In keeping with our tradition of interviewing new team members, we asked our new Director of Planning, Dara Braitman, a few questions so that you all can get to know her!
- Tell us a bit about yourself:
My somewhat unexpected future in the transportation field began more than ten years ago when I started an internship with a large consulting firm in NY where I primarily analyzed socioeconomic and land use impacts of large-scale transportation investment. Hired after grad school, I spent another seven plus years with the firm and moved to Denver to help support their efforts to prepare transportation studies and land management plans in national parks. Most recently, I spent two and a half years as a Principal Planner with the City of Pittsburgh’s Department of Mobility and Infrastructure. The scale and complexity of the City’s transportation network coupled with the sheer amount of need made this an exceptionally challenging yet rewarding position.
- How did you become interested in Circulate San Diego?
Pittsburgh is an interesting place. Only about 40 percent of the population it once was yet incredible congestion and some of the highest rates of people making trips of less than two miles by car in the country. The topography and quality of the pedestrian network are undoubtedly factors. Not surprisingly during my tenure I had many conversations with people about how they would get out of their cars if the pedestrian environment felt safer and there were other suitable multimodal/micromobility options.
It was kind of a fluke how I heard about this position with Circulate. But I’m so glad I did. The organization’s mission aligns with my belief that all populations, regardless of socio/economic characteristics and individual mobility factors, should have transportation options and a safe, connected network to get them to where they want and need to go. I am excited to join the team and see where we go next. And, besides, it is San Diego.
- What’s your most memorable face palm moment? Or what is your biggest achievement to date? Choose one.
At this point in my career, I am sure there must be some face palm moments tucked into the back corners of my brain. There is something to learn from each but I cannot recall any specifics at the moment so will focus on the achievements.
Two projects to highlight here. Both from my recent stint in Pittsburgh. The first was overseeing the final design of the conversion of a one-way 1.2-mile ring road. The project included new traffic signals to support two-way vehicle travel, the installation of five protected intersections (the first in Pennsylvania), an enhanced cycle track and bike connections, and curb extensions for improved pedestrian safety and transit access. Construction is almost complete.
Another was the 2070 Mobility Vision Plan that was released just before I left my post. The plan is an opportunity for bold and proactive thinking about the future of Pittsburgh to identify the connections and policies needed to ensure that, in a growing city, all residents will have the physical mobility they need to reach the economic mobility they seek. It reaches both forward and back, integrating numerous separate community led plans, existing assets, and past wisdom into one cohesive vision for infrastructure and mobility.
- If you could choose anyone, who would you pick as your mentor?
I have been fortunate to know some exceptional people in my time. And some not so excellent people. We have something to learn from each of them, what we take from it is up to us. I have worked hard to get to the place I am today, personally and professionally. I have also been extremely fortunate to have a stellar support network and a starting point far beyond others because of the unfortunate realities of the world we live in. I cannot say that I have a single mentor; I am reminded all of the time of the amazing people out there who we should draw inspiration from. Too many people face extreme adversity and inequality everyday yet they continue to fight. And fight far harder than any one person or community should have to. Whether these are individuals I know or people I hear about through other channels, these are the people who push me to be the best person I can everyday.