silence is odd. Maybe there are good reasons for it. Certainly they have personal mourning and trauma to process. I am sure there is plenty of private conversation. But as a public agency charged with framing policy and allocating funding on transportation and safety, they would find it reasonable to have more to say in a public-facing way.

There's a safety plan starting up

They're even cranking up a Metropolitan Safety Action Plan study, and the crash and death would provide an introduction all too relevant, a way to stay focused on the real human costs of safety failures. It could be an opportunity for introspection and a total reassessment of our approach to speed, road safety, and car dependency. It could be galvanizing.

It's not the first time this corner and building has seen a crash.

The corner has been a problem:
In October 2016, a person drove
into Table508, now Epilogue Kitchen
via Twitter

As it is, from outside the silence looks like too-hasty reversion to business as usual, a little bit of the memory-hole for an unpleasant fact.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Baldock's a Baddie! More Reason to Blame Him: Some I-5 History

At this point I-5 is just a given. It has always existed. Of course that's not at all true, but only real old-timers will remember a time and the conditions of things before it existed.

Salem Bypass alignment paralleling Lancaster
and outside the city limits (January 13th, 1952)

The alignment of I-5 in and around Salem turns out to have a layered history.

One part takes us back to an ongoing matter of interest here exactly a century ago. 

Baldock the Baddie

Last fall, Portland Tribune wrote

Robert Hugh "Sam" Baldock, a renowned highway engineer who shaped Oregon's freeway system, was so accomplished that Interstate 5 between Portland and Salem was officially named the Baldock Freeway.

But now Baldock's name is being scrubbed from state transportation facilities because Baldock was a past Ku Klux Klan member.

The Oregon Department of Transportation is moving swiftly to rename those facilities after it was informed by a Portland Tribune reporter of Baldock's Klan membership a century ago.

May 21st, 1956

When Baldock retired in 1956, the encomia mentioned nothing about the Klan, instead highlighting a technical advance in macadamizing roads, a role in pushing for higher design speeds on curves (that "forgiving" design), and the use of drawings in public persuasion.

But there was another side.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

City Council, January 23rd - Vision Zero, WES Commuter Rail, McGilchrist and More

Lots of interesting transportation items on the agenda for Council on Monday!

As she promised, Councilor Stapleton proposes to include a commitment to Vision Zero in the update to the Transportation System Plan. This would be a good move! But it is important to acknowledge that here in the US, Vision Zero plans have been more talk than walk, with local governments generally unwilling to make the hard decisions and actions necessary to make Vision Zero more than merely ornamental.

The City proposes two applications for the Community Paths Fund, one would complement the partial bond funding for the path along Pringle Creek between Mirror Pond and Riverfront Park, the other a footbridge over OR-22 in the area of Bill Riegel Park and Miller Elementary School.

Significantly, local trails advocate Mark Wigg has proposed a volunteer-built soft trail along the alignment, and as a temporary measure this is something worth strong consideration.

Highlighting the Oregon Electric

The City also proposes to signal formal support for an expansion of Westside Express Rail along the Oregon Electric Alignment as in HB 2662. I have been skeptical of this, and the ODOT Passenger Rail project chose the current Amtrak alignment as the best choice. But if there really is momentum for this, momentum that would bring it along faster than improvements to Amtrak service, it would merit reassessment.

Paint-only bike lanes, big widening

The intersection on McGilchrist at 22nd is short $4.5 million and the City proposes to use URA funds to meet the gap. Significantly, the project has not yet gone to bid, and further cost escalation is possible. This project and phase was prior to the big Federal grant, and was not included in it. The drawing in the materials at Council shows an old-school, paint-only bike lane, center turn pockets, and an additional east-bound car/truck travel lane to 25th. It does not use elements of contemporary best practices for urban intersections, and it is not nearly as wonderful as earlier drawings and talk suggested.

And there is a complicated land swap between the State of Oregon and the City of Salem at and around Geer Park and the State Hospital. The Geer line railroad alignment is part of it, and it will take more time to understand it all. We'll update here in the next day or two.

Addendum, January 21st - Geer Park Swap

A decade ago when Bike & Walk Salem was finalized, Park Avenue, the logical axis through the State Hospital area and connection to Geer Park from the north, was deliberately omitted as a public way for walking and biking. The State did not want people traveling by the new State Hospital facilities or the Prison. Consequently the maps designated Illinois and Vineyard Avenues as the preferred route to Geer Park and for north-south connections.

Current bike map, comments added

The proposed land swap will now recognize Park Avenue south of Center Street as a public way. It will not connect with a meaningful bike lane on Park Avenue north of Center Street, however. Neighbors complain, in fact, about speed on that segment of Park Avenue.

But the swap will also include a "pedestrian easement" on Recovery Drive and the City will put in an enhanced crosswalk where Recovery Drive intersects with Park Avenue.

As I read it, this makes possible a bike connection to 23rd Street north of Center Street. (If the agreement is written for pedestrian only, and meant to exclude bike travel, then that's a problem!)

Summary of changes (notes in red added)

The City will also give up a section of the old Geer Line right-of-way west of Park Avenue, approximately along the phrase in red. Maybe the City had to give that up in order to get some other elements in the deal, but that still seems like a potential loss. The ownership of the ROW is so fragmented now, and some owners have even built on it east of Lancaster Drive, and perhaps any hope for it as a trail is irrevocably gone. But even a trail between 14th Street and Geer Park could have been useful.

But all in all, in thinking about what has gone before, and about what kinds of conditions the State might insist on, this seems like a reasonable outcome and an advance for connectivity.

Addendum, February 4th

The minutes from the January SPRAB meeting have more on the prospects for the Pringle Creek Path.

January SPRAB draft minutes

The doubt here contrasts strongly with the tone projected in the bond. The City should have been more clear in the bond materials about the project's difficulties.

Piece on Traffic Deaths too Breezily Summarizes

Today's piece on the front page is a little incoherent. It trumpets a "decrease" in death, but in the second paragraph cites only a 0.2% change. That is just noise and random variation, and is not a meaningful increment of change! It is grasping at straws.

Front page today

It also is based on only nine months of data, not a full year's worth.

It's clearly a national piece, "localized" for the Statesman Register Journal Guard Today, and quotes counts for Marion and Lane counties:

Marion County had five cyclist fatalities in 2021, but no fatalities in 2022. There were no cyclist fatalities in Lane County in 2021, but there was one fatality in 2022.

Marion County had 15 pedestrian fatalities in 2021 and 16 in 2022. Lane County had six pedestrian fatalities in 2021 and six in 2022.

What about West Salem and Polk County?

Monday, January 16, 2023

Stories of Two Black Churches: Shifts in Tolerance between 1891 and 1911

A couple of years ago the Mill published a history column about one of the most beguiling vintage photos of Salem and Salemites. I totally missed it at the time, and now that I've seen the photo, it's very hard to get out of mind. It is worth much more attention than it has got.

Likely Rev. G. W. White, and kids
(detail and two below, via State Library)

Congregation left side

Congregation right side

February 2021 - reproduced at the Mill

There are quite a number of perplexities about the image, starting with who is in it. Kylie Pine writes:

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Rep. Bonamici Mysteriously "hit by car." Where's the Driver?

After a driver struck Representative Bonamici and her husband as they attempted to cross the street in a crosswalk (marked or unmarked is not specified), the news overwhelmingly erased the driver, ascribing the crash and injury to a car operating by an unknown and even unknowable agency.

headlines on twitter

The news editor at OPB did say the "driver cooperated, not cited or arrested."

So I guess that's the "get out of jail" card and "free pass."

But everybody else used the "hit by car" formula and erased the driver.

When we talk about the totalizing power of our autoism, this is it. It's just an innocent oopsie - no harm, no foul. A driver is rarely responsible for employing potentially lethal force. Carry on.

See more on erasing the driver here.

Friday, January 13, 2023

Designating the Civic Center as Local Historic Resource: At the HLC

From Liberty Street sidewalk connection, 1972

Next week on the 19th the Historic Landmarks Commission will conduct a Public Hearing on the proposal to designate the Civic Center as a Salem Local Historic Resource.

Hearing Notice

In November of last year the National Parks Service already accepted the Civic Center's Nomination to the National Register of Historic Places, so it is highly unlikely any impediment will stand in the way of this listing as a Local Historic Resource.

Start of Nomination

Instead, here is a complaint about process.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

City Council, January 17th - Work Session on Housing Crisis and Policy Agenda

You may recall back in 2017 when a driver crashed into a house and killed Srabonti Haque.

And again a year ago when a driver crashed into a house and killed George Heitz and Moira Hughes.

The house was no protection, in 2017 via Twitter

A year ago

A stick-built house with a mortgage and landscaping was no guarantee of safety.

Not even fire stations are safe.

2014 crash into Fire Station 11 on Orchard Heights

On Tuesday the 17th, after the Holiday, Council will hold a formal Work Session on City policies on homelessness and on the 2023 Council Policy Agenda and Strategic Plan.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Marine Drive and the Sidewalkification of Bicycling

The city's published another video on the bond projects. The first video, on Fisher Road, did not seem to merit comment, but this one on Marine Drive does.

City video on Marine Drive

On Fisher Road Mayor Hoy had talked with former Director of Public Works, Peter Fernandez, and in this one he speaks with Brian Martin, whom Staff Reports at Monday's Council meeting had identified as Interim Director of Public Works. The video may have been shot and edited before the City Manager made that decision.

Also Interim Public Works Director


They make a big deal about a 12 foot shared use path running on the east side of the roadway.

Plans for a 12 foot wide shared use path

The sidewalkification of bicycling is a little unwelcome. The path may function acceptably when the properties are not built out, but when there are meaningful volumes of people walking, biking, and otherwise rolling on them, there will be conflicts.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Five-year Forecast, Community Portal and Scorecard, Vision Zero: Bits from Council and the Budget

The airport discussion and vote last night was very disappointing. Maybe there will be more to say about that later. Council seemed more interested in Carbon indulgences than in actually reducing Carbon emissions.

The Budget Committee meets tomorrow the 11th, and they'll see the annual version of the "structural imbalance" chart.

Why are we going to spend millions on the airport?

The chart is familiar. Here's the same forecast from May 2017, five years ago.

Back in 2017

The forecasting keeps saying there will be a big problem, but that big problem does not seem to arrive. Do we really have a problem, or does Staff use a rhetoric of alarmism to shape the budget agenda in certain ways?

I would like to see a more historically informed discussion of, say, the last two decades of forecasts and actuals.

The forecasting looks authoritative, but that may just be on the surface.

Saturday, January 7, 2023

Learn More About Transportation Planning: Check out this Comic!

Portland State University has published a comic treatment of our autoism and primer on transportation planning!

Moving from Cars to People

They write:

It's in everyone's interest for non-transportation-professionals to have a working knowledge of the conversation that's happening around sustainable transportation options. When important policy questions show up on a ballot – for example, whether businesses should be required to provide a certain amount of parking spaces, or whether the state should subsidize public transit – people who aren't in the transportation industry might not be fully aware of the tradeoffs involved in these questions.

It's also a good thing for people who are in the know already, because why not make things fun and approachable?

For more see:

Also, today's New York Times has on the front page a piece on induced demand. The failure of adding lanes and capacity is mainstream, common sense now!

NY Times front page today

Friday, January 6, 2023

City Council, January 9th - Wishcasting at the Airport

Council meets for the first time in 2023, and the City is hyping the return to meeting in-person.

On policy, the start to the year looks a little awkward.

December 2022 and November 1952

If it seemed like a new Mayor, new City Manager, and new Councilors might meet our 21st century challenges, instead they seem determined to act as if we are still in the 20th century.

Leading the charge back to the 20th century is that interest in commercial air service. Who is Lucy and who is Charlie Brown here?

January 2008

October 2008 - via FB

July 2011

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

City Publishes ADA Transition Plan and Solicits Comment

Here's a process that slipped under the radar.

The City has published a draft of a new ADA Transition Plan for public comment.

Pretty lousy percentages of good/compliant ramps

Wow. The picture is terrible! The City rarely inspects ramps, and when they do, they find around half of ramps are deficient.

One thing that is not in the plan is any discussion of car speed. The word "speed" appears once only in an appendix. As we saw with the new ramps ODOT installed on Wallace Road, ramps that drop a person into zooming cars have limited utility. The mere existence of a ramp is no guarantee of its usefulness or safety.

Ramp to nowhere at Bassett St

I don't know if a Car Master Plan would directly help on this narrow question, but this is an instance where people not in cars are non-normative, an exception, very marginal, and those in cars remain normative and primary.

It is possible that more explicit discussion of the way we prioritize car travel and car drivers would help with better ADA accommodation.

Indeed, just the phrase "ADA accommodation" reinforces the non-normative status of people who use facilities required by the ADA: We have to make special accommodation instead of just designing the roadway for all users with more egalitarian standards.

In any case, a City road and street system that is fully accessible will have slower speeds, and just focusing on ramps is too narrow. The plan looks to be too siloed and not embedded enough in the total system.

There might be more to say later.

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

New Year's Wish? A Car Master Plan as part of the TSP Update!

One of the potentially helpful events and processes in 2023 is a planned update to our Transportation System Plan.

But even when, as a decade ago in the "Bike and Walk Salem" process there was special focus on walking and biking in the TSP, these were still very secondary elements. The default standard is always autoist and always implied. The person driving a car and the car itself remains normative, often not necessary to specify, and non-auto traffic the exception and always necessary to specify.

This summer an advocate in Portland talked about making the autoism instead an explicit subject of analysis and policy. Flip the script!

In May at the Friday transportation seminar at PSU, Cathy Tuttle suggested "your city needs a car master plan."

Yeah, a Car Master Plan! - via PSU

From the talk summary:

In 2022, cars are ubiquitous and completely embedded into America’s economy and social fabric. American cities don’t make car plans, but all transportation plans – whether they are for people who walk, bike, take transit, run freight or delivery businesses – are all written in response to cars. Transportation planning is all about cars; supporting cars or constraining cars. How did our cities evolve into places where cars dominate, and where can we go from here? To move to a new paradigm, cities need to acknowledge car dominance and focus on cars with the same rigor they do other modal plans – the history of cars in the city, the streets cars dominate, the actual vehicles, the drivers, and our future with cars. In the process of writing a Car Master Plan for Downtown Portland, Cathy Tuttle uncovered remarkable new information about curb space use, asphalt, and the four types of drivers. [italics added]

Four types of bike riders
Bicycle modal chapter of TSP, Dec 2012

In symmetry with the four types of bike riders, she identified four types of drivers.