Living Car-Free in American Suburb

Yes, you read the title of this post correctly. I’m 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’ll admit that I didn’t 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’m 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’m 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’m confident that if I worked in a large city I’d be in a large transportation department with many staff working on active transportation planning issues. While I’m 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’m an entry-level transportation planner, I keep thinking about how much more difference I’m 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’m the only transportation planner. Since I was micromanaged at a previous job (purposely not giving specifics because I don’t want to embarrass a previous employer) and this overwhelmed my supervisor and me, I’m thankful my current supervisor isn’t 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 couldn’t 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 isn’t 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 aren’t 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’s 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 can’t reach all my work trips by walking, biking and riding transit. Since I didn’t want to buy a car for work trips, my supervisor helped me reserve the below hybrid electric car, which CCC owns. 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 haven’t decided what my next blog post will be about, but it’ll probably be something about what I’m experiencing in Oregon. Thanks for reading my blog!

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Denver at Eye Level

“Denver at Eye Level” is a reference to “The City at Eye Level”. As I decide what I want to focus on in my first 2018 Oregon post (what would you like to read about?), I’m focusing this post on my May 31 layover in Denver. I wasn’t planning to include a layover in Denver on my flight from Charlotte to Portland until I saw how much cheaper flying through Frontier is. While there are many disadvantages to flying through Frontier, which may prevent me from flying through them again, I couldn’t resist getting a free flight with a long daytime (important because I wouldn’t do nighttime layover) layover in Denver out of my flight to Portland. Plus, I got to catch up with Allison Barton, who is my 2nd cousin. She lives in the Denver region and I haven’t seen her in about 15 years!

Can Denver become a “smart city”?

I started my long Denver layover by figuring out transportation. Unfortunately, it isn’t possible in Denver and many other cities to pay for transit and bikeshare using the same fee and use both systems with one app or card. I hope this changes soon as many cities invest in smart city technology. Even though a day transit pass throughout the Portland region costs $5, a day transit pass from the Denver airport costs $9!

Since Capital Bikeshare sells single trips for $2 and I only planned to take one or two trips, I was shocked Denver B-cycle doesn’t sell single trips. The cheapest is a day pass for $9! I may be too frugal, but paying $9 for only one or two trips felt too expensive so I ended up walking and riding transit.

I also didn’t ride bikeshare because I hadn’t memorized where all the stations are located and where the system limit is. I was concerned I wouldn’t find a station nearby or bike beyond the system limit and not be able to find a station to dock the bike. Due to these concerns, I wish Denver had dockless bikeshare. Most dockless bikeshare companies charge $1/trip.

16th Street Mall

Enough ranting about how I’d improve Denver. I enjoyed many things about Denver. While an almost 14-hour layover may seem like plenty of time to explore Denver, I knew it would be over quickly so I prepared before arriving where I wanted to go. Even on a Thursday during normal work hours, the mile-long 16th Street Mall was busy. I constantly saw the free MallRide shuttle, so it was reliable to use.

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16th Street Mall

The following photos show some of the placemaking along the 16th Street Mall.

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The below photo shows it being used.

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Proof the piano was used.

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The below photo shows it being used.

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Proof the chess/checkers board was used.

9th Street Historic Park

I came across the 9th Street Historic Park while searching for historic sites to visit. Since the park is part of the Metropolitan State University of Denver, many of the historic houses have been converted to university buildings.

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9th Street Park is a Pedestrian Mall

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Every house had this marker.

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I wish I would’ve had time to visit all the story sites along the Denver Story Trek.

Larimer Square

While I didn’t find any historic markers to read, Larimer Square is where Denver was founded.

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View of Larimer Square from 14th Street. Yes, you see a bike signal. There’s a protected bike lane on 14th Street.

Confluence Park

After walking several miles on a 90-degree day, I enjoyed putting my feet in the cold South Platte River at the Confluence Park.

Protected Bike Lane at Bus Stop

I found several protected bike lanes in Denver. Since designing protected bike lanes with a bus stop is often challenging, the below photo shows how Denver did it.

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Protected bike lane at a bus stop

The Alley at the Dairy Block

I wasn’t even looking for the Alley at the Dairy Block when I was randomly exploring Denver. According to this article, the alley opened in April 2018 and is Downtown Denver’s first activated alley. The alley reminds me of Brevard Court in Uptown Charlotte.

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Bus Rapid Transit

I was on my way to meet Allison Baron, who is my 2nd cousin, for dinner when I saw a bus-only lane on Broadway. Since I’ve seen private cars in bus-only lanes in other cities, I was surprised most Denver drivers stayed out of the bus-only lane unless they were turning, which is legal. The bus-only lane is just painted!

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Do you see “bus only” painted on Broadway and the right turn only except buses sign?

Returning to Airport

Allison pointed out the beautiful Denver sunset over the Rockies as she drove me back to the airport. Since the sunset was on her side of the jeep, I didn’t want to reach my phone over her while she was driving to take a photo so I didn’t get a photo.

Denver Sunset

Denver sunset over the Rockies. Photo: slack12 on Flickr.

Since I have lived and worked in Oregon City for over a month, my next post will focus on how I’m feeling with these life changes. As with previous posts that discussed my work life, I plan to only share what can be shared publicly.

Boston at Eye Level

“Boston at Eye Level” is a reference to “The City at Eye Level”. While I know you’re waiting for me to write about how I feel being back in Oregon, I have two posts I want to share before writing about my life back in Oregon. The first post is about Boston and the second post is about Denver. Since I knew I’d be moving back to Oregon, I quickly planned a weekend trip to Boston from after work on Friday, May 4 to early morning on Monday, May 7. I arrived back in Arlington, VA after midnight on May 7 then worked at the City of Alexandria, VA that morning. I was excited to explore Boston for the first time and catch up with Keihly Moore and Jesse Boudart. Keihly graciously invited me to stay at her home in Boston’s Egleston Square Neighborhood and borrow one of her many bikes.

Before I arrived at Keihly’s home, I was amazed by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), which is the Boston region’s transit system. Unlike Metro in the DC region, MBTA in the Boston region doesn’t require users to swipe their transit pass to exit the station. I was embarrassed when I arrived at the exit turnstile and tried to use my transit pass to exit. Since I couldn’t find a way to swipe my transit pass on the exit turnstile, I had to ask someone how to do this. They looked at me as if I was an alien and said to just walk through the exit turnstile. I followed their lead and was able to exit the station.

Since the MBTA doesn’t know where riders exit, it can’t charge riders based on how far they travel, which is what Metro does in the DC region. MBTA also can’t collect any destination data, so MBTA only has the origin data. As a GIS and transportation data nerd, I would find it frustrating to work with transit data in the Boston region.

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Boston’s exit turnstiles. Photo: OUTFRONT Media Inc.

I arrived at Keihly’s home after a short walk (I’m used to walking miles) from the transit station. Since her home is up a steep flight of stairs and I have an extreme fear of heights, I had to overcome my fear to enter and exit her home. I’m thankful I visited Keihly during the spring because the stairs would have been covered in snow during the winter. When this happens at my home in the South, I would just wait for the snow to melt, which usually takes a day. Since it constantly snows in Boston during the winter, I’d be waiting all winter to leave.

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Catching up with Keihly Moore in Boston

Since Keihly had a long training ride on Saturday to prepare her for the 5-day, 400-mile Bostreal (Boston to Montreal), Jesse gave me a nerdy bike tour of the Boston region. Jesse, who now works as a traffic engineer at Toole Design Group, was one of my two Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP) mentors in 2016. We had only Skyped during our 3-person meetings, so I got to meet Jesse for the first time in person when I visited Boston. I was exhausted from biking several miles on a bike I hadn’t ridden before that I forgot to take a selfie with Jesse. Since Jesse only had a few hours to give me a bike tour of the Boston region, we didn’t stop often to take photos and I didn’t want to risk my phone falling out of my hand while biking. Due to this, the below photos are the only photos I took.

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View of Downtown Boston (left on the horizon) and Boston’s Back Bay (center right on the horizon) from Prospect Hill Park in Somerville

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View of Downtown Boston from a trail on the north side of the Charles River. Boston has a great trail network along both sides of the Charles River.

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Protected Bike Lane at MIT in Cambridge

I enjoyed talking with Keihly so much on Sunday that I forgot to take photos. Or maybe I didn’t want to be seen glued to my phone taking photos. I think it’s a combination of these factors. Either way, I enjoyed the limited time with Keihly. Even though I had heard of Boston’s famous Emerald Necklace, which was designed by the famous Frederick Law Olmsted, Keihly showed me why he would be embarrassed by some of how Boston implemented his design. The below 8-lane highway, which connects Jamaica Pond and the Arnold Arboretum, is supposed to be part of the Emerald Necklace. While the highway does have trees, it doesn’t feel like a park with 8 lanes of traffic and narrow sidewalks!

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Emerald Necklace’s Arborway between Jamaica Pond and Arnold Arboretum

My flight back to Baltimore-Washington (cheaper than flying to DC’s Reagan and Dulles) was late in the evening and Keihly had a rare Sunday work presentation at a church, so I explored more of Downtown Boston on my own. Since I was still new to Boston, I was thankful to have help finding things to do. My Portland (not the original Portland in Maine) friend, Carl Larson, suggested the Black Heritage Trail. While the trail wayfinding could have been improved, I was able to find most of the sites, which taught me about Boston’s role in the Underground Railroad.

As is common in most of the US, the White-focused Freedom Trail is much more of a tourist attraction than the Black Heritage Trail. Many tour companies charge money so tourists can learn about the Freedom Trail’s sites from their professional guides. I visited many of the sites along the Freedom Trail.

I explored Downtown Boston’s cool Washington Street pedestrian mall on my way to catch transit to the airport. As with most other pedestrian malls in the US, the Washington Street pedestrian mall was short so I hope Boston expands it someday. I’m sure this pedestrian mall is short because motorists didn’t want to lose too much access to Downtown Boston.

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Pedestrian mall on Washington Street in Downtown Boston

My next post will be about my long layover in Denver when I was moving back to Oregon then I’ll write a post about being back in Oregon.

Value of Transit is More Than Just Transit

As a native Charlottean and proud alumnus of UNC Charlotte, I’m excited to finally see the Blue Line Extension (BLE) from Uptown Charlotte to UNC Charlotte’s main campus open today. I hope this will help shift the mindset of Charlotte being an automobile-dependent city to a transit-dependent city.

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Source: CATS, City of Charlotte

I wish I could write that I’m as excited to see the success of transit-oriented development (TOD) within walking distance of the BLE stations. While I realize development changes are often long-term, these changes are influenced by past and current planning and zoning decisions. My friend and mentor, Martin Zimmerman, researched how Charlotte has the zoning enforcement tools available to get the best value out of its $1.2-billion-dollar BLE investment.

Insiders know that zoning enforcement tools have been available for at least 14 years to assure orderly growth on transit corridors. It’s just that those granted the public trust lack the gumption to use the tools and say “no” to landowners who could care less about building to transit-friendly standards.

For readers that aren’t transportation or land use planners, I want to make sure you understand what I mean by “value”. While most of the Charlotte mainstream media’s focus on the new BLE has been on the light rail trains and stations, the BLE’s value extends far beyond this. The BLE is also impacting the surrounding land use and people’s travel behavior. As Martin’s op-ed shows, much of this is currently automobile dependent. Automobile-dependent land uses and travel behavior have many costly negative externalities. Through promoting TOD land use and encouraging active travel behaviors like walking, biking, and riding transit, Charlotte can get the best value out of its $1.2-billion-dollar BLE investment. Since I’m a visual learner, I tried to find a visual to explain this. I hope the below visual helps you. Do you understand what I mean by “value”?

Since this post was focused on Charlotte, I want to clarify that many cities throughout the US have the same issues with getting the best value out of their capital transit investments.

TOD education

Source: @adifalla

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.

Eastside Cleveland at Eye Level

I have several Washington, DC region posts I want to write, but want to finish writing about my Cleveland vacation before returning to the Washington, DC region. As my previous Cleveland post discussed, I walked through some westside and downtown neighborhoods on Friday night. Since it was below freezing and I wasn’t sure how safe the neighborhoods are late at night, I rode the bus back to my Airbnb.

While the bus looked normal, I was shocked by how short Cleveland’s light rail trains are compared to DC’s light rail trains. I rode the Red Line, which is a light rail line, from the W65-Lorain Station to the Little Italy-University Circle Station. I almost missed getting on the train because I thought it would take up the whole station like it does in DC.

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Cleveland’s Red Line from imgrum.net/tag/windmere

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DC’s Metro from flickr user Devin Westhause

I enjoy trying bike share anywhere I go so I looked for bike share after arriving at the Little Italy-University Circle Station. As the below map shows, Little Italy and University Circle have bike share stations.

cleveland-eastside-bike-share-map

After I found the below station, I was tempted to ride a bikeshare bike. Since I have a good paying job now and am a bike share consultant, I may have been too frugal but $21 for 3 hours plus one hour free (4 hours total) to use Cleveland’s bike share system felt too expensive. Capital Bikeshare is only $8 for 24 hours! Instead of riding bike share, I walked everywhere in Little Italy and University Circle.

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Little Italy

I was thoroughly impressed with the artwork at the Little Italy-University Circle Station. I have explored many transit stations throughout the US and many western and northern European countries. I can’t recall the last time that I took so many photos at a transit station. I guess I’m usually in a rush to catch a train so don’t always stop to take photos of the art. I was on vacation so was able to stop and enjoy the artwork this time. The below photo shows an inspirational sentence in two languages. One language is definitely English. Since the station is at the entrance to Little Italy, I assume the other language is Italian.

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I love murals because they usually show the community from the local’s viewpoint. Murals also bring the community together by providing locals an opportunity to work together to show pride in their neighborhood.

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It’s midnight and I want to publish this post tonight so I can move on to Washington, DC region posts. Here are a few more photos that you probably can only see by exploring Cleveland by eye level (not in a car).

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University Circle

As a pedestrian, I loved seeing CircleWalk in University Circle! CircleWalk is an interpretive walking experience that highlights and shares local stories.

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Here are more artistic and environmentally friendly design photos.

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Shaker Square

As the information kiosk shows, Shaker Square is a shopping district. However, it isn’t just any shopping district. I visited Shaker Square for a variety of reasons. The main reason is that Shaker Square is the oldest shopping district in Ohio and the second oldest in the US. Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, MO is the oldest shopping district in the US. Another major reason is I wanted to see how a suburban shopping district could be designed around a transit station.

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I enjoyed taking panoramas of Shaker Square so here are some of the panoramas I took. I walked through Dave’s Shaker Square Market. The market was full of Black people. I was the only White person in the market. Since I’m used to shopping at grocery stores full of White people, it felt weird to be the minority. Even though it felt weird, I was pleasantly surprised that no one in the market acted weird around me and no one asked me why I was at the market. We all just went about shopping for groceries like normal people. I can’t think of a grocery store in the US with diversity so I hope grocery stores in the US become more diverse.

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I don’t feel I have studied homelessness prevention and panhandling policies enough to make an informed opinion about the below sign so I’m just going to share it. I welcome you to share your opinion about the sign.

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Here are more artistic photos.

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Future Post: Sneckdowns

The Washington, DC region recently had snow so I looked for sneckdowns. Unfortunately, we only got about an inch of snow and the plows did a good job of clearing the roads so I will have to wait to write a post about sneckdowns in the Washington, DC region. In case you aren’t familiar with sneckdowns, here is a video.

Walkable Retirement Complexes Surrounded By Automobile-Dependent Land Uses

I have been on countless family vacations but my family’s most recent vacation was very unique for one major reason: transportation. From Saturday, December 24 to Friday, December 30, I was a van passenger and stayed with my family in hotels that are located in automobile-dependent areas adjacent to I-495 in Alexandria, VA (suburb of DC), adjacent to I-90 in Erie, PA, and adjacent to I-480 in North Olmsted, OH (suburb of Cleveland). Since my dad values easy interstate access, we have stayed in automobile-dependent areas during most family vacations throughout my life.

As soon as I had the freedom to choose where I wanted to stay, I escaped the suburbs and stayed at an Airbnb in a more walkable and transit-accessible location in Cleveland’s Gordon Square Arts District. I walked and rode transit everywhere until flying back to DC on Sunday, January 1. The below tweet shows the reaction I received from locals after they asked me what I was doing in Cleveland. Since this blog post was getting long, I moved the “Cleveland at Eye Level” section to my next blog post.

Visiting Grandmothers

Since I’m aware that this blog post could be seen as me complaining about not having freedom to explore outside of my family’s van, I want to clarify that my dad mostly chose to stay in automobile-dependent areas because we were visiting my grandmothers in automobile-dependent areas of Erie, PA and Westlake, OH. The retirement complexes where my grandmothers live are walkable only within the confines of their retirement complexes. Both retirement complexes are surrounded by automobile-dependent land uses so my grandmothers can’t safely walk beyond their retirement complexes. As an active transportation planner, this was very depressing to see.

Thankfully, catching up with both of my grandmothers wasn’t depressing. I enjoyed seeing how networked my Erie grandmother is into her retirement community. After eleven years at her retirement community, she literally knows everyone by name and everyone stops to talk with her. I loved seeing and hearing this! I also enjoyed chair yoga with her and my twin sister.

Since my Ohio grandmother just moved into her retirement complex the day before we arrived, she isn’t networked into her retirement community yet. However, I enjoyed seeing and hearing her take the initiative to meet people in her retirement community. I also enjoyed playing Kings in the Corner with her and my family.

Part 2 of 3 about my family trip can be read in my next blog post.