Working With the City: February 5, 2014

Looking out the window at our 10 inches of snow and 8 degree temperature, I’m not very inspired to go out with my rideboard this week.  That’s one limitation of Lawrence OnBoard, but hey, I can’t drive my car either until the county comes by with the snow plow!  I did car surf into town last week though, just to keep in practice.  The temperature at 9am was around 25 degrees, so I bundled up.  Wait time: 8 minutes, car number 5 stopped.  My driver works at a job training center in McLouth and he told me that many of the clients there have transportation issues, so Lawrence OnBoard would be very helpful for them.

While I was in Washington DC, I met Sheryl Gross-Glaser from the National Center for Mobility Management.  She was pretty excited about our project and thought other transportation professionals would be as well.  We recorded a phone interview last week for the NCMM podcast which went live today.  You can listen to it here.

I bet you are wondering what is happening with that pesky Standard Traffic Ordinance 69?  Last week I met with Toni Miller, the City Attorney and we had a good long chat about it.  The plan that we bounced around is this: the city will leave the ordinance as is (“No person shall stand upon or along a street or highway for the purpose of soliciting a ride”).  However, the city can allow an exception for “permitted ridesharing organizations”.  What that permitting process will look like is still to be worked out.  The city wants to know how we will address traffic safety and personal security, and also about accountability for members who don’t play by the rules.  I’m working on a security plan this month, and we’ll go on from there.

Even though the permit solution is much more complicated than just erasing the word “along” from the traffic ordinance, I am actually quite pleased with that solution.  It gives our program a higher degree of legitimacy, and is will be a good model for other municipalities that might want to try roadside ridesharing.  The permit requirement keeps people who are not in our network from hitching rides on their own (with no training or support), and allows for enforcement of our rules and regulations.  The permit process would be for Lawrence OnBoard as an organization, not for each individual rider, so that makes it easier and cheaper.  I also like the accountability that this system requires for us as an organization- it wards against my natural desire to hurry things along.

Speaking of hurry, my carpenter friends talk about the 2 out of 3 rule.  If you want to do a project well, quickly and cheaply, you can only choose two out of the three.  For Lawrence OnBoard though, the only choice is to do it well.  It will take time and it’s going to cost money, but the results will be worth it.  This week, I started the process of shutting down my business so that I can devote all of my time to Lawrence OnBoard.  It’s a big cliff to go over, but I feel as though this is my calling and I can no longer do it just in my “spare time”.