Walking, Biking and Riding Transit in Portland, OR vs. Washington, DC

Since my car-free travel behavior has changed dramatically between Portland and DC, I want to compare how my walking, biking, and transit riding habits have changed between living in Portland and now living in the DC region.

Except for the few months in late 2015 and early 2016 where I fully depended on walking and riding transit in Portland because I felt too anxious biking, I mostly walked and biked for all my trips in Portland. I was planning to also mostly walk and bike throughout the DC region because transit is expensive (not as expensive as owning and maintaining a car). While I still walk and bike in the DC region, my boss provided me with a transit card for work trips so I have been riding transit much more than I planned to when I moved here. My boss also provided me with a Capital Bikeshare maintenance key (no time limits like normal keys) for work and personal trips so I haven’t been riding my private bike as often. Since I can’t carry my panniers on Capital Bikeshare, I have been mostly using my private bike for getting groceries and other shopping trips.

Biking in Portland vs. DC region

I don’t live in DC so, while DC has bike racks almost everywhere and the bike racks are usually designed correctly, I have experienced no bike racks or poorly designed bike racks often in Arlington. The below photo shows a ladder or wheel bender rack at a grocery store near my home in Arlington. Thankfully, I don’t have to deal with bike parking issues when parking a Capital Bikeshare bike because I have always found an empty dock.

 

Since I depended so much on the DC region’s great trail systems when I lived in the DC region during summer 2014, I was looking forward to depending on the DC region’s great trail systems again. Even though I rode a road bike last time I lived in the DC region, anxiety from my extreme fear of heights has gotten much worse so I have been struggling to ride on hilly trails like the Custis Trail and trails along steep cliffs like the Four Mile Run Trail. Since I doubt I will conquer my fear of heights soon, I’m planning to buy a $3-4,000 recumbent trike so I can reduce the anxiety I feel when biking on hilly trails and along steep cliffs.

 

While the trails are great for long-distance trips, they don’t go everywhere so I still have to use on-street bike routes. I forgot how bad most of the on-street bike infrastructure is in the DC region. Yes, I know DC has protected bike lanes, which are actually better than any protected bike lanes in Portland. However, protected bike lanes in the DC region are on very few streets so I rarely ride on them.

I’m missing Portland’s neighborhood greenways. I used to live at SE 27th and Salmon, which is on a neighborhood greenway, so I memorized the neighborhood greenways. I rarely had to ride on busy roads outside of downtown Portland because neighborhood greenways went almost everywhere. Thankfully, I have found one element of neighborhood greenways in the DC region. Sharrows are found throughout the DC region. Even though the DC region has installed sharrows, which is a critical and cheap element to Portland’s neighborhood greenways, the DC region has horrible wayfinding for cyclists so the sharrows aren’t part of a neighborhood greenway. Due to this, I feel sharrows are only used in the DC region to communicate to cyclists that the government believes that the street is safe enough for biking and to communicate to motorists that they should expect to see cyclists using the street. Sharrows do much more than this in Portland so I miss biking on Portland’s neighborhood streets.

Before I totally dismiss the DC region’s on-street bike network, I’m excited to share that the DC region has several Level of Traffic Stress (LTS) maps. As all the below maps show, the DC region has plenty of work to do to make their on-street bike network feel more comfortable and less stressful. However, I find these maps much more useful than normal bike maps. This is mostly because a normal bike map shows all bike lanes the same while a LTS map shows bike lanes by how comfortable or stressful they are to ride on.

Arlington County, VA 2017 Bicycle Comfort Level Map (click to download front and back of map)

Montgomery County, MD Bicycle Stress Map (click to view map)

montgomery-county-lts-map

According to a presentation by Stephanie Dock, who works for District DOT, at the Transportation Techies meetup in October 2016, District DOT will be publicly releasing their LTS map soon so I’ll add their map when it’s released.

This blog post is getting long. I try to keep my blog posts under 1,000 words and will go over 1,000 words if I keep writing this blog post. While I still want to compare how my walking and transit riding habits have changed between Portland and DC, I may have to write about them in a new blog post. Readers, do you want me to write about my walking and transit riding habits in this blog post or start a new blog post?

Reflecting on starting my first full-time, permanent job and my job search process

I’m excited to announce that I’m about to start my first full-time, permanent job in Washington, DC. I will be Bikeshare Planner at MetroBike, LLC. I copied the job description (removed compensation) below so you can get a sense of what I will be doing. The job mostly involves working with Capital Bikeshare on expansion plans in Arlington County, VA and Montgomery County, MD. Since MetroBike has a global client list, I likely will be traveling to other cities in the US and other countries. Maybe I will work in a city where you live!

metrobike-logo

Bikeshare Planner

MetroBike, LLC is an internationally known bikeshare consultancy and the first of its kind in North America. Established in 2004, MetroBike has a client list which includes local and federal governments, non-profit and for-profit organizations, and universities.

MetroBike is hiring a full-time Bikeshare Planner in the Washington, D.C. region to assist with planning for the Capital Bikeshare system.

Responsibilities of the job include:

  • analysis of potential bikeshare station sites;
  • work with local government bureaus, federal agencies, private property owners, and civic associations to obtain input on proposed station sites;
  • develop a concept drawing for each station site;
  • coordinate construction of pads and bulb-outs on top of which stations will be installed;
  • direct station installations, relocations, expansions, and contractions with the operator;
  • coordinate signage, markings, and delineator placement; and
  • analyze data and write reports.

 Qualifications:

  • college degree in planning, transport, engineering, or related field, advanced degree a plus;
  • bicycle facility design experience;
  • 3 – 5 years of related experience;
  • excellent communication and organizational skills;
  • strong analytical and problem solving skills;
  • basic graphic design skills; and
  • passion for bikesharing and urban cycling.
  • GIS skills are a plus.

As I transition into my first full-time, permanent job, I would like to reflect on my initial reactions to the job, work environment, and living car-free again in the DC region. I plan to write a follow-up post after moving back to the DC region to reflect on how true my initial reactions were. I plan to also reflect on what surprised me about my new job, work environment, and living car-free again in the DC region. Since my blog is public and can be seen by my current and any future employers, I’m aware that I need to be careful about what I share so I don’t risk losing my job.

Bikeshare Planner at MetroBike

While I am sure I will struggle with transitioning into my new job and may not enjoy every aspect of the job, the Bikeshare Planner position feels like a dream job so I’m thrilled to start working. I’m especially looking forward to using GIS and an equity lens to analyze potential bikeshare station sites. Since Capital Bikeshare has social and economic equity problems, I look forward to working with local government bureaus, federal agencies, private property owners, and civic associations to resolve the social and economic equity problems.

capitalbikeshare_logo

I have so far only mentioned how my job involves neighborhood, citywide, and regional thinking. My job also involves site planning because I will be developing concept drawings for each bikeshare station site. Even though I just starting learning graphic design skills during graduate school, I hope my graphic design skills are good enough to create concept drawings for each bikeshare station site. Since I have seen many bike share stations installed in a manner that blocks pedestrian and wheelchair movement and limits how much space is available for sidewalk cafes, I look forward to coordinating construction of pads and bulb-outs for the stations. I also have seen bike share wayfinding, markings, and delineators installed poorly so I look forward to helping to coordinate this process as well. Since I’m a data nerd and enjoy writing, I look forward to analyzing bike share data and writing reports. Hopefully, some of the data will show the economic impact and traffic congestion relief of bike share.

Responsibilities of the job include:

  • analysis of potential bikeshare station sites;
  • work with local government bureaus, federal agencies, private property owners, and civic associations to obtain input on proposed station sites;
  • develop a concept drawing for each station site;
  • coordinate construction of pads and bulb-outs on top of which stations will be installed;
  • direct station installations, relocations, expansions, and contractions with the operator;
  • coordinate signage, markings, and delineator placement; and
  • analyze data and write reports.

Home-Based Job

MetroBike doesn’t have office space so my boss and I will be working from our own homes and meeting probably at least weekly to check in on work projects. Yes, my boss only has one employee. I have never worked a home-based job before so I’m definitely nervous about how it will feel. Since I have always had a roommate, I’m debating whether to try and find a new roommate in DC or live alone. I get depressed when I’m alone for too long so I enjoy talking with a roommate. However, I’m not sure how easy and comfortable it will be to do a home-based job with a roommate that I just met. In case you’re wondering, my job isn’t 100% home-based. I will have to travel to meetings and check on bike share station installations.

Living Car-Free Again in Washington, DC

As my previous Washington, DC blog posts show, I enjoyed living car-free in the Washington, DC region during summer 2014. I home was located in Silver Spring, MD and Tacoma Park, MD so most of my car-free experiences were based in the Maryland side of DC. I haven’t decided where I plan to live in the DC region yet. My boss said he is open to me living anywhere within close proximity of Capital Bikeshare so I basically have freedom to live almost anywhere in the DC region.

My biggest transportation concern about moving from Portland, OR to Washington, DC is how quickly I can ship my hybrid and road bikes using Amtrak Express Shipping. I was considering whether to sell my bikes and buy new bikes in DC. Since I’m a bike snob and haven’t been able to so far find the specific types of hybrid and road bikes I wanted at affordable prices, I have decided to ship my hybrid and road bikes to DC.

Transitioning from Portland, OR to Washington, DC

My flight from Portland, OR arrives in Washington, DC on Friday, October 7. I have arranged short-term housing with Michael Schade, who I met in 2014 and is also a transportation nerd, until I can find long-term housing and possibly a new roommate. As some of you know, I was a transportation planning intern at Toole Design Group in the DC region during summer 2014 so I am already familiar with the region. I know the DC region has changed in the past two years so I look forward to seeing how it has changed. I also look forward to writing blog posts about my reactions to living and working in the DC region again.

Reflecting On My Job Search Process

Since my job search process was frustrating, I want to reflect on what lessons I learned during the process. From January 31 to September 27, 2016 (I graduated in June so I applied for most of the jobs after graduation), I applied for over 100 jobs, was invited to interview for over 25 jobs so far (I’m still receiving more interviews), and received two job offers. My other job offer was for part-time, temporary GIS Technician at Tigard, OR.

Even though I definitely feel prepared to start working as the Bikeshare Planner at MetroBike, I almost didn’t apply for the job because I wasn’t sure if I met the required qualifications for the job. MetroBike’s Bikeshare Planner qualifications require 3–5 years of related experience. While I have worked multiple internships that involve working on bike sharing, including for Charlotte B-cycle (Charlotte’s bike share) and consulting on Indego (Philadelphia bike share), both of these internships were only a few months so they didn’t add up to 3-5 years of related experience. I don’t think the sum of all my work experience, which includes mostly part-time internships, is at least three years of experience. The lesson I learned is don’t be afraid to apply for a job because you don’t think you meet the required years of work experience.

As my previous blog post discussed, I kept being asked during many interviews about whether I have more than just bike planning experience. I tried to convince interviewers that I have multimodal planning experience, but my resume is full of bike planning experience so this proved challenging to accomplish. Since most interviewers assumed I was living car-free because I lived in Portland, OR and my resume is full of bike experience, I was also asked during many interviews whether I am comfortable driving an automobile. I believe MetroBike was the only employer who asked me whether I am comfortable with city biking. The interviewer from MetroBike actually saw my bike during our Skype interview so he knew the answer to his question before having me answer it. The lesson I learned is even bicycle and pedestrian planning jobs that don’t directly involve automobile planning still often require driving an automobile. The Bikeshare Planner position at MetroBike may be the only job I was interviewed for that doesn’t require driving an automobile so I am feeling lucky.