Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Georgist Themes in 1947 Editorial on Capitol Shopping Center and Downtown Development?

In research for the Southwicks, this editorial turned up. On the forthcoming Capitol Shopping Center, itself now mostly demolished for the Red Lot, the editorial hits a number of themes still very relevant today, including an unexpected one.

October 14th, 1947

The editorial:

New Shopping Centers

Construction of a new shopping center at Capital and Center streets has occasioned considerable discussion not only because it "kiti-corners" the reserved capital grounds extension but because it may injure the old established business district. Nevertheless, this post-war track to the suburbs is a trend of the times and is happening all over the country especially in the larger cities.

Business Week in its current issue contains an article on the "Department Stores Hurrying to Suburbs," which while called "decentralization" or "expansion," is styled an attempt to find a solution for some of the problems that are facing big retailers, principally traffic congestion and auto parking now almost impossible in the largest cities. The new branches call for large parking spaces adjacent to the buildings and by bringing the store to the customer increasing the shopping trips. The significance is thus described:

"To downtown real estate owners and merchants, and to the city tax collector, it is a warning: Take quick steps to make downtown shopping more convenient, or else watch downtown sales and property values dwindle.

"For suburbanites there is a clear course, too: See to it that business section development is in tune with present and future traffic conditions so that the neighborhood doesn't get into the same snarl as the downtown area."

Not all of these attempts to create new business centers have been successful, especially in the smaller cities, since the high cost of pre-war construction has increased rentals, and usually the new projected centers have scared the property owners of the established business districts to organized efforts to provide parking spaces, such as block clearance for off street parking. Many cities have adopted building specifications compelling new buildings to include basement or adjoining property parking as a requisite for construction.

The projectors of the Salem project assert that they were driven out of the city center by the exorbitant prices asked for realty, or the refusal of property owners to either sell or lease or replace ancient dwellings with modern business structures. Property owners who expect to get rich by unearned increment and raising prices because of adjacent improvements are forcing this decentralization to their own ultimate loss by by-passing and shrinking values.

The Salem long range planning commission has given the subject of auto parking problems thorough study and made constructive suggestions a warning for action that should not pass unheeded.

Its frame is very autoist. It doesn't talk about any downtown neighborhood or residences, and instead talks about traffic, parking, and visits to downtown principally as "shopping trips." It's ok with "block clearance for off street parking" and parking mandates. Uses must be separate!

Saturday, January 27, 2024

New Apartments Proposed for Site of A. R. Southwick House of 1908 in West Salem

The City's published Notice for administrative approvals on a project for 186 apartments at the intersection of Orchard Heights Road and the power line easement, west of West Salem High School.

I'm not sure there is anything substantive to say about this project itself, especially as it falls under the category of "needed housing."

But there is an older house on the property, old enough it was inventoried several years ago as a possible "historic property." It was not obvious it was very important, however, and they did not investigate very deeply. It was on the margins, an in-between kind of case.

In the current proposal, since there is no discussion of the house, and it just disappears in the proposed site plan, it seems reasonable to suppose the house will be demolished.

Historic Resource Form

Here, the house and circumstances are not any clear occasion to invoke a cry for historic preservation. The house itself looks to have been updated and added onto, is not a stylistic exemplar — the assessment calls it "Victorian eclectic" — and does not retain its original integrity; the associated history is interesting, especially for the development of the neighborhood, variously called "Popcorn," "Mountain View," and "Highland," but is not very significant so far as I can tell for the city and region.

It offers a minor kind of historical interest.

Rather than saving the building, we should be more interested in retrieving bits of a narrative history for this part of West Salem and its orchards.

Here are some bits. This is scrapbook without strong narrative. The Arcadia Press West Salem photo book might have some additional detail in its chapter 3 on Orchard Heights, but it was not available right at the moment. (We'll update as necessary later.)

The family appears to have arrived here in two phases, with Amasa R. Southwick's grandmother in one phase, and he and his father Milton in another.

History of Vernon County, Wisconsin

A promotional history for Vernon County, Wisconsin, published in 1884 says Permelia Southwick "resides at Salem, Oregon, with her three youngest children....Milton, the eldest son, resides on the home farm...."

I read the "home farm" with Milton as still in Wisconsin. It's not yet clear when Permelia came here.

According to Milton's obituary, he came here in or just after December of 1885.

Permelia died in 1887, and Milton is listed here as a survivor.

Milton's mother, April 1st, 1887

Polk County records show Milton with a purchase of property in 1886. So these are all consistent with Milton arriving in very early 1886.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

From Prohibition to Traffic Law: Scofflaw Introduced here in 1924

100 years ago the morning paper brought a new word to the attention of Salemites.

January 22nd, 1924

They said:

An interesting and expressive new word has recently been added to the American vocabulary, coined by virtue of a national prize stab awake the public conscience, and to help make lawless drinking "bad form." Out of 25,000 words submitted throughout the United States, "Scofflaw" was the prize-winner and will immediately go "on duty"...
Probably this was nationally distributed, a rewrite of a press release and part of a PR campaign, and not anything organically generated here.

As a neologism or slang it's attested sparsely in the 1920s, and even into the 30s. There's not good evidence for any strong kind of organic growth in use and adoption.

One notable early use is in a crossword — something that could even be a kind of paid placement, a way to seed the language and get "word people" talking about it and using it.

January 23rd, 1925

In 1933 there's a clear use beyond prohibition, and that's a clear sign of generalizing usage.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Funding Pie Slices and a Front Street Project: At the MPO

The question of how to absorb Aumsville into our Metropolitan Planning Organization continues to be debated. There are some ancillary materials for the meeting on Tuesday the 23rd, though there is no formal agenda item for discussion. It is background, not foreground at the moment.

In the meeting packet are some interesting tables breaking down the proportions in allocating dollars to each jurisdiction over a period of about two decades.

Disproportion with Cherriots and regional projects

Probably the more relevant table excludes Cherriots and region-wide projects. The City of Salem has 65% of the population, but received only 47% of funding. Meanwhile, Marion County with 19% of the population grabbed 37%. Those are meaningful differences.

Disproportion w/o Cherriots and ODOT

In addition to questions about the size and proportion of the pie slice, there have been questions about a more general shaping of priorities and chilling of discourse.

We might have initiated climate assessment and planning earlier had the representative from Marion County not threatened to walk out or be difficult. In a polite way, he made his disapproval apparent and so he shaped agenda. Smile and carry a big stick.

As the Policy Committee continues to discusses governance and voting, Aumsville sent a letter asking for the status quo. (Though they cite poverty rates in Aumsville, what do you want to bet they don't vote for or enact policy to reduce poverty? This is likely special pleading and selective detail.)

Aumsville's complaint about "equity"

Though there is no information with the meeting materials, there is a brief mention of a City of Salem application for a grant on Front Street.

A project on Front Street?

This may very well be the planning study associated with the Cannery proposal. Or perhaps that study has wrapped non-publicly, and this is now a grant for design and construction.

In the minutes to last meeting are a number of interesting items.

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Blame it on ODOT! Autoism and Burger Mania

This morning's front page story about more Burger Mania is in so many ways a transportation story, maybe even the main story.

Front page today

The story rightly stresses the corporate focus on a broad kind of localism, a little at odds with the fundamentals of commodity fast food. That is more than merely "alluring," and should more forthrightly be praised.

The Burgerville faithful still eulogize its shakes, rosemary fries and halibut fish and chips. The restaurant continues to capitalize on local flavors and produce, such as shakes made from Willamette Valley berries and onion rings made with Walla Walla sweet onions.

Some of its menu items are available only in season, adding to its allure.

Localism itself is in no small part about minimizing transportation in supply.

Our autoism is a subtext that is really the main story.

The Salem Burgerville was a casualty of the I-5 widening project — from four lanes to six — in the early 1990s.

Officials armed with the state’s right-of-way mandate swept through the Market interchange area and swallowed about 40 commercial properties.

And any time we can talk about drives to Albany or Monmouth as "short" and "options" for commodity fast food, that's evidence our transportation is too cheap, our autoism too careless and easy.

Salem-area residents have two Burgerville options within a short driving distance, Albany and Monmouth.

Within the constraints of commodity fast food Burgerville is on the vanguard. They've got got a grass-fed, pastured beef program, and are talking "regenerative farming." Some of that is doubtless hype and greenwash, but it's also not nothing. Five restaurants are also union shops with Wobblies.

Burgerville is an interesting corporate project. But it also participates in our wild autoism. The culture that considers "short driving" to Albany or Monmouth for fast food is the very same that led ODOT to widen I-5 and end the first restaurant location. It's self-consuming.


Saturday, January 20, 2024

Person Biking on Portland Road Dies from Injuries of Uncertain Cause

A person biking on Portland Road has died. The releases from the Police are a little odd, and they pointedly do not mention any "hit and run" or seeking a driver and their car. There is also what looks like a bit of overemphasis on "frequent[ing] a homeless camp," as if that was a crime or some reason to blame the victim. It also might have been a clue for reaching family, but it also highlights an otherwise non-important detail in the event of a collision with a driver and car. "Crash" here might also mean a medical event and a resulting fall. Much is unclear.

Original release from Salem PD a week ago, Saturday the 13th:

The Salem Police Traffic Team is asking for the public’s help in locating the family of a man injured in a bicycle crash.

On January 11 at approximately 9:00 p.m., patrol officers responded to the 3600 block of Portland RD NE on the call of a man lying on the sidewalk with a bicycle next to him. Officers located an unconscious man near the intersection of Portland RD and Northgate AV NE with an injury to his head.

The bicyclist, identified as Juan Martinez Barron, age 61, was transported to Salem Health where he remains in critical condition.

The Traffic Team learned Mr. Barron frequents a homeless camp in the area of Hyacinth AV and Claxter CT NE and has been seen recently riding his green and black mountain bike pulling a small utility trailer.

Efforts have been unsuccessful, however, to locate a family member in the area to notify them of Mr. Barron’s accident and life-threatening medical status....
The sad sequel today, from Salem PD:

Mr. Barron, the bicycle rider who was found unconscious on January 11 on a sidewalk in northeast Salem, has died. Mr. Barron was transported to Salem Health that Thursday night where he remained until he passed away this morning.

Mr. Barron’s family was successfully located prior to his passing.

The Traffic Team investigation into the circumstances of this incident continues, and no further information is available at this time.
There are many uncertainties here and this post is very likely to be updated.

Mid-Century MacCollinses: An Alternative to Guidance of Youth and a First Butterfly Roof in Salem

The architect for that Otto J. Wilson, Jr. house in yesterday's note is a bit of a mystery. The only Salem comment is over at On the Way in a 2010 discussion of a different house:

Martha’s own house was built in 1954 and designed by Edmond M. MacCollin (graduate of Yale and Cornell) who designed several Salem houses and then went to work for the State, disappearing off the local radar screen.

Was there more to say about Edmond MacCollin?

Yes there was!

October 13th, 1949

Based on the tone of this two-day series from October 1949, he may have constructed the first "butterfly" roof in Salem.

October 14th, 1949

Apparently it met a good deal of skepticism and comment.

Friday, January 19, 2024

Houses on Dead-end just south of City View Cemetery yield Fascinating History

The Oregonian online had one of those clickbaity real estate advertorial pieces. It featured mid-century modern in Salem, and these are not well documented here, so it seemed worth reading.

They mixed up Otto Wilsons!

It turned out to be very interesting, for good and for bad reasons.

The good? It's right on the south side of City View on a funny dead-end that has been a little mysterious. There's an older home near it, and there must be some history to learn. The piece also invoked early bike and car dealer Otto J. Wilson.

The residence [built in 1957] was first owned by Salem businessman Otto Wilson, who sold bicycles — early brands such as Columbia, Cleveland, Hartford, Raycycle, Schwinn and Vedette — and owned the city’s first car dealership, said [the current owner].

In 1903, Wilson drew a crowd at the Southern Pacific freight depot to watch the unloading of his $700 Oldsmobile, the first motor car in Oregon owned outside of Portland, according to the Oregon Statesman Journal. Wilson used the car as a traveling advertisement and sold five cars that year.

The bad? The bike dealer and owner of the 1903 car, Otto J. Wilson, Sr., died in 1942.

Any house built in 1957 would have been for his son, Otto J. Wilson, Jr. (1917 -2007).

Somebody is mixed up, though it's an easy confusion.

Still, it's an interesting house in the history of mid-century modern here in Salem and also in the history of car dealers.

And there is more.

Two doors down from the Otto J. Wilson, Jr. house is an old house and old lot, what looks like an old four-square. It has been a mystery also. It led to an interesting place!

The trail started with a new manager for the Marion Hotel, Del Milne, in the early 1950s.

October 10th, 1952

November 30th, 1952

He found a home he liked and after purchasing it, got permits for some remodeling. It had been associated with a Clarence Emmons.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

City Council, January 22nd - Urban Renewal, Climate, Baseball

Urban Renewal is in the air. We've discussed it here a little in response to a note at our Strong Towns Group, and on Monday Council will receive a summary overview.

Two slides from the URA report

For each URA there's a list of recent "key accomplishments." The lists show some of the range of projects urban renewal funding supports. It's a good start to reporting and does show that the way Salem uses URA funding currently is far from old-school "slum clearance" style Urban Renewal.

But the lists also give selective detail. The amount of URA funding is not given, nor a proportion to total project cost. The downtown slide shows the New Holman Hotel, but that is also in an Opportunity Zone and there are multiple, stacked incentives and subsidies in play for it. Is it really a success for Urban Renewal? Some projects are developer incentives to make difficult projects simply happen, some are more likely developer slush, some are City capital projects. It would be helpful to know about the proportions of each, and some judgements about when incentives were actually essential. That Park Front Office building was definitely a non-essential instance, an instance of slush.

Critically, the summaries don't give any assessment for whether Urban Renewal works for each area (as distinct from funding a shopping list of projects). The City still refuses to report on the initial tax base inside the URA, the appreciation in value of nearby property over the relevant time interval, and the new tax base inside the URA. Does it in fact boost the total value of the URA? Does the tax increment represent anything more than citywide appreciation in value?

Who knows!

At least on the now closed Pringle Creek URA, it certainly looked like the URA's assessed value failed to surpass doing nothing. It underperformed inflation!

What the City does say, as I read it, is that in a hypothetical, if you closed all the URAs (which I don't think is possible since they have debt to service), the City would receive about $6.7 million annually in property tax revenue that currently gets redirected to the the URAs. So that's the gap they create for the City.

There are a few interesting bits, among them the start and end dates for each area.

The City established the downtown URA in 1975 and it's now scheduled to close in 2041.

By contrast, the City established the North Gateway URA in 1990 and it's scheduled to close in 2026.

The West Salem URA has dates of 2001 - 2027.

McGilchrist URA has dates of 2007 - 2024.

Just generally our Urban Renewal scheme needs more analysis and discussion. By itself the item at Council is insufficient, but maybe it will get things started.

Four Transportation items in Report

There's a Climate Action Plan annual report for 2023. We've already remarked on most of these of interest here.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Intermodal Transfer Sites Look like Busts; More Evidence for Systemic Problems at ODOT

The intermodal transfer sites approved last decade through the Connect Oregon funding process are in the news this week. 

The best story is the latest one at Capital Chronicle, "Behind schedule, over budget, state-backed rail projects costing $70 million sit idle." It benefits from a statewide perspective with important reporting from eastern Oregon that elevates it from merely a local matter, though it is also that.

One small detail in their story that was good to see was that they mentioned opportunity cost:

the Legislature approved $25 million for a Willamette Valley rail center and $26 million for one in eastern Oregon through House Bill 2017, a $5.3 billion package of taxes and fees to fund transportation over the next decade. The bill allocated the money through a grant program called Connect Oregon, overseen by the state transportation department. To receive a Connect Oregon grant, applicants must show that their project can reduce transportation costs for Oregon businesses and connect elements of the state’s transportation system to boost efficiency. In comparison, with $51 million, the state could have invested in more than 120 electric buses or 1,200 rapid charging stations for electric vehicles....

There are several kinds of things to which the funding would have been better directed, and the focus on climate action is clarifying.

One of the key critiques of the proposals before they were funded was a balancing problem:

Experts told the transportation commission that Millersburg wasn’t far enough from Washington seaports to make rail cost-effective and that it would need the cooperation of two major railroad companies to ensure deliveries and a steady supply of empty containers to transport agricultural goods.

This is like public rental bikes and rebalancing them so every station has enough! The bikes, and containers, need to be circulating and can't pile up at the end of one-way trips. Sometimes people have to drive around in trucks to pick up bikes and deliver them to empty hubs. That's an actual cost of the business that has to be budgeted in.

Apparently boosters for the intermodal centers just assumed the balancing would happen like magic, and did not make sufficient provision for active balancing in their logistics analysis and budgets.

As a new publication Capital Chronicle has not reported much on Connect Oregon and the history of the project. Their entry appears to be via the Malheur Enterprise and its ongoing investigations.

Aug. 2018

But the paper here has had previous stories. They reported on the competition between Brooks and Millersburg for one of the sites, and then on Millersburg as the winner. The focus went from cheering to skepticism.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Proto-zoning Setbacks Halted Bungalow Court Apartments in 1924

100 years ago, in December of 1923 Adam Engel planned to build a bungalow court in the Parrish Grove subdivision, just south of what is now Parrish Middle School. He ran into problems with setbacks.

December 7th, 1923

January 13th, 1924

Less than a month after the original notice in December of 1923, the morning paper reported that Engel said "because of the building restrictions on Stewart street" he had to move his project. The Parrish Grove subdivision dictated buildings "may not be placed nearer than 20 feet to the sidewalk."

The second site at Capitol and E appears to be the Engel Apartments in this 1926 ad, and still around today as the Capitol Court.

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Sledding down Lincoln Street on Fairmount Hill 100 years ago

Back in January of 1924 the Chief of Police detailed a traffic cop at Commercial Street to flag and direct traffic for sledders blasting down Lincoln Street on Fairmount Hill.

January 6th, 1924

From the morning paper:


Lincoln Street Alive With Fun-Makers - Officer Stays on Job

"A'coasting we will go!"

Several hundred Salem kids of all ages carried out the spirit of the old snowtime song last night when the Lincoln street hill was crowded with  those who had caught the spirit of this winter pleasure, an infrequent one for this city.

Bobsleds, steel cutters and handsleds of every description were to be found on the Lincoln Street slide. Of course, there are several small sleds, but this, is the mecca of those who want a thrilling ride.

Of course there is quite a bit of danger when it is considered that this street crosses South Commercial. Chief of Police Birtchet has for several nights detailed Traffic Officer William Vogt to the task of swinging the red lantern as a protection for the well loaded, fast moving sleds. There are few local autoists who refuse to slow down at the intersection, but occasionally there is an Individual who is willing to claim the right of way over the brakeless coasting vehicles.

Observers last night commented upon the fact that men and boys owning the coasters were willing to share the ride with kiddies, and not a few women who wanted to enjoy the fun. Of course there were fair maidens in plenty, but nearly all of the loads were made up of mixed crews of pleasure seekers.

The joy of coasting over the icy surface might not have been enjoyed had the advice of well-meaning but consistent pessimists been followed. These have been growling, "Throw cinders on these hills so we can speed by without worrying about these wild kids."

Perhaps there would be more safety involved, but with every one co-operating there is little real danger and the shouts of genuine mirth are proof that this is healthy sport for red-blooded folks.

This moment in 1924 may be a bit of a cusp for development on Fairmount hill.

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Person Driving a Large Pickup Strikes and Kills Person in Crosswalk Downtown

Early Friday evening, just after dark, a person driving a pickup truck collided with Robert Duane Marshall on foot in the crosswalk. Marshall died later at the hospital.

via Reddit

From Salem PD late last night:

Just before 5:00 p.m. today, emergency responders were called to the intersection of Center ST and High STS NE on the report of pedestrian struck by a vehicle.

The preliminary investigation by the Salem Police Traffic Team determined a pedestrian in the crosswalk on the east side of the intersection was struck by a pick-up truck when the driver initiated a left turn.

The pedestrian, a 66-year-old man, was transported to Salem Health where he died from the injuries received in the collision.

The driver, identified as Shawnda Blair, age 48, remained at the scene and is cooperating with the investigation.

The name of the decedent is not being released, pending notification to family.

The Traffic Team investigation continues, and as such, no citations have been issued or arrest made.

It looks like the person driving a large pickup was southbound on High, made a left-turn eastbound onto Center and hit Marshall in the crosswalk. (You can see the red pickup stopped in the reddit image.)

This where a driver struck and killed Marlene Moreno in a crosswalk in 2021. In 2022 a driver making a left turn into State Street from High Street killed Denise Van Dyke.

High Street is a problem downtown

The MPO has identified High Street through downtown as one of the High Crash Corridors.

The size of the vehicle also is a factor, and a smaller car might have offered better visibility and less lethality. Advocates have been talking about this for a while, and in November it finally made the paper here.

Friday, January 12, 2024

Sneckdown Alert! Document the Extra Space in Streets and Stroads

It could be sneckdown time again.

Hopefully the storm brings snow rather than ice. We need no repeat of the falling trees in the February 2021 ice storm. That was awful.

If you are fortunate and do not have to contend with any downed trees, as you are out and about this weekend in any snow, take pictures where you find extra space in the road clear of any tire tracks. This is space that could be repurposed for bike lanes, extra sidewalk, shorter crosswalks, or reduced auto travel lane width to slow cars.

It might come in handy for our Vision Zero project, Twenty is Plenty program, and TSP update!

Early hints of sneckdowns (Dec. 2021)
Traffic Camera at 12th and State

See notes from 2016 and 2018 as well as the entry at wikipedia on sneckdowns.

Thursday, January 11, 2024

The Deterioration of Eco-Earth Acid Ball is Richer Art

Salem Reporter today has an update on lagging fund-raising to repair the Eco-Earth Acid Ball mosaic.

Our failing earth, Salem Reporter

The hot take here is: We should let it deteriorate and become a locus for our climate grief and a galvanizing sign for action. To emphasize and restore a pristine wholeness is to make it purely decorative and to mute it. Instead of understanding it as an anodyne sign for optimism, we should regard its decay as a more truthful symbol of our moment. Its transience should be regarded as essential rather than accidental. It should be an unsettling art.

Washington Post, yesterday

LA Times, today

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

City's Lack of Reporting Hides Range of Urban Renewal Projects

Over at our Strong Towns group they posted a great question about Urban Renewal.

via FB

Here, we've been very skeptical on the first round of Urban Renewal a couple of generations ago.

On the Pringle Creek Urban Renewal project:

Spandrel and a bench where no one wants to sit
Recently removed I think (Hollywood)

And the Hollywood project:

These involved declarations of blight and demolition of many buildings, and displacement of people. The resulting urban forms were less walkable, with large parking lots, fewer businesses, and ultimately a smaller  property tax base. If one of the goals of Urban Renewal was to create more value, these areas failed.

Plane Trees Popular in 1930s

In the meeting packet for the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board on Thursday the 11th are some interesting notes on tree matters.

The proposal to designate the lower Oak Grove at Bush Park is back on. You may recall some discussion back in November. Then it was delayed a little in December for more discussion with Tribes. One of the agenda items for January is:

Endorse staff recommend designation of an approximately 10-acre grove of Quercus garryana (Oregon white oak) in lower Bush’s Pasture Park.

There's no Staff Report or other material, unfortunately. This seems like a pretty obvious case, but it would be nice to learn more about the specific elements and history of the grove that are understood to make it important, and what came out of the conversations with Tribes.

A recent early stage candidate for designation was the cluster of Plane trees at North Salem High School. Parks and Recreation Board members had been making preliminary inquiries. At the December meeting of the Board minutes indicate that the School District signaled disapproval of any designation for the trees. It would be interesting to learn more about their reasons. Maybe drawing attention to the school campus is not welcome, maybe they want to have more flexibility to cut them down at some point. Could be lots of things.

One of the Plane Trees at North High (2012)

A decade ago there were some nesting Sharp-Shinned (or possibly small Cooper's) Hawks in them, and the bird-watching was grand for a season. Maybe there have been more since.

April 9th, 1932

More than this, the trees have a place in urban parks and landscape history. Also a decade ago, On the Way had a two-part series on Plane trees associated with Lord & Schryver. In landscape plans Lord & Schryver had specified the trees at the Courthouse (planted for the old Courthouse, and retained in the landscaping for the current Courthouse) as well as the trees at North High, both in the 1930s. Six of the seven original trees survive at North.

There might be more of a social and natural history of the Plane Tree plantings in Salem, not just at one site but at multiple sites and over a period of time. They seemed to be popular in the 1930s and associated with L & S. Almost certainly there are other sites where L & S proposed them. Maybe others planted them also.

Interest in them preceded L & S's activity.

Monday, January 8, 2024

Roadways for People is Mainly for Engineering Students

Politicians often publish when they are launching a campaign.

When I saw news last year about Roadways for People, Lynn Peterson's book, and she scheduled a few book lectures around the valley, the package seemed like a clear launch for her campaign for the 5th Congressional District.

A friend of the blog attended one of the talks, and passed along a copy of the book.

But the tone of the book didn't align with a campaign launch.

In the review at BikePortland, they say

It took me a while to figure out who was the intended audience [is]....

The short answer is, “probably not you.” The book is the collected wisdom of an accomplished mid-career professional, and would make a wonderful text for a graduate-level course titled Engineering 240: Transportation and Community Engagement.

This is understatement! The book is narrowly and clearly aimed at the textbook market, not at all something for any general reader. Peterson often addresses a "you" obviously intended and defined in context as engineering students. She's at the lectern in front of students.

In the end the book is not nearly as interesting as it could have been, and it is meaningfully biased. As BikePortland says about the discussion of the I-5 Rose Quarter project, 

I become aware of the accumulating errors of omission. For example, in Peterson’s discussion of “deep-listening” to the community, “community” always seems to mean Albina Vision Trust, the nonprofit that seeks to redevelop Albina and that Peterson hitched her position on the project to. But when invoking “community,” Peterson never mentions No More Freeways, the protesting students at Harriet Tubman Middle School, the Eliot Neighborhood, the Sunrise Movement. None of them make the book. She excises global warming from the discussion.

There might be pedagogical reasons for that, a clean simple narrative could be the easiest way to introduce the evolution of different programs for community engagement, but it strips the current Rose Quarter freeway expansion controversy of its flavor. It sanitizes a complicated story and makes it bland.

Strong Towns also reviewed it, unsurprisingly as Charles Marohn blurbed it on the back cover. But they offer merely a blandly agreeable summary.

I hoped to be able to say the book was interesting or helpful, but it is not much of either. Between the silence on climate, the still dominant autoism, and case studies mainly taken from large highway and rail projects, there isn't very much on smaller urban streets and stroads. Even the transit example is regional. "Roadways for people" means highways and other big projects and does not match the Portland street grid on the cover. It's not really anything helpful for something like advocacy oriented to our forthcoming Transportation System Plan update. (Though it could be helpful for City Staff and consultants.)

I can think of some narrow situations where I might reference the book again. Some bureaucratic procedures and jargon are explicated a little, and it is possible to imagine some future planning study that professes to use a certain method or invokes the jargon. The book could help engage or critique that.

Overall I don't really have more to add to the reviews at BikePortland and Strong Towns.

Peterson offers small, incremental improvements to the hydraulic autoism of traffic engineering, but no critique of the autoism itself. It's about improving outreach and building consent.

Saturday, January 6, 2024

Ask ODOT for More than Buffers on Downtown Highways

You may recall the survey from ODOT last summer on downtown state highways. At the December MWACT meeting we learned they are sticking with the name, the "Urban Design Verification Study" for Salem.

Now ODOT has a new online Open House and survey on some preliminary concepts.

Downtown State Highways

Above all, there is plenty of room for more hardened protection than merely paint-striped buffers! In some cases the bike lanes are still old-school without any buffers at all. Stronger barriers and protection ought to be feasible in any space where a four-foot buffer is proposed! (And in smaller buffers also.)*

Buffers and Lane Widths (click to enlarge)

Additionally, some auto travel lanes are too wide and will continue to induce speeding. There's no need for 12 foot lanes in urban contexts. NACTO says 11 foot lanes might be necessary for truck routes, but focuses on 11, not 12. 

For designated truck or transit routes, one travel lane of 11 feet may be used in each direction. In select cases, narrower travel lanes (9–9.5 feet) can be effective as through lanes in conjunction with a turn lane....Lanes greater than 11 feet should not be used as they may cause unintended speeding and assume valuable right of way at the expense of other modes.

Has ODOT really tried as hard as they could to narrow auto travel lanes here?

The survey has detail on a number of intersections. The Commercial/Liberty couplet at the Parkway is the first. And it's a Byzantine treatment! Does it have to be this complicated? Maybe so with the true highway nature of the Parkway. But maybe you will think of ways to simplify it.

At the Parkway

One of the chief problems is the commitment to slip lanes — two of them! — from Liberty onto the Parkway so drivers don't have to stop. The slip lane from the Parkway north onto Liberty is also a problem. Until we are ready to deprioritize a constant flow of auto travel, we may be stuck with very inferior and complicated solutions for non-auto travel.

Friday, January 5, 2024

Climate Action Plan Committee Starts off in Idle in 2024

The Climate Action Plan Committee also meets on Monday the 8th, and the minutes from the December meeting are deflating.

Remember the irony from September 2020?

The PR campaign from the Sustainable Cities Residency decided to focus on the old canard and distraction of idling.

The idling canard

VMT reduction is the goal!

City Council, January 8th - Potential Limits on Land Use Appeals

Council meets on Monday for the first time in the new year, and in some proposed changes to Council rules are limits on call-ups and appeals to Council

The Committee elected to consider changes to Council call-up authority to potentially eliminate call-ups for some classes of land use decisions, including those where Council has limited discretion under Oregon law to substantively change the lower decision....

The Committee recommends that if the potential for call-up is eliminated, the ability to appeal the decision to Council is eliminated as well.

Under the recommendation, call ups and appeals to Council would be eliminated for; a) Applications involving needed housing; b) Site Plan Review; c) Urban Growth Area Preliminary Declarations, and; d) Wireless Communication Facilities.

Potential changes to appeals and call-ups

On the one hand, over the years cases at the former Blind School, Costco, Fairview, and Meyer Farm, and most recently at Titan Hills, have been appealed to Council, then most of them subsequently to LUBA, and LUBA has said in one way or another that the Council had limits on their ability to "substantively change" a lower decision. Appeals and call-ups have delayed and clogged the system, occasionally even in ways that might meet a "frivolous" designation.

But a blanket rule disallowing appeals or call-ups also eliminates remedy for a situation where a lower decision was in fact made improperly or in error. I guess the solution envisioned here then would be a direct appeal to LUBA.

This proposal could use more discussion and refinement. More limits on appeals to Council and on call-ups may be reasonable, but the total binary of prohibiting them altogether may be too strong.

The item at Council is "information only" and specifically does ask Council for more direction before a formal resolution for changes is sent to Council for adoption.

Reversing the priority order
(2023 Community Report)

Council also looks to adopt a reordering of Strategic Priorities as well as add a couple of new subtasks. It's still disappointing not to see stronger and higher-level language on reducing emissions directly and instead to see merely the lukewarm affirmation to "Support briefings of Council Committee to prioritize actions in Climate Action Plan."

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

In Call to Ban Camping, Lawsuit Misses on Road Design

Today's paper has an update on the horrific crash nearly two years ago on Front Street just north of the Union Street Bridge.

A new lawsuit identifies overserving alcohol and failure to ban camping as causes.

Today's paper (yellow added)

Proving negligence in overserving alcohol would be a very serious finding.

But the camping is less obvious. There's a sidewalk and bike lane right there at the crash site, and a person walking or biking would be vulnerable in the same way as those camping. Any bystander or passers-by would be at risk, not merely those camping. Another driver, too, going in the opposite direction would be at risk.

The camping itself is not the essential risk factor here.

Approximate trajectory of crash

Failing to veer right

Instead, the crucial factor is speed in jaydriving and street racing.

Monday, January 1, 2024

Three Wishes for the New Year

Focus on Cars, Driving, and Speed in Vision Zero

As the City develops a Vision Zero Plan and rolls out a Twenty is Plenty campaign, I hope they give proper weight to cars, drivers, and speed. Speed at impact kills.

They knew better in 1937
(State Library of Oregon)

Angry owl? Or Dangerous driver?

The new Director of Public Works is reaching out some to advocates, and hopefully those conversations will be fruitful.

But so much of the framing on safety generally devolves to pedestrian safety specifically and focuses on special pedestrian safety equipment, as well as on defensive walking. The subtext is victim-blamey: Pedestrians, not drivers, are responsible for safety.

Pedestrian Safety Equipment via Twitter

Same message, Winter 2023 campaign - via FB

Let's talk more about the asymmetry in power and focus on who operates the machine with lethal force. The essential difference between a 19th century Paris street scene and a 21st century walk is the cars. 40mph is too fast for urban streets.

Link Climate and Transportation more Clearly

Let's talk more about driving and transportation as a great driver of greenhouse gas emissions.