Archive for July, 2017


Lessons from WTS-DC’s Mentoring Program

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I have been co-chair of WTS-DC’s Mentoring Program for 4 ½ years. It has been an incredibly rewarding experience watching people in the program learn and grow and I myself have learned so much from it.

Every year we begin our group event series with a career panel where we invite four or five industry members to speak about how they got to where they are, triumphs and challenges they’ve had along the way, and advice they may have for the group. It is my favorite mentoring event of the year, because we leave it unstructured and allow the panelists and attendees to take it in whichever direction they choose. We give the panelists five minutes at the beginning to say anything about themselves and their careers that they’d like, then use the rest of the time for Q&A.

It is important to us to have a diverse panel with representatives from varying sectors and stages in their career because everyone always has different advice depending on what perspective they bring. However, certain pieces of advice have been brought up consistently by almost every panelist since I’ve been part of the program. I’d like to use this blog post to share some of the main lessons I’ve learned from these events over the years.

  1. Have a plan, but be flexible. Though this may seem like conflicting advice, these two suggestions do not need to be mutually exclusive. It is important to have a plan for the varying stages of your career to ensure that you stay on track, do not become complacent, and set the groundwork that will allow for your success in the future (for example, knowing that you need to get your graduate degree for a job you eventually want). However, no one can predict the future. The industry changes, your priorities change, and life can throw you curveballs. Make sure you say yes to opportunities that will challenge you and your abilities, whether it’s a new project at work or a job offer across the country. One of my favorite sayings is “Luck Is What Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity”. Your plan helps you prepare for when opportunities come your way and gives you the confidence to take them.
  2. You are responsible for making sure you have a work-life balance – it won’t fall into your lap. You will continuously be given more work unless you learn to set boundaries. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean saying ‘no’. Instead, say that in order to complete the work, you will need help. This has been a heavily-discussed topic during our panels, so I could write an entire blog post on this one. Look out for it in a month or so!
  3. Get involved in industry associations and/or outside organizations. Industry associations will help you keep up-to-date and continue learning throughout your career. This is also a perfect way to improve your leadership skills. Most of my leadership experience has been through volunteer work, but it has directly tied into the skills I need in my professional life. Also, don’t forget about volunteering for organizations outside the industry that address something you’re passionate about. Giving back in this manner helps you grow personal relationships and a sense of accomplishment that will help you maintain perspective, keep grounded, and give your mind a break.
  4. Relationships are key. Always grow and foster your network. I already wrote my last blog post on this, so I won’t say much more, but I actually met one of this year’s panelists because of networking. I was interested in how he got to where he was in his career and asked a common connection to put us in touch. During that meeting, he mentioned how much he enjoys mentoring and helping people with career development, so I asked him to be on the panel. You never know what conversations you’ll end up having!

I’ve learned so much from the Mentoring Program throughout the years and am sure I’ll continue to do so. Mentoring is a valuable tool that everyone should utilize. You can read more about the importance of mentoring from two of Veronica Davis’s previous blog posts: Finding a Professional Mentor and Cultivating a Relationship with your Mentor. And if you live in the D.C. area and are interested in participating in the Mentoring Program next year (or getting involved with WTS in general at any time), please let me know at sweisfeld[at]

Stacy Weisfeld is a community and transportation planner whose career has been driven by her passion for environmental sustainability. She is adept at engaging the public, bringing together unlikely allies, and finding innovative solutions to unexpected problems. She serves as a board member for Women’s Transportation Seminar, is certified with ISI Envision Sustainability, and is a graduate of American Public Transportation Association’s national Emerging Leaders Program.


Together Through Tech

In the past, whenever I would think about technology and the future of this country or even the world, I couldn’t help but worry. It seemed as though the world was full of educated individuals who were creating technology that reduces the need for humans to perform labor, think and be social. That didn’t sound bad until I realized no one was talking to one another outside of some sort of social media or gadget. Then I thought about all of the shortcuts technology provides for just about everything, whether it’s information gathering or figuring out how to get around in your car without actually driving. I thought we were only educating ourselves to 1) wear the “Educational Debt” Badge of Honor and Struggle, and/or 2) to be able to sit back and do nothing, possibly eliminating the need for the badge all together. Essentially humans were trading their human uniqueness, value and autonomy for automation and comfort.

But as I revisit the topic, I have a change of heart: maybe technology is bringing us together and empowering us. Maybe it gives us more power and control in the exchange of information and knowledge; maybe it enables community members to control of how their environment looks and operates. Maybe technology reestablishes old values, such as transparency with those we elect to represent us.

CHBlogPicThink about Smart Cities: in essence, smart cities create a quality of life by using information and communicative technologies to excel in economic development, mobility, environmental justice, safety, and health.  As technology expands to include a variety of accessible data, even those without a 4-year college degree are able to create technology that addresses those areas and link strangers in communities (i.e., Bluetooth, wireless sensors and tech, hybrid cars, Uber Eats, Fitbit, Google Earth, Snapchat). City officials have better access to a wide variety of data and analytical tools, which allows them to better understand and plan for their constituents to address urban problems. Essentially, Smart Cities are gathering so much data and information from technology that answers to various urban problems are available at the click of a dataset.

What’s even better, we, as their constituents, have access to most of the same data and technology. Developments by techies such as search engines, advanced sensors, smart phone apps and even the ability to store information has allowed us the chance to educate ourselves and demand a seat at elected decision makers’ tables to provide relevant information and feedback on the effectiveness of systems and polices. It even provides the option to provide solutions to our own problems rather than rely on decision makers. And of course, the same data and technology has resurfaced an old but overlooked value: transparency in government. Since today’s tech makes workings of the government more accessible to the public, it’s more difficult for our elected leaders to abuse their power. In other words, WE hold the power, thanks to our tech!

It’s easy to fall into the “oh this generation is this and that” mode and blame all of society’s negative traits on technology. But thanks to humans’ dependency on technology, we are gaining more value and power, and are transforming cities and their structure to a more bottom-up system rather than a top down. I believe that cities accepting the digital transformation of society are generally becoming more socially connected and equitable environments where people thrive. “We, the People” are not reduced to our utility; we are more powerful and are a necessity if cities are to bring about any significant, lasting change or improvements through technology. So, I retract my past conclusions that technology will assassinate the value of the human and that education will only create an educated class of lazy individuals; technology will open the door for both the educated and uneducated to work together to design efficient, safe, healthy and people-centered communities.

Christie Holland is an aspiring planner at the University of Texas-Arlington, with a passion in building social equity and transportation planning. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling to new cities and experiencing other cultures and traditions.


A Little LEED Strategy for buying home


Recently I’ve been studying for LEED Green Associate exam and the word “density” has been hanging in my mind, this is because “density” this word throughout the whole book. The very beginning of a project is ‘Location and Transportation’. This is a new category that was added to the LEED rating system. This category put more emphasis and attention on reducing one of the main contributors to global warming: transportation. It is clarified through the ideas of reducing the cost, pollution, and depletion of resources related to the daily transportation of people and goods to and from a destination. After reading Veronica’s post last week, it got me thinking about sustainability and how it applies to our daily lives, especially in choosing where to live. I think that LEED principles can be applied to a housing search.

The book divided Location and Transportation (LT) category into 4 points: Location, Transportation, Site Development, and Health and Livability. These points are often similar to what people consider when looking for a house or place to live.


Locate within a LEED-Certified Neighborhood Development

A LEED-Certified Neighborhood usually is a sustainable site. This is because the neighborhood has to meet the qualification of LEED requirements such as walkability, green infrastructure, floodplain avoidance, etc.


Located within proximity of surrounding density and diverse uses

“Density” is an important word in LEED. The reason behind this is to cut the distance shorter for people to travel to work or visit the building. Also, if the building is within walking distance (0.5 mile), people will not need to drive. Both ways would cut down on greenhouse gas emissions and will help reduce global warming.



Limit available parking

LEED-Certified buildings usually have limited parking, because this can encourage people to carpool or use alternative ways of travel.

DCLab6401A LEED Platinum Science Building in DC

Develop in areas that have multimodal transportation access

This could also inspire people to take public transportation modes like bus or rail.

A Washington Metro train makes its way toward Union Station, Sunday, March 25, 2001. It's not nearly as old as some of the models housed in the Museum of American History, but Washington's subway system is about to turn 25. Amid the celebration, however, is concern about equipment and funds for a system that ranks only behind New York City's in ridership.(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

A Washington Metro train makes its way toward Union Station, Sunday, March 25, 2001. It’s not nearly as old as some of the models housed in the Museum of American History, but Washington’s subway system is about to turn 25. Amid the celebration, however, is concern about equipment and funds for a system that ranks only behind New York City’s in ridership.(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)



Site development 

(This point is more for a someone building a home and their location selection)

Avoid developing on environmentally-sensitive land

This is for the sustainability environment. Considering the local bioregion, watershed, and community can help a project team minimize the sustainable features of the surrounding environment and to climate change. In LT category, sensitive land defines as farmland, floodplains, threatened or endangered species habitats, water bodies, and wetlands.

Locate the project on a pre-developed site

It would be an ideal area, because of the preexisting infrastructure is already in place. Pre-developed location can reduce the cost of installing new roads, sewer, and power lines.


Locate the project on a high-priority site such as a brownfield

A brownfield is a property that has the presence of hazardous materials, pollutants, or contaminant that may affect by redevelopment if the property. Remediation and development of brownfield can avoid land waste and reduce urban sprawl.


Health and livability

Develop in areas that promote walkability

Sidewalk and shelter for pedestrians should be provided, these make it easy for people to walk to and from the building for basic needs and routine functions.

Provide bicycle storage facilities, shower room, and bicycle networks in close proximity to diverse uses

This encourages the use of non-motorized modes of transportation.

Capital Bikeshare rental station near McPherson Square Metro (WMATA) station, downtown Washington, D.C.

Capital Bikeshare rental station near McPherson Square Metro (WMATA) station, downtown Washington, D.C.

Provide a bicycle maintenance program for employees or bicycle route assistance for employees and customers.

This could encourage people to ride bikes, walk, or run errands during the day. This can also decrease greenhouse emission caused by vehicle use and increase the health and welfare if building occupants.


Other factors recommended that contribute to this field that speak to “density” are the following:

Provide pedestrian amenities

Promote connectivity

Create a diverse community

Promote access to sustainable food

Provide access to grocery stores.


All of these factors would reduce a number of people who use their cars in their everyday lives. This will help contributing less greenhouse emission, at the same time, provide human more options to work out and revitalized neighborhoods.

Hope these points can help you, and Veronica, with your home location selection.


Mei Fang, is an urban planner with a strong passion in urban and landscape design, she also enjoy looking for the variety culture inside of the city.



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