Completed My First Plan As The Project Manager

I am excited to share that I completed my first plan as the project manager when the Clackamas Community College Shuttle Service and Access Plan was completed last week! My project proposal was selected in January 2020 through a competitive process by a six-person Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) student team from Portland State University. I worked with this MURP team through last week to produce the below plan.

Since the plan gives you plenty to read, I am going to keep this post short. As the below tweet from one of the faculty advisors for my MURP team shows, the coronavirus forced all of the plan’s student engagement to be converted from in-person to online. The online engagement caused many historically marginalized communities to be left out of the plan’s engagement process. In order to include these communities in the plan implementation process, I need to do in-person engagement when most students are allowed to return to in-person classes again.

I have not forgotten to write about what I discussed at the end of this post. I should have time in the next few weeks to write about walking and biking in the new normal. Even though most infrastructure in the US is not made for physical distancing, I hope everyone is finding ways to stay safe!

Silver Lining As Transit Plan Process Is Impacted By Coronavirus

I cannot believe this is my first post of 2020! Since I was supposed to be taking the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) Certification Exam again on May 23, I was not expecting to have time to blog again until after May 23. Due to the coronavirus, my exam was postponed until sometime later this year. While I am hoping that it is postponed until November, which is when the next exam is normally scheduled, my postponed exam date has not been scheduled yet. This means I can start planning a long summer vacation and continue blogging until I need to focus on studying again.

The coronavirus is impacting many people throughout the world. If this global pandemic is anything like the 1918 influenza pandemic (I will not refer to it by the racist name, especially because the flu likely did not originate in Spain) then the second wave of the coronavirus could be worse than the first wave. While I am trying not to be too political, I am concerned that the Trump Administration will prioritize restarting the economy over health concerns. Restarting the economy too early could result in a second wave of the coronavirus. Before I share how my transit plan process is being impacted by the coronavirus, I am thankful to be healthy and alive when thousands of people are dying from the coronavirus. I am also thankful for people who are risking their lives to prevent the pandemic from becoming worse.

What is my silver lining?

My silver lining is having the opportunity to experiment with conducting a fully remote student outreach process for Clackamas Community College’s first-ever transit plan! Since I am concerned that students will not engage as much through remote outreach environments as they would have through in-person outreach environments, my silver lining could still have negative results. As a silver lining for my silver lining, my consultant team and I will know how to improve our remote outreach process in the future.

I will admit that I was unsure whether it is feasible to complete the transit plan that my consultant team and I started working on in January before the global pandemic is over. This is mostly due to the fact that I have never done a fully remote outreach process for a planning project. Many other planning processes have been delayed by the coronavirus. While I asked my consultant team whether the completion of their spring term classes and June graduation from Portland State University were going to be delayed because of the coronavirus, nothing ended up being delayed so the transit plan still has to be completed by June 8.

Due to the fact that many students do not have access to reliable internet and computer access at home (CCC’s computer labs and all libraries are closed), especially in rural areas, I have been very concerned about excluding many historically marginalized communities from the student outreach process for the transit plan. While the 200 Chromebooks given to students at the start of spring term does not resolve this barrier, it allows more students to continue their classes and participate in my outreach process.

As the below work plan from March 11 shows on pages 14-15, the entire student outreach process was going to be through in-person environments. I still cannot believe the work plan was only created a month ago! Since all campus buildings are locked for the foreseeable future, CCC Xpress Shuttle service (plan is focused on CCC Xpress Shuttle) is shutdown for spring term, all spring term classes are online or canceled because they were not able to be offered online, and my consultant team and I have to work from home, the entire student outreach process was quickly converted to remote environments.

My consultant team used creative skip logic in the online survey that they created in Qualtrics. Due to this, I had difficulty deciding which remote outreach tool I am most excited to learn how to use. Since my consultant team created the online survey and I am creating the Remix map for our presentation to the Associated Student Government (ASG) at their May 6 meeting, I am most excited to learn how to effectively use Remix for remote outreach. As the below screenshot shows, Remix allows students to submit comments about the proposed new CCC Xpress Shuttle stops.

Preparing to use Remix for remote student outreach

Future Blog Post

While the coronavirus may impact what my next blog post is, I plan to update you on how the fully remote outreach process went. I plan to also share the completed transit plan. Since the revised Memorandum of Understanding for the revised outreach process was just signed last week, I cannot believe that my next blog post will likely be about the transit plan being done. In case you are wondering, a real-world transit plan is not usually completed in five months!

Is The Clackamas Regional Center Ready for Dockless Bikeshare and Scootershare?

Is the Clackamas Regional Center ready for dockless bikeshare and scootershare? I have been asking this question ever since I moved back to Oregon last year.

Small Group Activity at APBP Conference

My fellow panelists from Chicago and Ottawa and I wanted to get help from our audience to answer the question. Before I share how we used an interactive group activity, the below photo shows my panel. While we had been emailing for months to coordinate our presentations and group activity, I met Maggie and Matt in person for the first time during the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals Conference in Portland. I am not sure when our paths will cross again.

APBP Panel

APBP Conference panel from left to right (Ray Atkinson, Maggie Melin from Chicago, Matt Pinder from Ottawa)

We used a small group activity during our session at the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals Conference in Portland last Monday. Our audience was large enough to form six small groups of about eight people per group. This was a good amount of groups for my fellow panelists and me to walk around to each group to answer questions and provide guidance.

APBP Small Group Challenge

Small Group Activity at APBP Conference

All of the groups agreed that it is not safe enough to bike or scoot in the Clackamas Regional Center. Since the Clackamas Town Center parking lots should be less stressful to bike and scoot through than being on the surrounding roads, every group pitched using the parking lots to provide a safe route for biking and scooting. Yes, everyone realized that the parking lots are privately owned so the property owner would need to agree to the plan.

Harmony Campus to Clackamas Town Center

Map of Clackamas Regional Center. Created by Ray Atkinson using Google Maps.

Average scooter trip

Preparing the Clackamas Regional Center for dockless bikeshare and scootershare

Even though I have seen scooters from Portland’s first and second pilot programs ridden and parked in the Clackamas Regional Center, Clackamas County does not have a scooter pilot program. Yes, I already discussed this issue in this April post. While Clackamas Town Center has a Happy Valley address, it is officially in unincorporated Clackamas County so Clackamas County would need to create a scooter program.

I also want to note that I have no solid evidence about how many scooters from Portland’s pilot programs have been ridden and parked in the Clackamas Regional Center. I asked the City of Portland for this data and they would only share the below map, which only shows scooter trips inside the City of Portland. While they realize that scooters from their program have been ridden and parked outside the City of Portland, they have not shared any data to help me with planning efforts in Clackamas County. Since the scooter companies want to avoid fines, they are likely not sharing data about scooter trips outside the City of Portland so the City of Portland likely does not have this data.

As the below document shows, which I found in Ordinance 2174, the City of Milwaukie annexed Harmony Road to SE 80th Avenue and Clackamas Community College (CCC)’s Harmony campus on July 16, 2019. If the City of Milwaukie decides to continue their scooter pilot after the current pilot ends next June and expand it citywide then the newly annexed area will be included in the scooter pilot. While CCC has not taken an official stance on scooters, I have already been talking with the City of Milwaukie so we can both be ready when Milwaukie decides to include Harmony campus in their scooter pilot.

Milwaukie Annexed Harmony Campus

Milwaukie annexed Harmony Road to SE 80th Ave and CCC’s Harmony Campus

Since Harmony campus is adjacent to unincorporated Clackamas County, many CCC and Clackamas Middle College (high school) students, faculty, staff, and visitors travel between Harmony campus and the Clackamas Town Center MAX Station, TriMet buses and the CCC Xpress Shuttle are not reliable enough to compete with the car, and Harmony campus may have to build more car parking if enough people do not shift to other modes, I believe Clackamas County will receive pressure to allow scooters in the Clackamas Regional Center. I am vice-chair of the Clackamas County Pedestrian and Bikeway Advisory Committee (PBAC), so I am helping Clackamas County staff prepare for this pressure. I will be presenting about this potential pressure during the PBAC’s September 3 meeting.

Studying for the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) Certification Exam

While I appear to have an endless supply of ideas to blog about, I will need to shift my focus through November on studying for the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) Certification Exam. I registered to take this 3.5-hour exam on November 10. Since I did not pass the exam on November 10, I plan to keep studying and take the exam again in May. I will continue blogging after passing the exam.

Importance of Trails in Planning for Electric-Assist Dockless Bikeshare and Scootershare

The following post draws on my last post and this 2018 post. As the Portland region prepares for Portland’s second pilot scooter program that starts on April 26th and Milwaukie’s first pilot scooter program that should start this spring, the most used and safest infrastructure for Clackamas County scooter riders likely will prohibit scooters. Since trails are fully separated from automobile traffic, I consider trails to be the safest infrastructure for scooter and bike riders. Unfortunately, many trails in the Portland region prohibit e-scooters and e-bikes. While Jonathan Maus at BikePortland learned that Portland does not enforce this prohibition, the prohibition still creates legal issues for e-scooter and e-bike riders. The following quotes summarize the issues.

“If the City is serious about accomplishing its goals, it needs to act soon to allow at least some level of e-bike and e-scooter access to these areas by non-disabled Portlanders.” – Chris Thomas, Portland lawyer at Thomas, Coon, Newton & Frost

“The Scooter Pilot and your question have had us looking closely at the code and the way people use (and would like to use) our public parks, while maintaining our focus on safety,” – Mark Ross, Public Information Officer at Portland Parks & Recreation

Source: BikePortland

As the below map shows, the region has many existing, planned and conceptual regional trails. While I am still researching the legal issue, I believe the only trail in the region that does not prohibit e-bikes and e-scooters is the Banks-Vernonia Trail, which is not located in Clackamas County. The State Parks Commission amended their rules in 2018 to legally allow e-bikes and scooters on paths and trails managed by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD). According to OPRD’s website, the only trail in the region managed by OPRD is the Banks-Vernonia Trail. While the 40-Mile Loop Trail is listed on this website, I believe local jurisdictions like Portland manage it. Since many jurisdictions manage trails in the region, I hope OPRD and Metro educate all the local jurisdictions about the legal issue. I doubt e-bike and e-scooter users are aware of the legal issue, so we need to have regional legal consistency.

Do riders use trails more than bike lanes in Clackamas County?

Since I live and work in Clackamas County, which is located south of Portland, I focused on what infrastructure Clackamas County scooter and bike riders likely will use to travel. The region’s first scooter pilot program was legally limited to Portland and Portland did not release a map showing scooter rides south of Portland, so I do not have scooter data in Clackamas County yet. Scooter riders typically use the same infrastructure as cyclists, so I analyzed where cyclists currently ride in Clackamas County (left map). While bike lanes exist in Clackamas County, cyclists mostly use trails. In case you are not familiar with the trails, the trail system (right map) shows the same area as the left map. Since I believe all of the regional trails within these maps prohibit e-scooters and e-bikes, how will the jurisdictions that manage these trails approach enforcing their prohibitions? Will they change their policies to allow e-scooters and e-bikes?

Clackamas County Ride Report

Bike trips are mostly along trails. Source: Ride Report

Clackamas County Trails

Solid green lines are existing trails. Source: Metro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Legal Issues in Washington, DC Region

The legal issues are not limited to the Portland region. Since I lived and worked on transportation issues in the DC region last year, I have been following the legal issues in the DC region. NOVA Parks, which owns and operates many trails in Northern Virginia, unanimously amended their rules in March 2019 to allow e-bikes on trails such as the popular Washington and Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail. Across the Potomac River in Maryland, the Montgomery County Planning Board is considering whether to allow e-bikes and e-scooters on county trails. Dockless e-bikeshare and e-scootershare and Capital Bikeshare Plus (e-bikes) already exist in Montgomery County, but people have been riding on county trails even though it is not legal. The DC region has many more jurisdictions, so the legal issues are not resolved yet. Are you seeing similar legal issues where you live?

 

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?

welded artistic bike rack

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.

milwaukie-bike-rack-art

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?