Completed My First Plan As The Project Manager

I am excited to share that I completed my first plan as the project manager when the Clackamas Community College Shuttle Service and Access Plan was completed last week! My project proposal was selected in January 2020 through a competitive process by a six-person Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) student team from Portland State University. I worked with this MURP team through last week to produce the below plan.

Since the plan gives you plenty to read, I am going to keep this post short. As the below tweet from one of the faculty advisors for my MURP team shows, the coronavirus forced all of the plan’s student engagement to be converted from in-person to online. The online engagement caused many historically marginalized communities to be left out of the plan’s engagement process. In order to include these communities in the plan implementation process, I need to do in-person engagement when most students are allowed to return to in-person classes again.

I have not forgotten to write about what I discussed at the end of this post. I should have time in the next few weeks to write about walking and biking in the new normal. Even though most infrastructure in the US is not made for physical distancing, I hope everyone is finding ways to stay safe!

Silver Lining As Transit Plan Process Is Impacted By Coronavirus

I cannot believe this is my first post of 2020! Since I was supposed to be taking the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) Certification Exam again on May 23, I was not expecting to have time to blog again until after May 23. Due to the coronavirus, my exam was postponed until sometime later this year. While I am hoping that it is postponed until November, which is when the next exam is normally scheduled, my postponed exam date has not been scheduled yet. This means I can start planning a long summer vacation and continue blogging until I need to focus on studying again.

The coronavirus is impacting many people throughout the world. If this global pandemic is anything like the 1918 influenza pandemic (I will not refer to it by the racist name, especially because the flu likely did not originate in Spain) then the second wave of the coronavirus could be worse than the first wave. While I am trying not to be too political, I am concerned that the Trump Administration will prioritize restarting the economy over health concerns. Restarting the economy too early could result in a second wave of the coronavirus. Before I share how my transit plan process is being impacted by the coronavirus, I am thankful to be healthy and alive when thousands of people are dying from the coronavirus. I am also thankful for people who are risking their lives to prevent the pandemic from becoming worse.

What is my silver lining?

My silver lining is having the opportunity to experiment with conducting a fully remote student outreach process for Clackamas Community College’s first-ever transit plan! Since I am concerned that students will not engage as much through remote outreach environments as they would have through in-person outreach environments, my silver lining could still have negative results. As a silver lining for my silver lining, my consultant team and I will know how to improve our remote outreach process in the future.

I will admit that I was unsure whether it is feasible to complete the transit plan that my consultant team and I started working on in January before the global pandemic is over. This is mostly due to the fact that I have never done a fully remote outreach process for a planning project. Many other planning processes have been delayed by the coronavirus. While I asked my consultant team whether the completion of their spring term classes and June graduation from Portland State University were going to be delayed because of the coronavirus, nothing ended up being delayed so the transit plan still has to be completed by June 8.

Due to the fact that many students do not have access to reliable internet and computer access at home (CCC’s computer labs and all libraries are closed), especially in rural areas, I have been very concerned about excluding many historically marginalized communities from the student outreach process for the transit plan. While the 200 Chromebooks given to students at the start of spring term does not resolve this barrier, it allows more students to continue their classes and participate in my outreach process.

As the below work plan from March 11 shows on pages 14-15, the entire student outreach process was going to be through in-person environments. I still cannot believe the work plan was only created a month ago! Since all campus buildings are locked for the foreseeable future, CCC Xpress Shuttle service (plan is focused on CCC Xpress Shuttle) is shutdown for spring term, all spring term classes are online or canceled because they were not able to be offered online, and my consultant team and I have to work from home, the entire student outreach process was quickly converted to remote environments.

My consultant team used creative skip logic in the online survey that they created in Qualtrics. Due to this, I had difficulty deciding which remote outreach tool I am most excited to learn how to use. Since my consultant team created the online survey and I am creating the Remix map for our presentation to the Associated Student Government (ASG) at their May 6 meeting, I am most excited to learn how to effectively use Remix for remote outreach. As the below screenshot shows, Remix allows students to submit comments about the proposed new CCC Xpress Shuttle stops.

Preparing to use Remix for remote student outreach

Future Blog Post

While the coronavirus may impact what my next blog post is, I plan to update you on how the fully remote outreach process went. I plan to also share the completed transit plan. Since the revised Memorandum of Understanding for the revised outreach process was just signed last week, I cannot believe that my next blog post will likely be about the transit plan being done. In case you are wondering, a real-world transit plan is not usually completed in five months!

Is The Clackamas Regional Center Ready for Dockless Bikeshare and Scootershare?

Is the Clackamas Regional Center ready for dockless bikeshare and scootershare? I have been asking this question ever since I moved back to Oregon last year.

Small Group Activity at APBP Conference

My fellow panelists from Chicago and Ottawa and I wanted to get help from our audience to answer the question. Before I share how we used an interactive group activity, the below photo shows my panel. While we had been emailing for months to coordinate our presentations and group activity, I met Maggie and Matt in person for the first time during the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals Conference in Portland. I am not sure when our paths will cross again.

APBP Panel

APBP Conference panel from left to right (Ray Atkinson, Maggie Melin from Chicago, Matt Pinder from Ottawa)

We used a small group activity during our session at the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals Conference in Portland last Monday. Our audience was large enough to form six small groups of about eight people per group. This was a good amount of groups for my fellow panelists and me to walk around to each group to answer questions and provide guidance.

APBP Small Group Challenge

Small Group Activity at APBP Conference

All of the groups agreed that it is not safe enough to bike or scoot in the Clackamas Regional Center. Since the Clackamas Town Center parking lots should be less stressful to bike and scoot through than being on the surrounding roads, every group pitched using the parking lots to provide a safe route for biking and scooting. Yes, everyone realized that the parking lots are privately owned so the property owner would need to agree to the plan.

Harmony Campus to Clackamas Town Center

Map of Clackamas Regional Center. Created by Ray Atkinson using Google Maps.

Average scooter trip

Preparing the Clackamas Regional Center for dockless bikeshare and scootershare

Even though I have seen scooters from Portland’s first and second pilot programs ridden and parked in the Clackamas Regional Center, Clackamas County does not have a scooter pilot program. Yes, I already discussed this issue in this April post. While Clackamas Town Center has a Happy Valley address, it is officially in unincorporated Clackamas County so Clackamas County would need to create a scooter program.

I also want to note that I have no solid evidence about how many scooters from Portland’s pilot programs have been ridden and parked in the Clackamas Regional Center. I asked the City of Portland for this data and they would only share the below map, which only shows scooter trips inside the City of Portland. While they realize that scooters from their program have been ridden and parked outside the City of Portland, they have not shared any data to help me with planning efforts in Clackamas County. Since the scooter companies want to avoid fines, they are likely not sharing data about scooter trips outside the City of Portland so the City of Portland likely does not have this data.

As the below document shows, which I found in Ordinance 2174, the City of Milwaukie annexed Harmony Road to SE 80th Avenue and Clackamas Community College (CCC)’s Harmony campus on July 16, 2019. If the City of Milwaukie decides to continue their scooter pilot after the current pilot ends next June and expand it citywide then the newly annexed area will be included in the scooter pilot. While CCC has not taken an official stance on scooters, I have already been talking with the City of Milwaukie so we can both be ready when Milwaukie decides to include Harmony campus in their scooter pilot.

Milwaukie Annexed Harmony Campus

Milwaukie annexed Harmony Road to SE 80th Ave and CCC’s Harmony Campus

Since Harmony campus is adjacent to unincorporated Clackamas County, many CCC and Clackamas Middle College (high school) students, faculty, staff, and visitors travel between Harmony campus and the Clackamas Town Center MAX Station, TriMet buses and the CCC Xpress Shuttle are not reliable enough to compete with the car, and Harmony campus may have to build more car parking if enough people do not shift to other modes, I believe Clackamas County will receive pressure to allow scooters in the Clackamas Regional Center. I am vice-chair of the Clackamas County Pedestrian and Bikeway Advisory Committee (PBAC), so I am helping Clackamas County staff prepare for this pressure. I will be presenting about this potential pressure during the PBAC’s September 3 meeting.

Studying for the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) Certification Exam

While I appear to have an endless supply of ideas to blog about, I will need to shift my focus through November on studying for the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) Certification Exam. I registered to take this 3.5-hour exam on November 10. Since I did not pass the exam on November 10, I plan to keep studying and take the exam again in May. I will continue blogging after passing the exam.

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?