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SORTA’s hiring a Planning Intern


I won’t vouch for the quality of this job, nor will I mislead anyone into thinking the application process is easy or fun. I’ve applied myself a couple time for past job openings at SORTA never to get more than an automated email in reply. This is not very satisfying after spending an hour retyping my resume for the clumsy and redundant online application form…

Still, for someone who isn’t me, this could be a good opportunity to see how a transit agency works from the inside. And it pays, which can’t be said of the City of Cincinnati’s planning internships.

Also, if anyone reading this ends up getting the job, I will literally bribe you for access to the (public record, surely) automated passenger count data you’ll be working with.

The job description:

DESCRIPTION The Service Planning Internship at SORTA/Metro is an excellent learning experience that involves exposure to actual projects and requirements found in the public transportation sector. This internship will focus on ridership data collection and complying with the Federal Transit Administration’s National Transit Database program reporting requirements.
DUTIES Help Metro’s Service Analyst collect, enter, and analyze ridership data. The overall objective is to test the ridership and passenger mileage information being collected by Automatic Passenger Counters (APCs) installed on Metro’s buses. Manually collect passenger boarding and alighting data by reviewing onboard video and recording the required data. Prepare reports that compare the manually and automatically collected data to determine if any APCs need to be recalibrated to achieve specific confidence levels. Responsible for mapping routing patterns for Metro’s XTRA Service routes. This process will involve working with Metro’s scheduling software to trace designated routes throughout the service area. The intern will gain an understanding of how Metro designs bus routes and schedules. Learning opportunity regarding data collection and analysis, sampling procedures and report writing within the transit industry, while gaining practical work experience. Conduct real project(s) that will provide a better appreciation of the responsibilities of a Transit Service Planner and a greater understanding of this important job as you consider your career options.
QUALIFICATIONS Pursuing a Planning, Urban Affairs, Geography degree or related field. Two or more years of undergraduate studies. Demonstrated success in academics. Excellent MS Excel Skills and understanding of database programs. Self-Starter; ability to take the lead on assignments and work with limited supervision. Resourceful, energetic, goal-oriented. All qualified candidates should complete the on-line application and include a cover letter and resume.

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Posted in: Silly Bullshit
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Metro Plush service a hit with riders

KINDA, the Kentucky, Indiana and Norwood-area Dispersal Agency, announced ridership figures today for several new routes that were rolled out recently in a package of service changes. One service in particular, the ‘Metro Plush‘, revealed particularly strong ridership since it’s initiation just weeks ago in mid-August.

Cincinnati Metro Plus

The Metro Plush offers direct, limited stop service between the bureau, lamp and washstand every fifteen minutes Monday through Friday. In the past, many routes required a transfer at the washstand for passengers coming from the bureau and traveling to the lamp, a sore point for many busy commuters. “We’ve heard from many of our customers since the changes took effect,” said KINDA communications director Sally Hiller, “and many of them have been quite pleased to be able to make a faster, more direct trip to and from the bedroom’s most popular light source.”

The basic demographic statistics released in the report reveal that most of the new Metro Plush riders are commuters and Lego people.

transit idership chart

There has also been a significant contingent of the smaller teddy bears from around the bedroom-bathroom area.

“We’re very pleased with the new service” said Mr. Teddy as he headed toward the bureau, “It’s just very convenient.”

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Posted in: Silly Bullshit
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Tank hits the runway

Tank t-shirts are back from the printer! You can now show off your gloriously geeky affinity for transit and/or Northern Kentucky right there between your nipples. Shirts are available in the shop for $15 + $5 shipping in both grey and brown. Most orders should arrive in just a couple days if you’re in the Cincinnati area.

TANK tank t-shirt

Also, my apologies the slow posting here lately. Most of you probably aren’t aware of this, but I moonlight as a fashion designer and had been working furiously over the last week or so prepping for a fashion show and working on some unrelated clothing commissions.

TANK t-shirt in the Northside fashion show 2013

My thanks to Erick and the others for modeling!

We’ll be fully back on track soon with the next post where I’ll be trying to piece together SORTA’s upcoming service changes. That’s still a few days in the making though and in the meantime I encourage anyone who’s available to take in a presentation on the changes from SORTA themselves. From their site:

The public meeting on Metro’s proposed short-term plan changes will be held on May 1, 2013, in South Meeting Room 232 of the Duke Energy Convention Center, 525 Elm Street, Cincinnati, OH.

The public may attend anytime between 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. to give comments about the proposed changes.

Presentations will be offered every hour on the hour.…yadda, yadda, etc.

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Posted in: Design | Silly Bullshit
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The time is now!

I’m getting sick of the City’s dissembling on this issue and the constant, inept prodding from Coast and other such outside groups that make a hobby of interfering in city affairs.

If Cincinnati is to move forward, we need to invest in a new form of transportation that’s truly convenient and people-friendly. We need to show not only our own neighbors, but the rest of the region and the world that Cincinnati is ready to take a bold step into a bright, 21st century future.

Young people increasingly don’t want cars or white picket fences. We don’t want our parent’s lives; both empirical demographic trends and anecdotal evidence bear this out. While New York, San Francisco and other dense, urban places have exploded over the last two decades largely because of the rich urban structure they already had in place, mid-size cities now sitting on the cusp of contemporary urbanity are left with a choice: invest in the kind of infrastructure that the next generation demands like Portland, Oregon has or be left behind like a smaller, sadder Detroit.

So which will it be, Cincinnati? Are we ready to do what we need to do to compete with other world class cities or are we going to keep the status quo, while we continue our comfortable decline, seated firmly and inextricably in the plush seats of our cars or stolid buses?

I say we do what we need to! I say it’s time to invest in the infrastructure that the new urban professionals demand so we can stay competitive in the new world economy. It’s not going to be buses and cars alone that take us into the future, but something more flexible, more adaptive to changing preferences and travel patterns…something quick, convenient, friendly and stylish.

Build the Cincinnati Streetcar Poster

We need only look back a single century to find successful implementations of such technologies; the Wicked Witch of the West for example, and later the Good Witch Glinda used flying monkeys to simply tremendous ends in turn-of-the-century Oz.

wicked witch of the west

The wicked witch directs her fleet of smart, fuel efficient monkeys to pick up a few passengers

There’s no reason Cincinnati couldn’t adapt such systems to meet it’s urban transportation needs, despite what the suburban naysayers may be whispering in the ears of councilmen.

The time is now, Cincinnati. With the municipal budget crisis, and the seeming failure of the parking lease, some are saying we can’t afford this project. I say we can’t afford to not build it! If we’re going to overcome the fiscal hurdle Kasich threw down on Ohio cities, we’re only going to do it by doing what cities have always done best: Innovation. Using some of our own capital money now to leverage available federal funds will pay enormous dividends not only in the medium-term but increasingly into the future as the tax base grows. We rose to fame on the canals, but by passing up the railroads we turned our Queen City crown over to Chicago. We can’t afford to do that again. Let’s take that crown back. The time is now, Cincinnati.

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Posted in: Politics | Silly Bullshit | Talking about Transit
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Llama ex Machina

It’s been almost two years and I’m amazed no one has yet noticed the Cincinnati transit llama.

he Cincinnati transit llama

If enough people leave comments, the Cincinnati Transit Llama will be printed on t-shirts.

Some other possible candidates:

the Cincinnati transit narwal

The Cincinnati Transit Narwhal

the cincinnagti transit squid

The Cincinnati Transit Squid(only seven tentacles)

Cincinnati transit whale

The Cincinnati Transit Whale

I hope I haven’t ruined this for anyone else. I’ll never be able to not see a llama in the 43 again.

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Posted in: Design | Maps | Silly Bullshit
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The Fun Bus

I’ve been talking to Cincinnatians about transit for a while now. In bars, on the internet, in dark alleys at 3 in the morning…

One thing keeps popping up more than anything else. People tend to see very specific deficiencies in the transit system and they naturally think about very specific ways to fix them.

The problems they think about usually run something like this:

Here’s How they think about solving these problems:

The way people tend to frame the issue or problem that they see almost invariably focuses on the needs of a relatively small demographic-their demographic. It also focuses on a relatively small area-the one they spend a lot of time in. In fact, it tends to focus on whatever this particular person or group is concerned with at the moment.

The solution tends to address only this specific problem, and it tends to do it with a completely new transit service dropped on top of the existing system.

If you’re a university, you tend to care about how your students get to campus. If you’re a YP with new money burning a hole in your wallet, you just want to get to a bar quickly and come back late. If you’re invested in OTR properties, you want something that will bring shoppers and people with money past your place.

People think about their problem, and they come up with a solution to it. They think and think, and the more they think, the more they’re convinced that their solution solves every aspect of their conception of the problem. The error of course, as my loaded words have probably pointed out by now, is that their conception of the problem is just that-only theirs. YP’s are not going to adequately address the transportation needs of a large and diverse population. Neither are OTR property owners or the NAACP or any other demographic.

What we need are planners to facilitate and lead the conversation. The planning profession (at its best) seeks to look at complex urban issues as holistically as possible and work with diverse people to lead them to solutions that are the best for everyone, everywhere. It might seem like planners just aren’t in the budget at our local transit agencies. More likely, they’re overworked or not allowed the authority or autonomy they need to properly direct the process. Instead, we get things like the One for Fun, the #1 SORTA bus created by a ‘partnership’ between SORTA and dozens of arts-and-culture-type organizations like the Museum Center, the Conservatory and the Zoo.

The #1 is a planner’s nightmare. It nominally serves only one group’s interests(arts organizations), and it doesn’t even do that well. Indeed, it’s not unreasonable to say it’s a transit rider’s nightmare too. Here’s the original route map from when the service was rebranded in 2010

original #1 map

Looks more like a list of sponsors than destinations

It’s hard to believe anything could be harder to read than that.(But wait! This was originally only available on the website as an 18MB PDF file.) It’s not just the bad design with the clunky legend, noxious colours and decontextualized streets. It’s the fact that the route doesn’t make any damn sense. Almost any place you want to go, from almost any point on the route, you can get to faster and more directly by walking or taking a different transit line. Further, the routing is so convoluted it’s impossible to remember or even make sense of, making a joke of the suggestion that it would be used primarily by choice riders, particularly by the kind of people who would patronise the symphony.

But back to my point! The reason the #1 is a poor route(indeed, it had the lowest ridership of any route last I heard) is because it was organized and arranged by a coalition of arts organizations. They(collectively) have no idea how an entire transit system, a network of dozens of interconnected lines, works holistically to benefit a very large and diverse group of people such as makes up Greater Cincinnati. It’s just not their line of business. They only know that it would be nice if one bus went past all of their galleries and museums.

And this makes perfect sense from their perspective! They can hardly be faulted for simple ignorance of an extremely complex system. They see, daily, a huge number of people-their customers and constituents-circulating between the Museum Center, the Zoo, the CAC, and the various galleries. They naturally think that a transit line that connected everything door-to-door for this group of people they work with would be a blessing. It would be one stop shopping! People hop back and forth between institutions all the time! Why not put all that commotion in one place? It will makes things so simple!

Except it doesn’t. It makes things more complicated, isolated, disconnected, confusing, and most of all, inefficient.

When interest groups,(arts organizations, YPs, UC, or OTR landlords in our examples), most very well intentioned, start to make specific suggestions about transit, it’s past time for planners to step in and lead the discussion toward solutions that address their needs and the needs of others in a common solution(or package of coordinated solutions).

So if you’ve wondered by now just what exactly I would tell these arts organizations, it would be something like this:

Your organizations are of great benefit to the city. You’re good neighbours, and I want to make sure that as many of your potential customers as possible have convenient access to your facilities. I’m excited to see that so many of you are located within a couple miles of Downtown. The density and frequency of transit in this area is already quite good compared to other parts of town, so you’re all off to a very good start! It seems we need to make clear to your customers how the transit system works, how people can catch buses, and where they go so that your customers can make full use of what is already in place. To the extent that this is inadequate, and I fully realize the system is far from perfect, let’s talk about how we can improve access for not only your business, but the neighbourhood and community as a whole. Let’s look at where people are going, what your next door neighbour is looking for from the transit system, where his customers are traveling from.”

I expect if we took that more holistic approach, we’d come up with a more holistic problem statement and very different solutions. We might find that there isn’t so much a problem of people not being able to get to and from the art museum as a complete lack of transit in Mt. Adams as a whole. We might find that the ambiguously shifting route of the #31 makes the connection to the #33 near Union Terminal confusing for commuters as well as museum visitors, and indeed that opening up shuttered stairways from the Terminal to Dalton street would go a long way toward connecting the building with the rest of town. We might find that Downtown would work better for everyone if routes were consolidated and took predictable, overlapping paths toward and away from Government Square creating very high frequency transit streets for circulation across the CBD. We might find a lot of such things if we look a bit deeper than our own issues when we think about transit.

So, homework: The next time you think you have a good suggestion for the transit agencies, something that would solve a specific problem you see in the system, please think for a moment about how it would help someone in a wheelchair in Mt. Healthy get to their weekend job in Madeira. Or how it would help people in West Price Hill cross the Mill Creek and get up the hill to Corryville. If you can’t imagine any way at all that it does either, you might want to go back to the drawing board or ask for some help from a transit planner.

And just for FUN:

The one for FUN

Just ONE more, then 1’m dONE.

The ONE for FUN

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Posted in: Silly Bullshit | Simplicity
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