Tuesday, October 22, 2013

BT public transportation for employment in Christiansburg

Yesterday we provided an update to the Commonwealth of Virginia's DRPT about how JARC funding is impacting BT services. Here is the overview we submitted.

Ridership for BT’s JARC-funded routes in Christiansburg has remained relatively steady with over 31,000 passenger trips provided annually. BT is also working with stakeholders to improve regional connectivity. At least 57 percent of trips completed during FY13 were for employment or employment-related activities including education and training. Commuter trips have continued to increase in popularity with a 21 percent increase; an additional vehicle and route was added to provide this service to more residents. To support attaining ridership goals, BT also hired an intern funded by DRPT’s Intern Program in spring 2013. The Marketing Intern works with the BT Marketing department and has conducted customer surveys and information sessions to further market and to increase ridership for Christiansburg bus services supported by JARC funding.

Monday, October 21, 2013

How I got into Planning

It was in about November 2007 during my 4th year as a post doctoral fellow with the National Institutes of Health. My supervisor, Bruce Simons-Morton saw the writing on the wall of the upcoming financial recession and indicated he would not be able to offer me a 5th year, as we had originally anticipated, due to budget restraints. I am not sure, but I think hiring was frozen. I scrambled into action, and by January 2008 I had a part-time job started, and another in the works. I had some hopes of working full-time at VTTI, but that was not in the cards, probably due to the recession, and an earlier statement from the associate director that they were focusing on hiring people who had not been educated at Virginia Tech. I never knew for sure if this was a polite way to say "we're not interested in hiring you Erik" but I took it as a hint that the future possibilities at VTTI were not good. After ten years there as a grad student and as a post doc (I was able to retain my office there after I graduated during my post doc), I was gone. I left behind a legacy of the teen driver program, which I am convinced, to this day, would not have been established had I not sat in an arm chair during a January 2008 transportation conference, rested my brain, and then walked in and met my post-doc predecessor who was talking about teen driver research. A whole other story there, but after a brief discussion she called Bruce on the spot; I started at NIH April 12, 2004.

It was my wife who saw the transportation planner job posting. At first I was unsure if I was qualified. However, I quickly looked into it more and realized I had many relevant, transferable skills. I set up an information interview with Dan Brugh whom I had met a few times at the Smart Road, and whom worked closely with my adviser VTTI Director, Tom Dingus. Long-story short: when I walked into my interview, I already knew a bit about Blacksburg Transit, and on the committee was Debby Freed, whom I had worked with previously as a volunteer on a bicycle-pedestrian committee at Virginia Tech over a decade beforehand! After several months, and some negotiation of my starting salary, I started as Blacksburg Transit's Transportation Planner on June 26, 2008. The position involves working directly on BT projects and large portion of my efforts are regional in nature working with stakeholders within the New River Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization. Some of my proudest accomplishments have been the completion of the Town of Christiansburg Bus Survey, which resulted in several new bus services to provide service to more residents, the BT Transit Development Plan, the establishment of a public bus services in Warm Hearth Village, a retirement community, and the creation of an award-winning BT Transportation Planning Internship Program.