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Member Profiles

Member Profile: Casey Barrett

Casey Barrett, EIT, ENV SP
Civil Associate II in Michael Baker’s Civil-Highway Department

I earned my BS in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Manhattan College in 2015. I went on to work for Michael Baker in their Civil-Highway department, where I worked on a variety of projects from streetscape improvements to bridge replacements. My project tasks include Maintenance and Protection of Traffic designs, and Traffic Control and staging plans, which is how traffic patterns are maintained during construction. In addition to being an active YPT member, I’m also involved with Women in Transportation Seminar (WTS) and I’m co-chair of the college outreach committee. In my spare time I enjoy gardening, hiking, doing puzzle, and baking/cooking.

What do you most enjoy about YPT? I’ve really enjoyed the virtual tour series, specifically the old NYC subway lines aerial imagery tour by Rayn Riel. I find it fascinating to see how New York’s mobility has changed (or has not changed) over time. I joined YPT in February 2020 and was looking forward to all the upcoming events. I have enjoyed the topics about NYC’s infrastructure and the networking opportunities YPT has hosted while in quarantine, as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

What’s your preferred transport mode and why?

At the moment, my preferred mode of transport is walking. I’m still working from home, so I take walks around my neighborhood in order to get some fresh air. I take a different route so I’m constantly seeing something new every day.

What are you working on that you’re most passionate or proud about (transit-related)?

I’m still waiting on that passion project, but it would be some type of sustainable infrastructure project using the Envision framework.

What is the biggest transit-related problem that you’d like to help solve?

Carbon-Neutral Transportation. The transportation sector generates the largest portion of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The solution to get to a carbon- neutral transportation sector is multifaceted issue, but I will only touch on a couple topics here. In order to cut carbon, we need to get people to drive less. That means getting people out of their personal vehicles and on to mass transit. This would require a reliable multi-modal mass transit system serving all communities. The mass transit fleet would need to be fueled by clean, renewable energy sources. Best management practices in sustainable transit will require research and development, and knowledge sharing across the industry. Another factor to consider in achieving carbon neutral transportation is the physical infrastructure: highways, roads, bridges, airports, etc. Our nation’s infrastructure is built out of concrete which contributes to 8% of global carbon emissions. Therefore, future infrastructure improvement projects will need to be sourced from sustainable resources with a low carbon output. 

Do you have any tips (career advice) for YPT’ers interested in your career path?

Young professionals should join YPT (or any professional society) because it allows you to grow your network outside of the people you work with. Sometimes professional societies offer opportunities, such as tours or training, that your employer doesn’t offer. 

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Member Profiles

Member Profile: Rebecca (Ray) Noble

 

Rebecca (Ray) Noble works at New York City Emergency Management as a Transportation and Infrastructure Specialist. She hails from the Midwest and relocated to NYC to pursue a graduate degree in Urban Planning at Columbia University. When she’s not nerding out about transit, you can probably find her running around Prospect Park, reading, or playing board games.

What do you enjoy most about YPT?

The Transportation group at my office is very small, so I enjoy YPT because I get to meet people with shared interests who I would not encounter directly through my job.

What’s your preferred transport mode and why?

I really love all transport modes for different reasons, but biking is special to me. Biking around Chicago as a young adult drastically changed the way I experienced the city, and getting involved in bicycling advocacy propelled me into thinking about mobility justice from a structural perspective.

What are you working on that you’re most passionate or proud about (transit/COVID-related)?

I’m really proud of the work I’ve gotten to help out with behind the scenes at Emergency Management during the COVID-19 response. There’s a lot of planning that we do year-round to prepare for power disruptions, building vacates, and evacuations, for example, and we had to rapidly adapt a lot of our planning assumptions. I’m proud of the inventive solutions we developed, especially since we produced them in the midst of a global crisis.

What is the biggest transit-related problem that you’d like to help solve?

I would love to eliminate private automobile ownership (except as a reasonable accommodation). I know there’s a lot of ways this could be done wrong, but wouldn’t it be amazing if we got it done right?

Do you have any tips (career advice) for YPT’ers interested in your career path?

Emergency managers have to be able to toggle back and forth between a lot of different roles (at our agency, we each have a day-to-day job, and a “grey sky” role during emergencies). We also collaborate with a lot of external partners during planning and response. A calm temperament is an asset; if you can encounter novel or high-pressure situations without getting riled up, this career might be a good fit for you.

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Member Profiles

Member Profile: Sunny Zheng

Sunny graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in 2017, during which time he spent two summers at the MTA, one at LIRR and one at NYCT Operations Planning. In 2018, he joined the NYCT Data Research & Development unit, where he was part of the team that built the Bus Performance Dashboard, and is now at LIRR focused on improving the customer experience through new technologies as a Process Improvement Specialist in the President’s Office.

What do you enjoy most about YPT?

TransportationCamp and YPT allows those in the field to connect with like-minded people in the industry and learn from each other in a casual, non-judgmental atmosphere. Transportation is a relatively small sector compared to some of the other career paths that young adults can choose, and it’s littered with traps due to the politicized nature of the business. With the audience predominately students and those with a few years of experience in the field, YPT serves as a place to discuss your latest career advancement, back-of-envelope analysis, or wild design with people who have their own stories to share.

What’s your preffered transport mode and why?

No mode exists in a vacuum. Light rail, if built right with dedicated rights of way downtown and TSP outside (think Seattle Central Link), probably provides the best combination of efficiency, capacity, and performance for all but the densest of locales.

What are you working on that you’re most passionate or proud about (transit-related)?

In the current environment, providing customer access to crowding information is on the minds of every transit agency around the world. At the LIRR, we have been fortunate in that my team has started on this initiative a couple years ago, and it was only a matter of speeding up the process to get it into the public’s hands as soon as possible. This month, we launched a totally-rewritten TrainTime mobile app as well as new signage at Jamaica station which represent a major leap forward in customer communications for the MTA. Now, users can see car-by-car loading information and where trains will stop, so they can best position themselves to avoid crowded conditions. This project means a lot to me, as I worked on the current version in my first internship six years ago, fixing bugs and adding new features to the then-nascent application. Never had I expected that I would be the one to decommission it and launch the next generation.

What is the biggest transit-related problem that you’d like to help solve?

As the nation’s fixed guideway assets remain largely static, each generation confronts the challenge of trying to squeeze yet another drop out of capacity out of it. Whether this is done merely by scheduling more trips or through technological innovations, the math is clear – for each service hour added, a maintenance hour is removed. With more service and the passage of time also comes increased wear and tear on the physical plant, thus requiring more maintenance. Track access is the issue that I believe will dominate our industry over the next few decades.

Do you have any tips (career advice) for YPT’ers interested in your career path?

  • Network wisely. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with at a networking event – try to seek out a few people who do something that you would enjoy playing a part in. A few good contacts is better than dozens of people you barely remember the next day.
  • Find a role model, preferably one who was once in a similar position as the one you are in.
  • Data and planning do not exist in a vacuum. Go out and observe what conditions are like on the ground, both during normal conditions and perturbed situations. Make sure the data you get matches your observations. Think twice before taking broad statements at face value.
  • If you see a place where your expertise could be used, even outside your group, don’t be afraid to make some suggestions (but don’t make it too formal). The worst you can be told is no. If your ideas are deemed worthy of consideration, this can open doors quickly.
  • Understand the data pipeline at least one step upstream, one step downstream, and all steps between the levels you are using.
  • Always keep the customer in mind, even if you are doing something that is unpalatable. Look at each situation from three angles: “God” (planning), the employee (operational feasibility) and the customer (passenger experience)
  • Think carefully about edge cases and what is *possible*, not just what is routinely done. It’s totally fine to make a conscious decision that those situations are rare enough, but don’t get caught flat-footed when the folks on the ground decide to make full use of what they have.
  • Finally, remember that no matter how many levels removed you are from the Operating Department, you are playing a part in the daily miracle that is the delivery of a safe, reliable service for millions of New Yorkers.
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Member Profiles

Member Profile: Max Diamond

Max graduated from the CUNY City College of New York with a bachelor’s degree in Economics. He spent 3 years as a College Aide at MTA New York City Transit, spending a half year at the Division of Operations Planning, and the balance at the Department of Subways Performance Analysis Unit. Since June 2019, he has been a conductor on the B division (letter lines) of the subway system, and mainly works on the lines that run out of Queens. He also spends time volunteering at the Shore Line Trolley Museum in Connecticut, and serves on the board of trustees there.

What’s your preferred transport mode and why?

My most preferred mode of transport is heavy rail metro/subway, mostly because of its sheer capacity. Heavy rail urban transit systems can transport an immense amount of people at quite high speeds. Very few other modes can compare in this regard.

What are you working on that you’re most passionate or proud about (transit-related)?

I am most passionate about working on and supporting MTA NYCT’s museum train program. NYCT has a beautiful fleet of vintage subway cars of various types that are used for both public special events and paid excursions. These trains bring a massive amount of positive publicity to the MTA and the New York Transit Museum. Performing conductor’s duties on museum trains is incredibly rewarding, as it is an opportunity to learn a lot of “railroading” knowledge and skills that cannot be learned anywhere else. A railroad is very evolutionary in nature. Understanding how the older trains work provides a lot of critical operational knowledge needed to understand the nuances of how modern day operations at NYCT work.

What is the biggest transit-related problem that you’d like to help solve?

I feel that some of the biggest problems in the transit industry are brain drain and loss of institutional knowledge. Every time a senior worker retires, a massive amount of knowledge leaves with them. This has critical implications for transit systems where in some cases one can find operational rules that date back decades, if not over a century. If nobody knows why a rule was implemented decades ago, how can one properly evaluate policy changes that impact that rule? In one extreme example, an incorrect definition of an acronym for a type of train control/braking system was essentially made up and repeated for several years in some training booklets. Why? Because nobody remembered the actual definition from when it was established in the 1940s. Fortunately this has since been corrected.

Similarly, it is not uncommon for information about some of the more obscure technical aspects of railroading to only be found on decades-old instruction booklets and on the occasional enthusiast blog.
I believe that it’s incredibly important to implement effective knowledge transfer and aggregation initiatives at transit agencies to provide easy access to information for new employees. There is so much that a person can “not know that they don’t know” in the transit industry. Reducing the steepness of that learning curve is critical to ensuring that transit agencies follow best practices.

Do you have any tips (career advice) for YPT’ers interested in your career path?

My advice is to try to get out in the field as much as possible and try to get experience in a variety of departments. The more one understands how transit operations actually play out in the field, the more effectively somebody can then plan or manage aspects of a transit system. Similarly, working in different departments allows one to learn so much more about how a transit system operates, and it builds a lot of professional connections. As a conductor, I can say that I am considerably more effective with the knowledge I gained when I was a College Aide. Likewise, the in-depth field experience I am obtaining as a conductor would be invaluable should I go back to working in an office setting in the future.

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Member Profile: Elizabeth Jule Gladoun

Elizabeth is a transportation analyst at VHB, where she specializes in providing transportation consulting services for New York City real estate and public infrastructure projects. Her work involves conducting traffic impact analyses towards the environmental review process, as well as providing transportation solutions through traffic and transit simulation modeling. She attended New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering, where she graduated with a B.S. in Civil Engineering and an M.S. in Transportation Planning and Engineering. When she’s not in the office, Elizabeth is singing with her choral group, enjoying the outdoors, or baking!

What do you most enjoy about YPT?

One of the most engaging aspects about YPT is the offering of unique events hosted throughout the year. As a student, I enjoyed attending site visits during the summer. Through YPT I also learned about TransportationCamp, and how to get involved as a volunteer, and eventually as a Committee member.

What’s your preferred transport mode and why?

While all modes have their positives, I’ve always been a fan of walking the most, especially when I’m travelling to new cities. I love getting my steps in, but also slowing down to see something new, even in New York City where I grew up and still live.

What are you working on that you’re most passionate or proud about (transit-related)?

My most recent project – and one I’m very excited about – is the Brooklyn – Queens Connector (BQX), a streetcar system proposed to run along an 11-mile route from Astoria, Queens to Red Hook, Brooklyn. The streetcar would aim to reduce travel times for New Yorkers making multiple seat rides, while providing ADA accessibility as well as environmental benefits to neighborhoods. BQX exposed me to new simulation modeling techniques, and gave me a challenging opportunity to work on a project that would alter the city’s footprint while giving New Yorkers an essential alternative to overburdened subway lines and bus routes.

What is the biggest transit-related problem that you’d like to help solve?

I believe the key to resolving many, if not all, of transit related and infrastructure issues comes down to funding. New York City’s transportation network is long overdue for a makeover, and I’m interested in learning how we can properly allocate the funds to give New Yorkers the transit service they deserve.

Do you have any tips (career advice) for YPT’ers interested in your career path?

Don’t be afraid to go to networking events! Starting out, I always felt better going with a group of friends. It’s a great way to meet people in the industry and make connections for future opportunities, whether it’s an internship, full-time job, or even a chance to collaborate on a project.

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Member Profiles

Member Profile: Tiffany Cummings

Tiffany Cummings is a transportation engineer at Stantec, specializing in long-term traffic and revenue forecasting for toll roads and managed lanes. She has been an active member of Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) since 2014 when she joined the Young Professionals committee, later becoming a co-chair of the committee from 2016 through 2019. As part of this committee, Tiffany has partnered with YPT and APA to plan the annual Transportation Trivia Night. Tiffany is a proud Tiger fan, graduating with a B.S. degree in Civil Engineering from Clemson University in 2011. In her spare time, Tiffany enjoys cooking, reading, and biking; she is often seen riding a CitiBike to work or carrying her helmet to and from WTS and YPT events.

What do you most enjoy about YPT?

The sheer variety and quantity of events that are offered – it seems like there’s an event for everyone!

What’s your preferred transport mode and why?

Biking – In most cases, it is the fastest, greenest, and cheapest way to get around NYC. It also makes commuting more fun since biking gives a burst of energy to start your day.

What are you working on that you’re most passionate or proud about?

I am proud of the work I’ve been doing over the last few years for a toll road client in Austin, TX. My first traffic and revenue forecast for them was in 2015, when they first began the financing process for a much-needed project to improve congestion in the region. That toll facility’s first phase opened just a few months ago and it’s exciting to see how the actual performance of the road compares to our forecasts.

What is the biggest transit-related problem that you’d like to help solve?

I’d like to generally get more people to take mass transit. I think buses are an undervalued option that more cities could take advantage of to help address growing vehicular congestion. There’s a book that’s on my list to read (Better Buses Better Cities by Steven Higashide) that discusses ways to improve the bus riding experience. Who knows – maybe after reading it, I’ll feel inspired to be a bus advocate!

Do you have any tips (career advice) for YPT’ers interested in transportation engineering?

The transportation industry is a relatively small, close-knit community. Get to know the people you meet and be sure to treat them with respect. Even if it’s a minor encounter at a YPT event and you think you will never see them again, they could turn up across the table at a project kick-off meeting or job interview. Going to networking events may be hard at first, but most people who attend are friendly and want to talk to others – otherwise they would have stayed home!

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Member Profiles

Member Profile: Mary Buchanan

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.

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Member Profiles

Member Profile: Lauren Bailey

We’re excited to launch this year’s member profile series with Lauren Bailey, the Director of Climate Policy at the Tri-State Transportation Campaign!

Lauren works to fulfill Tri-State’s priority to meet climate goals. Previously, Lauren served as the Capital District’s Transportation Authority’s Mobility Manager, overseeing their alternative transportation portfolio including a bike-share program, taxi policy, and microtransit. She also has experience in policy development and advocacy, including clean energy and healthcare. Lauren holds a Master’s Certificate in Urban Policy and a B.A. in Political Science & Public Health from the University at Albany, State University of New York.

What do you most enjoy about YPT?

Having a way to talk about the transportation and transit industry with my peers without the pressure of representing my organization–and getting to joke about it. Transportation can be a slog, and it’s fun to talk to other people who find it interesting as well.

What’s your preferred transport mode and why?

Biking! It’s freeing to not have to stress about traffic or making a public transit timetable work. Plus, the breeze and fresh air always put me in a good mood–even biking through Manhattan.

What are you working on that you’re most passionate or proud about?

I think I am most proud of my organization’s work around the MTA Capital Plan. It’s so easy for the public–and even transit professionals–to glaze over when you look at project lists, budgets, and timelines. Our work has centered on humanizing the massive investments and asking questions to make sure transit advocates, other government officials and the riding public have the answers they need.

What is the biggest transit-related problem that you’d like to help solve?

I want to figure out how to get people in suburban areas out of their vehicles. There is such a stigma to walking, biking, and taking transit in areas where driving is often the quickest. 

Do you have any career advice for YPT’ers interested in advocacy/organizing work?

Start by getting involved as a volunteer. Find organizations that resonate with you–for me, I’ve always felt tied to climate organizing and bicycle/pedestrian advocacy. If you like an organization’s mission and they have a job opening, apply and make sure to attend any events they have to make an impression. Lots of advocacy and organizing groups are very small and low budget, so they are more likely to take notice of you as a candidate if they already know your face and name.