Routes to Cleaner Cities
In cities across the nation, cars are part of the fabric of the transportation system. They’re fast, convenient, fun to drive, and ready to go when you are. But if you consider factors like traffic congestion and the environment, it turns out that cars aren’t always the most efficient or economical way to travel. Well-designed forms of public transportation, such as fuel-efficient busses and electric trains, are highly affordable, can carry more passengers per trip, and can lead to reduced pollution emissions compared to traditional automobiles. These are major benefits for the consumer, and are also better for the environment.
Eileen Schwartz is a master’s student of public policy and administration at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi. She also interns for the Mississippi Department of Transportation and works for a Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP) center. Schwartz conducts research and interacts with transportation companies and local government officials to improve the quality of the region's public transportation system. She works to make public transportation more convenient, economical, and environmentally friendly, in order to attract more users and cut down on environmental and monetary transportation costs.
“Your goal is to take people from point A to point B, but you want to do it using the least amount of resources, to get people to encourage you and support your programs, and to get people to their destinations,” she said.
Before she discovered transportation, Schwartz was leaning toward a career in government.
“I really didn’t know what I wanted to do, or which area I wanted to focus on. But I knew I wanted to do something that was politically-based, or government-based,” she said.
After high school, she attended a community college in her home town of San Lucia, in the Bahamas. Earning her bachelor’s degree in economics, she went on to pursue government work, earning her master’s degree in public administration. She ended up interning at the Mississippi Department of Transportation, where her career focus shifted to transportation. She found that transportation combined her interests in government and economics, and that working in public transit gave her a sense of purpose.
“It has been so amazing in terms of seeing that ? this family can go to the grocery store, people can get to work, go to school. ? The human factor is important, because you see a direct impact,” she said.
Today, Schwartz says she wishes she had learned about careers in the transportation industry even earlier, during high school.
“I would’ve loved to know more about transportation,” she said. “In high school, you don’t really get that exposure to transportation, so I would’ve liked to know more about the different careers, the different opportunities, because they are so vast.”
Schwartz said she hoped that younger students would use middle and high school as opportunities to reach out and explore the career opportunities that are available to them. Finding the right fit, she said, comes with trying new things, and is one of the keys to becoming successful.
“I believe in order for someone to be truly successful at what they do or what they’re going to do, they need to love it,” she said. “If you love what you do, you'll do it well ? so figure out what you love and do it.”
Wondering about careers in transit planning or policy? You can check out the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration for more background on some of the careers and issues surrounding public transit in the U.S. The American Public Transit Association website is another potentially valuable resource for students.