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2015 April Leadership Award

April 7, 2015 08:54 AM

By Alexandra Kleyman, AICP, CDM Smith

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.” This important sentiment, articulated by the anthropologist Margaret Mead, underlies the work of this year’s WTS Leadership Award recipient, Ms. Ann Hershfang.

Ann and her guests, among them fellow co-founder of WalkBoston, Dorothea Hass, joined WTS-Boston on April 1st at the Courtyard Marriott in Downtown Boston for the 19th Annual Leadership Forum. This year’s forum was well attended with over 120 guests including public officials from MassDOT, the MBTA, USDOT’s Volpe Center, Federal Transit Administration, Federal Highway Administration, and Federal Railroad Administration. WTS-Boston President, Rachael Sack, and Vice President, Becky Williamson, both welcomed the crowd and introduced Liz Levin, longtime transportation advocate and leader in WTS, who introduced and presented the Leadership Award to Ms. Hershfang.

Ms. Levin described Ann as a “fearless change agent” and the “mother of walkability” with a “delicious and funny sense of humor.” Ms. Hershfang’s transportation policy work began with her involvement in the League of Women Voters and her leadership in the anti-highway movement in Boston. In the 1970s, when she was appointed to Massport’s Board of Directors, Ann became the first woman in Massachusetts to be appointed to the board of a transportation agency. As more and more women entered the transportation world in the 1970s and 80s, Ann and others formed a group for these professionals to meet and discuss their work and challenges – joined by a similar group in Washington DC, these leaders were the beginnings of WTS.    Today WTS-Boston is one of the strongest WTS Chapters nationally largely due to the work of Ann Hershfang and others who helped start and grow the Chapter thirty-five years ago.  Ann noted that the WTS-Boston monthly luncheons now provide the forum for the transportation industry to discuss relevant topics – this has come a long way from when she and a small group of women would meet in the North End to discuss transportation challenges before WTS existed. 

Ms. Hershfang’s work on walking and walkability led to the establishment of WalkBoston 25 years ago. She described her approach to rethinking the pedestrian environment as a technical one - with attention to street design and signal timing. Started with 40 members and a focus in Boston and Brookline, Walk Boston now works on walking issues spanning elderly mobility and Safe Routes to School programs in over 100 cities and towns around the state. Driven by the motto “so many pedestrians, so little time,” Ann’s passion for walkability led her and WalkBoston to help form eight additional walking advocacy groups around the country and to the eventual creation of America Walks.

All of the attendees at this year’s Leadership Forum enjoyed listening to the inspiring stories of the early days of women’s leadership in transportation advocacy and policy in Massachusetts and around the country. WTS-Boston congratulates and thanks Ann Hershfang for her continued significant contributions to creating and preserving a multi-modal state and for paving the way for future generations of women transportation leaders. 



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