Which Certification(s) Should I Pursue?

I have missed blogging over the past nearly three months. Since you may be thinking that I exhausted all my ideas to blog about, I want you to know that I have thoughts to share. I felt the need to stop blogging because I needed to concentrate on studying for the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) Certification Exam, which I took and barely failed on November 10. In case you are curious about how comprehensive the 170-question (only 150 questions are scored) exam is, it covers the following five major topic areas:

Fundamental Planning Knowledge (25% of exam content)
Plan Making and Implementation (30% of exam content)
Areas of Practice (30% of exam content)
Leadership, Administration and Management (5% of exam content)
AICP Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct (10% of exam content)

While I thought Planning Prep’s free practice exams and questions would help me prepare for the exam, I learned the hard way that the exam questions were very different from the practice questions on Planning Prep. This website was created in 2001 and the exam has changed several times with the most recent change occurring in 2017, so I am not too surprised that Planning Prep has not been able to keep up with the exam changes. I learned helpful planning knowledge while using Planning Prep, so I see a silver lining. Hopefully, Planetizen’s $255 AICP Exam Preparation Class will better prepare me for the exam. Since I do not want to forget what I studied for the past two months and want to stop stressing about the exam as soon as possible, I plan to retake it in May 2020. I will have to keep putting my blog on hold so I can prioritize studying again.

As the title of this post shows, my decision about whether to keep pursuing the AICP was not an easy decision. This decision has become harder over the years because I have learned that other planning-related certifications exist. I was only focused on the AICP when I was evaluating where to attend grad school. Even though there are other planning-related certifications, Portland State University’s Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) program only promotes the AICP on its website. I graduated from PSU’s MURP program in June 2016.

Which certification(s) should I pursue?

Since I thought it was automatically assumed that all MURP alumni would pursue the AICP like I believe all engineers pursue the Professional Engineer (PE), I have been surprised to learn that many MURP alumni do not plan to pursue the AICP. While I still plan to pursue the AICP, I wanted to share other certifications that I may pursue in the future.

My job involves working on Transportation Demand Management (TDM) projects. The Association for Commuter Transportation is launching the TDM-Certified Professional (TDM-CP) in Spring 2020. Since many TDM professionals are planning to pursue or have the AICP, will our profession consider the TDM-CP as prestigious as the AICP?

TDM-CP Promo Image

Another planning-related certification is the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU)’s CNU-Accredited (CNU-A). My review of comments on Cyburbia comparing CNU-A to AICP shows that many planners view the CNU-A as a scam and the AICP as credible. Since both certifications have similar processes, it appears the main reason why the CNU-A is viewed as a scam is it was launched after the AICP.

CNUa-High-Res-300x300

Since I manage public engagement projects, I am considering the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2)’s Certified Public Participation Professional (CP3) or Master Certified Public Participation Professional (MCP3). These certifications are also pursued by planners that have the AICP.

IAP2 Certification

Michigan State University’s National Charrette Institute has a Charrette Certificate Program that looks similar to the IAP2’s certification program. As you may remember, I helped manage the planning, execution, and follow-up for a five-day intensive community planning charrette for the City of Alexandria, VA. Since my dad graduated from The Ohio State University (alumni really do emphasize “The”) and my maternal grandma watches OSU sports when I visit her, I doubt they would enjoy me going through a Michigan State University program. I guess it could be worse. The program could be through the University of Michigan, which is OSU’s archrival.

NCI

While I do not use GIS as much as I used to during previous jobs, I have thought about pursuing the Geographic Information Systems Professional (GISP) someday. Since I do not have four years of full-time GIS experience yet, I do not qualify to apply for the GISP yet.

GISCIlogo

Before I started studying for the AICP this year, I took three project management courses at Clackamas Community College. My teacher has been encouraging me to keep taking courses after I pass the AICP. He has been persuading me to pursue Project Management Institute’s Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.

pmp

I am exhausted just thinking about all of these certifications! Most of them require an exam and the application processes are not cheap. Since it appears most planners see the AICP as the most prestigious planning-related certification, I plan to start with this certification. Do you think I should pursue other certifications after I get the AICP or is one certification enough?

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.

Doris Day Parking in Kannapolis

What is Doris Day Parking? Start watching this clip at 0:59 to understand what Doris Day Parking is. Almost all, if not all, buildings in Kannapolis have Doris Day automobile parking. Before I start discussing the automobile and bicycle parking situations on the North Carolina Research Campus (NCRC), I need to mention that the NCRC is not fully built out yet. However, I feel this is not an excuse for the oversupply of automobile parking on the NCRC. Since there are many Transportation Demand Management (TDM) strategies that the City of Kannapolis and NCRC can pursue instead of adding more automobile parking, I believe there is already too much automobile parking for the fully built out NCRC. While there are TDM strategies being pursued, I believe the strategies aren’t strong enough. This is evident in how there is an oversupply of automobile parking, especially Doris Day automobile parking. Doris Day automobile parking continues to be built for every single building while only a few bike racks are being built. This is only one example of how weak the TDM strategies are in Kannapolis. My goal with writing this post is to discuss the extreme contrast between the oversupply of Doris Day automobile parking and undersupply of safe and convenient bicycle parking at UNC Chapel Hill’s Building on the NCRC.

I want to fully disclose that I graduated from UNC Charlotte, which competes with UNC Chapel Hill. The reason for writing this post does not involve this competition so please remember this as you read and comment on this post. As the below photo shows, the motorist was able to park only a few feet from the entrance to the building. Since Kannapolis provides so much Doris Day automobile parking, it encourages driving an automobile for every trip.

Doris Day Parking at the UNC Chapel Hill Building on the North Carolina Research Campus

Doris Day automobile parking at the UNC Chapel Hill Building on the North Carolina Research Campus

Here is a closer view of the surface parking area. This is Doris Day Parking because the stairs to the building entrance, which can be seen on the right side of the photo, are only a few feet from the parking spaces so motorists only have to walk a few feet to enter the building. In case you are wondering, it is free to park here. Before the next photo is shown, notice the six story parking deck in the background.

Dorris Day Parking at the UNC Chapel Hill Building on the North Carolina Research Campus

Dorris Day Parking at the UNC Chapel Hill Building on the North Carolina Research Campus

Even though there are six stories, only the bottom two floors were partially used when I took the below photo around noon on a work day. Considering the fact that the NCRC isn’t fully built out yet, do you see the potential for all six floors being full someday?

I would prefer the NCRC pursue a different route. This route could reduce the likelihood of all six floors being used and prevent having the need to build another parking deck or surface lot on the NCRC. In order to achieve this route, the NCRC and City of Kannapolis would have to implement TDM strategies that encourage use of sustainable modes of transportation instead of encouraging the use of the automobile for every trip. Given the fact that Kannapolis is very dependent on the automobile, do you see the potential for Kannapolis to implement strong enough TDM strategies that would encourage enough people to shift from driving their automobile to using a sustainable mode of transportation?

6 story parking deck on the North Carolina Research Campus

6 story parking deck on the North Carolina Research Campus

Not only do motorists have a six story parking deck that is barely used, they also have wayfinding signage to direct them to the parking deck. While this wayfinding signage helps to reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) because motorists can more quickly find where to park, there is no wayfinding signage to help bicyclists find where to park their bike.

Wayfinding signage to direct motorist to the parking deck

Wayfinding signage to direct motorists to the parking deck

Since I was determined to find where I was supposed to park my bicycle, which I struggled to park illegally to the sign below, I walked around the entire building. I struggled to park my bicycle because I had to lift it high enough for my U-lock to fit around the sign. While holding my bicycle high enough, I also had to maneuver the U-lock through the front wheel and frame. It took me at least a minute to lock my bicycle!

Location where I parked my bicycle

Location where I parked my bicycle

To my amazement, there was actually some bicycle parking located on the right side of the building and more located on the rear of the building. However, none of the bicycle parking was Dorris Day Parking like it was for automobile parking. I find it ironic that the UNC Chapel Hill Nutrition Research Institute, which is located inside this building, is researching how to “prevent or treat diseases like obesity, diabetes and cancer.” One simple and inexpensive way to work towards this goal is to install Dorris Day bicycle parking so people can feel encouraged to bike to the building instead of drive an automobile.

Bicycle parking at the UNC Chapel Hill Building on the North Carolina Research Campus

Bicycle parking at the UNC Chapel Hill Building on the North Carolina Research Campus

To make matters worse, the bicycle parking that has been provided is the same poorly designed and installed bicycle parking that was installed at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College’s NCRC Building. Even though UNC Chapel Hill and/or the NCRC probably received Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) points for installing wheel bender bike racks, I cannot safely use the poorly designed wheel bender bike racks. As the below photo shows, the wheel bender bike rack is poorly designed because the person who owns the bike cannot lock the bike rack with the front wheel and frame using a U-lock. Instead, the person is forced to use a wire lock, which can easily be cut.

Unfortunately, the issue goes beyond the infrastructure that is installed. Education is also needed to educate cyclists on how to properly lock their bike. This issue can be seen in how the wire lock in the below photo was only locked to the frame and not to the frame and front wheel. Since the front wheel is quick release, the front wheel can easily be stolen so a U-lock needs to be used to lock the front wheel and frame to the bike rack. The wheel bender bike racks cannot reach the frame so a safer type of bike rack is needed.

Wire lock is only locked to the frame so front wheel, which is quick release, can be stolen

Wire lock is only locked to the frame so front wheel, which is quick release, can be stolen

In addition, the wheel bender bike racks are poorly installed because the side entrance door to the building is locked so visitors have to walk around to the front of the building to enter. The poorly designed and installed bicycle parking does not promote bicycle use to the building. Since there isn’t correctly designed and installed bicycle parking, I am forced to risk getting a ticket for parking my bicycle illegally. I value the safety of my bike more than using an inferior product. Will UNC Chapel Hill or the NCRC install safe bike racks to replace the wheel bender bike racks?

Inconveniently located and poorly designed bicycle parking

Inconveniently located and poorly designed bicycle parking

The below photo shows one potential location for inverted U bike racks to be installed. I chose this location because it provides cyclists with convenient access to the front door, which is open for visitors. Through providing people with convenient bike parking, it encourages them to bike to the building instead of drive an automobile.

Location for Inverted U bike racks

Location for Inverted U Bike Racks (Photoshop: Keihly Moore/Lawrence Group)

One way to encourage people to bike to the building even more is to provide covered bike racks so bikes aren’t exposed to the elements.

Location for Covered Inverted U Bike Racks (Photoshop: Keihly Moore/Lawrence Group)

Location for Covered Inverted U Bike Racks (Photoshop: Keihly Moore/Lawrence Group)

I have discussed the extreme contrast between the oversupply of Doris Day automobile parking and undersupply of safe and convenient bicycle parking. Since I move to Silver Spring, MD on June 29, I only have time to write two more blog posts before I leave. My next post should be about my proposed redesign of a difficult bicycle connection between where the proposed buffered bike lanes on Loop Road end and the proposed bike lanes on Mooresville Road end. Following this post, I plan to discuss my expectations of living car-free in Silver Spring, MD and the Washington, DC region. After I arrive in Silver Spring, MD, I plan to discuss whether or not my expectations came true and what challenges and benefits I am experiencing from living car-free in Silver Spring, MD and the Washington, DC region.