Eli Cooper

Eli Cooper
Transportation Program Manager, City of Ann Arbor

Tottered on: 1 March 2006
Temperature: 37 F
Ceiling: partly cloudy
Ground: firm damp
Wind: NNE at 6 mph

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TT with HD: Eli Cooper

EC: Here goes nothing.

HD: You okay?

EC: Yes, I'm ... teeter tottering!

HD: Is this pace going to work for you? For the long term ...?

EC: If there's a pace, this is fine!

HD: Okay, what is your exact job title ... Transportation Program Manager, or?

EC: You know, I think you're the first person to ever get it exactly right the first time.

HD: So was it created for you or is this a position that existed before you came to town?

EC: It was created, I believe, as a general restructuring within the city government. Coming from Seattle, which is not in the news-shed of the area, I wasn't aware necessarily of the changes that had gone through reorganization within the City. I applied as a result of an ad that I'd found on the World Wide Web. The position had been created at that point. I do not believe there was a predecessor with the exact same title. But there was a functionality within city government: transportation. Apparently as a result of some previous form of re-organization it was recognized that it was lacking. So therefore a position was created.

HD: Do you report directly to the City Manager?

EC: No. There are a couple of dimensions to it. I report directly to Craig Hupy who is the team leader for the Systems Planning Group. Transportation is one of several functionalities within the Systems Planning Group. So we have folks who do the waste water system planning and the water treatment planning, ... , recycling and a number of natural and built systems within the city ...

HD: I noticed the vehicle you drove here is some kind of water department vehicle?

EC: That's where it must have started its life in city service, that's what the little logo on the door says. Although as long as I've been with the city, it's been assigned to this group called Systems Planning. So in terms of supervisory reporting in the org chart, I report to Craig Hupy. Overall, like many people who carry Manager titles in the City, I'm at the beck and call of any of the City Council Members, the mayor, ... and I appreciate that.

HD: You appreciate that?

EC: Indeed. Some folks are intimidated by being exposed to that level of the public policy domain. As for me, it is an opportunity to be relevant, to be providing service directly to policy makers, to elected officials. And working with them adds to a part of the work that it's real, that it's going to have a material affect.

HD: Has there been a lot of interaction with the city council members, with them just calling you up saying, We need this! or, I need this! Give me a report on thus and such!

EC: Not an over amount. I think there's some issues that are relevant. So there was a meeting scheduled a month or so ago about a Washtenaw Avenue non-motorized path and I'd received a contact from both Joan Lowenstein and Steve Rapundalo ...

HD: ... so this was 2nd Ward stuff ...

EC: ... about some comments and concerns that they'd heard from some citizens. And under those circumstances, I think it is absolutely appropriate for me to receive calls from them ... other broader transportation-related things I've had communications with other council members and the mayor.

HD: So you were at the neighborhood hearing or I guess it wasn't a neighborhood hearing, just a hearing about the Washtenaw non-motorized path ...

EC: ... well, it was a 'public information meeting'. Now again, I'm not an attorney [laugh]. Just a planner! But the connotation that I carry when someone uses the word 'hearing' is that it's a formal process ...

HD: ... a legal proceeding ...

EC: ... and it's part of an ultimate government decision. I appreciate the fact that the city council actually directed staff to convene this public information meeting. We are at city government the closest to the people, unlike state or county government, where you're some remote bureaucrat somewhere else. City Council said, Hey we have some citizens here, who have a concern. I explained where we were with the project and they said, Good idea, let's go out and have a meeting and bring everybody up to the same plane. So it was ... a public information meeting where a project that the City has been contemplating for years is starting to move foreword. And some of the citizens were confused about what the impacts are, what the implications are, what the specifics were ...

HD: I think one of the questions was, Do I have to shovel the snow off this thing?

EC: That's correct.

HD: And it turns out that the neighbors there, because it's a non-motorized, multi-use path and not just a plain vanilla sidewalk, they don't have to shovel the snow off it?

EC: That's correct. So again with a 'hearing' you're expecting a recorder of some kind ... This was more we had, myself and one other staff member, a series of diagrams and just had a conversation with the community.

HD: Do you feel like that meeting went off pretty well? That people got their questions answered?

EC: I am confident that everybody got their questions answered. We went through about an hour and a half of questions and I stuck around after the meeting time ended and chatted with a few folks even beyond that. It's a relatively, and I use the term 'relatively', it's a relatively simple project.

HD: Just from a construction point of view?

EC: From an overall complexity, not just the construction, but the effect. It's not like it's affecting 50% of the population. It's a path on a very specific right-of-way. Many of the folks who will benefit from this City investment probably aren't aware that the meeting was held. Or that, in fact, this project is underway. Those would be the folks who would be travelling by, and get to the edge of the sidewalk and say, Gee, now where do I go?

HD: I follow the dirt path!

EC: Again, the folks who were at the meeting, I think, generally seemed satisfied at the end of the conversation and thanked me for ...

HD: ... there was no yelling?

EC: No! That's where you get to the public 'hearing' definition with a microphone and it's kind of like a shark-feeding frenzy where one person makes a statement and the crowd erupts, and the next person gets in. No it wasn't that at all.

HD: So it was a pretty friendly meeting.

EC: Friendly in terms of the atmosphere. There were clearly sides. There some who were there just to learn about it, there were some who had some preconceived ideas that were opposed to it, and there were others that were supportive of it. It wasn't a love-fest, but it was a very polite and professional public discourse.

HD: Was that the first public meeting you've presided over since you've come to Ann Arbor?

EC: ... 'presided over' ... Hmmm!

HD: Oh okay, you weren't 'presiding over' it but ...

EC: Yes, it was the first public meeting where I was primarily responsible to make a presentation to the community.

HD: Are you able to draw any comparison to Seattle, where you were most recently, in similar contexts?

EC: Two things. First, in Seattle I was at a regional level. There's less direct relationship with impacted property owners when you're doing broad regional planning. So it was different in that regard, but it was very similar in that the Pacific Northwest, similar to the city of Ann Arbor, is prided both on its citizen-participation rates, as well as the high level of discourse that occurs in pubic-policy discussions and projects.

HD: I was trying to give you an opening to say, Yeah citizens of Ann Arbor are way more educated, smarter and more polite than the Seattle-ites!

EC: Well, you know, given the way the people of Seattle pride their posture in the world, I think being kindred spirits with a place like the great Pacific Northwest is a compliment to the folks in Ann Arbor.

HD: So you found the ad for this job on the internet? Was it something in particular about this job that made you say, Wow I really want to go there! This is an opportunity to do something that I can't do in Seattle?

EC: On a couple of different levels, my world was in transition at that time. I do have family nearby ... and I have to be careful, as this is going on the web, ... , but they live in, I guess it's the hometown of the Buckeyes ...

HD: Ah. I see.

EC: I've come to appreciate both the distance and the relevance of the two communities.

HD: Did you grow up there?

EC: No, I grew up in New York, actually.

HD: New York State?

EC: Up through six years old was New York City proper. And then the family moved to a place called Rockland County, which is a northwest suburb of New York City. So in terms of responding to the ad, first and foremost it seemed that ... it was a broad array of different transportation issues starting from lowest micro-level, ... the pedestrian/bicycle piece was in the job description ... as well as a description of regional involvement. And throughout my career I've worked in local, regional, as well as state government and I said I said, I need to spend some more time back at the local level. The prospects of a position in a place that was close to family, that had direct relationship on the things that I had been working on, to reconnect with the type of project ... I really enjoyed the meeting that I had with the citizens ... and that interaction is something that you can't find at every level and every position. So a combination of factors, time and place. Coming out of school and looking for a position, you had to wait for a printed newsletter to come out, or go to a repository library and get the significant metropolitan areas ... with the World Wide Web today, it's just fascinating you can wind up finding out about positions internationally, not just across the country.

HD: You mentioned that this position offered you the opportunity to continue working on some of the kinds of things that you had already been working on. One of the things you were working on out in Seattle was the monorail project?

EC: Putting it in context, I was not a part of the Seattle Monorail Project. But in a regional transportation position, all things transportation came through our office. Similar to what SEMCOG is here in southeast Michigan where federal funds flow through and there's large regional plans. But you generally don't get involved in the details of a specific project. I was on a planning coordination committee with Monorail staff with Sound Transit staff, which is the regional transportation provider, as well as King County Metro which is the equivalent of AATA. So I'm pretty well aware of the monorail and its evolution.

HD: You're on the Board of the AATA, right?

EC: That's correct.

HD: What's your take on the announcement by the City of Ypsilanti that they're contemplating cutting their funding for some of the routes? Is that something that AATA is scrambling to figure out how to maintain the same level of service between the two communities, even if Ypsilanti can't meet their financial obligation? Or is that one of those things where you say, We'll cross that bridge ... if we have to.

EC: The first thing I can identify is the separation between a board and our role as board members and the day-to-day operations. At this point, Greg Cook and his staff are intimately involved in discussions with officials in the City of Ypsilanti and the various financial commitments they can make, and how that translates into service reductions. They're still working their way through that ... ... when they get that conversation far enough along ...

HD: ... it might be that they don't cut their funding in which case it's a moot point?

EC: There you go. But at the same time the board itself, and I'm a relative newcomer on the board, but the board seems interested in finding a more secure and more stable funding source. Outside of the city of Ann Arbor, the service is provided on a contractual basis with the communities: they provide a certain amount of capital; we provide a certain level of service. There's give-and-take in those negotiations. In the city of Ann Arbor, we have the property millage, and as such, the service is centered here and we don't have a contract with the City. Not specifically in response to the City of Ypsilanti, it seems like there's been momentum growing over time, and I say over time as a newcomer, ... , it could have started two months before I showed up! But the question, as I sense it, is one that has a history of moving the AATA to a broader funding base. And a broader service situation where the service would be county-wide ... at some level. And that the funding base would also be county-wide, as well. So it would take us out of the year-to-year fluctuations of a local government. You can imagine ... the AATA makes contractual obligations, buys busses in order to provide service, something happens with the local government and now, all of a sudden, they can't afford to pay anymore. Now what do you do with your fleet? Because you've got busses that you can't afford to run. All of those details get worked out over time. In many metropolitan areas, there are more secure funding bases over a broader geography than one jurisdiction. That's something that the board is ... it's something that is on our work program to look at and make a move when the timing is right. But at this point it's still in the formative stages.

HD: The Washtenaw bike path is part of the same general picture of the connection between Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor as well, so I wanted to return to that subject. It's been seen by some as sort of a choice between a bike path along the side of the road versus a bike lane in the road. Looking at the actual map for the Non-Motorized Master plan, it looks to me like they're not seen as mutually exclusive options, that the plan is actually to take Washtenaw and put bike lanes on each side reducing it from four lanes to three lanes in addition to having the path.

EC: That's correct.

HD: My gut reaction, not knowing anything numerically about how many cars drive along Washtenaw, is, Wow, that's going to put a real squeeze on automobile traffic! So I was just wondering, do transportation planners and planning departments have easy access to software ... you know graphic designers have PhotoShop, is there something like TrafficShop that's commonly accessible where you can load it up with a bunch of numbers and then watch the cars go along the road in a simulation ...

EC: The answer is simply, Yes. As a matter of fact, the week after the meeting where we talked about Washtenaw Avenue, we had a meeting down off of Platt Road and the discussion there is precisely what you're talking about. Platt Road south of Packard is scheduled for re-paving. Part of the re-paving was the idea of re-striping the road from four lanes to three lanes to accommodate ... there's a number of driveways and there's some accident hazards there, as well as using the residual roadway for bicycle lanes. What we brought with us ... was a laptop computer with the program and all the data loaded in, and you could actually watch the blips on the screen of the cars traveling side-by-side in the same direction on one half of the screen. And on the other half lined up neatly and proceeding in a parade in both north and south directions.

HD: That just sounds very cool. It's two-dimensional though? It's not like a 3D perspective or anything ...?

EC: That's correct. I've seen other 3D visualization tools out there ... but if you think about the amount of data that are necessary to maintain those images and then try combine that with the computational power required to run higher-level transportation models, computers, though advanced are not all the way there yet. ... ... ...

HD: I assume even the 2D version, it's not something that regular folks could afford just to buy and just for the sake of looking at to go, Wow that's pretty cool.

EC: I would suggest that they contact city transportation people in a city hall near them!

HD: Well, you said that you took the laptop and demonstrated it. If there were a bulletin in the Ann Arbor News that said, There's going to be demonstration of this software as it relates to the Washtenaw Bike Path project or anything else, I think I would be there because it just sounds fascinating.

EC: Well, let me then offer to you that as a part of the recently-enacted surface transportation bill at the federal level which governs transportation planning throughout the entire country, they have enhanced the public involvement requirements on government officials to go beyond that which has already been well-defined after 25-plus years of practice in trying to enhance public participation, but it's gone as far as to require now that visualization techniques be used in the public participation process.

HD: Huh!

EC: So for state or regional transportation planning programs, within the next year or so, every state and regional transportation plan that's produced will have visualization built into the public involvement participation process.

HD: So it's not like you guys are going to have to schedule a separate meeting to show off the software, it'll just be a required part of public presentations?

EC: Right, but it may not necessarily be a laptop running a model. In terms of visualization, it may be a couple of static drawings of: here's the community without the improvement; here's what it would look like after. PhotoShop is a piece of software that works to not necessarily design, but draw in where a new sidewalk would be or a new road lane.

HD: Okay, let me read you something I found on the web. This is probably not your family, but I hope it might be. This is from Woburn, Massachusetts: " ... the Woburn Branch Railroad opened for business in 1844. Eli Cooper was the engineer on the first train." So I'm hoping you'll say, Yeah, that was my great-great-great-grandfather and that's the whole reason I got into transportation!

EC: Sorry!

HD: Dang.

EC: But I can describe for you how I did get involved with transportation. It's an interesting perspective, at least it's interesting to me, it's very personal. Having grown up in the northern suburbs of New York, my dad worked in downtown Manhattan and would commute. Which was standard fare in the 60's and 70's. And I would be in a school play or an athletic event or whatever, and you know, Dad wasn't there, because he was stuck in traffic. Well, dang, Can't somebody do something about that? I got involved and to some degree passionate about transportation issues, recognizing the impact that it had on one person's life, my own, and some unmet expectations that I had in my life and trying to say, You know what, I can dedicate myself to being responsible for trying to do something about that. So unfortunately no family connection to Massachusetts in the 1800's! But there was a personal reason for pursuing this particular line of work.

HD: So you went off to college with the idea that you wanted to do something connected to transportation?

EC: It was a combination of trying to think about how to make the world better ... my undergraduate degree is in environmental sciences ... so it was about the world that we live in and then ... transportation seemed to be a good place to go to make the difference, to respond to that childhood concern, but also to have a long-term income. Coming out of an environmental science program in the early days of the Reagan administration wasn't likely ... ... a further career in environmental matters didn't seem to be the right way to go!

HD: So is there anything so far that you would point to as a really pleasant surprise about living or working in Ann Arbor?

EC: All the people I work with are great. Really dedicated, high-level professionals. It's been quite some time, I'd have to go back to the late 1980's where I was in a start-up state planning office in New Jersey, where there was really that high-level and keenly interested staff. So I think that's been pleasant surprise in terms of the colleagues that I work with. Really great people. Really smart about what they do. And really caring about the community.

HD: Well, you already have a reputation among at least some of the staff at City Hall of being really friendly and accessible, easy going guy. I couldn't find your email address on the city website, so I called there and asked, Do you know an Eli Cooper who works somewhere in the City, and with no prompting, the person who had answered the phone said, Oh yes, Eli Cooper, he's a really nice, friendy guy!

EC: That may be because I talk a lot! But generally choose to do it with a smile ... I appreciate that in terms of feedback.

HD: So you drove a City vehicle over here. What kind of car do you drive normally?

EC: I have a 1993 Mercury Villager. And I use that for tooling around. In terms of commuting, folks who stop by my office on a Friday as long as the morning temperature is above say 34 degrees, will find my bicycle. I bike to work generally on Fridays.

HD: You live in the northeast part of town, right? So is it down Earhart that you go?

EC: I would come down Earhart. In the morning downhill down Glazier and in the afternoon uphill!

HD: What kind of bike do you have?

EC: Actually it's two. I have a road bike and a mountain bike. They're both Raleighs.

HD: The commuting is on the road bike?

EC: Up until about August it was on the road bike. Then as the leaves started falling I wasn't really that keen on the skinny tires. And the ground was a little damper in the morning, so I use the mountain bike.

HD: This winter has been pretty good for bicycle commuting. There haven't been many days where it's just been completely out of the question. ... ... do you find yourself evangelizing for the bicycle as a mode of transportation, or do you just let the fact that you have it right there in your office speak for itself?

EC: I understand that it's right there out in the front of city hall with the police station right there, but I feel better knowing it's in my office. It's not evangelical. For me it's the comfort of seeing it there as opposed to, Gee, is it going to be there when I come back out? Not suggesting that city hall is not a safe place! No, what I've found is that my interest in bicycling and bicycle commuting is part of a healthy lifestyle. One of the pleasant surprises about the community is that I'm a member of the Washtenaw Rec Center. And relative to all the commercial gyms that are out there, ... having access to that right in town here is just a wonderful amenity.

HD: Was that a choice for you between the Rec Center and the YMCA? A matter of geographic location, or amenities offered? I only ask because it's right around the corner here, the YMCA.

EC: The YMCA would be a commitment, if I was the type of person who could find the time to workout during the day. I generally find that my interests are at the end of the day. ... The YMCA has whatever their monthly charge is, but at the Rec Center I think it was like $160 for the year? For an individual.

HD: And that gets you full access to all the amenities?

EC: All the ones I've opted to use. So there's an indoor track and they've got an aerobics room, a weight room, exercise machines ...

HD: Pool?

EC: No, I've looked down over the pool, but I haven't haven't put my toe in the water there yet.

HD: So swimming is not really your thing?

EC: No it is not. It's not that I can't do it! ... ... It's interesting, during the summer another one of the pleasant surprises is the path system through Gallup Park. Coming home in the evening and having the ability to head right to the park and go for a three- or four-mile run. And it's just a beautiful serene environment. So in terms of pleasant surprise and fitting into my lifestyle, the bicycling to work is something that just fits in. On the other days typically I will park at the Green Road Park-and-Ride and take the AATA service. So not only am I on the Board, but I'm one of the passengers.

HD: So um, to coin a phrase, You walk the walk.

EC: And I could probably literally walk the walk if I walked another three blocks and walked to the bus. But I actually ride to the bus.

HD: When you do cycle into work, it is downhill most of the way, right? I don't mean to pry too much into your personal business, but do you not have to shower off before you can actually start your day?

EC: Not shower off and it's not exclusively downhill. For anybody who's familiar with Ann Arbor City Hall on Fifth, if you come down Fuller off of Glazier, it's a nice downhill, until you get down Fuller Street down by the Amtrak Station. And then you have to figure, how do you get up to City Hall. So what I generally do is, I always bring a change of clothes and a towel. And I go to the local men's room and switch out of my cycling gear, which is nothing more than shorts and a T-shirt. If there's any beads of perspiration, wipe them and change into the clothes that I've packed.

HD: How do you pack them so that they're still looking nice?

EC: This is where we come back to predominantly or exclusively Fridays. Over the past years, most of the places I've worked have had Friday as casual day. So you throw in a pair of jeans and a Polo shirt in a bag ... something where creases aren't going to be a big issue. It all comes together. ... ...

HD: I'm not asking you for a long-term commitment here, but could you see yourself finishing your professional career here in Ann Arbor?

EC: Wow. The best way I can answer that question right now is that, I see no reason why I would not. There are so many things to do. It's a great place to live. Great people to work with. The challenge may be outside of what's within any of our control within the City. Meaning that right now, I'm serving on the steering committee for an Ann Arbor to Detroit rail transportation project. Yesterday in the news, the MDOT director stepped down from her position. And those things have effects on decisions in the public policy arena that transportation professionals worth within. So part of what attracted me to Ann Arbor is the fact that we do have a 'multi-modal' philosophy. We believe not just in the auto-centric way of people moving about, but in many different ways: transit systems, bikes, walking, and cars are all part of a strategy. To the extent that all that is here, that keeps me energized and moving forward. If it were to change, not that I can envision it would, that would be one indicator this may not be as much fun for me personally. On a professional level I think it is the multiple choices that really eliminates all the pressures that come from a highway-only approach. If you have no choice but to get on a freeway in your car and your car is going to be lined up on a highway behind every other one, that's defeating. And from a transportation philosophy, some people believe that if you just add more lanes that will solve the congestion. Well that's like trying to achieve weight loss through loosening one's belt. Your clothes may fit better, but you're not actually getting to the root cause.

HD: That reminds me, I almost forgot to ask about one of the specific proposals for projects that I've read about recently. That's the Division Street proposal. I think it's a DDA proposal, but I'm not sure where it came from? It's four lanes now, I guess, but it involves taking one away one of the lanes and making it a bike lane and taking another lane and making parallel parking out of it. The upshot is that it makes the road skinnier for moving car traffic, which is totally consistent with what you just described. How far along is that project? Is that just talk and speculation so far?

EC: Oh, no. What I do on a daily basis is serve on technical committees for various projects and the DDA project for Fifth and Division is one that I've been fortunate to be involved in. It is the way you're describing, where an additional parking lane and a bicycle lane will be provided 'in lieu of' ... I don't like the 'take away' term ... The question is, if we were to skinny it down and use leftover space for vehicle storage or a bicycle lane, does it work? There's been enough work done ... so the DDA has hired the contractors and consultants who have done the analysis ... that the answer seems to be: it will work. There's a large difference between investing tens of thousands or a hundred thousand dollars and having a planning study done versus the millions it will take to actually reconfigure the street and the signals ... so I think the plan is not complete, but it's well-formed. And it's clearly moving in the direction that you've described. I don't know what the financial plan is for implementation, but I think its something that would be a welcomed addition to our downtown.

HD: A question from much earlier in the convesation. For the railway, people are talking about regional transit, railway, light rail, what-have-you. I'm not asking you to predict the future, but this seems like it's not a five-year deal ... that would be way too quick ... but I would hope that it would be sooner than 50 years ...

EC: There's a couple of different parts to this. The Ann Arbor to Detroit Study is actually underway today. And there is 100 million dollars that have been earmarked in a federal bill, so there is a large chunk of money for a solution to be implemented on that corridor. And that corridor would be generally from Ann Arbor, to generally Detroit, with some connection to the airport. That could really happen not only within our lifetime, but within the current decade.

HD: So five years might not just be crazy talk?

EC: For that specific project. Now there's been other discussion that you may be referring to as well, in the context of the north-south that was originally part of the Lansing to Detroit Study. And I'm aware of that because I've been looking at some of the earlier studies so I don't have to repeat that in order to come up with some fast-and-dirty analysis, but it seems like for a relatively small amount, somewhere between 50 and 100 million dollars ... everything is relative in transportation-speak ... trains can be bought, improvements can be made to the crossings, park-and-ride lots and stations be built, we could have a viable north-south corridor. That one, since it's still at a conceptual stage, could take anywhere from 5 to 10 years on a real fast track. I know some people have expressed that the tracks are there, all you need to do is buy a train and run it. Well, yeah, except how are the passengers going to get to the train? So there are some safety improvements that would have to be programmed, funds allocated. I wish it were that simple. I would agree that there is a market to be served, and the question is whether, in the overall scheme of things, there are sufficient resources to make that investment, in addition to other investments that need to be made. So is it a sequencing thing, east-west first then north-south? I would have to say, because you used the term 'light rail' that neither of these two regional-type services would be a light-rail technology. But I'm going to use that as an opener to say that as you think about the city of Ann Arbor itself, and the prospects of a light-rail or a street car type system, I can envision connecting some of our major activity centers and the north-south and east-west rails with some sort of local circulator rail, street-car type of system. Activity centers are things like the downtown, the medical campus, the northeast area, where you have Pfizer and lots and lots of employees, Briarwood to the south .... Because Ann Arbor has done a good job to date with its land-use planning, and with the recent downtown visioning, we may put more people where the stuff already is, which really speaks well to an environment for transit to be effective. So I think we continue to build a community that will be well-served by these forms of transportation. It's a question, unfortunately, that they are quite expensive. When I say quite expensive, again I'm using numbers like 50 or 100 million dollars per system, so we're talking about if you think of an east-west, a north-south, and a local circulator, we talking about something that might add up to ...

HD: ... almost a half-billion dollars ...

EC: a quarter- or a half-billion dollars, yes. Sooner or later it's real money. But I think it's also fair to say that those are the types of investments that will serve the community for eternity. There's a poem that I have and it's called the Calf Path.

HD: Can you recite it from memory?

EC: No, I can't, but I can probably get a copy if you want to post it, but it speaks to how in the early days, before there were civilized people, there were calves and creatures that meandered in and around the woods wearing paths. And ultimately those became the early foot trails, that became the wagon trails, that became the roads. So who would have known that some stray sheep or calf actually designed a major national transportation system! But that's sort of the essence of it.

HD: That sounds like sort of Tao-ist kind of deal, you know, the idea that the Way is made by people walking on it? You want to know where the Way is, well look where other people are walking, that's the Way. Any final words before I snap your picture?

EC: No, this was fun!

HD: I'm glad. That's the whole idea.