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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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!

Boston at Eye Level

“Boston at Eye Level” is a reference to “The City at Eye Level”. While I know you’re waiting for me to write about how I feel being back in Oregon, I have two posts I want to share before writing about my life back in Oregon. The first post is about Boston and the second post is about Denver. Since I knew I’d be moving back to Oregon, I quickly planned a weekend trip to Boston from after work on Friday, May 4 to early morning on Monday, May 7. I arrived back in Arlington, VA after midnight on May 7 then worked at the City of Alexandria, VA that morning. I was excited to explore Boston for the first time and catch up with Keihly Moore and Jesse Boudart. Keihly graciously invited me to stay at her home in Boston’s Egleston Square Neighborhood and borrow one of her many bikes.

Before I arrived at Keihly’s home, I was amazed by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), which is the Boston region’s transit system. Unlike Metro in the DC region, MBTA in the Boston region doesn’t require users to swipe their transit pass to exit the station. I was embarrassed when I arrived at the exit turnstile and tried to use my transit pass to exit. Since I couldn’t find a way to swipe my transit pass on the exit turnstile, I had to ask someone how to do this. They looked at me as if I was an alien and said to just walk through the exit turnstile. I followed their lead and was able to exit the station.

Since the MBTA doesn’t know where riders exit, it can’t charge riders based on how far they travel, which is what Metro does in the DC region. MBTA also can’t collect any destination data, so MBTA only has the origin data. As a GIS and transportation data nerd, I would find it frustrating to work with transit data in the Boston region.

turnstiles-boston-entertainment-transit

Boston’s exit turnstiles. Photo: OUTFRONT Media Inc.

I arrived at Keihly’s home after a short walk (I’m used to walking miles) from the transit station. Since her home is up a steep flight of stairs and I have an extreme fear of heights, I had to overcome my fear to enter and exit her home. I’m thankful I visited Keihly during the spring because the stairs would have been covered in snow during the winter. When this happens at my home in the South, I would just wait for the snow to melt, which usually takes a day. Since it constantly snows in Boston during the winter, I’d be waiting all winter to leave.

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Catching up with Keihly Moore in Boston

Since Keihly had a long training ride on Saturday to prepare her for the 5-day, 400-mile Bostreal (Boston to Montreal), Jesse gave me a nerdy bike tour of the Boston region. Jesse, who now works as a traffic engineer at Toole Design Group, was one of my two Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP) mentors in 2016. We had only Skyped during our 3-person meetings, so I got to meet Jesse for the first time in person when I visited Boston. I was exhausted from biking several miles on a bike I hadn’t ridden before that I forgot to take a selfie with Jesse. Since Jesse only had a few hours to give me a bike tour of the Boston region, we didn’t stop often to take photos and I didn’t want to risk my phone falling out of my hand while biking. Due to this, the below photos are the only photos I took.

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View of Downtown Boston (left on the horizon) and Boston’s Back Bay (center right on the horizon) from Prospect Hill Park in Somerville

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View of Downtown Boston from a trail on the north side of the Charles River. Boston has a great trail network along both sides of the Charles River.

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Protected Bike Lane at MIT in Cambridge

I enjoyed talking with Keihly so much on Sunday that I forgot to take photos. Or maybe I didn’t want to be seen glued to my phone taking photos. I think it’s a combination of these factors. Either way, I enjoyed the limited time with Keihly. Even though I had heard of Boston’s famous Emerald Necklace, which was designed by the famous Frederick Law Olmsted, Keihly showed me why he would be embarrassed by some of how Boston implemented his design. The below 8-lane highway, which connects Jamaica Pond and the Arnold Arboretum, is supposed to be part of the Emerald Necklace. While the highway does have trees, it doesn’t feel like a park with 8 lanes of traffic and narrow sidewalks!

Boston Arborway

Emerald Necklace’s Arborway between Jamaica Pond and Arnold Arboretum

My flight back to Baltimore-Washington (cheaper than flying to DC’s Reagan and Dulles) was late in the evening and Keihly had a rare Sunday work presentation at a church, so I explored more of Downtown Boston on my own. Since I was still new to Boston, I was thankful to have help finding things to do. My Portland (not the original Portland in Maine) friend, Carl Larson, suggested the Black Heritage Trail. While the trail wayfinding could have been improved, I was able to find most of the sites, which taught me about Boston’s role in the Underground Railroad.

As is common in most of the US, the White-focused Freedom Trail is much more of a tourist attraction than the Black Heritage Trail. Many tour companies charge money so tourists can learn about the Freedom Trail’s sites from their professional guides. I visited many of the sites along the Freedom Trail.

I explored Downtown Boston’s cool Washington Street pedestrian mall on my way to catch transit to the airport. As with most other pedestrian malls in the US, the Washington Street pedestrian mall was short so I hope Boston expands it someday. I’m sure this pedestrian mall is short because motorists didn’t want to lose too much access to Downtown Boston.

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Pedestrian mall on Washington Street in Downtown Boston

My next post will be about my long layover in Denver when I was moving back to Oregon then I’ll write a post about being back in Oregon.

Capital Bikeshare vs. Dockless Bikeshare

As a resident of Arlington, I have a unique location to watch Capital Bikeshare “compete” with dockless bikeshare. I put “compete” in quotes because the mutual goal of Capital Bikeshare and the five dockless bikeshare companies is to get more people biking. However, some bike planners believe dockless bikeshare will pull enough people from Capital Bikeshare that it won’t be able to compete with dockless bikeshare.

Since bikeshare is still new to most Americans, I want to make sure everyone knows the difference between dock-based and dockless bikeshare. As the below photo shows, dock-based bikeshare systems require the bike to be docked at a station. Capital Bikeshare is the main dock-based bikeshare system that operates in the DC region.

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Photo: Ray Atkinson

As the below photo shows, dockless bikeshare systems have bikes that are self-locked. The five dockless bikeshare companies operating in the DC region are Jump, LimeBike, Mobike, ofo, and Spin. While Jump is the only company with e-bikes, LimeBike and Spin announced last week that they plan to start offering e-bikes soon.

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Photo: Ray Atkinson

While all six bikeshare systems have apps, which are shown below, it’s possible to use Capital Bikeshare without the app by purchasing a pass at the kiosk. Since not everyone has a smartphone, this reduces the barrier to bikeshare. In addition, only Capital Bikeshare can be used by paying cash. Many low-income people don’t have a credit or debit card, so this gives them access to using bikeshare.

Capital Bikeshare vs Dockless Bikeshare

Source: Transit App

I have a unique location to watch this bikeshare situation because of how the permitting process is unfolding across the DC region. While Capital Bikeshare is permitted to operate throughout the region, only DC has given permits to all five dockless bikeshare companies. As this Greater Greater Washington post explains, DC and Montgomery County, MD had an easier process than local jurisdictions in Virginia to create pilot dockless bikeshare programs because they are governed by Home Rule. Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, which means state law preempts local law. Local jurisdictions must receive permission from the General Assembly to act on local matters. Yes, Maryland is also a Dillon Rule state. However, Montgomery County became the first county in Maryland to adopt a home rule charter in 1948.

Since DC is geographically small and dockless bikeshare companies have been struggling to inform their customers that they don’t have permits to operate outside of DC, I have been watching how human behavior and government processes react to this issue. Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, which is impacting the ability of local jurisdictions to create pilot dockless bikeshare programs and regulate the dockless bikeshare companies. This is why Virginia doesn’t officially have dockless bikeshare yet. Arlington wrote this blog post to educate people about the different types of bikeshare. I found the following statements interesting.

“the six-month trial of dockless bikeshare is entirely a DC project at this time. The operators do not have an agreement with Arlington County so their operating location is within Washington, DC borders.

If you see a bike in Arlington, you can contact the operator to collect their bike to take back into DC, or you can ride the bike back into the operating location (JUMP bike offers a $1 credit every when a bike is ridden back into the operating area).

This is all still very early in the experimental phase so there is no telling right now how policies could change.”

If this wasn’t confusing enough, only four of the five dockless bikeshare companies have permits from Montgomery County, MD to operate in Silver Spring and Takoma Park. I believe the fifth company, Jump, has decided not to expand to Montgomery County yet because it wants to focus on DC. None of the dockless bikeshare companies have permits to operate elsewhere in DC’s Maryland and Virginia suburbs. Plus, they can’t operate on National Park Service (NPS) property. This is important because the National Mall and regional trails like the Mount Vernon Trail are owned by the NPS.

Dockless Bikeshare

Map of dockless bikeshare’s service area in Silver Spring and Takoma Park, MD. Source: WashCycle

Even if the NPS gave permits to the dockless bikeshare companies to operate on its property, e-bikes are banned from NPS-owned trails. However, I haven’t seen this ban enforced and it doesn’t appear to be discouraging many people from riding e-bikes on trails. I am curious to see whether this controversial NPS ban becomes more heated as LimeBike and Spin join Jump in having e-bikes.

Since many regions throughout the US are working on dockless bikeshare regulations and permit programs, I want to share the below regulation breakdown from Twelve Tone Consulting. The North American Bikeshare Association published the Dockless Bikeshare Regulation Preliminary Guidance in January 2018.

Dockless Bikeshare Regulation Breakdown

Source: Twelve Tone Consulting’s Dockless Bikes: Regulation Breakdown

Dockless bikeshare parking issues have been reported in many locations, so look at Dockless Bike Fail’s tweets for photo evidence. What do you think about the issues I have discussed in this post?

Achieving Busy Schedule In 2018

I’m about three months into my job search. As 2017 ends tonight and 2018 begins, I’ve been thinking about my new year’s resolution. Since a busy schedule helped me feel good when I was working earlier this year and interviewers have been asking what I’ve been doing since I lost my job, my new year’s resolution is to achieve a busy schedule again. While it’s tougher for me to have a busy schedule when I’m not working a full-time job, I’m determined to find a way to achieve a busy schedule again regardless of having a full-time job.

As a planner, I prefer to create a plan for how I’m going to achieve something rather than hope it happens. My existing volunteer work is a good starting point. One of the many things I love about the Washington, DC region is how many opportunities I have to get involved in exciting projects. As this post shows, I have been helping the Capital Trails Coalition by serving on its Analytics Working Group. Staff at the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) and Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA), who work together on the Capital Trails Coalition, have told me they are stretched thin. I’ve been offering to help them more than just at monthly meetings, so I’m hopeful to plug into a cool project.

I have been writing blog posts for Greater Greater Washington (GGWash). I’m currently in the process of writing two more posts for GGWash. One post is about State of Place’s walkability study for the Lee Highway Alliance. The other post is about dockless bikeshare in Washington, DC.

As the Transportation Issues Chair for the Mount Vernon Group of the Sierra Club, I’ve been advocating for the Sierra Club’s viewpoint on local, regional, and state transportation issues. I’m also running uncontested for a seat on the Mount Vernon Group’s Executive Committee.

After describing some of my volunteer work and realizing I need to make time for my job search, I’m asking myself whether I should be trying to have a busier volunteer schedule or acknowledge that I’m doing plenty to stay busy during my job search. What do you think?