And so after our travels of October, I returned to Charlotte with a couple of months to go until our next outing to the West Coast for the holidays. Work would continue on campus coordinating both the ridership survey and the GIS mapping project. The survey launched the morning of November 6th, with an individually addressed email sent to 8,000 students (selected to mirror campus demographics) and all faculty and staff (4,127) for a total pool of 12,127.
Over the course of its sixteen-day length, student response to the survey at 28% was excellent; better than hoped for given rates recorded in in surveys I’d conducted for the Student Union. Faculty and Staff participation was 55%; both rates giving us confidence in the data we’d collected.
At the same time we arranged for the transfer of the physical address for every student, faculty and staff member of the campus to the Geography Department to enable the GIS project. Essentially, student interns there would geo-code each address, that is, assign geographic coordinates to it. These could be something as simple as longitude and latitude, but in today’s sophisticated environment it usually means utilizing existing Google mapping resources to place the data point on a map. For example, an address on the block of a street that runs from 700 to 799 with even-numbered addresses on the east side and odd-numbered addresses on the west side of the street. The address, let’s say number 742 would (probably) be located slightly less than halfway up the block, on the east side of the street. A point would then be mapped at that location along the street.
The next couple of months were spent traveling to the West Coast for the holidays, attending a meeting or two on campus each week and beginning work on a report to analyze the results of the survey. Four proposals had also been submitted for the Bike Share program, each was reviewed with presentations scheduled for each of the vendors for the end of February.
Towards the end of January and the into the first of February, I spent six days riding on two of the campus shuttles (operated by CATS) to perform passenger counts, that is manually tabulating each passenger that got on and got off the bus. This is numbing work, sitting for 3-4 hours at a stretch on thinly padded metal framed bus seats, a few moments in between each shuttle stop to think about something else, then the focus on counting bodies as the file on and off.
But it made for full days and gave me a chance to continue making a little extra money, needed more so now since this past weekend we experienced a main water line leak under the house and went without water for four days until the folks at Greenpoint Restoration set up equipment to mitigate the water damage and the plumbers made it out to fix the leak. Our homeowners insurance will cover the restoration work, minus my sizable deductible but the plumbing repairs are on us. Maybe I can go count bus riders for another few weeks?
But seriously, the best part of having done the interim gig last summer and have it blossom into the part time project based work I’m doing is the chance to get back to campus on a regular basis. It allows me to connect with folks I like, keeps skills sharp, do work at my own pace, much of it home on the computer and best of all, feel like I’m making a contribution.
Another bonus has been my interaction with bicycle and environmental advocates as I represented the campus at a couple of meetings with the City of Charlotte, University City Partners (the management and marketing agency for the area near campus), and Sustain Charlotte. This morning our Bike Share project team sat through the first of four presentations scheduled for today and Monday. This included getting to ride one of the bikes this company uses and it is exciting to ponder that his work now will lead to a fully realized system implemented by early summer.
Two years ago at this time I was preparing to launch into retirement, thinking that our six months in Europe would provide a template for the lifestyle we would pursue. Followed by six weeks driving to and from the west coast brought us back to Charlotte ready to slow down for a bit. And yet, for every moment where we experienced the fatigue that sets in when traveling for long periods of time, another offset it when the joy of discovery in a new location made us hungry for more.
So, returning to work, particularly in my current part time mode has been good but hasn’t convinced me that doing so full time is a path I’d like to pursue anytime soon. We’ve got a number of travel plans simmering on the burners this year with a trip to New Orleans and a number of other spots in the south set to commence in a couple of weeks. It will be the start of a good year of travel. We’ll keep you posted.
Greenpoint Restoration: http://www.greenpointrestoration.com/
University City Partners: http://www.universitycitypartners.org/
Sustain Charlotte: http://www.sustaincharlotte.org/