Executive Director David Bragdon’s career spans multiple modes of transportation, in both the public and private sectors. David served nearly eight years as the President of the Metro Council in the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area – the only directly elected regional government in the nation, responsible for land use and transportation planning, natural lands conservation, solid waste recycling and disposal, and operation of regional facilities like the Oregon Zoo and Oregon Convention Center. He subsequently assisted New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s update of Gotham’s sustainability plan. Prior to his public service, David worked in the international freight industry, including positions with a cargo airline and a maritime shipping company, where he accomplished tasks like procuring jet fuel in the then-Soviet Union and organizing cotton shipments to Bangladesh. He also drove a taxi for a year. But the buses and subways of New York are his original passion, so he happily joined TransitCenter in 2013 to launch its new philanthropic mission.
Director, Transit Leadership
Stephanie has diverse experience in the transportation sector, primarily working to assist cities around the world in implementing transit systems that act as the lever for improved urban livability and economic opportunity. She was most recently a program manager in the US & Africa office of the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy, where she worked on projects in Chicago; Albuquerque; Kampala, Uganda; Johannesburg, South Africa; and Nairobi, Kenya. Her work focused on helping cities to implement bus rapid transit, bike and pedestrian projects as well as to finance and implement high quality transit-oriented development around transit corridors. She was a primary author of a report on the land development impacts of BRT, LRT and Streetcars across the US. Stephanie holds a B.A. in Latin American development policy from Colorado College and a masters of social science in international development economics from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, UK.
Director, Research & Learning
Tabitha’s work for more equitable and sustainable urban transit is underpinned by more than a decade of research in cities around the world, on topics ranging from gender and transport to the political stakes of new urban rail systems. As a Thomas J. Watson fellow, she traveled to Cape Town, Dubai, Melbourne, and Kuala Lumpur to carry out a year-long comparative study of the experiences of women taxi drivers. She subsequently spent a year in Dubai as a Fulbright-Hays fellow, conducting ethnographic and policy research on the political significance of the creation of the city’s Metro for her doctoral dissertation. Prior to joining TransitCenter in 2015, Tabitha was Program Director of IHP Cities in the 21st Century: People, Planning, and Politics, a comparative global urban studies program for undergraduates. She holds a BA in international relations from Wellesley College and a PhD in sociology from Yale University.
Dir. of Communications & Advocacy
Jon Orcutt has nearly 30 years experience advocating and implementing sustainable transportation in cities. Before joining TransitCenter in January 2016, he was a consultant working with governments, organizations and companies on urban transportation strategies, traffic safety, bike share systems and bicycle transportation improvements. Jon was Director of Policy at the NYC Dept. of Transportation from 2007 to 2014. He oversaw development of NYCDOT’s strategic plan and was a leader of the team that delivered major design innovations to New York City streets. Jon managed the creation of the bike share system and development of the ambitious Vision Zero approach to traffic safety. Jon had previously served as executive director of both Transportation Alternatives and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, two leading civic organizations. The Campaign’s research and advocacy led to reduced spending on highway expansion across the NY metro region. At Transportation Alternatives, he oversaw development of the organization from a volunteer base into a professional voice promoting bicycle transportation and traffic calming policies.
Director, Rider Engagement & Tech
Chris’s work has focused primarily on developing and implementing faster and more reliable transit service through planning, engineering, and technology. Prior to joining TransitCenter in 2016, Chris served as a Transit Planner at New York City Transit and a Transit Engineer at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. His efforts to improve service at both agencies was centered on applying the latest tools and methods to reduce delays while engaging decision makers and affected communities through the use of data and visual communication techniques. In addition to San Francisco and New York, Chris has gained valuable experience working at the Chicago Transit Authority, and in Washington, D.C. at the United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration, and Research and Innovative Technology Administration. Chris is currently on the board of the Young Professionals in Transportation New York City chapter. He holds a BS in Civil Engineering from Portland State University, an MS in Transportation from MIT, and is a licensed private pilot.
Grants and Operations Manager
Jennifer’s desire to promote better public transportation stems from her background in environmental sustainability. Growing up in rural Oregon fostered a respect for the natural world but also a complete dependence on the automobile. It wasn’t until she moved to NYC in 2002 that she experienced the freedom of a frequent, reliable, and safe public transportation system and now can’t imagine living in a city without it. Prior to joining TransitCenter in 2014, Jennifer worked as an operations analyst at the NYC Parks Department, coordinated the “Designing Cities” conference for the National Association of City Transportation Officials in 2012, and managed projects at an art crating company and logistics at a green building supply company. Jennifer has a B.A. from Seattle University and a Masters in Public Administration with a focus in Environmental Science and Policy from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.
Senior Program Analyst
Steven’s background in sustainable transportation spans local, state, and federal policy. He was previously senior planner for Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a New York-based advocacy group. There he watchdogged state budgets, helped pass vulnerable road user and “transportation lockbox” legislation in Connecticut, and coordinated federal transportation advocacy in three states as an organizer for the Transportation for America coalition. He joined TransitCenter in 2014. His early memories of public transportation include rides to the beach on Chicago Transit Authority buses and high school trips to “the city” on NJ Transit’s Northeast Corridor. Steven was named “Friend of Public Transportation” by the Connecticut Association for Community Transportation, and his writing has appeared in Planning & Environmental Law, Next City, Urban Omnibus, the Hartford Courant, and more. He holds a B.A. from New York University and a Masters in Urban Planning from NYU’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.
Zak’s background in urban sustainability policy and engineering gives him a diverse toolkit that he brings to TransitCenter in hopes of helping people worry less about how they get places and more about what they want to do when they get there. Zak has consulted on cities and climate change with The World Bank, modeled climate change mitigation potential for Project Drawdown, and reduced energy use in buildings with Gotham 360, a small NYC-based energy consultancy. He has a BS in earth and environmental engineering from Columbia University, and a MS in technology and policy from MIT.
Julia’s interest in public transit lies in the complex and intricate ways that it shapes urban life and opportunity. Julia most recently developed transportation programs and policy at the San Francisco Unified School District, working to reduce transportation barriers to education while improving coordination between the district, city agencies, and non profit partners. Julia has conducted research on school transportation and opportunities to align housing, education, and transportation planning. She has also mentored high school youth through the process of producing their own research and recommendations on local transportation plans that impact their daily lives. Julia’s master’s thesis examined technology sector philanthropic initiatives in San Francisco public schools. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from New York University and master’s degrees in city planning and public health from the University of California, Berkeley.
National Network Coordinator
Kirk’s experience in transportation centers on demonstrating the impact of demand-side strategies. Whether teaching pedestrian safety education to second graders or promoting biking, walking and transit in his most recent position as the transportation programs coordinator for the City of Redmond, Washington, he focuses on the factors that shape how, when and why we choose to go from A to B. He joined TransitCenter as a program fellow in 2014. Kirk holds a B.A. from the University of Washington and a Masters of Public Administration from NYU’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.
Jake comes to TransitCenter with wide-ranging experience in studying and communicating the transformative potential of transit, as well as the barriers that exist to crafting sound transportation policy. Previously, he served as a Policy Associate at the Century Foundation, where he researched the socioeconomic impact of bikeshare in Chicago, the decline of bus ridership across the U.S., and the shortcomings of federal transit funding, among other topics. Jake’s writing has been published in Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, Real Clear Policy, U.S. News and World Report, The Fiscal Times, and The Austin American-Statesman. He also wrote an illustrated guide to the Washington Metro for his third-grade class. Only one copy was printed; its whereabouts are unknown. He received a BA in history from Yale University.
Operations and Events Assistant
Joelle’s fascination with cities and urban policy originated from her upbringing in the nation’s most remote capital: Juneau, Alaska. She has a diverse background in affordable housing, advocacy and legal support, as well as event planning for festivals. Prior to joining TransitCenter, she worked to preserve and expand affordable housing locally and nationally at the Housing Justice Department at the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law in Chicago, Illinois. She also coordinated events as a festival coordinator for the Chicago International Movies and Music Festival. She is excited to combine her passion for planning cities and events while expanding her horizons to transportation policy by serving as the Operations & Events Assistant at TransitCenter.
Melissa Plaut first became interested in transportation and urban planning in 2004 when she became a NYC yellow taxi driver – an experience she documented in a memoir, Hack, published by Villard/Random House in 2007. Since then, Plaut has lectured and published widely on taxi and for-hire vehicle service in New York, including several op-eds in the New York Times arguing for improvements to the industry. From 2012 to 2014, she was the Director of Driver Operations at the on-demand taxi app Hailo, where she engaged in rigorous advocacy efforts to get New York City’s first “e-hail” pilot program passed. Plaut is currently completing her Master of Urban Planning at Hunter College, where she focuses on the relationships between innovative technologies and transportation. At Hunter, Plaut is the Managing Editor of the Urban Review, a student-run peer-reviewed planning journal, and the Vice President of the Graduate Urban Affairs & Planning Association.
Board of Trustees
Divisional Dean and Director of Academic Affairs, NYU Schack Institute of Real Estate (retired)
Ms. Scanlon serves as the Chair of the Board. She is a well-known economist specializing in regional
economic analysis, public finance, economic development, and real estate economics. Her distinguished career in public service has included past positions as the Chief Economist for the Port Authority of NY and NJ and the Deputy State Comptroller for the City of New York.
N. Venu Gopal
CEO, Aithent, Inc.
Mr. Gopal is founder and CEO of Aithent, Inc., a creator of high-value information management solutions for the financial services, government, health care, and insurance industries. Mr. Gopal was a leading research scientist with Xerox and has launched several successful software companies, including CanyonBlue, Inc. and Pagoda Corp.
Eric S. Lee
President, Bennett Midland, LLC
Mr. Lee is President of Bennett Midland, LLC, a management consulting company based in New York City. For fifteen years, he has developed innovative solutions to address problems in urban planning, community and economic development, and criminal justice. Mr. Lee served as senior policy advisor for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and was a founding director of the Center for Court Innovation.
Director, Sustainable Cities, Summit Foundation
Darryl Young is the Director of the Summit Foundation’s Sustainable Cities Program. Previously, he led the public relations practice at Riester, a national advertising, public relations and social marketing firm. Darryl has served as the Director of the California Department of Conservation and has been a Member of the California Board of Forestry, the Acting Director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research and served for ten years in the California State Legislature. He currently serves on the boards of the Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities, the Story of Stuff Project, and the National Main Street Center.
Clinical Professor, NYU Schack Institute of Real Estate
Ms. Youssouf is a veteran in the fields of finance and housing. With more than 30 years in leadership positions, Ms. Youssouf has served as president of the New York City Housing Development Corporation, executive level positions at JP Morgan, vice chair of the New York City Housing Authority and currently sits on the boards of PennyMac Financial Services, the NYC Health and Hospital Corporation and School Construction Authority.
Professor and Director, Toulan School of Urban Studies & Planning and TREC, Portland State University (PSU)
Dr. Dill is an internationally-recognized scholar focusing on interactions between transportation, the built environment, and health, particularly, bicycling, walking, and transit. She directs the Transportation Research and Education Center at PSU, and serves on journal editorial boards and committees of the Transportation Research Board. Prior to entering academia, Dr. Dill worked for a decade as a planner in California.
Chief of Staff, Brooklyn Navy Yard
Clare Newman serves as Chief of Staff at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which is currently undergoing its largest expansion since WWII. Ms. Newman came to the Yard from Bloomberg Philanthropies where she was a senior leader on the Government Innovation team. In that role she led the Mayors Challenge, an international competition for cities to generate innovative solutions to common problems. Prior to joining Bloomberg Philanthropies, Ms. Newman was a Vice President in NYCEDC’s Real Estate division. At NYCEDC, Ms. Newman executed key projects including the restoration of the Loews Kings Theatre, the City’s bike share program, and the Applied Sciences tech-campus initiative. Ms. Newman received a Masters of Urban Planning from GSAPP at Columbia University and a B.A. with honors in Political Economy from Williams College.