Car-Free Vacationing

While I recently returned from a ten-day family vacation, I already feel the need for another vacation because my family vacation was stressful. Exploring Philadelphia was fun but being stuck in my parents’ van for seven days and dealing with my parents’ unwillingness to effectively communicate with their in-laws was not relaxing. It felt awkward to tell my boss and others that I did not have a relaxing vacation because most people assume you return from vacation rejuvenated. The main reason I was willing to give up a relaxing vacation is that both of my grandmas are in their 90s. I am not sure how many more times I will get to share experiences with them.

Thankfully, I still have opportunities to have relaxing vacations. A cool benefit of working at Clackamas Community College is three-day weekends during the summer term, which is from the last week of June through Labor Day. In addition to getting every Friday off during summer term, I only have to work 36 hours Monday-Thursday to get paid for working 40 hours. Since not everyone gets Friday off, I have missed off-campus meetings that are scheduled on Friday. The meeting organizers update me after the meeting so I stay informed.

I found writing this post interesting because I started writing it in 2015. I have 46 draft posts that I have not published. The Willamette Week link I inserted in the 2015 draft no longer sends people to an article about taking the bus to hike in the Portland region. The below photo is from the 2015 article.

Map showing it is possible to hike by using transit

Map showing it is possible to hike by using transit

As the below map shows, transit services to the Columbia River Gorge have greatly improved in the past four years. The Columbia Gorge Car-Free website helps me plan my weekend vacations without using a car. While I visited The Dalles for a Transportation Options Group of Oregon meeting, I was not able to stay in The Dalles long enough to really explore.

Gorge Transit

Map of transit services in the Columbia River Gorge. Source: Gorge TransLink

Since I want to do more than hike in the Columbia River Gorge, I am excited to see that the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail is almost completed! I will be able to take transit from Portland to the Columbia River Gorge to hike and bike. The below videos explain the history of the 100-year-old Historic Columbia River Highway, what is being done to convert it to a trail, and how the local communities feel this new trail will impact their communities.

Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail

Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail. Source: ODOT

I am also excited about the Salmonberry Trail, which will someday allow me to bike from the Portland region to the Oregon Coast.

I also enjoy traveling beyond Oregon. I can use Amtrak, Greyhound or BoltBus take car-free weekend vacations to places like Seattle, Vancouver (BC), and California. I will be presenting on a panel at the Association of Commuter Transportation (ACT) Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Forum in Seattle on November 12-13. This provides me a great opportunity to explore Seattle and Vancouver during the weekend before my presentation. November will be a busy month for me because I will also be taking the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) Exam.

ACT-2019-TDM-Forum-SEATTLE

Source: Association of Commuter Transportation

Since my 29th birthday is in September and my work projects should be less busy in September because there will be no CCC Xpress Shuttle service most of September, I am thinking about taking a long vacation in September. The PSU Alumni Association’s Young Alumni Travel Program has a nine-day Costa Rica Unplugged tour in September that includes exclusive discounts of up to 15% off per trip! The trip is limited to 18-35-year-olds. I prefer to avoid tourist traps so I enjoyed reading how this trip has “Local Guides who make tourist traps a thing of the past.” The tour starts on a Saturday and ends on a Sunday, so I thought I would only need to take five days off work. Since the tour does not include roundtrip San Jose flights and each flight takes a day, I would need to take seven days off work. Unfortunately, I do not have this many days saved so I will need to think about this trip next year.

I would enjoy learning about how other people plan car-free vacations. Have you tried to plan a car-free vacation? Where did you go? Did the transportation services connect smoothly or did you experience barriers? Would you do it again?

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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.

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?

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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.

Does bike lane legally continue through the intersection?

I usually write posts mostly from my viewpoint because I want my blog to be mostly from my viewpoint. I am making a rare exception with this post because I am not a legal expert and my last post happened to be about Bend. While I read BikePortland almost daily and many of their posts fascinate me, I chose to make a rare exception to write about this post because Jonathan Maus thoroughly researched the legal issue and it raises questions about what I experienced in Bend.

Before I read Jonathan’s post, I thought it was common sense that a bike lane legally continues through the intersection. I am shocked by Deschutes County Circuit Court Judge Adler’s ruling.

Judge Adler ruled that he saw “no authority” to support the contention that bike lanes continue through intersections in Oregon.

While I have never had any personal legal issues while biking, do I need to start leaving the bike lane and using the travel lane when going through intersections in Oregon to prevent my legal rights from being lost? As comments below Jonathan’s post explain, I am not the only cyclist in Oregon asking this question.

I also found the below statement interesting. Even in bike-friendly Oregon, it is believed that people do not treat bike lanes like travel lanes. As someone who bikes daily in Oregon, I agree with this perspective. While neither type of lane physically (no paint) continues through the intersection, I have not seen anyone questioning whether the travel lane legally continues through the intersection. Why does the same not apply to the bike lane?

Prosecutor Andrew Steiner said many people today do not treat bike lanes like vehicle lanes, though they are.

Since I am a geographer, I would normally have started this post with where the bike lane is located in Bend. I felt readers needed the legal and culture details to fully understand the bike lane legal issue, so I postponed sharing the bike lane location. While the below Google Maps screenshot shows green lines for where the bike lanes continue through the intersection at NW Wall St and NW Olney Ave, the white bike lane paint does not actually continue through this intersection. The white bike lane paint stops where the intersection begins and restarts where the intersection ends. The same is true for the travel lanes.

Bend Intersection

Location of the bike lane legal issue in Bend, OR. Source: Google Maps

Portland had a similar legal issue

Unfortunately, Bend is not the only Oregon city to have experienced this legal issue. Portland had a similar legal issue in 2009. As this BikePortland post discussed, Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Pro Tem Michael Zusman found that the collision did not occur “in the marked area comprising the bicycle lane.”

You are probably as confused as me after reading this post. Since I do not want to change how I bike through intersections in Oregon, I hope I can trust what Jonathan wrote in his 2018 post.

Let’s be clear: Even though the legal definition of a bicycle lane (ORS 801.155) doesn’t specifically address intersections, the legal protection of a bicycle lane absolutely does continue through an intersection even if the markings do not.

Jonathan’s viewpoint is shared by former Portland Police Bureau Captain Bryan Parman.

“We all know that lanes continue through an intersection, we just don’t lay down a bunch of criss-crossing lines because it would be confusing.” He also said, “It’s a poor ruling in an individual case but it doesn’t change the way we do business.”

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!

Moving Back to Oregon to Work at Clackamas Community College

I’m excited to share that after submitting 127 job applications over the past seven months I have accepted a written offer to become the Transportation Systems Analyst at Clackamas Community College (CCC) in Oregon City! A short position description is below. The position is grant funded from Oregon Metro through June 30, 2019. Oregon Metro is offering the grant again and CCC plans to reapply for it.

Develop and implement strategies to expand transportation options and remove transportation barriers.  Refine and operationalize strategies outlined in the Transportation Management Plan.  Develop and implement transportation survey tools.  Gather and analyze transportation metrics for use in developing new transportation strategies.  Act as liaison with local, regional, and state government partners; work cooperatively to create transportation plans and projects that reflect the needs of the College.

Since CCC wants me to start working in June, I’ll be resigning from my full-time, temporary Urban Planner I position at the City of Alexandria, VA on May 18. I plan to move back to the Portland region soon after Memorial Day, which is in time to participate in Pedalpalooza. I’ll miss my East Coast family and friends. Thankfully, I’ll be able to catch up with many of them during my upcoming trips to Boston, Charlotte area, Erie, and Cleveland area. Since I was in grad school when I previously lived in Oregon from 2014-16, I’m looking forward to having more free time to explore the West Coast.

You may be wondering why I chose the below photo for the featured photo. Since CCC’s three campuses are located in three Portland suburbs and my new supervisor said no one has organized a group bike ride at CCC, my future job at CCC reminds me of when I co-founded and led the Cyclists Club at UNC Charlotte (UNCC). Even though I wasn’t hired by UNCC to work on transportation issues, I felt I was the de facto bike coordinator because this position didn’t exist. I’m excited to use what I learned working on transportation issues at UNCC to improve CCC.

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Ray organized and led slow Cyclists Club ride at UNC Charlotte on February 14, 2013

Since I took an Internet GIS course at UNCC during Spring 2013 and created the below interactive bike resource map with my teammate during this course, I’m planning to see whether CCC wants me to create a similar interactive map for CCC. While I’m impressed CCC’s transportation page includes walking, biking, transit, and carpooling, I’m looking forward to working with staff to improve it.

UNC Charlotte Bicycle Resource Page

Ray and Jacob created the UNC Charlotte Bicycle Resource Map in Spring 2013

You may have noticed that I focused on my UNCC experience before my Portland State University (PSU) experience. I did this on purpose because transportation planning and overall transportation behavior at PSU is so far ahead of CCC. PSU is a Platinum-Level Bicycle Friendly University, which is the highest level that has been awarded. While I offered during my interview that I could help CCC apply to become a Bicycle Friendly University, which is also open to colleges, CCC currently isn’t a Bicycle Friendly University. UNCC also wasn’t a Bicycle Friendly University until it applied for the first time in 2017 and was awarded the Bronze Level, which is the lowest level, so UNCC and CCC share many things in common.

Even though I want my ideas for CCC to be context sensitive, this doesn’t mean I can’t think about what I did at PSU. As this BikePortland post and the below photos show, Gerald and I organized a successful Bike PSU outreach event at PSU during Fall 2015. We organize this outreach event to start creating bike trains. Since we had difficulty finding a method to connect bike train participants while preserving their privacy and finding participants with similar class schedules that lived nearby each other, we weren’t able to start a bike train at PSU. I expect to have similar challenges organizing bike trains at CCC, but one big difference is I’ll be a permanent employee at CCC. I had to stop organizing bike trains at PSU when I graduated in June 2016.

bike-psu-cofounders

Ray and Gerald organized Bike PSU’s outreach event during Fall 2015 (Photo: Michael Andersen/BikePortland)

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PSU student participating in Bike PSU’s outreach event during Fall 2015 (Photo: Michael Andersen/BikePortland)

Yes, I realize I have focused mostly on biking and my new job involves working on more than just biking. As my previous post shows, I have multimodal transportation experience. My PSU team did our planning workshop project on walkability in Tigard, which is a suburb of Portland.

Since I’ve never been to CCC or Oregon City, I’m excited to explore a new area of the Portland region. Due to Oregon City being the first permanent Euro-American settlement in the Willamette Valley, first incorporated city west of the Rocky Mountains, and Oregon’s first capital (Oregon City was selected the capital before the creation of the Oregon Territory in 1848), Oregon City isn’t really new. I’m excited to learn more Oregon history by visiting the Museum of the Oregon Territory, which overlooks Willamette Falls in Oregon City.

Transportation and Land Use in Ray’s Housing Decisions

As you may have noticed, it has been a few months since my last post. I’ve had a burning desire to write, but kept telling myself that the topics are work sensitive or too personal to share publicly. After reading this GGWash post and discovering that I haven’t written a post about my current and previous housing decisions, I finally found a topic that I feel comfortable writing about publicly. Since I have lived in Arlington for almost a year, which means my year lease ends on October 31, this is a good time for me to start reflecting on whether I want to stay put or move nearby. I enjoy my job so I plan to stay in Arlington. My year lease states that I must give my landlord 60 days notice, so I need to make a decision before the end of August.

Through this process, I keep comparing my current housing decision with my previous housing decisions in Charlotte, Silver Spring, and Portland. The below post compares and contrasts these decisions. Since I didn’t choose to live in Kannapolis, which is where my parents raised me after I was born in Charlotte, I didn’t include Kannapolis. As this post discusses, the Kannapolis home I was raised in has a Walk Score of zero!

Kannapolis Walk Score (zip code)

Arlington, VA

Even though I was rushed to find housing in a competitive market before starting my new job, I may have found the cheapest housing within a walkable distance of a light rail station, frequent service bus lines, and several regional trails. I’m paying less than $900 per month (plus $50 for water and $35 for my portion of WiFi) for a room in a 10-room house. I earn enough through my job that I could spend more on housing, but I don’t see the need to spend more when I’m already close enough to my destinations to continue living car-free. Plus, good housemates aren’t guaranteed when renting so I treasure this at my current home. I can use the savings to go on more expensive vacations and prepare for owning a condo or house.

1117 N Taylor St, Arlington, VA Walk Score

Arlington, VA Home

While many of my NC family and friends have been shocked by how much I pay for housing, I think they find it challenging to understand how much I save by living car-free. As the below table shows, which I found in this article, walkable places reduce combined housing and transportation costs. Most people don’t calculate all the costs involved with owning, maintaining, and driving an automobile. For example, I think most people don’t calculate parking costs (could be hidden if their employer takes parking out of their paycheck or doesn’t pay them more because their employer is paying for expensive parking), poor mental health from being stuck in daily traffic congestion and not spending much time with their family, poor physical health from not exercising enough and becoming obese, etc.

traditional city vs sprawling city costs

My boss covers most of my transportation costs, so I pay almost zero on transportation each month. He provides me with a free Capital Bikeshare maintenance key that I can use for all my trips, including personal trips. He also provides me with a SmarTrip card for all my work-related transit trips. The largest transportation purchase I have made so far is for this $800 bike that I mostly use for shopping and trips where Capital Bikeshare isn’t located yet.

My housing decision makes using these transportation options much easier because I can easily walk to the Ballston Metro Station to ride transit throughout the DC region and bike throughout the DC region on regional trails or low-stress neighborhood streets. While I rarely use it for personal trips, the DC region also has great carsharing and car renting options and Uber/Lyft.

Since I started this blog with the intention of following my life’s journey from living in Kannapolis to where life takes me, I want to share how my current housing decision relates to my housing decisions in Charlotte, Silver Spring, and Portland.

Charlotte, NC

My car-light lifestyle started when I moved to Charlotte in 2009 to start undergrad at UNC Charlotte. While I lived car-free when I was in Charlotte, I needed a car to go home to Kannapolis so I barely lived car-light. Even though I sometimes think about how I used to pay about $400 per month for housing in Charlotte, which is less than half of what I currently pay in Arlington, the location of my housing in Charlotte lacks the transportation access that I currently enjoy in Arlington. While I was within easy biking distance of a regional trail that started at UNC Charlotte, the trail didn’t provide me with much transportation access so it was mostly a recreational trail. In addition, I couldn’t walk to any transit stations and the local bus was unreliable. I found it faster to bike on unsafe roads throughout Charlotte than wait for transit to arrive.

The Edge Charlotte Walk Score

The Edge at UNC Charlotte

Silver Spring, MD

My fully car-free lifestyle started when I moved to Silver Spring in 2014 to become a Transportation Planning Intern at Toole Design Group. While I didn’t have many choices where to live in Silver Spring because I was seeking short-term housing for just the summer, I was lucky to have a Charlotte friend that had a connection to someone who owns a home in Silver Spring. Thankfully, the home was located in a prime location to live car-free.

I was a block from the Sligo Creek Trail, which provided some transportation access in addition to recreation usage. Since I wanted to explore the entire DC region, I enjoyed having access to the car-free (just on the weekend) Beech Drive in Rock Creek Park and Capital Crescent Trail. While the Silver Spring Metro Station was further from home than the Ballston Metro Station is to my current home, I enjoyed having better transit access than I had in Charlotte.

8410 Galveston Rd, Silver Spring, MD Walk Score

Silver Spring, MD Home

Portland, OR

The last place I lived before moving to Arlington was Portland. My apartment was next to the SE Salmon/Taylor neighborhood greenway, so I had easy access to a low-volume, low-speed walking and biking route. Sunday Parkways went along this route both years I was in Portland, so this route is prime for walking and biking. While I miss Portland’s neighborhood greenways because Arlington has nothing similar yet, I don’t miss Portland’s hills. Since I have an extreme fear of heights, I didn’t enjoy biking downhill to cross the Willamette River. Yes, Arlington also has hills but I rarely have to bike down them because I work from home and usually do field work in locations with few steep hills.

I also miss being within easy (two Portland blocks, which are 200 feet) walking distance of a grocery store in Portland. I enjoyed having the flexibility to walk to the grocery store to get one or two items instead of waiting until I’m almost out of groceries. Since the nearest grocery store to my Arlington home is .6 mile away, I wait until I need enough groceries to fill both bike panniers.

While walking and biking from my Portland home to my destinations was easy, transit wasn’t easy. The Hawthorne and Belmont buses came about every 15 minutes and most of my bike trips only took 15 minutes, so I rarely took the bus. I wasn’t near a MAX station so I couldn’t ride light rail from home.

1117 SE 27th Ave, Portland, OR Walk Score

Portland, OR Home

Future Blog Post

My boss and I were selected to present at the North American Bikeshare Association Conference in Montreal on August 31. We will be presenting during the session titled The “Perfect” Site. My only conference presentation occurred when I presented my high school senior exit project during a poster session at the Southeastern Division of the American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting in 2008. This means the presentation in Montreal will be my first time presenting as a speaker. It will also be my first time attending a conference outside the US. My boss asked me to create our presentation, so I plan to use this presentation to write a blog post.