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Throughout 2017 Circulate San Diego has been lucky enough to have our work supported by an incredible intern, Zach Rivera, who shared his intellect and passion on numerous initiatives to improve mobility in San Diego. Zach will be accepting a new internship with as a Planning Intern at SANDAG this month, so last week we took the opportunity to sit down with Zach and talk about his success.

Circulate: What first attracted you to Circulate San Diego?

Zach: I had an informational interview with Marcela Escobar-Eck due to my interest in urban planning.  Because I graduated with a double major in economics and political science, I had a solid foundation, but not a planning background.  Having recognized this, Marcela recommended that I intern with Circulate San Diego, a small-nonprofit where I would be exposed to many different planning concepts and policies very quickly.  Marcela could not be more right.  I have indeed learned a lot and am grateful to her wisdom.

Circulate: How did your work at Circulate San Diego positively impact your professional experience?

Zach: During the course of the internship, I attended Planning Commission and City Council meetings, a SANDAG’s regional planning committee meeting, a joint press conference with Circulate San Diego and the San Diego Police Department, news interviews with Maya, and planning workshops and events.  Through these and a myriad of other experiences, I have been exposed to what seems like an intricate transit web of transit advocates, planning professionals, funders, consultants, and elected officials in the planning world, which has been fascinating.     

Circulate: What Circulate San Diego projects did you enjoy working on the most?

Zach: The project that has been the most enjoyable and personally meaningful for me is Vision Zero, the ambitious, yet important, goal to reduce to zero the number of pedestrian and biking fatalities in San Diego by 2025.  For my part, I analyzed and synthesized City pedestrian crash data to help draft an update to Circulate San Diego’s report on Vision Zero, which highlighted the most dangerous intersections in San Diego.   I also assisted with the 2nd Annual Vision Zero Symposium and invited someone who I had met through a prior internship.  She is legally blind, and after I told her about the Vision Zero work I had been doing for Circulate, she wanted to learn more and get involved.   For her, Vision Zero was very personal, since three of her blind friends had been hit while crossing streets.  I am glad to see that the San Diego Blind Center is now involved in the Vision Zero Coalition as more and more San Diegans from different stakeholder groups demand safer streets

Circulate: What are your post-internship plans?

Zach: I am very grateful to Maya and the rest of the Circulate team for having me as an intern.  I have been able to parlay my internship experience with Circulate into another internship now with SANDAG doing transit planning.  I am assured that this opportunity would not have been available to me had I not interned with Circulate and been exposed to transit planning issues and concepts.

Circulate: How did your work at Circulate San Diego affect your post-internship plans?

Zach: Through Circulate, I have been able to dip my feet into the transit planning waters and I will continue to do this through my internship with SANDAG.  I have become much more aware of the importance of public transit as well as active transportation in San Diego.   

Circulate: If you could change one thing about San Diego, what would it be and why?

Zach: Wow - what a question!  My assessment of San Diego is that it acts like a small town with insular neighborhoods yet claims to be a world-class city.  To be sure, there are advantages and disadvantages to both arrangements and mindsets that ensue.  It seems to me that San Diego has been very successful growing quickly into a large city, but now is experiencing growing pains as it attempts to advance the “world class” status it proclaims.  That, obviously, has numerous ramifications for many aspects of civic life including land-use decisions, housing and commerce.   It seems to me that one of the chief attributes of world-class cities is also world-class transit systems, efficiently connecting residents, tourists, places, goods and other world-class cities.  As transit improves allowing for increased commerce and wealth in the urban core and as there is more infill and densification, there will be those that are negatively affected by these changes – namely low-income renters and the homeless.  In my opinion, those who now reap the benefits of cosmopolitan living in revamped urban centers ought to provide compensation in some form to the displaced and others negatively affected by these changes.  Therefore, in summary, I would say I would want to see San Diego transform into a truly world-class city without forgetting those who are displaced or left out of the process. 

Circulate San Diego would like to Thank Zach for his service to the organization and is excited to support him in his future endeavors.