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 (the draft letter is being signed) from the Clackamas County Pedestrian/Bikeway Advisory Committee 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 Pedestrian/Bikeway Advisory Committee 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!

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Can Artistic Bike Racks Meet Rigorous Design Standards?

Since I doubt the standard approach to bicycle planning will encourage more people to bike to Clackamas Community College (CCC), I have been thinking of creative ways to entice people to bike. While I could install standard bike racks, this will not create the visual shock value I am seeking. CCC has a Welding Technology Program with teachers that are American Welding Society-certified professionals, so I am partnering with welding teachers to have them teach their students how to weld artistic bike racks. While I am excited about this partnership, I need to be cautious about how the artistic bike racks are designed. This is a major reason why most bike planners only install standard bike racks. Can artistic bike racks meet rigorous design standards?

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Artistic bike rack being welded. Source: StarHerald.com

The main welding teacher has expressed excitement to have a real-world project for their students to work on. He invited me to present my idea to everyone in the Manufacturing Department at the October department meeting. Since my position is not located in the Manufacturing Department, I feel honored to help break down silos by presenting to a different campus department. While I want to give the welding teachers and their students full artistic freedom, I need to ensure the artistic bike racks meet rigorous design standards. I have not worked with welding teachers and students before and have no welding experience, so I am curious to learn how feasible this process is. I am thankful the Manufacturing Department is open to considering my idea.

Since this is a perfect opportunity to include placemaking, I plan to suggest placemaking ideas be included in the artistic bike rack designs. Placemaking could include showing pride in CCC or Oregon City. CCC’s main campus is located in Oregon City, which has a rich history because it is the End of the Oregon Trail. If possible, I want to include this history in the artistic bike rack designs. The below artistic bike rack on the Trolley Trail in Milwaukie, OR is an example of placemaking because the bike rack was designed to showcase the Trolley Trail’s history.

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Artistic bike rack using placemaking in Milwaukie, OR. Source: OregonLive.com

You may be wondering why I feel it is so important to create artistic bike racks and have welding students create them. Since I feel it is challenging in an American suburb to entice people to try biking, I feel it is important to create a visual shock value. Standard bike racks cannot create this visual shock value. I chose to have welding students instead of an off-campus bike parking company create the artistic bike racks because I assume the students will want to use the bike racks that they create and show them off to their family and friends. While an off-campus bike parking company is more familiar with bike rack design standards, their employees will not use the bike racks. Plus, I hope to save CCC money by producing the artistic bike racks on campus.

Since creating artistic bike racks are not free, I am currently applying for a grant that does not require a financial match. Grant winners will be announced on November 19, 2018. What do you think of my idea?

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.

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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’m 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’ll admit that I didn’t 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’m 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’m 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’m confident that if I worked in a large city I’d be in a large transportation department with many staff working on active transportation planning issues. While I’m 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’m an entry-level transportation planner, I keep thinking about how much more difference I’m 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’m the only transportation planner. Since I was micromanaged at a previous job (purposely not giving specifics because I don’t want to embarrass a previous employer) and this overwhelmed my supervisor and me, I’m thankful my current supervisor isn’t 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 couldn’t 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 isn’t 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 aren’t 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’s 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 can’t reach all my work trips by walking, biking and riding transit. Since I didn’t want to buy a car for work trips, my supervisor helped me reserve the below hybrid electric car, which CCC owns. 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 haven’t decided what my next blog post will be about, but it’ll probably be something about what I’m experiencing in Oregon. Thanks for reading my blog!

Moving Back to Oregon to Work at Clackamas Community College

I’m excited to share that after submitting 127 job applications over the past seven months I have accepted a written offer to become the Transportation Systems Analyst at Clackamas Community College (CCC) in Oregon City! A short position description is below. The position is grant funded from Oregon Metro through June 30, 2019. Oregon Metro is offering the grant again and CCC plans to reapply for it.

Develop and implement strategies to expand transportation options and remove transportation barriers.  Refine and operationalize strategies outlined in the Transportation Management Plan.  Develop and implement transportation survey tools.  Gather and analyze transportation metrics for use in developing new transportation strategies.  Act as liaison with local, regional, and state government partners; work cooperatively to create transportation plans and projects that reflect the needs of the College.

Since CCC wants me to start working in June, I’ll be resigning from my full-time, temporary Urban Planner I position at the City of Alexandria, VA on May 18. I plan to move back to the Portland region soon after Memorial Day, which is in time to participate in Pedalpalooza. I’ll miss my East Coast family and friends. Thankfully, I’ll be able to catch up with many of them during my upcoming trips to Boston, Charlotte area, Erie, and Cleveland area. Since I was in grad school when I previously lived in Oregon from 2014-16, I’m looking forward to having more free time to explore the West Coast.

You may be wondering why I chose the below photo for the featured photo. Since CCC’s three campuses are located in three Portland suburbs and my new supervisor said no one has organized a group bike ride at CCC, my future job at CCC reminds me of when I co-founded and led the Cyclists Club at UNC Charlotte (UNCC). Even though I wasn’t hired by UNCC to work on transportation issues, I felt I was the de facto bike coordinator because this position didn’t exist. I’m excited to use what I learned working on transportation issues at UNCC to improve CCC.

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Ray organized and led slow Cyclists Club ride at UNC Charlotte on February 14, 2013

Since I took an Internet GIS course at UNCC during Spring 2013 and created the below interactive bike resource map with my teammate during this course, I’m planning to see whether CCC wants me to create a similar interactive map for CCC. While I’m impressed CCC’s transportation page includes walking, biking, transit, and carpooling, I’m looking forward to working with staff to improve it.

UNC Charlotte Bicycle Resource Page

Ray and Jacob created the UNC Charlotte Bicycle Resource Map in Spring 2013

You may have noticed that I focused on my UNCC experience before my Portland State University (PSU) experience. I did this on purpose because transportation planning and overall transportation behavior at PSU is so far ahead of CCC. PSU is a Platinum-Level Bicycle Friendly University, which is the highest level that has been awarded. While I offered during my interview that I could help CCC apply to become a Bicycle Friendly University, which is also open to colleges, CCC currently isn’t a Bicycle Friendly University. UNCC also wasn’t a Bicycle Friendly University until it applied for the first time in 2017 and was awarded the Bronze Level, which is the lowest level, so UNCC and CCC share many things in common.

Even though I want my ideas for CCC to be context sensitive, this doesn’t mean I can’t think about what I did at PSU. As this BikePortland post and the below photos show, Gerald and I organized a successful Bike PSU outreach event at PSU during Fall 2015. We organize this outreach event to start creating bike trains. Since we had difficulty finding a method to connect bike train participants while preserving their privacy and finding participants with similar class schedules that lived nearby each other, we weren’t able to start a bike train at PSU. I expect to have similar challenges organizing bike trains at CCC, but one big difference is I’ll be a permanent employee at CCC. I had to stop organizing bike trains at PSU when I graduated in June 2016.

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Ray and Gerald organized Bike PSU’s outreach event during Fall 2015 (Photo: Michael Andersen/BikePortland)

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PSU student participating in Bike PSU’s outreach event during Fall 2015 (Photo: Michael Andersen/BikePortland)

Yes, I realize I have focused mostly on biking and my new job involves working on more than just biking. As my previous post shows, I have multimodal transportation experience. My PSU team did our planning workshop project on walkability in Tigard, which is a suburb of Portland.

Since I’ve never been to CCC or Oregon City, I’m excited to explore a new area of the Portland region. Due to Oregon City being the first permanent Euro-American settlement in the Willamette Valley, first incorporated city west of the Rocky Mountains, and Oregon’s first capital (Oregon City was selected the capital before the creation of the Oregon Territory in 1848), Oregon City isn’t really new. I’m excited to learn more Oregon history by visiting the Museum of the Oregon Territory, which overlooks Willamette Falls in Oregon City.