Oh, geez. What a letdown.
Not an uncommon experience here in not-cool-by-comparison Salem, Oregon -- where we are regularly and spectacularly overshadowed by nearby much more with-it cities: Portland, Corvallis, Eugene.
Thanks to No 3rd Bridge plus my comrades in local blogging, Salem Breakfast on Bikes and LoveSalem, I learned that Salem-Keizer Transit, a.k.a. Cherriots, is poised to cave on demanding that a new bridge across the Willamette be mass-transit friendly.
The Cherriots board is meeting as I write this.
Maybe they will change their mind at the last moment. Regardless, just the fact that a mass-transit organization is willing to kick mass-transit under the bus (to not coin a phrase) of third bridge planning is disturbing.
As the Breakfast on Bikes post put it:
On the agenda for the Thursday, April 24th, Cherriots Board meeting (whole agenda and packet here) is a proposed change to the terms of support for the Salem River Crossing "Salem Alternative." Having run into friction from the Oversight Team on transit, Cherriots seems willing to back down.
...A change from "include as integral" to "consider" is a meaningful softening and retreat.
I don't really know how important this is as a component of designing the "Salem Alternative." The project's awfulness is so great that the difference between bad and badder may not be very important. In essential ways these details are lipstick on very smelly pig. Additionally, right now the project does not have a clear path to funding, and in some important ways this is all just posturing and rhetoric.
Still, if this folly keeps going, imagine in ten or twenty years that the bridge and highway could be formally designed without "park and ride lots, transit centers, bus queue jump lanes, and transit signal priority." This project endorsement would permit just that!
It's also interesting that these design components are framed up as "amenities" instead of essentials. That these things can't be insisted on is a measure of how far from multi-modal with complete streets this project really is.
Even more, it's a sad example of how far we remain from a "new vision" like that of Gil Penalosa's. Not only is Cherriots not able to say "we don't need it," but they can't even say "transit design is integral" to new transportation infrastructure.
Consider emailing the board and reminding them about Gil Penalosa, the power of transit to reduce congestion, and the folly of the giant bridge and highway.
It's weird that Cherriots was one of the sponsors of Gil Penalosa's talk last February about how Salem can become a much more walkable/bikable city, which requires good mass transit (every trip on mass transit begins and ends with a walk, said Penalosa; plus, more mass transit means fewer cars, which obviously is good for walking/biking).
Cherriots didn't do much to attract interest in the marvelous Penalosa talk, which I blogged about. And so far as I know, Cherriots didn't follow up on the enthusiasm generated by the talk. I was surprised that nobody captured the names and email addresses of attendees, or organize a Penalosa-inspired Action Committee.
This new news, that Cherriots not only remains supportive of what LoveSalem accurately calls the Bridgasaurus Boondogglus, but is poised to cave on demanding "park and ride lots, transit centers, bus queue jump lanes, and transit signal priority" be part of the bridge design -- that really shows how wussy Salem-Keizer Transit is when it comes to challenging outdated transportation notions.
Earth to Cherriots: the times they are a'changing. People are not nearly as wedded to their cars as they used to be. Vehicle counts on the existing two bridges have been flat for years even as the population has grown.
Both young people and old people want alternatives to automobiles. (Middle-aged people too.)
Speaking as a 65 year-old, my wife and I know that one day likely one or both of us won't be able to drive anymore. Moving from our rural south Salem home would be tough. But we'd consider relocating in the city of Salem if we found a desirable place to live.
Part of "desirable" means being able to get around without driving. However, currently Salem is the only capital city in a wide swath of the western United States that doesn't have weekend bus service. Eugene's is far superior. Which is one reason, among many, to vote for Ward 2 City Council candidate Tom Andersen, who used to be President of the Lane Transit Board of Directors.
At the end of his post Walker of LoveSalem talks about what young people want, transportation-wise. Salem is shooting itself in the foot economically when Cherriots, the Chamber of Commerce, and other third bridge advocates fail to realize that freeway'ish roads and sprawl aren't what attract people and businesses to an area.
7. Survey: Little car love among urban Millennials
More than half the adults between ages 18 and 34 questioned about transportation said they would consider moving to another city if it had more and better options for getting around, according to a new national survey. Nearly half of the young adult vehicle owners surveyed agreed they would seriously consider giving up their car if they could count on a range of transportation options.
USA Today, April 24