Planning for People Over Cars in Downtown Oregon City

Since I am the Transportation Advisory Committee’s representative on the Downtown Oregon City Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Implementation Working Group, the City of Oregon City invited me to join this group on a tour of the Willamette Falls Legacy Project and Downtown Oregon City. In case you are unfamiliar with the Willamette Falls Legacy Project, I recommend watching the below video.

Even though the working group knows we need to prioritize people over cars because there will not be enough space to park all the cars on the Willamette Falls Legacy Project site, I found it interesting that the first thing the tour guide showed us was where cars would be parked on the future site. The tour guide even shared a specific location for the interim on-site surface parking lot and an estimate on the number of cars that could be parked in this lot.

While I assumed the tour guide was referring to parked cars because most people in Oregon City drive, he only said “parking” so I asked the tour guide to clarify what type of parking and whether there would be parking for bikes. My assumption was correct that he was only referring to car parking when he said “parking”. Thankfully, he said there would also be parking for bikes because the City requires bike parking. However, he was unable to provide a specific location for bike parking and how many bikes could be parked.

According to the below diagram, car “parking supply at full build-out of the site is estimated at 1,150 spaces off-street, and 85 spaces on-street.” Even though the City requires bike parking, I could not find any diagram for bike parking. This shows me that the project vision prioritizes car parking. On a positive note, minimum car parking space requirements may be reduced by up to 50% because the site is part of the downtown parking district.

In addition to being excited to hear about the potential for a 50% reduction of car parking, I was excited to hear that City staff are considering whether to remove mandatory car parking minimums in the downtown parking district. While I am sure there will be internal and public resistance, City staff want to give developers the flexibility to decide whether or not to include car parking in their projects. City staff said the mandatory car parking minimums have prevented many downtown developments from being built because the projects could not pencil out. As the below map shows, there is an international movement to remove car parking minimums.

While I was not satisfied with the tour guide’s answers, I was told that we would discuss bike parking more at a later point in the planning process. Even though I am used to bike parking being an afterthought in Oregon City, I was still frustrated that I had to ask for “parking” to be clarified and request that bike parking be discussed. Do Dutch and Danish planners have to ask for this clarification or do their tour guides automatically specify which type of parking?

As you know, I will be presenting on a panel at the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP) Conference in Portland on August 26 from 1:45-3:15pm (here is the agenda for August 26). Several Dutch and Danish planners that I have communicated with will be at this international conference, so I plan to ask them the above parking question.

Ray’s Behavior Change from 2009-2019

While I now get frustrated about having to clarify “parking” and request that bike parking be discussed, this shows how much I have changed over the past ten years. As I wrote about in this 2014 post and the below 2009 article shows, I used to advocate for cars by supporting the widening of North Carolina Highway 3 in Kannapolis. I said the below statement during my senior year at Northwest Cabarrus High School and just a semester before I started at UNC Charlotte. I was actually one of the few residents that supported the widening project. As this article shows, most people opposed the project because they wanted to maintain the rural character along this section of Highway 3. They felt widening Highway 3 would bring too much dense development and traffic congestion. Since I tell people that I was raised in a suburban area, it feels weird to see the articles described my home as being in a rural area.

Not everyone was opposed to the idea of a wider N.C. 3. Ray Atkinson lives about a mile off of the highway.
“I think it’s good to plan for growth,” Atkinson said. The N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis would benefit from the proposed improvements, he added.

Front Page_Hortizontal3

Kannapolis Citizen article from January 28, 2009

Translating My Kannapolis Experience to Oregon City

Even though most people on the Willamette Falls Legacy Project and Downtown Oregon City tour saw me as the bike advocate, I am curious how much their perception of and interaction with me would have changed if I shared my Kannapolis experience. In addition to advocating for cars in Kannapolis, I experienced the closure of Cannon Mills (aka Pillowtex) in 2003. I have followed the redevelopment of this closed mill site into the North Carolina Research Campus. The redevelopment has also included areas beyond the closed mill site in Downtown Kannapolis. This redevelopment had such a large impact on me that I studied it for my high school senior exit project in Fall 2008. The Willamette Falls Legacy Project and redevelopment of Downtown Oregon City reminds me of my work in Downtown Kannapolis.

High School Senior Project

Mrs. Andersen, who was my high school teacher and advisor for my senior exit project, and I looking at a 1950s map of Kannapolis, NC in Fall 2008.

Translating My Tigard Experience to Oregon City

I also see similarities between my work in Tigard and Oregon City. As this 2016 post shows, my PSU planning workshop team consulted for the City of Tigard and worked with State of Place to conduct a walkability study in the Tigard Triangle and Downtown Tigard. The Downtown Oregon City TDM Implementation Working Group plans to work with City staff to conduct a walkability and bikeability study in Downtown Oregon City. I plan to write a future blog post about this study after it launches.

Ray’s Family Vacation to Ohio and Pennsylvania

I find it interesting to think about a place before visiting it for the first time. While I had a layover in Philadelphia as I was flying to the British Isles in 2003 (yes, I was 12 years old), I did not leave the airport so this does not count as visiting Philadelphia. I flew to the British Isles through the People to People Student Ambassador Program. Even though I have not really visited Philadelphia, I feel a strong connection to it because I cannot think of a better city to celebrate Independence Day. I also helped plan where to install Indego bikeshare stations in Philadelphia during my internship at Toole Design Group. I did the planning and GIS work in Toole’s Silver Spring, MD office, so I did not visit Philadelphia during this project.

While I know where the Indego stations are, I struggled to decide where to stay in Philadelphia because I wanted to avoid staying in the tourist areas. I wanted to find a racially diverse and affordable neighborhood where I could experience being a local. I finally reserved an Airbnb in the Lower Moyamensing neighborhood in South Philadelphia because this neighborhood appears to be far from the tourist areas and near racially diverse neighborhoods.

South Philly Race Map

Racial Dot Map of South Philadelphia. Source: https://demographics.virginia.edu/DotMap/index.html

I realize I am white but being surrounded by only white people in Oregon City feels weird and gets exhausting. While I often hate on the South because of the bad political and religious decisions, I miss the South’s racial diversity. Since I have not seen many non-white people for months, I would not be surprised if I experience culture shock in Philadelphia.

Oregon City Race Map

Racial Dot Map of Oregon City. Source: https://demographics.virginia.edu/DotMap/index.html

I also expect to be shocked by the weather in Philadelphia because the high in Oregon City has only been in the 70s with low humidity. Philadelphia has highs in the 90s with high humidity! Since I was shivering during Portland’s World Naked Bike Ride last Saturday evening, it would have been nice to have warmer weather in Portland. Yes, I biked nude in public through Portland’s streets with 10,000 other cyclists. This was my fourth World Naked Bike Ride. While many people have told me they think it is weird to be naked in public, I enjoy seeing how people decorate their bodies to protest automobile dependency. Since many people have body image issues, it is an amazing experience to feel comfortable enough with friends to be naked together.

It’s getting late and I have to work tomorrow. While I wanted to finish this post before departing on vacation, it appears I will have to finish writing it later.

Reflecting on my 1st year at Clackamas Community College and 2nd-year goals

I was planning to write this post on June 11, which was the day I started working at Clackamas Community College (CCC) in 2018. This was my first-ever full-time work anniversary. I moved back to Oregon to start this job so this also means that I have been back in Oregon for a year. Since I have been busier than usual and was involved with leading my first request for proposal (RFP) process, I had to postpone writing this post. I am going to use this 2018 post to help me write the below post. I want to share the below photo before diving into how these people helped me this academic year.

Successes

I spent most of the 2018-19 academic year applying for two grants. Since I received a $150,000 grant from Oregon Metro, my job is secure through June 2022. I also helped the City of Oregon City apply for and receive a $150,000 grant to build upon their 2017 Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Plan. The City asked me to serve as the Transportation Advisory Committee’s representative on the Downtown Oregon City TDM Implementation Working Group. The Oregon Metro grant will help fund this group’s work.

The other large grant I applied for and received was a $273,083.25 Oregon DOT grant. This grant funds the expansion of the CCC Xpress Shuttle through June 2021. Thankfully, the grant will be available again in 2021 so I can pursue the grant again to continue the expansion indefinitely. The shuttle expansion includes summer term service for the first time ever and extended evening service year-round when school is in session. As a result of the RFP process, which selected WeDriveU as the new shuttle operator, I have been able to improve the shuttle service. WeDriveU works with Tripshot, which provides the shuttle service with real-time ETAs. The shuttle service previously only used paper schedules and General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) data.

I want to thank Amy Cannata, who is the Grants Administrator, for helping me apply for the grants.

Struggles

While I had many successes during my first year, my reflection process also needs to include things that could be improved. I have been struggling to plan and fund an on-demand shuttle from rural Clackamas County to Oregon City. Even though I tried to convince Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) teams from Portland State University (PSU) to select my workshop project proposal, no team selected my proposal to create a Rural Access Plan for how to improve access from rural Clackamas County to Oregon City.

I also did not receive a $50,000 Transportation Options Innovation Grant from ODOT to fund the on-demand shuttle. This grant required a plan for guaranteed long-term funding when the short-term grant funding was exhausted. Unfortunately, I was unable to guarantee this long-term funding so ODOT was unwilling to provide short-term funding for the on-demand shuttle.

While I did not receive the Transportation Options Innovation Grant, ODOT provided me with a silver lining. Since I manage the CCC Xpress Shuttle, ODOT was able to provide me with free access to Remix. This includes free training and customer support. With help from Remix, I am self-teaching myself on how to use Remix for a variety of transportation planning.

My 2nd-Year Goals at CCC

I am constantly asked about providing transportation options to reach the Wilsonville campus and from rural Clackamas County. These are my top 2nd-year goals. Thankfully, Wilsonville’s SMART received a grant to subsidize vanpools to and from Wilsonville. We are planning to launch vanpools this fall between the Wilsonville campus and the other two campuses in Oregon City and Milwaukie.

In order to plan and fund the on-demand shuttle from rural Clackamas County to Oregon City, I am realizing that I need to take a different approach. Since the shuttle needs long-term operation funding, short-term grant funders will keep asking me to provide proof that I have a plan for guaranteed long-term funding. One way to show this proof could be to show that the shuttle is in adopted transit plans. The shuttle is not in any adopted transit plans so I have started the processes to include it in as many plans as possible. These plans will be used to decide what transit projects are eligible to receive long-term funding.

A work-related personal goal is achieving my American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) certification. Since I have a master’s degree in planning from a Planning Accreditation Board-accredited program and two years of full-time professional planning experience, I am eligible to apply to take the AICP Certification Exam in November. I applied before the Early Bird Deadline, so I should know by August 5 whether or not my application was approved.

Future Blog Post

Since my North Carolina-based family is planning a July 4-14 vacation with me to visit my grandmas, other relatives, and friends in Ohio and Pennsylvania, I plan to write a post about this. I will be in Philadelphia for my first time from July 4-6. In addition to celebrating Independence Day in Philadelphia, I plan to check out Indego because I helped plan where to install the bikeshare stations during my 2014 internship at Toole Design Group.

After I take Greyhound from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, my family will pick me up in Pittsburgh to take me to Erie, which is where Grandma Atkinson lives. My family will then visit the Cleveland area, which is where Grandma Stoodt and my other Stoodt relatives live. Since Columbus won the USDOT’s 2016 Smart City Challenge, I asked my family to visit Columbus so I could meet with City officials working on making Columbus a smart city. I fly back to Portland in the evening on July 13 and return to work on July 15.

Making a difference on the Oregon City Transportation Advisory Committee

I serve on several advisory committees throughout the Portland and Charlotte regions through my job and as a volunteer. Yes, I still serve on the Advisory Council for Sustain Charlotte’s Transportation Choices Alliance even though I no longer live in Charlotte. While most of the committee members that I serve with understand their important role and how to make a difference, some of my fellow Oregon City Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) members have struggled with this.

In case they read my blog, I want to give them hope for how they can make a difference on our committee. Since we volunteer on the TAC and some of my fellow volunteers feel the City Commission is the only group that can make a difference, I hope this post shows them and other volunteers that it is possible to make a difference even when you have limited voting power.

Oregon City Mayor Dan Holladay appointed me to my first three-year term on the TAC in January 2019. Since I have lived in Oregon City for less than a year, I am still surprised that I was the only new candidate that was appointed to the TAC. Even though there were three open seats and four candidates, an incumbent and I were the only candidates appointed to the TAC. The remaining open seat and another open seat were filled in March 2019. I got to interview the candidates and vote on who would fill the seats. This was an awesome experience!

Even though all of the other TAC members are much older than me (some of them could be my grandpa), I am the only transportation professional and car-free member so the other members and Oregon City staff have expressed appreciation for my valuable experience. Since the older members have lived and worked through decades of Oregon City’s rich history, they have their own valuable experience to share with me. As a millennial, it feels weird to share that older people can learn from my experience when they have lived and worked much longer than me.

In addition to helping Oregon City and Clackamas County prepare for electric-assist dockless bikeshare and scootershare expanding from Portland, I am making a difference on the Oregon City TAC through the following two topics.

Canemah Family Friendly Route

While the route signs and markings have already been ordered, which means I was too late to make changes, Oregon City staff told the TAC that the Canemah Family Friendly Route is the first pilot project and they are open to making changes in the future. In order to explain my proposed change, focus on the bike symbol in the two below signs. Since I want Oregon City’s Family Friendly Route to be as successful as Portland’s Neighborhood Greenway, I feel the Family Friendly Route’s bike symbol needs to show the target audience of relaxed, family biking. The current bike symbol shows a racing or training cyclist because the cyclist is leaning over and looks stressed to beat their personal record time.

In contrast, the bike symbol on Portland’s Neighborhood Greenway shows a relaxed cyclist because the cyclist is sitting more upright. This is how I see a family biking together because they are not trying stressed to beat their personal record time. Do you see the difference between the two bike symbols?

Family Friendly Route Sign

Oregon City’s Family Friendly Route Sign

Portland Neighborhood Greenway Sign

Portland’s Neighborhood Greenway Sign

Crash Instead of Accident

While I was nervous to publicly call out Oregon City staff for saying “accident” instead of “crash” when referring to a deadly pedestrian crash involving a truck in Oregon City, staff thanked me for correcting them and explaining why they should say “crash” instead of “accident”. The staff even said they will try to use “crash” in the future. The reason why this is important is calling it an accident assumes no one, including the government for design issues, was at fault and nothing can be done to prevent the crash. Since the crash could have been prevented, it needs to be called a crash instead of an accident.

Future Blog Posts

As I stated in my previous post, my one-year work anniversary at Clackamas Community College is in June and I will have been back in Oregon for a year in June. I plan to write a post about how my one-year goals went and what my two-year goals are. Since my North Carolina-based family is planning a July 4-14 vacation with me to visit my grandmas and other relatives in Ohio and Pennsylvania, I plan to write a post about this.

Raising Awareness About Suburban and Rural Transportation Issues

As I approach my one-year work anniversary at Clackamas Community College in June and a year being back in Oregon, I have been reflecting on my new job and life in general. While I am excited to share that all three of my conference presentation proposals this year were accepted, all of the conferences are in Portland. As the below photo shows, I presented on a three-person panel (photo includes the moderator) on April 25 about Transit Connections in Suburban and Mixed Land Use Environments at the Oregon Active Transportation Summit in Portland.

Since I believe my session was one of the few sessions that discussed suburban or rural transportation issues, the audience thanked me for raising awareness about these issues. While it is helpful to learn about Portland’s issues and from Portland’s success stories, the audience agreed with me that we need to discuss suburban and rural issues and context-sensitive solutions more at conferences. We realize that conferences have limited space for sessions and most of the session proposals probably came from urban areas. Would moving conferences from Portland to a suburban or rural place at least every few years help change the dynamics of the conference enough to discuss suburban and rural issues more?

20190430_134332

Ray presented on a panel at the Oregon Active Transportation Summit about Transit Connections in Suburban and Mixed Land Use Environments. Left to right: Jeff Pazdalski, Executive Director, Westside Transportation Alliance; Ray Atkinson, Transportation Systems Analyst, Clackamas Community College; Erin Wardell, Principal Planner, Washington County; (Moderator) Stacy Revay, City of Beaverton

 

The second conference I am presenting at is the National Urbanism Next Conference in Portland. I was selected to present the below lightning talk (pecha kucha) on May 7 about the topic: How do we harness emerging technologies to reach desired outcomes?

The title of my presentation is Beyond Urban Areas: Providing Suburban and Rural Clackamas County with Reliable Transportation Options. Since the lightning talks organizer had to close the online RSVP form after over 200 people confirmed they are attending, I expect to present to a large audience. While I should have time after my presentation to talk with the audience about my presentation, the lightning talk format does not allow time for a question and answer period after each presentation nor at the end of all the presentations.

As the below list of lightning talk presenters shows, I am the only presenter representing a college or university. Do you think I will also be the only presenter that discusses suburban and rural transportation issues?

Ray Atkinson, Clackamas Community College
Chris Bonnarigo, bKl Architecture
Regina Clewlow, Populus
Paul Curtis, Vectos South Ltd.
Maya Krolikowski, Crandall Arambula
Stephanie Lonsdale, Portland Bureau of Transportation
Martin Schmidt, Graz Linien
Rick Stein, Urban Decision Group
Tiffany Swift, Walker Macy
Darby Watson, Parametrix

 

The third conference I am presenting at is the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP) Conference in Portland. My four-person panel, which includes me and professionals from Chicago, Ottawa, and a suburb of Philadelphia, was selected to present on August 26 about The Multimodal Suburb: Transforming Communities Through Planning, Policy, Advocacy… and a Little Rule Breaking. I will add my presentation to this post after I create it.

How would discussions at conferences change if they were in suburban or rural areas?

While I enjoy visiting Portland, I am frustrated that all of the conferences are in Portland because I believe many Portlanders and urbanists, in general, have difficulty thinking outside their urban bubble. I was guilty of this when I lived in Portland during graduate school at PSU. Most of my volunteer advocacy/activist work from Fall 2014-Fall 2016 focused on Portland.

Even though I did my workshop project in Tigard, which is a suburb of Portland, I likely would not have thought about Tigard issues if my workshop team had not chosen to work in Tigard. I visited Tigard for the first time when my workshop team started our project. I had also never visited Oregon City before moving here for my current job. I realize some Portlanders leave Portland for more than just recreating in the Cascades or the Oregon Coast, but I believe my perspective is accurate for most Portlanders.

Since I am still a volunteer Portland advocate/activist, I know that Portland volunteers have limited bandwidth. As Jonathan Maus at BikePortland.org tweeted, Portland volunteers are already getting burned out by their Portland advocacy/activist work. Due to this, is it reasonable to ask them to help me with my suburban and rural advocacy/activist work?

While I realize that many suburban and rural residents hate having Portlanders influence how their areas are planned, car-centric suburban and rural thinking is negatively impacting the entire Portland region. Widening highways and building more parking lots are hurting the entire Portland region, so Portlanders should be involved with suburban and rural decisions.

Future Blog Post

Since my one-year work anniversary at Clackamas Community College is in June and I will have been back in Oregon for a year in June, I plan to write a post about how my one-year goals went and what my two-year goals are.

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?