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Networking In the Transportation Industry

One of the reasons I love working in transportation is the community. Everyone in the transit industry says it’s such a small world, and in the four years I’ve been involved, I am discovering that to be true. In this industry, people you meet, however briefly, will most likely pop up again years down the line. As a result, I quickly learned that one of the best ways to not only forward your career but to actually enjoy it, is to get involved in industry groups, whether they focus on advocacy, career advancement, or simply socializing (if you haven’t heard of the board game Ticket to Ride, it’s transit-nerd heaven). Starting my position at Nspiregreen (this is only the beginning of my third week) has been making me think a lot about my experience in the industry and how most of my opportunities and friendships were made possible because of all the volunteering and networking I’ve done.

My introduction into the transportation world in DC was when I volunteered for Sustainable DC’s transportation working group. Through those efforts, I met a DDOT employee who I learned a lot from, but whom I didn’t necessarily expect to have a lasting impact on my career. Fast forward two years and I’m applying to be a transit planner for HDR. That very same DDOT employee was the client for the project I was being hired for! Needless to say, that connection helped me get the job.

Later that year, HDR sent me to the WTS-DC holiday party where I met the then-Vice President of the chapter. After spending the night bonding with her and other members at the cheese table (because everyone knows many great moments in life are directly related to cheese), she invited me to join the board as co-chair of their Mentoring Program. Four years later and I am still holding the same board position, and am in awe every year about the amazing mentors and mentees I get to work with. Being on the WTS board and participating in the Mentoring Program have been incredibly gratifying experiences that I recommend to everyone. In fact, after meeting most of the Nspiregreen employees years ago while working with them on a DDOT project, I was able to stay in touch by convincing them to join the Mentoring Program. Three of the five other staff members (and a former employee) here have participated in the program as either mentors or mentees and I will be working on convincing the other two to participate once applications open up again next year.

The final factor in helping me decide to write my first blog post about networking in the industry is my first project with Nspiregreen—helping with public outreach for Vision Zero in Alexandria. Normally when you begin a new job, it takes a little while to adjust to the people you’re working with and feel like you are a part of the team, but I happily discovered that I would be spending my outreach time working with people that I met at YPT (Young Professionals in Transportation) events towards the beginning of my career. Despite not talking to them for years, that shared experience was enough to feel like I had been working on this project with them for as long as any of my Nspiregreen colleagues.

I am very excited to join the Nspiregreen team because these women are known for their ability to network and engage the community, whether within the industry or out in public. I have so much to learn from them and hope to step up my game even more. And because of their vast network and involvement in all types of projects around the area, I can’t wait for the opportunity to work with even more incredible people all throughout the industry.

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.

 

public housing

What’s on the Inside Counts Too!

Environmental Justice issues are not limited to pollution outside. 

In the world of environmental justice (EJ), there are many articles and discussions around the impacts from pollution that occur outdoors – industrial pollution, contaminated water bodies, mobile emissions, and other air quality impacts; however, many low income, minority communities often suffer from residential exposure to harmful contaminants that either occur indoors or infiltrate from outdoors. Let’s examine a few articles that have covered this topic.

In Moving Environmental Justice Indoors: Understanding Structural Influences on Residential Exposure Patterns in Low-Income Communities, which was published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2011, the authors explore disparities in indoor residential environmental quality. Below are some pertinent observations/ conclusions based on their research:

  • People in low income communities are more likely to live closer to mobile and stationary sources of pollution which increases the chance of outdoor pollution infiltrating indoors
    • Low income homes are often older and not as structurally sound (having holes). This may lead to increased infiltration from outdoors.
  • Homes within low income communities are more likely to have peeling paint which is a predictor of lead exposure in older homes; water leaks which are a predictor of mold and moisture development; and structural issues that serve as entry points for cockroaches and other pests
  • Communities with low socioeconomic status are more likely to experience second hand smoke particularly people who live within older multifamily buildings because the air infiltrates from unit to unit
  • One study has shown that lead concentrations in household dust, associations were found with income, race/ethnicity, floor surface or condition, and year of construction
  • Residential infestation of pests is linked to low socioeconomic status
  • Residential exposure to pesticides is more prominent in low income communities due to infestation

This research study explores several angles of exposure to indoor environmental justice issues each can be explored further as stand-alone research to further validate the connections between low socioeconomic status and EJ.

 

The Boston Globe published in article in April 2016 reporting Low Income, minority areas seen as lead poisoning hot spots. While this article is focused on Massachusetts this may be reflective of issues within your community as well. Here are a few findings as revealed within this article:

  • Cases where children have harmful levels of lead in their blood are predominantly in low income and minority communities
  • Boston has a citywide rate of lead poisoning at 2.8% but pockets within Dorchester (an overwhelmingly African American neighborhood) have rates over 6%
  • The article quotes Robert Knorr, the Director of Environmental Epidemiology at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Bureau of Health as stating “Being poor and being a minority not only increases the risk of blood lead poisoning but makes it difficult to find a safe home”
  • Massachusetts has the second oldest housing stock in the country. Children living in these homes are primarily low income and minorities.

This news article in the Boston Globe is hyper focused on Massachusetts; however, it further validates the impact of indoor environmental issues concentrated in marginalized communities.

In an article entitled Homes of low-income minority families with asthmatic children have increased condition issues published in the Allergy and Asthma Proceedings, the correlation between home maintenance issues in low income minority communities and the prevalence of asthma in children is explored. Below are some discussion points and findings from the article:

  • Reviewing the occurrences of asthma in urban and rural communities shows that there is a socioeconomic difference that affects access to and quality of health care
  • Housing that is subpar and indoor environmental exposures have been correlated with increased indoor allergen exposure and sensitization and greater asthma diseases and death for low-income, minority children living in urban areas
  • This subpar housing usually has cracks that allow pests such as bugs and rodents to enter the home such as cockroaches, which can trigger asthma and allergies
  • Poor ventilation allows for high concentrations of allergens, tobacco smoke, CO2, radon and VOCs
  • In this study, homes of Latino children had the highest number of maintenance concerns followed by homes of black children and then homes of non-Latino white children
  • The study concluded that asthmatic children from low income black and Latino families had more areas of home and safety and maintenance concerns than non-Latino whites recruited from the same region
  • This article purports that improving living conditions in cities offers great promise for reducing health disparities and improving the quality of life and well being of children

This article focuses specifically on asthma but does point out that both children and adults who live in substandard housing face a host of health issues but lack adequate access to health care. Children living in inadequate housing are particularly vulnerable to asthma because of the identified maintenance concerns. The study focused on a small concentration of homes so it would be great to see this broadened across the United States.

Unfortunately, low income and minority communities face health risks linked to outdoor environmental justice issues but this is compounded by the fact that they often live in substandard housing which puts them at risk inside their home. Advocacy to eradicate environmental inequities must go beyond fighting industrial sources of pollution to advocating for adequate housing that is properly maintained for all.

Chanceé Lundy Russell is the Co-Founder of Nspiregreen LLC an environmental consulting, urban planning and public engagement firm based in Washington, DC. The Selma, Alabama native received her BS in Environmental Science from Alabama A&M University and her MS in Civil Engineering from Florida State University. She is passionate about environmental justice issues and works to create healthy, livable communities for all.

References:

Adamkiewicz, G., Zota, A. R., Fabian, M. P., Chahine, T., Julien, R., Spengler, J. D., & Levy, J. I. (2011). Moving Environmental Justice Indoors: Understanding Structural Influences on Residential Exposure Patterns in Low-Income Communities. American Journal of Public Health101(Suppl 1), S238–S245. http://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2011.300119

Pacheco, C. M., Ciaccio, C. E., Nazir, N., Daley, C. M., DiDonna, A., Choi, W. S., … Rosenwasser, L. J. (2014). Homes of low-income minority families with asthmatic children have increased condition issues. Allergy and Asthma Proceedings35(6), 467–474. http://doi.org/10.2500/aap.2014.35.3792

Rocheleau, Matt. “Low-income, Minority Areas Seen as Lead Poisoning Hot Spots.” The Boston Globe. N.p., 11 Apr. 2016. Web. 23 May 2017.

 

Bike parking near the Rijksmuseum.

A Tale of Three Cities – Amsterdam: I didn’t do the thing you’re supposed to do

During my vacation to Europe  in March, I met my step goals in Paris and biked in Brussels. The last city I visited was Amsterdam. We took the train from Brussels to Amsterdam. When we walked out of the central train station, I had to choke back tears upon seeing the sheer volume of bike infrastructure, people biking, a large plaza for people, and streetcar lines. As a transportation nerd, this was transportation system paradise.

My Transportation Takeaways:

I didn’t bike in Amsterdam

I know… I know. I’m ashamed. I went to the one of the best places in the world for biking and I didn’t get on a bike the entire time I was there. The major reason for not biking is I didn’t have access to a bike. Since most of the Dutch have a bicycle or two (or four), Amsterdam does not have public bikeshare system. Some hotels offer bikes for guests, but we stayed at an AirBnB.  There are also places that rent bikes in three-hour increments. It was way too much effort for my short stay to locate a bike rental place. Even if I put in the effort to rent a bike, parking for bikes in near impossible to find, which leads me to my next point.

There wasn’t enough bike parking

There are parts of DC where there isn’t enough biking parking, because there isn’t any bike parking at all or there is one sad bike rack. In Amsterdam, there was so much biking parking including a bike parking garage. However, there still wasn’t enough bike parking. Around the city, every  bike rack was overwhelmingly full. There was such a lack of bike parking that some people locked the bike to itself (wheel and frame) and left it on the kickstand in the middle of the sidewalk.

There was plenty of public transportation

While I didn’t bike, I did ride the streetcars. The system was relatively easy to use even without knowing the language. Transferring between streetcars was seamless. Even late at night I didn’t wait more than 6 minutes for a streetcar. I had a 48-hour iAmsterdam pass, which allowed me unlimited transit rides. As a bonus, the pass also granted me access to public museums.

There was space for everyone

Despite Amsterdam’s reputation as a multimodal, no motor vehicle heaven, people did drive in the city. However, it was obvious that the city prioritized space for people and public transportation over cars. Throughout the city, all the modes were separated. There were wide sidewalks for walking, wide protected bike lanes and bike boulevards for biking, exclusive transit lanes for public transportation, and still had lanes left to accommodate motor vehicles. I did not observe any streets where modes were sharing lanes.

The culture of biking was much different

Back to biking, Amsterdam had a noticeably different bike culture from DC.  Most people in Amsterdam rode city bikes, cruisers, or cargo bikes, whereas in DC, many people have faster bikes like road bikes or hybrids. I saw one road bike the entire time I was there. Since they had chunkier bikes, no one biked particularly fast. I didn’t see anyone wearing a bike helmet. While most people biking obey traffic signals and laws, it was common to see people texting while biking or talking on their cell phones.

During my time in Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam, I had an opportunity to experience different transportation infrastructure. While I was supposed to be vacationing, it was inspiring to see some international best practices to bring back home, and help generate ideas for Nspiregreen’s projects in the U.S.

Veronica O. Davis, PE is a transportation guru who uses her knowledge to spark progressive social change. As Co-owner and Principal of Nspiregreen, she is also responsible for the management of the major urban planning functions such as transportation planning, policy development, master planning, sustainability analysis, and long range planning. In July 2012, Veronica was recognized as a Champion of Change by the White House for her professional accomplishments and community advocacy, which includes co-founding Black Women Bike.

 





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