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.

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Reflecting on my first 6 months at Clackamas Community College and 1st-year goals

I am excited to share that I passed my six-month probation evaluation! Even though I believe most employers have a one-year evaluation, my boss informed me that my next evaluation will be at two years because that is what the Classified Association (one of three recognized CCC unions) bargained. My six-month probation period ends today, so I want to reflect on my first six months and share my first-year goals. Since I resigned from working as a full-time, temporary Urban Planner I at the City of Alexandria, VA to start working as the full-time, permanent Transportation Systems Analyst at CCC, I want to share my initial thoughts before moving back to Oregon. Even though I did not plan to enroll in the Associate of Applied Science degree in Project Management when I accepted the job at CCC, I want to share how this decision has impacted my life so far.

Initial Thoughts About CCC Job Before Moving Back to Oregon

While I only worked at the City of Alexandria, VA for three months before resigning, I was close enough to my Neighborhood Planning and Community Development Division coworkers that they invited me to join them for lunch. Since I was nervous about whether CCC and the surrounding communities’ car-dependent cultures would allow me to work on reducing car usage and expanding active transportation services, I expressed these concerns to my division coworkers. Even though it has not always been easy and will take years to overcome Clackamas County’s strong car-dependent culture, I am pleased to report that CCC and my community stakeholders have been open to working with me to reduce car usage and expand active transportation services. The below letter of support from the Clackamas County Pedestrian/Bikeway Advisory Committee (PBAC) for the City of Milwaukie, OR and CCC’s joint application for dockless electric-assist bikeshare and scooter programs shows proof of this.

A major reason why I am able to partner with the PBAC is that my position and program costs are mostly funded through an Oregon Metro Regional Travel Options (RTO) grant. I am in the process of reapplying for an RTO grant, which would fund my position and program costs from July 2019-June 2022. Oregon Metro, which is based in Portland, likely would not continue funding my position and program costs if CCC did not support reducing car usage and expanding active transportation services.

Reflecting on my first six months at CCC

Since my boss wants to put a plaque on the wall to show how I won $273,083.25 during FY 2019-21 for expansion of the CCC Xpress Shuttle, this was my biggest financial accomplishment during my first six months at CCC. The shuttle expansion includes extended year-round weekday evening service on Monday-Thursday until almost 11pm and offering summer term service for the first time. This expansion will be funded through the competitive Regional Coordination Program, which is funded through Oregon House Bill 2017.

I also wrote and had CCC’s President Cook sign a letter of support for the new Oregon City Shuttle, which will have at least one stop on CCC’s Oregon City campus. As the below project list shows, the Oregon City Shuttle was also funded.

My biggest non-financial accomplishment during my first six months at CCC was successfully supervising and mentoring my first student assistant. While I supervised and mentored a high school intern during my unpaid internship at Charlotte B-cycle in 2013, my internship was part-time so I consider my first student assistant as my first real supervising and mentoring experience. I created and effectively used a shared Google Sheet to collaborate with my student assistant on several projects. My student assistant said they never experienced a day where they had nothing to work on, so I successfully supervised them.

They also said they appreciated being given opportunities to manage projects with limited supervision from me. Even though they made mistakes when managing these projects, they valued the learning experiences. They preferred having me be their mentor and not just their supervisor. Their job description did not include managing projects, but they were bored with basic assignments like tabling so I wanted to give them opportunities to spread their wings and fly. Since my first student assistant accepted a promotion at their other job, they resigned last Friday to start their new position. They handwrote the below note to me on their last day. I will miss working with them!

2018-12-07 13.49.08

While I will have to train a new student assistant in January, I am thankful to have a supportive team to help me train them. My team handwrote the below notes on my 28th birthday, which was September 19, 2018.

Applying What I Learned During Project Management Courses

Even though grades probably do not matter anymore for me because I do not plan to transfer to another school and employers likely will not review my grades anymore, I am excited to share that I made an A+ in both of my first project management courses at CCC. Since I manage several projects at the same time, coordinate with internal and external stakeholders, and supervise a student assistant, being able to apply what I learned during project management courses is more important than showing that I earned high grades. The below network diagram shows one way that I am applying this knowledge.

My 1st-Year Goals at CCC

Since the current RTO grant that mostly funds my position and programs expires in June 2019, my top 1st-year goal is being awarded and receiving enough funding from the new RTO grant to continue my position and programs through June 2022. Thankfully, CCC has earned Core Partner status through being a long-standing Oregon Metro partner with fully developed RTO programs. This means that a three-year RTO grant for $150,000 is guaranteed as long as I submit the application. I plan to apply for other RTO grants to expand the programs that I manage.

As I mentioned earlier, I am working with the City of Milwaukie and Clackamas County to launch dockless electric-assist bikeshare and/or scooter programs. The first phase would include the Harmony campus. The second phase would likely include the Oregon City campus. A future phase could include the Wilsonville campus. While the first phase likely would not launch until after my first year is over, my goal by June 2019 is to receive funds through Oregon Metro’s Partnerships and Innovative Learning Opportunities in Transportation (PILOT) program to continue planning for the bikeshare and/or scooter programs.

My non-financial goal is to have a Portland State University (PSU) Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) team select my workshop project proposal, which involves creating a Rural Access Plan to CCC’s Oregon City campus. Here are examples of past workshop projects. My MURP team worked with the City of Tigard, OR and State of Place to complete our workshop project in 2016. I will find out in January whether a MURP team selects my proposal.

I plan to keep readers updated about my progress in achieving these goals through future posts. Thank you for reading my blog!

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?

Ray Improving Project Management Skills

I am excited to share that I am starting classes again this fall to earn my Associate of Applied Science degree in Project Management at Clackamas Community College! I admit that you likely would not have seen the words “project management” written by me during high school and my first undergrad experience at UNC Charlotte. I observed geographers and planners work on projects when I shadowed them and worked with them during internships, but I doubt I realized that project management existed and what it really meant.

CCC Project Management

Screenshot: Clackamas Community College

My First Project Schedule

My name was included in a project schedule for the first time when I worked on launching Philadelphia’s Indego bikeshare program during Summer 2014. I worked on this project as a Transportation Planning Intern at Toole Design Group in the Washington, DC office. I cannot publicly share the project schedule, so the below photo shows Indego. My name was included in project schedules throughout grad school at Portland State University (PSU) and work at MetroBike. Since I applied to PSU before interning at Toole Design Group, gaining project management skills likely was not something I thought I would learn at PSU. My name is currently included in project schedules at Clackamas Community College. I think this shows how much I have grown as a professional.

Indego banner

Photo: Bike Share Philadelphia

Getting Certified

Now that I better understand what project management is and why it is so useful for my career, I am excited to hone my project management skills by taking classes at Clackamas Community College. Since college tuition is not usually free in the US, I am thankful one of my work benefits is a full tuition waiver. I still have to pay college fees and for textbooks. These minimal costs should be worth it when I graduate and become eligible to take the Project Management Professional (PMP) or Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) exam. According to the Project Management Institute’s Earning Power Salary Survey, “those with a PMP certification garner a higher salary (20% higher on average) than those without a PMP certification.”

I am still planning to take the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) exam in May or November 2019. I will have at least two years of full-time planning experience by late 2018 or early 2019. This is a requirement to be eligible to apply to take the AICP exam. I may also take the Geographic Information Systems Professional (GISP) and Congress for the New Urbanism-Accredited (CNU-A) exams. There are so many certifications that interest me!

Using My Certification(s)

While being certified is great, I want to use my certification(s). As I mentioned in this post, I will have a new student assistant starting on Monday, September 10. She will work for me until the end of Spring Term 2019, which is in June. Besides the student assistant I briefly supervised for one week during Spring Term 2018 and the high school student I volunteered to supervisor as a part-time Outreach Intern at Charlotte B-cycle during Summer 2013, I will be supervising an employee for the first time in my life starting this fall.

Since I want to be prepared to supervise my new student assistant, I have been working with my boss during work time and my Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP) mentor during personal time to create a 2018-19 academic year project schedule for myself and my student assistant. I plan to write a future post about how this project management experience went for us.