Ten Broad Strategies for Salem to Reach Greenhouse Gas Reduction Goals

Overarching Principles:

Address needs in low-income neighborhoods first
Salem’s climate action strategies should prioritize the needs of low-income neighborhoods. Strategies should be designed so that they undo historic patterns of disinvestment in Salem’s low-income neighborhoods by prioritizing public spending in those areas. The city should ensure residents of these neighborhoods are protected from potential harms of climate action, such as gentrification and displacement. Decision-making around how to invest and reduce emissions in these neighborhoods should be driven by the residents themselves to the greatest degree possible.

Prioritize reductions that will reduce emissions sooner rather than later
After decades of delay, the city (and the world) must reduce greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible. Salem’s climate action plan should prioritize strategies likely to meaningfully reduce emissions within the next 3-5 years.

1. Reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) – Improved Transit

Develop a new funding source or sources for improved transit, possibly through a small employer payroll tax on major employers such as the State of Oregon already pays.

Make transit fareless
The City and the Cherriots should find ways to make riding transit fareless.

Provide safe walking routes to bus stops
Complete the sidewalk network throughout the city, especially within a half mile of transit routes.

Create a downtown circulator
The City and Cherriots should work together on a free trolley to circulate through Salem’s downtown that stops at all the key downtown locations. Provide parking at the West Salem terminal.

End free parking for shopping
Car storage should not be free anywhere in the city. Install smart meters downtown with variable rates. Require metered parking at all shopping malls. Work with Cherriots to induce retailers to provide transit vouchers or reimbursements for bus expenses to shoppers that are similar to the amount retailers or the City had spent to provide free parking for shoppers.

100% electric public transportation system by 2035
Buy only electric buses when replacing transit vehicles and make the entire public transportation system electric by 2035.

Investigate new Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system
Emulate the successful BRT system in Eugene to create a similar transit network on major arterial roads in Salem with dedicated bus lanes and turn lanes.

Expand public transit infrastructure

  • Increase transit service frequency and reliability, especially on the core transit network (majority of routes with less than 30 minute intervals until midnight, seven days a week, shorter intervals during rush hours). Plan for more and longer bus routes, including routes that connect to canneries and employment in outlying areas (e.g., Cordon Road). Bus and Turn (BAT) lanes for specific corridors.
  • Dedicated right-of-way for stop development along arterials and collectors.
  • Required no parking zones as part of development code for all bus stops (code amendment).
  • Work as an active collaborative partner in the effort to work with Cherriots in being a mobility integrator.
  • Plan for the use of small buses to extend bus routes to more rural areas. Consider allocating money to buses that serve areas outside the urban growth boundary (obtain funding from nearby cities and businesses and explore other ways to pay for comprehensive service).
  • Investigate introducing a light rail system from West Salem into downtown/government zone.
  • Create a park-and-ride for out-of-town commuters from the West into Salem at the West Salem terminus of the downtown trolley.
2. Reduce VMT – Make City More Bike and Walking Friendly

Better Zoning and Residential Parking Rules and make low-income neighborhoods complete neighborhoods
Transform auto-dependent low-income neighborhoods in north, northeast and east Salem, in particular, to become complete neighborhoods with walkable access to healthy food and other necessities, green spaces, and a branch library.

Update and revise neighborhood plans and zoning to allow walkable mixed-use development and higher densities
Salem should be a collection of 20-minute neighborhoods that allow residents to walk or bike less than 20 minutes to meet their basic needs. Eliminate off-street parking requirements, increase height limits, and reduce setbacks and landscaping requirements.

Zone for and provide incentives for high density and more vertical development within a quarter mile of the existing core transit network
Salem needs to end auto-dependent development at the edges of the city and become more vertical and more dense at the core.

Provide for or require smaller, walkable urban-scale parks and open space
Salem needs more parks and open space that can be easily reached by walking and biking and not by car. The city should update its park master plan to include small pocket parks, plazas, playgrounds or open spaces appropriate for walkable neighborhoods.

Revise the city’s transportation system plan (TSP) and other infrastructure and capital improvement plans to support mixed-use development and neighborhoods
The TSP should be amended to identify pedestrian, bike and transit improvements, and other improvements to make streets in mixed-use neighborhoods safe, convenient and pleasant for walking and cycling. 3

Work with major employers to encourage and support infill, redevelopment and new development in existing campuses
Major employers like the State of Oregon, Salem Hospital, and Willamette University should encourage and support infill, redevelopment and new development in existing campuses and other areas planned for walkable, mixed-use development along the core transit network.

Lower speed limits throughout commercial and residential neighborhoods
To decrease unsafe driving and increase pedestrian and bike safety, lower speed limits throughout commercial and residential neighborhoods. For streets where speeding is a problem, redesign roads, including fewer lanes, speed humps, traffic calming and other safety measures.

Plan a downtown pedestrian mall
Plan a downtown pedestrian mall or zone, closing one or more blocks to automobile traffic. Close off most or all downtown alleyways to cars.

Create a city-wide network of walkways and neighborhood greenways
Update the pedestrian and bicycle element of the TSP to include a network of walkways and neighborhood greenways, including bike facilities designed to make it safe for riders of all ages (8 to 80) and abilities to walk or ride to nearby grocery stores, shopping areas and schools.

Develop a comprehensive network of separated bikeways connecting major employment centers with mixed-use neighborhoods and areas of higher density housing. Connectivity is essential — complete networks of sidewalks and bicycle and bus routes.

No more widening or adding lanes to existing roadways
There should be no widening or adding lanes to existing roadways, except where they improve bicycle and pedestrian safety or to improve transit flow. Expanding roadways only serves to induce more traffic, which increases VMT, fails to relieve congestion, and increases air and noise pollution.

“Unbundle” parking charges in multi-family development
Require multifamily developments with more than 25 units to “unbundle” parking charges from unit rents so that renters can choose whether or not to rent a parking space.

Incentives and Funding for Above

Reform the City’s system development charges (SDCs)
Reform the City’s system development charges (SDCs) to support and encourage development in walkable mixed-use neighborhoods. Reduce SDCs for infill development. Waive SDCs for affordable housing. Reduce transportation SDCs for mixed-use, multistory and developments that provide less or no parking. SDCs should be revised so that outlying areas pay the full cost of providing needed infrastructure.

Adopt a gasoline tax
Adopt a 5 cent per gallon gasoline and diesel tax to pay for all locally funded roadway maintenance and improvements. After 5 years increase it to 10 cents. Use existing property tax funds to pay for separated bikeways and other measures that cannot be paid for with a tax on roadway fuels.

3. Reduce VMT – Reduced Private Vehicle Commuting

Create strong incentives for non-SOV (single-occupant vehicle) commutes
Work with major employers to adopt a transportation options program that provides employees with strong incentives for non-SOV commutes using the OHSU commute rewards program as a model.

Make Transportation Demand Management (TDM) measures mandatory for major employers
The City should make the TDM measures mandatory for large employers. TDM includes a number of things besides cash payments to employees (e.g., transit passes, emergency ride home, car/van pool coordination, secure bike parking onsite, showers and lockers for bicyclists, etc.).

Encourage employers to stagger work shifts and increase telework
The City should encourage employers to stagger work shifts away from the traditional 8-5 schedule and allow more telework. It should also encourage employers to allow individual employees to have different or variable working hours and to telecommute.

Prohibit employers from offering free parking to employees
The City should discourage or prohibit employers from offering free parking to employees as a way to encourage more biking, walking and use of transit and ridesharing.

4. Lower Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions per Vehicle Mile Traveled

Aim for the lowest carbon footprint of city, police and fire vehicles
In purchasing vehicles for the police and fire department, consider smaller fuel-efficient vehicles. When purchasing City, Police or Fire vehicles, purchase EVs or hybrids wherever possible. The City fleet needs to be electrified as soon as possible.

Incentivize charging stations for employees by all employers
Every major employer in Salem needs to provide ample charging stations for their employees who commute to their job in an EV. The City should provide charging for City employees. All employee and apartment charging stations should be with at least smart level 2 chargers (220 volts).

It is correct that the range of new EVs is fully sufficient to get to work and back home for any reasonable commute. The key advantage to charging at work is that PGE will have a place to sell surplus PV electricity mid-day, especially in the spring. If many EVs are parked at work and cannot charge, PGE will be forced to throw away some of the PV generation, raising electricity prices and discouraging PGE from building PVs. Also, on some days, workers may want to go somewhere besides home after work. Without at-work charging they might choose to drive their fossil-fueled car to work. It’s unlikely EV charging at work will encourage more driving.

Require all new commercial and apartment buildings provide EV charging at cost
Charging stations should be with at least level 2 smart chargers (220 volts).

Ensure broad availability of EV charging stations throughout the city
Possibilities include:

  • Creating incentives for existing landlord and condo associations to provide EV charging.
  • Working with PGE and Salem Electric to provide ample charging stations for visitors, shoppers, and workers in Salem, including charging stations in residential neighborhoods, especially in neighborhoods with many rented houses, duplexes and smaller apartment buildings.
5. Phase out the use of small gas engine landscape equipment (lawn mowers, leaf blowers).

Set a deadline after which such equipment may not be sold in Salem and then a deadline after which they may not be used. Continue to allow electric lawn equipment.

6. Ban Natural Gas Hookups

When possible under state rules, the City should prohibit new developments, both residential and commercial, from being served by natural gas. These emissions account for 16 percent of emissions in the city’s GHG inventory. The vast majority of these emissions are from residential and commercial space and water heating using natural (fossil) gas. Even with existing PGE emissions per kWh, substituting electric heat pumps for these uses lowers emissions. In its acknowledged Integrated Resource Plan PGE’s emissions per kWh are projected to fall to roughly half the current level by 2035. At that point all electric appliances and equipment will emit less emissions than similar gas devices. If the City signs up all residential and commercial customers for zero-carbon emission electricity, the emissions from all electric devices will be zero.

7. Reduce Residential and Commercial Energy Use

Adopt Optional Residential and Commercial Energy Efficiency Reach Codes (when available)

Require Home Energy Score for all homes sold in Salem. More generally incentivize home-buying towards energy efficiency. The Earth Advantage Home Energy Score rates existing and new homes for realtors and prospective buyers. It can also serve as a basis for energy audits of existing homes.

8. Sign up all residential and commercial customers for zero-carbon emission electricity (when available)

Work with Portland General Electric which may, in the future, offer cities a chance to sign up all residential and commercial customers for zero-carbon emission electricity at a small premium. Provide waivers or subsidies from the premium for low-income households.

Emissions from electricity use account for over 25 percent of emissions in the inventory. Assuming appropriate legislation passes, this proposal is similar to the small premium the City will be paying for zero-carbon electricity for its own use, starting in 2022.

9. Dramatically increase the tree canopy in Salem

The City should do everything possible to protect and nurture existing trees and greenspaces as well as plant more trees throughout the city in parks, along streets, and on private property. The City should protect trees over 25” in diameter from easy removal by requiring permits to remove. Increasing the 6

tree canopy will lower electricity use by providing shade in the summer and also sequester carbon. Provide a “call before you cut” phone and web-chat service to reduce mistaken or illegal tree cutting.

For flat-roofed commercial structures new or remodeled buildings over a certain size should have a roof covered by one or more of the following materials: solar panels, plants (as in a green roof) or high albedo paint.

Provide buffer zones: Require or have the City provide buffer zones with trees and shrubs to protect children and families from heavy traffic areas and industrial pollution.

Provide for or require smaller, walkable urban-scale parks and open space in new developments.

10. Promote Zero Waste in Salem

Food Waste
Require trash haulers to provide yard/food waste carts. Promote placing food waste in these carts. Food waste in landfills creates methane, a strong greenhouse gas. Create a program to match collections of commercial food waste (restaurants, grocery stores, etc.) with local farmers to feed the waste to farm animals. Investigate hauling food waste that is not usable by animals to centralized methane digesters for renewable gas production.

End Incineration of Solid Waste
State law forces all of the solid waste in Salem – Marion County to be burned in the Covanta Marion incinerator in Brooks. The incinerator produces more than 162,000 metric tons of GHG emissions annually, the equivalent of 34,000 cars. It is the 19th largest emitter of GHG in the state. It also emits toxic chemicals like mercury, lead, and dioxin that create health risks for the surrounding low-income, mostly Latinx, communities. The incinerator needs to be phased out and replaced by Zero Waste strategies that have been successful in reducing solid waste dramatically, with only a small percentage having to go to a landfill.