Kannapolis is Changing at Eye Level

“Kannapolis is Changing at Eye Level” is a reference to “The City at Eye Level”. As you may know, I was raised in Kannapolis, NC. I lived in Kannapolis from when I was born in 1990 to when I moved to Charlotte in 2009 to attend UNC Charlotte. I also lived in Kannapolis from 2013-14 between graduating from UNC Charlotte and starting my Transportation Planning Internship at Toole Design Group in the Washington, DC region. While I did not plan to visit Kannapolis in 2020, the coronavirus forced me to work remotely and only fly within the US. Since spas inside resorts were closed due to the coronavirus, I decided to visit Kannapolis during my 24-day workation.

As the below 2020 photo (right) shows, the reconstruction of West Avenue in Downtown Kannapolis was completed in time for me to check it out during my visit. While I wish Kannapolis planners had constructed back-in parking because it is safer for all road users than front-in parking, I am impressed with how Kannapolis planners revitalized the deteriorating West Avenue. Since I grew up in Kannapolis, I remember how West Avenue looked in the 2017 Google Street View, which is on the left in the below photos.

Before (2017) and after (2020) West Avenue in Kannapolis. Source: Google Street View (2017)

Many people are unfamiliar with what back-in parking is and the benefits of this parking for all road users. Due to this, I wanted to share how Charlotte, NC has been using back-in parking before I continue to share about the changes to West Avenue. For readers unfamiliar with where Kannapolis is located, Kannapolis is a suburb of Charlotte. While I realize the big city usually implements new things before the suburbs do, I was hopeful that Kannapolis would implement back-in parking when it redesigned West Avenue because Charlotte has been using back-in parking for several years.

Instructions for Back-In Parking in Charlotte, NC. Source: City of Charlotte, NC
Source: City of Charlotte, NC

Since my dad needs me to help him move things around the house before I fly from Charlotte to Minneapolis today, I am going to write the rest of this post later. I took about 50 photos of the West Avenue changes yesterday. I plan to share many of these photos when I have more time to finish this post. In case Kannapolis planners read my blog, I wanted to thank you for making the changes to West Avenue. While I wish back-in parking was constructed, I enjoyed most of the changes so great work on revitalizing Downtown Kannapolis!

Planning for People Over Cars in Downtown Oregon City

Since I am the Transportation Advisory Committee’s representative on the Downtown Oregon City Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Implementation Working Group, the City of Oregon City invited me to join this group on a tour of the Willamette Falls Legacy Project and Downtown Oregon City. In case you are unfamiliar with the Willamette Falls Legacy Project, I recommend watching the below video.

Even though the working group knows we need to prioritize people over cars because there will not be enough space to park all the cars on the Willamette Falls Legacy Project site, I found it interesting that the first thing the tour guide showed us was where cars would be parked on the future site. The tour guide even shared a specific location for the interim on-site surface parking lot and an estimate on the number of cars that could be parked in this lot.

While I assumed the tour guide was referring to parked cars because most people in Oregon City drive, he only said “parking” so I asked the tour guide to clarify what type of parking and whether there would be parking for bikes. My assumption was correct that he was only referring to car parking when he said “parking”. Thankfully, he said there would also be parking for bikes because the City requires bike parking. However, he was unable to provide a specific location for bike parking and how many bikes could be parked.

According to the below diagram, car “parking supply at full build-out of the site is estimated at 1,150 spaces off-street, and 85 spaces on-street.” Even though the City requires bike parking, I could not find any diagram for bike parking. This shows me that the project vision prioritizes car parking. On a positive note, minimum car parking space requirements may be reduced by up to 50% because the site is part of the downtown parking district.

In addition to being excited to hear about the potential for a 50% reduction of car parking, I was excited to hear that City staff are considering whether to remove mandatory car parking minimums in the downtown parking district. While I am sure there will be internal and public resistance, City staff want to give developers the flexibility to decide whether or not to include car parking in their projects. City staff said the mandatory car parking minimums have prevented many downtown developments from being built because the projects could not pencil out. As the below map shows, there is an international movement to remove car parking minimums.

While I was not satisfied with the tour guide’s answers, I was told that we would discuss bike parking more at a later point in the planning process. Even though I am used to bike parking being an afterthought in Oregon City, I was still frustrated that I had to ask for “parking” to be clarified and request that bike parking be discussed. Do Dutch and Danish planners have to ask for this clarification or do their tour guides automatically specify which type of parking?

As you know, I will be presenting on a panel at the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP) Conference in Portland on August 26 from 1:45-3:15pm (here is the agenda for August 26). Several Dutch and Danish planners that I have communicated with will be at this international conference, so I plan to ask them the above parking question.

Ray’s Behavior Change from 2009-2019

While I now get frustrated about having to clarify “parking” and request that bike parking be discussed, this shows how much I have changed over the past ten years. As I wrote about in this 2014 post and the below 2009 article shows, I used to advocate for cars by supporting the widening of North Carolina Highway 3 in Kannapolis. I said the below statement during my senior year at Northwest Cabarrus High School and just a semester before I started at UNC Charlotte. I was actually one of the few residents that supported the widening project. As this article shows, most people opposed the project because they wanted to maintain the rural character along this section of Highway 3. They felt widening Highway 3 would bring too much dense development and traffic congestion. Since I tell people that I was raised in a suburban area, it feels weird to see the articles described my home as being in a rural area.

Not everyone was opposed to the idea of a wider N.C. 3. Ray Atkinson lives about a mile off of the highway.
“I think it’s good to plan for growth,” Atkinson said. The N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis would benefit from the proposed improvements, he added.

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Kannapolis Citizen article from January 28, 2009

Translating My Kannapolis Experience to Oregon City

Even though most people on the Willamette Falls Legacy Project and Downtown Oregon City tour saw me as the bike advocate, I am curious how much their perception of and interaction with me would have changed if I shared my Kannapolis experience. In addition to advocating for cars in Kannapolis, I experienced the closure of Cannon Mills (aka Pillowtex) in 2003. I have followed the redevelopment of this closed mill site into the North Carolina Research Campus. The redevelopment has also included areas beyond the closed mill site in Downtown Kannapolis. This redevelopment had such a large impact on me that I studied it for my high school senior exit project in Fall 2008. The Willamette Falls Legacy Project and redevelopment of Downtown Oregon City reminds me of my work in Downtown Kannapolis.

High School Senior Project

Mrs. Andersen, who was my high school teacher and advisor for my senior exit project, and I looking at a 1950s map of Kannapolis, NC in Fall 2008.

Translating My Tigard Experience to Oregon City

I also see similarities between my work in Tigard and Oregon City. As this 2016 post shows, my PSU planning workshop team consulted for the City of Tigard and worked with State of Place to conduct a walkability study in the Tigard Triangle and Downtown Tigard. The Downtown Oregon City TDM Implementation Working Group plans to work with City staff to conduct a walkability and bikeability study in Downtown Oregon City. I plan to write a future blog post about this study after it launches.

Columbus at Eye Level

“Columbus at Eye Level” is a reference to “The City at Eye Level”. My family vacation is coming to an end. My parents and sister (brother had to stay in Charlotte) dropped me off in Columbus earlier today so they could drive back to Kannapolis. I am at the Columbus Airport waiting for my flight back to Portland. While I did not enjoy spending days in my parents’ van instead of biking, my grandmas are not getting any younger so I felt the need to spend time with them. Grandma Stoodt is on the left in the below photo, which was taken at Brandywine Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Since my grandma uses a walker, I was thankful that the trail was ADA accessible.

While I have not thought about visiting Columbus before, I urged my family to visit Columbus during our vacation because Columbus won the USDOT’s 2016 Smart City Challenge. Since I thought Columbus would use some of the grant funding to create dynamic pricing for parking, I was surprised to learn from Robert Ferrin that about 1% of the grant funding has been used for upgrading the parking system. Robert and I met at UNC Charlotte when we were geography students. We both were born and raised in the Charlotte region.

Short North Parking Changes

My dad and I met with Robert about the Short North parking changes that he managed. Short North is a Columbus neighborhood located between Downtown Columbus and Ohio State University. Even though Robert showed us how he improved parking conditions in Short North, the responses to the below survey question appear to show that people do not understand how the parking changes improved the parking issues. Does Columbus need to better educate people about the benefits of the parking changes?

71% of survey respondents think the recent changes make parking harder for customers in the District.

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Photo: Ray Atkinson

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Photo: Ray Atkinson

RayRay’s

I found another restaurant with my name! I was not even trying to find it. As you may remember, I found Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar in Philadelphia.

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Photo: Ray Atkinson

I need to board my flight back to Portland, so I am going to publish this post.

Making a difference on the Oregon City Transportation Advisory Committee

I serve on several advisory committees throughout the Portland and Charlotte regions through my job and as a volunteer. Yes, I still serve on the Advisory Council for Sustain Charlotte’s Transportation Choices Alliance even though I no longer live in Charlotte. While most of the committee members that I serve with understand their important role and how to make a difference, some of my fellow Oregon City Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) members have struggled with this.

In case they read my blog, I want to give them hope for how they can make a difference on our committee. Since we volunteer on the TAC and some of my fellow volunteers feel the City Commission is the only group that can make a difference, I hope this post shows them and other volunteers that it is possible to make a difference even when you have limited voting power.

Oregon City Mayor Dan Holladay appointed me to my first three-year term on the TAC in January 2019. Since I have lived in Oregon City for less than a year, I am still surprised that I was the only new candidate that was appointed to the TAC. Even though there were three open seats and four candidates, an incumbent and I were the only candidates appointed to the TAC. The remaining open seat and another open seat were filled in March 2019. I got to interview the candidates and vote on who would fill the seats. This was an awesome experience!

Even though all of the other TAC members are much older than me (some of them could be my grandpa), I am the only transportation professional and car-free member so the other members and Oregon City staff have expressed appreciation for my valuable experience. Since the older members have lived and worked through decades of Oregon City’s rich history, they have their own valuable experience to share with me. As a millennial, it feels weird to share that older people can learn from my experience when they have lived and worked much longer than me.

In addition to helping Oregon City and Clackamas County prepare for electric-assist dockless bikeshare and scootershare expanding from Portland, I am making a difference on the Oregon City TAC through the following two topics.

Canemah Family Friendly Route

While the route signs and markings have already been ordered, which means I was too late to make changes, Oregon City staff told the TAC that the Canemah Family Friendly Route is the first pilot project and they are open to making changes in the future. In order to explain my proposed change, focus on the bike symbol in the two below signs. Since I want Oregon City’s Family Friendly Route to be as successful as Portland’s Neighborhood Greenway, I feel the Family Friendly Route’s bike symbol needs to show the target audience of relaxed, family biking. The current bike symbol shows a racing or training cyclist because the cyclist is leaning over and looks stressed to beat their personal record time.

In contrast, the bike symbol on Portland’s Neighborhood Greenway shows a relaxed cyclist because the cyclist is sitting more upright. This is how I see a family biking together because they are not trying stressed to beat their personal record time. Do you see the difference between the two bike symbols?

Family Friendly Route Sign

Oregon City’s Family Friendly Route Sign

Portland Neighborhood Greenway Sign

Portland’s Neighborhood Greenway Sign

Crash Instead of Accident

While I was nervous to publicly call out Oregon City staff for saying “accident” instead of “crash” when referring to a deadly pedestrian crash involving a truck in Oregon City, staff thanked me for correcting them and explaining why they should say “crash” instead of “accident”. The staff even said they will try to use “crash” in the future. The reason why this is important is calling it an accident assumes no one, including the government for design issues, was at fault and nothing can be done to prevent the crash. Since the crash could have been prevented, it needs to be called a crash instead of an accident.

Future Blog Posts

As I stated in my previous post, my one-year work anniversary at Clackamas Community College is in June and I will have been back in Oregon for a year in June. I plan to write a post about how my one-year goals went and what my two-year goals are. Since my North Carolina-based family is planning a July 4-14 vacation with me to visit my grandmas and other relatives in Ohio and Pennsylvania, I plan to write a post about this.

Opposing Viewpoints On Vision Zero During My Family’s 1st Hawaiian Vacation

As many of you know, my dad and I have opposing viewpoints on many controversial topics. Since our discussions frequently get heated and we were on vacation, I tried to avoid discussing controversial topics. Plus, the rest of my family does not feel comfortable engaging in these heated discussions. The below pedestrian safety issues were too much for me to hold my tongue, so my dad and I got into a heated discussion about Vision Zero. For those who do not know what Vision Zero is, the goal of Vision Zero is to achieve zero traffic fatalities. While my dad understands what Vision Zero means, we disagreed on whether it is a realistic goal, who should be held responsible if the goal is not achieved by the agreed upon date, and whether millions of dollars should be invested in a project to prevent one death.

My dad and I agreed that the pedestrian crossing flags shown in the below photos show that the government recognizes the safety issue and is trying to resolve the issue. I tried to convince my dad that pedestrian crossing flags have been proven to not prevent crashes. I found several intersections with pedestrian crossing flags on the Big Island. While I saw people walking in urban areas, cars dominated the suburban and rural areas. The Big Island has many pedestrian safety issues. As a conservative, my dad did not want to spend millions to prevent a crash from happening. This was especially true when we saw no one walking, which is seen in the top photo.

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Kona side of Hawaii Island (aka Big Island). Photo: Ray Atkinson.

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Kona side of Hawaii Island (aka Big Island). Photo: Ray Atkinson.

Since we drove on many highways with few pedestrian and bike crossings on Hawaii Island, we saw many people jaywalking. My dad felt I put too much responsibility on the driver to prevent crashing into the jaywalker and not enough responsibility on the pedestrian. I called him out for victim blaming because he felt the pedestrian should walk out of their way to find a crosswalk, which could be miles away. My dad did not appreciate being told that he was guilty of blaming the victim. Before I proceed, I want to clarify that most of the responsibility to prevent traffic deaths should be on the government. The government, especially the traffic engineer, must approve project designs before they can be built.

While my dad wanted me to keep the jaywalking discussion on US law, I kept trying to force us to discuss Dutch law. As this post shows, the Netherlands has no laws about jaywalking. Pedestrians in the Netherlands can legally cross the street anywhere. I would love to see US law changed to allow this!

Jaywalking US vs Netherlands

What is forbidden in one jurisdiction can be encouraged in another jurisdiction. Above: a card that was handed out in the 1920s in the US to discourage ‘jaywalking’. Below how the city of Utrecht would like pedestrians to use a street (yellow lines) that they reconstructed in 2014. Source: BicycleDutch

I do not want to end this post by giving the impression that all my dad and I did during our vacation was argue. While the partial federal government shutdown gave us plenty of other heated arguments, we had plenty of calm discussions. My family thanked me for the countless hours of research I did to find us things to do every day during our vacation. Since I wanted to explore two islands, I flew to and from Honolulu, which is on Oahu Island. I explored Oahu Island on two weekends and Hawaii Island (aka Big Island) with my parents and twin sister on Monday-Friday. My brother could not join us because he is in graduate school at Pfeiffer University’s Charlotte campus and recently started a new job in Charlotte. Here is a selection of photos from my vacation:

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My 2nd cousin (right) and his wife (center) with me at their Honolulu oceanview condo. Since the lighting is horrible, I need to learn how to take better photos. Photo: Ray Atkinson.

Digital Camera

Bike attachment possibly used to transport surfboard. Photo: Ray Atkinson

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Tour at Big Island Bees. Photo: Ray Atkinson

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We found green sea turtles at the Black Sand Beach. Photo: Ray’s dad.

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Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Photo: Ray Atkinson

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My dad exchanged the Kannapolis Rotary Club banner for the Kona Mauka Rotary Club banner. I used to be a member of the Kannapolis Rotary Club. Photo: Ray Atkinson

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Pu’uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park. Photo: Ray Atkinson

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Rainbow Falls in Hilo. Photo: Ray Atkinson

Digital Camera

Whale and dolphin watching off Kona coast of Hawaii Island. Photo: Ray Atkinson

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Snorkeling in January! Photo: Ray’s dad

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Maori (indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand) dance at Polynesian Cultural Center. Photo: Ray Atkinson

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Learned how to make coconut oil at Polynesian Cultural Center. Photo: Ray Atkinson

I have other photos from my Hawaiian vacation, but I have shared my favorite photos. I am back in Oregon City wearing winter clothes. I enjoyed escaping the cold and gray skies by vacationing in Hawaii, so I plan to do it again someday.

Transportation Logistics for My Family’s 1st Hawaiian Vacation

Welcome to 2019! I cannot believe my ten-year high school reunion is this year! In case my NC family and friends are curious whether I plan to fly back to NC for this reunion, I will decide this after learning what day the reunion is happening and whether I have enough vacation days available.

Adventure Cycling Association’s The Greg Siple Award

I applied for the Adventure Cycling Association’s The Greg Siple Award, which closed yesterday. If I receive this award then I may not have enough vacation days available to attend my high school reunion. Both of the Outdoor Leadership recipients receive a four-day Leadership Training Course of their choosing and a ten-day (some tours are shorter and some tours are longer) Self-Contained Tour of their choosing within 18 months of taking the Leadership Training Course.

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Source: Adventure Cycling Association

Following the Leadership Training Course, recipients are required to complete the outreach project that they proposed in their application. Recipients are also required to write two blog posts, which will be posted on the Adventure Cycling Association’s blog. One post will be about their experience taking their educational course and one post about the outcome of their outreach project. Finalists will be notified by February 8 and asked to submit a short video recording or do a live interview (no more than two minutes) in response to one question. Winners will be notified by March 1. I am excited about this potentially life-changing opportunity!

Ray’s 1st Hawaiian Vacation

My last post discussed my work goals for 2019. While I need to be less of a workaholic and depart work before my boss tells me to leave, I have been planning a nine-day January 19-27, 2019 Hawaiian vacation that will force me to not be a workaholic. My parents and twin sister, who still live in North Carolina, will be meeting me in Hawaii. Since my brother is in graduate school and working a new job, he cannot take nine days off for this vacation.

Since Hawaii has six major islands, I decided to visit more than one island. I will start and end my vacation on Oahu Island. My dad’s optometry conference is on Hawaii Island (aka Big Island), so I will fly there and back from Oahu Island. Flying between islands is expensive and my dad would have had to pay for three people, so he decided that my parents and sister will only visit Hawaii Island.

Coordinating my flights to and from Oahu Island around my dad’s conference schedule were made more complex by the fact that our rental home on Hawaii Island is not easily transit and bike accessible. This means I cannot easily use transit or bike to and from the Kona International Airport. My dad, who rented a car, will have to pick me up and drop me off at the airport.

Unfortunately, car-free transportation logistics get even worse on Hawaii Island. Unlike Honolulu, which has bikeshare, no city on Hawaii Island appears to have bikeshare. I even tried to rent a bike on Hawaii Island through Spinlister, which just relaunched today. As the below map shows, Spinlister has no bikes available on Hawaii Island, which is the southernmost island.

Spinlister Hawaii

Source: Spinlister

While transit exists on Hawaii Island, it does not appear to be as reliable as what I am used to in the Portland, OR region. The below map looked great until I reviewed the bus schedules. My family will be staying in Waikoloa Village and my dad’s conference is in Puako. Since the car rental company only allows my dad to drive the car and my dad needs the car to attend his conference, my mom, sister and I will not have a car for several days. I hope transit proves to be more reliable than what the schedules show. If not, we will be spending more time that we want in Waikoloa Village. I could rent another car so my mom, sister and I can explore Hawaii Island while my dad is attending his conference.

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Source: County of Hawaii Mass Transit Agency

Even though I chose to have fewer days on Oahu Island than Hawaii Island because I wanted to spend time with my family, I may explore more on Oahu Island than on Hawaii Island. This is mostly due to how much easier it should be to travel throughout Honolulu and Oahu Island. Honolulu has direct (no transfer needed) bus service from Honolulu International Airport to my Waikiki (Honolulu neighborhood) hostel. Since I received a $20 off code, I reserved a free bike in Waikiki through Spinlister. Honolulu also has Biki, which is a dock-based bikeshare system. Ride Sharee operates a dockless bikeshare system in Honolulu.

Honolulu Biki Bikeshare

Source: Biki

Since many tour companies provide affordable transportation from Waikiki to throughout Oahu Island, I do not need a car on Oahu Island. While I am still stressed about transportation logistics on Hawaii Island, I am feeling prepared for transportation logistics on Oahu Island. If I do end up needing a car in Honolulu, my second cousin lives in Honolulu with his wife and baby. He offered to pick me up and drop me off at the Honolulu International Airport. He has also been helping me plan my Hawaiian vacation. I expect to be busy or relaxing on a beach in Hawaii, so I plan to wait until returning to Oregon to write a reflection post about how my vacation went. What do you have planned in 2019?

Reflecting on my first 6 months at Clackamas Community College and 1st-year goals

I am excited to share that I passed my six-month probation evaluation! Even though I believe most employers have a one-year evaluation, my boss informed me that my next evaluation will be at two years because that is what the Classified Association (one of three recognized CCC unions) bargained. My six-month probation period ends today, so I want to reflect on my first six months and share my first-year goals. Since I resigned from working as a full-time, temporary Urban Planner I at the City of Alexandria, VA to start working as the full-time, permanent Transportation Systems Analyst at CCC, I want to share my initial thoughts before moving back to Oregon. Even though I did not plan to enroll in the Associate of Applied Science degree in Project Management when I accepted the job at CCC, I want to share how this decision has impacted my life so far.

Initial Thoughts About CCC Job Before Moving Back to Oregon

While I only worked at the City of Alexandria, VA for three months before resigning, I was close enough to my Neighborhood Planning and Community Development Division coworkers that they invited me to join them for lunch. Since I was nervous about whether CCC and the surrounding communities’ car-dependent cultures would allow me to work on reducing car usage and expanding active transportation services, I expressed these concerns to my division coworkers. Even though it has not always been easy and will take years to overcome Clackamas County’s strong car-dependent culture, I am pleased to report that CCC and my community stakeholders have been open to working with me to reduce car usage and expand active transportation services. The below letter of support from the Clackamas County Pedestrian/Bikeway Advisory Committee (PBAC) for the City of Milwaukie, OR and CCC’s joint application for dockless electric-assist bikeshare and scooter programs shows proof of this.

A major reason why I am able to partner with the PBAC is that my position and program costs are mostly funded through an Oregon Metro Regional Travel Options (RTO) grant. I am in the process of reapplying for an RTO grant, which would fund my position and program costs from July 2019-June 2022. Oregon Metro, which is based in Portland, likely would not continue funding my position and program costs if CCC did not support reducing car usage and expanding active transportation services.

Reflecting on my first six months at CCC

Since my boss wants to put a plaque on the wall to show how I won $273,083.25 during FY 2019-21 for expansion of the CCC Xpress Shuttle, this was my biggest financial accomplishment during my first six months at CCC. The shuttle expansion includes extended year-round weekday evening service on Monday-Thursday until almost 11pm and offering summer term service for the first time. This expansion will be funded through the competitive Regional Coordination Program, which is funded through Oregon House Bill 2017.

I also wrote and had CCC’s President Cook sign a letter of support for the new Oregon City Shuttle, which will have at least one stop on CCC’s Oregon City campus. As the below project list shows, the Oregon City Shuttle was also funded.

My biggest non-financial accomplishment during my first six months at CCC was successfully supervising and mentoring my first student assistant. While I supervised and mentored a high school intern during my unpaid internship at Charlotte B-cycle in 2013, my internship was part-time so I consider my first student assistant as my first real supervising and mentoring experience. I created and effectively used a shared Google Sheet to collaborate with my student assistant on several projects. My student assistant said they never experienced a day where they had nothing to work on, so I successfully supervised them.

They also said they appreciated being given opportunities to manage projects with limited supervision from me. Even though they made mistakes when managing these projects, they valued the learning experiences. They preferred having me be their mentor and not just their supervisor. Their job description did not include managing projects, but they were bored with basic assignments like tabling so I wanted to give them opportunities to spread their wings and fly. Since my first student assistant accepted a promotion at their other job, they resigned last Friday to start their new position. They handwrote the below note to me on their last day. I will miss working with them!

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While I will have to train a new student assistant in January, I am thankful to have a supportive team to help me train them. My team handwrote the below notes on my 28th birthday, which was September 19, 2018.

Applying What I Learned During Project Management Courses

Even though grades probably do not matter anymore for me because I do not plan to transfer to another school and employers likely will not review my grades anymore, I am excited to share that I made an A+ in both of my first project management courses at CCC. Since I manage several projects at the same time, coordinate with internal and external stakeholders, and supervise a student assistant, being able to apply what I learned during project management courses is more important than showing that I earned high grades. The below network diagram shows one way that I am applying this knowledge.

My 1st-Year Goals at CCC

Since the current RTO grant that mostly funds my position and programs expires in June 2019, my top 1st-year goal is being awarded and receiving enough funding from the new RTO grant to continue my position and programs through June 2022. Thankfully, CCC has earned Core Partner status through being a long-standing Oregon Metro partner with fully developed RTO programs. This means that a three-year RTO grant for $150,000 is guaranteed as long as I submit the application. I plan to apply for other RTO grants to expand the programs that I manage.

As I mentioned earlier, I am working with the City of Milwaukie and Clackamas County to launch dockless electric-assist bikeshare and/or scooter programs. The first phase would include the Harmony campus. The second phase would likely include the Oregon City campus. A future phase could include the Wilsonville campus. While the first phase likely would not launch until after my first year is over, my goal by June 2019 is to receive funds through Oregon Metro’s Partnerships and Innovative Learning Opportunities in Transportation (PILOT) program to continue planning for the bikeshare and/or scooter programs.

My non-financial goal is to have a Portland State University (PSU) Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) team select my workshop project proposal, which involves creating a Rural Access Plan to CCC’s Oregon City campus. Here are examples of past workshop projects. My MURP team worked with the City of Tigard, OR and State of Place to complete our workshop project in 2016. I will find out in January whether a MURP team selects my proposal.

I plan to keep readers updated about my progress in achieving these goals through future posts. Thank you for reading my blog!

Bend at Eye Level

“Bend at Eye Level” is a reference to “The City at Eye Level”. Since people outside Oregon may not know where Bend is, below is a map that shows the location of Bend in Oregon. Bend, OR (91,122 people in 2016) reminds me of Asheville, NC (89,121 people in 2016) because they have similar populations and are hip and expensive mountain cities with strong art, brewery and mountain biking scenes. As someone who has biked in both cities, Asheville is not as bike friendly as Bend. Since it rains more in Asheville, I would rather live in Bend.

I am writing about Bend because I was shocked by many things that I saw while biking throughout Bend for my first time during the Oregon Trails Summit. I will admit that I did not plan to write about Bend before arriving in Bend. My thought process quickly changed when I biked through my first roundabout in Bend. It felt similar to a Dutch protected bike intersection, which I wrote about in this post. As you can see in the below photo, cyclists have the option to act like a pedestrian through the roundabout by taking the bike off-ramp to access the sidewalk then using the crosswalks.

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Looking west on NW Galveston Ave at NW 14th St. Photo: Ray Atkinson.

Even though I could not find any signs with instructions at any of the roundabouts in Bend, I found the below tips on the City of Bend’s website. Thankfully, the tips are just suggestions and do not appear to be laws because I biked on the sidewalks and across the crosswalks to avoid biking with cars through the roundabout. According to the City of Bend’s tips, I was supposed to walk my bike on the sidewalks and across the crosswalks. While there likely is not enough space to separate cyclists and pedestrians on the sidewalks and crosswalks in Bend, this is how the protected bike intersections and bike lanes function in the Netherlands.

I asked several cyclists in Bend whether they act like a pedestrian or a car when they bike through the roundabout. All of them said they act like a car by taking the lane through the roundabout because acting like a pedestrian takes too long and motorists do not expect to see cyclists using the sidewalk or crosswalk. While the City of Bend recommends for cyclists to walk their bike on the sidewalk and crosswalk through the roundabout, I doubt cyclists will do this unless there is someone walking. I rarely saw anyone walking outside of Downtown Bend, so most of the roundabouts had no one walking through them.

I have only shown you a bike off-ramp, so below is a bike on-ramp at another Bend roundabout. While most of the bike on-ramps did not have tree limbs blocking the ramp, I wanted to show this photo so urban designers can see an example of what not to do. I was unable to use this on-ramp because tree limbs were blocking the ramp. I emailed the City of Bend to ask them to trim the tree so this issue can be resolved.

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Looking south on SW Colorado Ave and SW Simpson Ave. Photo: Ray Atkinson.

The below roundabout issue is harder to fix. While most of the bike off-ramps were installed to make it easy to exit the road and enter the sidewalk, the below bike off-ramp was not installed correctly. It is also missing the painted white dashes on the road, which indicate that cyclists can move into the travel lane. While the City of Bend has installed infrastructure to allow cyclists to act like a pedestrian through roundabouts, cyclists are not required to do this.

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Looking west on SW Simpson Ave at SW Colorado Ave. Photo: Ray Atkinson.

Since I enjoyed biking throughout Bend and know people are not perfect, I wanted to share a photo of art installed at a roundabout. All of the roundabouts that I biked through had art installed in them. Here is a map that shows all 24 roundabouts that have art in them. The art produced great placemaking!

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Looking northwest at the SW Simpson Ave at SW Colorado Ave roundabout. Photo: Ray Atkinson.

I want to write more and have other photos to share, but believe this is a good stopping point for tonight. I plan to write more and add more photos another day. Thanks for reading my blog!

Ray Improving Project Management Skills

I am excited to share that I am starting classes again this fall to earn my Associate of Applied Science degree in Project Management at Clackamas Community College! I admit that you likely would not have seen the words “project management” written by me during high school and my first undergrad experience at UNC Charlotte. I observed geographers and planners work on projects when I shadowed them and worked with them during internships, but I doubt I realized that project management existed and what it really meant.

CCC Project Management

Screenshot: Clackamas Community College

My First Project Schedule

My name was included in a project schedule for the first time when I worked on launching Philadelphia’s Indego bikeshare program during Summer 2014. I worked on this project as a Transportation Planning Intern at Toole Design Group in the Washington, DC office. I cannot publicly share the project schedule, so the below photo shows Indego. My name was included in project schedules throughout grad school at Portland State University (PSU) and work at MetroBike. Since I applied to PSU before interning at Toole Design Group, gaining project management skills likely was not something I thought I would learn at PSU. My name is currently included in project schedules at Clackamas Community College. I think this shows how much I have grown as a professional.

Indego banner

Photo: Bike Share Philadelphia

Getting Certified

Now that I better understand what project management is and why it is so useful for my career, I am excited to hone my project management skills by taking classes at Clackamas Community College. Since college tuition is not usually free in the US, I am thankful one of my work benefits is a full tuition waiver. I still have to pay college fees and for textbooks. These minimal costs should be worth it when I graduate and become eligible to take the Project Management Professional (PMP) or Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) exam. According to the Project Management Institute’s Earning Power Salary Survey, “those with a PMP certification garner a higher salary (20% higher on average) than those without a PMP certification.”

I am still planning to take the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) exam in May or November 2019. I will have at least two years of full-time planning experience by late 2018 or early 2019. This is a requirement to be eligible to apply to take the AICP exam. I may also take the Geographic Information Systems Professional (GISP) and Congress for the New Urbanism-Accredited (CNU-A) exams. There are so many certifications that interest me!

Using My Certification(s)

While being certified is great, I want to use my certification(s). As I mentioned in this post, I will have a new student assistant starting on Monday, September 10. She will work for me until the end of Spring Term 2019, which is in June. Besides the student assistant I briefly supervised for one week during Spring Term 2018 and the high school student I volunteered to supervisor as a part-time Outreach Intern at Charlotte B-cycle during Summer 2013, I will be supervising an employee for the first time in my life starting this fall.

Since I want to be prepared to supervise my new student assistant, I have been working with my boss during work time and my Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP) mentor during personal time to create a 2018-19 academic year project schedule for myself and my student assistant. I plan to write a future post about how this project management experience went for us.

Living Car-Free in American Suburb

Yes, you read the title of this post correctly. I am currently living car-free in the American suburb of Oregon City, which is located at the southern edge of the Portland, OR region.

Portland Region Map

Oregon City is located at the southern edge of the Portland region. I live and work in southern Oregon City. Source: AARoads

I will admit that I did not envision living and working in a suburb similar to my childhood hometown of Kannapolis, NC when I moved from Kannapolis to Charlotte in August 2009 to start undergrad at UNC Charlotte. Since I hated feeling forced to drive an automobile for every trip in Kannapolis and loved the freedom of many transportation choices in Charlotte, I never imagined returning to a suburb after graduating from UNC Charlotte. As I hope this post shows you, returning to a suburb may have been the best decision for my career.

While I still prefer living in an urban area and miss living in Arlington, VA’s award-winning Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor, I feel I am making a much bigger difference working in the suburb of Oregon City than I could have made working in a big city. This is mostly because I am the only transportation planner at Clackamas Community College (CCC) and one of the few active transportation planners in Oregon City.

I worked or interned in Charlotte, Philadelphia, Portland (OR), and the DC region, so I am confident that if I worked in a large city I would be in a large transportation department with many staff working on active transportation planning issues. While I am not trying to devalue the work that planners do in big cities, especially since they have to work on more complex issues than I have in Oregon City, how much difference does EACH of these planners have in creating change in their big city?

Since I am an entry-level transportation planner, I keep thinking about how much more difference I am making in Oregon City than I could have made as an entry-level transportation planner among many entry-level transportation planners in a big city. While I have to get permission to do things like apply for grants, I have been given plenty of professional freedom so far to pursue what I feel would be useful for improving multimodal transportation choices at CCC. This also means that I have to be more responsible for the decisions I make because I am the only transportation planner. Since I was micromanaged at a previous job (purposely not giving specifics because I do not want to embarrass a previous employer) and this overwhelmed my supervisor and me, I am thankful my current supervisor is not micromanaging me.

While I wrote earlier how Oregon City is a similar suburb to my childhood hometown of Kannapolis, Oregon City has much better active transportation access to Portland than Kannapolis has to Charlotte. After biking from my home in southern Oregon City to Downtown Oregon City on almost completely connected bike lanes, signed bike routes and sharrows, I can ride on almost completely connected trails all the way to Downtown Portland. The regional version of the below trails map can be found here. I actually helped create this map during my internship at Oregon Metro.

Portland to Oregon City Trails Map

Regional trails between Oregon City and Downtown Portland. Source: Oregon Metro

The below map shows most of the bike infrastructure between Oregon City and Downtown Portland. Since Portland’s famous neighborhood greenways and Oregon City’s signed bike routes and sharrows aren’t shown at this zoom level, I wanted to note that this is missing from the below map.

Portland to Oregon City Bike Map

Bike infrastructure between Oregon City and Downtown Portland. Source: Google Maps

Unless I rarely wanted to visit Charlotte or spend lots of time and money on transferring between multiple transit systems in the Charlotte region (I can take unlimited trips on TriMet’s light rail lines and buses throughout the Portland region for $5/day), I could not have lived car-free in Kannapolis. While the Carolina Thread Trail is working to connect trails throughout the Charlotte region and I volunteered to help create the Carolina Thread Trail Map, it is not possible today to use trails or any other bike infrastructure to bike between Downtown Kannapolis and Uptown Charlotte. Since Charlotte’s bike lanes, signed bike routes and sharrows are not shown at this zoom level, I wanted to note that this is missing from the below map.

Charlotte to Kannapolis Bike Map

Bike infrastructure between Uptown Charlotte and Downtown Kannapolis. Source: Google Maps

Oregon City has good biking and transit access to Portland, so I have been able to visit Portland frequently without driving. While some people in Oregon City have suggested I should buy a car so I can travel quicker, owning and maintaining a car is expensive. Plus, my job literally involves helping people to reduce car dependency. I can currently motivate people to reduce car dependency by telling them that it is possible to live car-free in a suburb like Oregon City because I live car-free here. How would they react if I told them I gave up and purchased a car for the first time in my life?

While I live car-free in my personal life, I cannot reach all my work trips by walking, biking and riding transit. Since I did not want to buy a car for work trips, my supervisor helped me reserve the below hybrid electric car, which CCC owns. This car is only available during the summer term because students learn how to reconstruct the car during other terms. Due to this, I have had to use expensive transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft to travel for work trips during the rest of the year. Even though I was nervous about whether my supervisor would support my car-free lifestyle, he has been very supportive.

I have so far driven the hybrid electric car to and from the Clackamas County Coordinating Committee (C4) Meeting near Mt Hood. Since this was the first time I drove after moving back to Oregon and I didn’t drive much when I lived in Virginia, I had to adjust to driving again. I have always been a slow driver, but Oregon drivers have been proven to be among the nation’s slowest drivers so I fit in.

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Hybrid electric car provided for work trips. Photo: Ray Atkinson

As my below Instagram post shows, the C4 Meeting provided me with good insights into Clackamas County’s transportation priorities. Unfortunately for my work to reduce car dependency, widening I-205 is definitely the top priority. Oregon DOT (ODOT), which presented about the I-205 toll and widening project during the C4 Meeting, has been trying to get support for widening I-205 by saying this will reduce traffic congestion. While traffic congestion may be reduced in the short-term, induced demand has shown that widening highways never reduced traffic congestion in the long-term. This is why ODOT needs to use the I-205 toll revenue to fund active transportation projects, which have been proven to reduce traffic congestion on highways. If ODOT is looking for an existing program to review, I recommend the I-66 Commuter Choice Program because revenue from the I-66 toll in Northern Virginia is directly funding active transportation projects in Northern Virginia.

I have not decided what my next blog post will be about, but it will probably be something about what I am experiencing in Oregon. Thank you for reading my blog!