Mary Buchanan is the research associate at TransitCenter. Her work uncovers practical, rider-focused solutions that make transit more functional and more equitable in U.S. cities. Some of her work addresses improving bus stops, understanding ridership decline, and using transit performance data to strengthen advocacy for better service. Mary holds a B.A. in Economics from Rice University and a Masters in City and Regional Planning from Rutgers University.
What do you most enjoy about YPT?
Having a network to draw on for professional connections is great, but the thing I like most is meeting people who are as nerdy about transit and cities as me. It’s valuable to dig into issues I’m facing at work or experiencing on my daily commute, with people who really know and care about these questions. And it’s fun to do that over a beer.
What’s your preferred transport mode and why?
Walking! It’s the exploring mode, because you can take in a lot more of your surroundings from the sidewalk. And you control everything about it – how fast you go, which path you take, if and when and where you stop. For short trips in New York City, walking can be fastest (if you walk fast, which I do). Plus, the exercise and fresh air.
What are you working on that you’re most passionate or proud about?
Transit agencies are required to provide equitable transit – where everyone has fair access to quality service. In reality, people of color, people with low incomes, and other marginalized groups – who often use transit more – are allotted lesser service and have worse access to opportunity. TransitCenter, with Center for Neighborhood Technology, seeks to understand what decisions at transit agencies cause these imbalances, identify which existing agency policies have led to equitable outcomes, and build a set of processes for achieving equitable transit broadly. I’m excited to contribute to a body of work by advocates, academics, and practitioners that’s called for transformative changes to how we govern and plan transit to make it equitable, as it’s meant to be.
What is the biggest transit-related problem that you’d like to help solve?
Most of our country’s sidewalks are in deplorable conditions, and in most of the U.S., there aren’t any sidewalks at all. Walking feels impossible, taking transit feels impossible – in fact, it is nearly impossible to travel by anything but a car. Changing this sidewalk status quo would make walking and transit attainable for many more trips, it would make driving and biking safer as well.
Do you have any career advice for YPT’ers interested in advocacy/organizing work?
It’s easiest and most rewarding to advocate for something you really believe in. And, advocacy takes all forms – it’s much richer than rallying cries and signs. Identify what your strengths are and offer those skills up to your cause.