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!

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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.

Virginia’s Lee Highway Alliance experiments with State of Place’s walkability analysis tool

Today is the National Day on Writing, which asks people to share why they write using #WhyIWrite. I started this blog in 2014 and wrote the following post because I’m passionate about opening people’s eyes to transportation issues that I also used to be blind to. Since Greater Greater Washington‘s staff helped me write this post so it could be posted on their blog, the structure is different from what I usually write on my blog.

The Lee Highway Alliance (LHA) in Arlington, Virginia is working to make the Lee Highway Corridor more economically vibrant, walkable, and attractive. State of Place is helping them achieve their walkability goals. Walkability is simply a measure of how friendly a given place is to walking. People who live in highly walkable places see a slew of health, environmental, and financial benefits.

The Lee Highway Corridor is located in north Arlington just north of the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor. Unlike the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor, which helped Arlington win the Gold 2017 National Planning Achievement Award for Implementation, the Lee Highway Corridor remains a primarily automobile-dependent, suburban-style place.

Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor Past-Present

Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor, past and present. Images by Arlington.

As is typical of most of the commercial corridors built throughout the country during the mid-to-late 20th century, the general development pattern of the Lee Highway Corridor is low-rise commercial development with prominent surface parking lots and limited pedestrian, bicycle, and transit infrastructure.

It is a major automobile commuter corridor. In order to create the place that the LHA envisions, the Lee Highway Corridor needs to become a place that prioritizes people and community over automobiles.

Since the LHA wants to provide people with healthy transportation choices and attract vibrant economic development, it hopes to improve the Lee Highway Corridor through a new vision that includes distinct, walkable, mixed-use neighborhood centers.

Lee Highway Corridor Future Intensity

Proposed neighborhood centers showing a spectrum of density. Image by Arlington.

One of the proposed neighborhood centers, Lee Heights shopping center, is shown below:

Lee Heights Shopping Center Illustration

Illustrative concept for Lee Heights shopping center, existing and proposed. Image by Arlington.

There are many tools that cities or other planners use to determine how pedestrian-friendly an area is and how they can improve “walkability.”

So how do planners determine how walkable an area is?

You can see a walkability analysis in action in Virginia

Recently, LHA was one of six organizations across the US to win a five-block walkability analysis from State of Place, a software company that uses predictive analytics to quantify what people love about a given place.

State of Place uses ten urban design categories, such as density, connectivity, and traffic safety, to assess how walkable a block, a group of blocks, or an entire neighborhood is. During the past several months, they assessed the walkability of Lee Highway. Results will be presented to the public on Saturday, October 21 from 10am-12pm at the Lee Highway Alliance office, which is located at 4620 Lee Highway, Suite 208.

There are pros and cons to all walkability assessment tools

State of Place’s approach isn’t the only walkability assessment tool available. Another tool is called Walk Score, which provides a number on the 100-point scale that measures the walkability of any address.

Most cities use Walk Score, but State of Place walkability researcher Dr. Mariela Alfonzo says this tool tends to overestimate the walkability of high-access, low-income communities, among other problems.

Joe Cortright at City Observatory rebuked Alfonzo’s criticisms, saying State of Place’s metrics are highly complex, extremely labor intensive to gather, and consequently very expensive. Plus, they have not been implemented enough to let an objective third party assess their accuracy and utility.

While there is no perfect way to assess how walkable an area or city is, both tools are a great start to understanding how to improve the accessibility and livability of a given area.

Here’s how walkability scores are created

I’ve had the opportunity to personally use the State of Place tool to conduct a similar analysis in Tigard, Oregon last year. With help from three of my Master of Urban and Regional Planning classmates from Portland State University, we created neighborhood walkability assessments for the Tigard Triangle and Downtown Tigard.

Delta Planning Team with Client 2-10-16

Team of Master of Urban and Regional Planning students from Portland State University with client, Lloyd Purdy of Tigard, OR (left to right: Ray Atkinson, Curtis Fisher, Lloyd Purdy, Linn Davis, Wala Abuhejleh)

My team used the inventory tool to capture data on more than 280 built environment features, in ten urban design categories, that contribute to the walkability on every street segment in this area.

We underwent a rigorous training process where we practiced using the inventory tool in four different sample settings. Individual results from the four sample settings weren’t exact matches, so we understand our data collection in the Tigard Triangle and Downtown Triangle isn’t completely accurate. For example, one person could have felt safe walking on a street segment while another person didn’t feel safe walking on the same street segment.

We walked 74 street segments in the Tigard Triangle and 15 street segments in Downtown Tigard. The data was submitted to State of Place, who used their proprietary algorithm to generate an Index score for each segment on a 100-point scale. The results are shown below:

Downtown & Triangle SoP Index

State of Place Index for Tigard Triangle and Downtown Tigard

The index for the Tigard Triangle is 33 out of 100, a low walkability score meaning most trips require an automobile. For comparison, Downtown Tigard scored 66.

The profile breaks the index down into ten urban design categories that contribute to the walkability of the place, so cities can know where to prioritize walkability improvements. As the profile shows, the weakest category for the Tigard Triangle is lack of parks and public spaces.

State of Place Index & Profile Tigard Triangle

State of Place Index and Profile for Tigard Triangle

However, increasing parks and public spaces don’t do as much for walkability as adding density, pedestrian amenities, and traffic safety.

Since most cities have scarce resources, State of Place also provided the “Weighted by Impact and Feasibility (Walkability)” chart, shown below. Constructing a building is expensive and often depends on the private sector, so density isn’t the most feasible way to improve walkability.

Since the public sector has more control over adding pedestrian amenities and improving traffic safety, and the non-weighted profile shows these are weak in the Tigard Triangle, they are the most feasible ways to improve walkability in this place.

State of Place Prioritization Tigard Triangle

State of Place Prioritization Tigard Triangle2

State of Place charts for Tigard Triangle

The city used this data and my team’s recommendations to help create the Tigard Triangle Lean Code, which was adopted in August 2017. The lean code promotes building and site designs that improve walkability.

Tigard Triangle Lean Code

Tigard Triangle Lean Code. Image by Tigard.

If this analysis interests you, results from the Arlington walkability analysis will be presented to the public by State of Place on Saturday, October 21 from 10am-12pm at the Lee Highway Alliance office, which is located at 4620 Lee Highway, Suite 208. I plan to write a post with public reaction to the results.

Ray Does Have Multimodal Experience

While I still plan to write more about my study abroad trip last summer to the Netherlands, I have been surprised by how some people think I am only focused on bike planning. I want to resolve any confusion people may have about my multimodal experience. Since my resume mostly shows bike planning experience and this blog is mostly about biking, I have been asked during job interviews whether I have any transportation planning experience beyond bike planning. Some of my bike friends in Portland have told me that they have also been asked this question during job interviews and believe it is a common question for any Portland-based transportation planners applying for jobs outside of Portland. They told me the question is most likely due to the fact that Portland is known mostly for bike planning outside of Portland. Yes, I have extensive experience in transportation planning beyond bike planning. Through this post, I plan to show a variety of transportation planning projects I have worked on.

Pedestrian Planning

“Whether you live in a city or a small town, and whether you drive a car, take the bus or ride a train, at some point in the day, everyone is a pedestrian.”
Anthony Foxx
United States Secretary of Transportation

I believe in prioritizing people and creating human-sized cities. In case you are wondering what I mean by “prioritizing people”, read my previous blog post about advocating for people. Since everyone is a pedestrian and pedestrians are a vulnerable road user, I feel it is important to showcase my pedestrian planning work first. While I have worked on many pedestrian planning projects, the biggest pedestrian planning project was my planning workshop project during winter and spring terms at Portland State University. My planning workshop group, which consisted of a total of four Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) students, worked with Tigard, Oregon and State of Place to create a walkability and economic development plan for the Tigard Triangle.

 

If you don’t have time to read the entire plan, I would like to highlight the below map because it shows the importance of the plan. The State of Place Raw Score shows walkability scores for every road segment in the Tigard Triangle. Value per Acre shows economic development opportunities. Through the plan my group created, we prioritized walkability and economic development improvements in the Tigard Triangle.

Tigard Triangle Walkable Small Business

Map from Ray’s Workshop Project

Bicycle Planning

Since everyone already knows I’m passionate about bicycle planning and most of my blog has already been devoted to writing about biking, I’m not going to write much about my bike planning experience. This previous blog post shows a map I helped create during my Transportation Planning Internship at Toole Design Group.

Automobile Planning

Even though I am mostly passionate about pedestrian and bicycle planning, I do have automobile planning experience and do care about motorist safety. After all, motorists are people. During my Transportation Planning Internship at Charlotte DOT, I calculated Level of Service (LOS) for many intersections. One of my goals of calculating LOS was to improve motorist safety.

Transit Planning

All of my internships have involved pedestrian, bicycle and automobile planning so I don’t have too much experience with transit planning. However, as the below map shows, I did some transit planning during my workshop project.

Transit in Tigard Triangle

Map from Ray’s Workshop Project

I hope I have convinced you that I have well rounded transportation planning experience.