WTS Chapters









June 2018

To the victor belongs the toil…

Napoleon said, “The most dangerous moment comes with victory.” Ignoring for the moment that I’m quoting a famed emperor/despot (depending on your perspective), the truth is that he would know. He learned something very profound from his “endeavors.” First, of course, never attack Russia in the winter, as Vizzini so cleverly reminded us in The Princess Bride. But more importantly, winning does not always mean success. And that is a lesson we can all use. 
I just returned from the WTS International Conference in San Diego. And yes, there were stellar tours and workshops, lectures and networking, food and drink. It was great to see old friends and make new ones. I applaud the San Diego chapter for delivering on great promise. But aside from sun and sand and the transportation universe, I want to talk about what I walked away with from that experience, something that caught my imagination and would not let go—the Women Business Owners Roundtable. 
They covered an unbelievable roster of topics including succession planning, brave leadership, workforce-issue problem-solving, and the navigation of personal challenges with business ownership. They could have been a conference of their own. Now clearly, as a woman business owner, I was their target audience. And those topics are things I wrestle with on a daily basis. But that’s not what struck me so profoundly about this group and what they discussed. Here’s what did—tenacity and resilience. 
These ladies were indomitable. The more they spoke, the prouder I became that I, too, was part of the group. These women take on the toughest challenges our industry can present. And they handle them with poise, intelligence, class, and grit. They might not best every challenge or challenger, but only fools count them out or disregard them. From InfraStrategies managing principal Sharon Greene to SCI vice president Crystalann Deardorff to any of the other 22 women in attendance, I’d happily stand side-by-side with any of them in the transportation trenches. And that brings me back to Napoleon and where I started. 
The WTS International Conference is not only a celebration of where we are. It’s also a reminder of how far we’ve advanced. But it’s also a benchmark for where we’re going. It is very easy for most of us to remember a time when women received virtually no respect for their talents and abilities in the transportation industry. Only the rare outlier stood out and could make her way. But we fought. And we fought hard together to change that. We have changed much. But before we start doing victory dances at every WTS meeting throughout the world, we have got to remember the reality in those trenches. Things are good. But they’re not great. And only great is acceptable. 
As I looked around the room at that roundtable and during many informative and thought-provoking sessions and within the hallways between breaks, I witnessed young women who recognized the value of being there, of connecting and sharing. And it changed me. It reenergized me knowing that we are not only acknowledging the distance we’ve travelled, but we’re making travel plans for our collective future. And you know what? We better. 
Things are changing fast in this world. Soon, as we learned recently for example, we won’t even be driving cars. But despite maybe not getting behind the wheel anymore, our role in the transportation industry was never more important than now. 
We got where we got for one reason—we banded together. One of us standing up, they could ignore. Two of us standing up, they could put us off. A hundred of us standing up and suddenly they had to listen to us. So, yes, there is strength in numbers. It’s a cliché for a reason. So, membership, membership is the key. It doesn’t just have its privileges, it brings strength. We must all look at growing the chapter and increasing membership. But in addition to reaching out to different modes and transportation populations, we must look within and mentor everyone from our scholarship recipients to our mid-career professionals. We must empower and grow true leaders within WTS to take our fight to the next level. 
So, congratulations to WTS San Diego and particularly to the Women Business Owners Roundtable. I salute you all and thank you for sharing so openly and generously. But with the victories we have achieved, we have reached a very dangerous point. We cannot lose momentum in celebration. Though I wouldn’t advise attacking Russia in winter, we must go on the “offensive” and expand our chapter and WTS International to ensure that we further the gains we’ve made and ultimately make them the norm for our industry. 

Kathy Simons 


Photo by John Livzey


Photo © John Livzey

Connected and Autonomous Vehicles Panel

On May 31, 2018, WTS-LA hosted a panel to discuss the future of connected and autonomous vehicles.

Photo © John Livzey

Mentorship-WTS-LA Directors at Large Panel

On May 10th, Directors at Large Dina Aryan-Zahlan (POLA), Mark Pestrella (LACDPW), and Elissa Knove (Metrolink) spoke to the 2018 mentorship group.

Photo © John Livzey

College Outreach - Bring Your Own Résumé

On March 14, 2018, the College Outreach Committee held a résumé workshop, where students received guidance on their résumés.

Photo © John Livzey. For permission to use, please contact John at

2017 Annual Awards & Scholarship Dinner

On November 9, 2017 WTS-LA awarded $71,000 in scholarships to the next generation of transportation professionals. With over 400 attendees and through the generous support of our corporate partners, this event was a huge success!



Phil_WashingtonWTS-LA proudly congratulates Metro CEO Phil Washington on being named the WTS International 2018 Honorable Ray LaHood Award winner! His accomplishments are legendary. And by every indication, he is only expanding on his oeuvre. From championing the passage of Measure M to creating Metro’s Office of Extraordinary Innovation to ensuring that Metro continues to advance and support women and minorities, Phil Washington is redefining how a transportation authority should be run. Click here to read more. 




Through mixers, workshops, and other interactive events, the College Outreach Committee hopes to teach and promote networking in the transportation field. They are providing a necessary service to college students, young professionals, and the transportation industry itself read more here








The Transportation YOU co-chairs have a slate of eight initiatives. But given their energy, ambition, and sense of purpose, there is always a chance more will develop. Right now, their focus is on teaching soft skills to girls in underserved neighborhoods. “Join us,” adds Ms. Backstrom. “Participate in Adopt-A-School or any program we’re doing. We would love to have you work with us and the girls."​ To find out how, click here

Photo © John Livzey.




Upcoming Events



June 29: Sponsor a Scholarship Deadline

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July 11: Scholarship Application Deadline

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July 27: Award Nominations Due

WTS Members: Submit your nomination for • Woman of the Year • Member of the Year • Employer of the Year • Innovation Transportation Solutions Award • Rosa Parks Diversity Leadership Award • Honorable Ray LaHood Award
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July 27: Bridging the Gap - Workforce Initiative Program

Save the Date: WTS-LA will host a half-day on symposium on local workforce initiatives.
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Oct. 19: Mobility 21's 17th Annual Southern California Transportation Summit

This year's event, ‘California: Transportation Center of Excellence,' promises to bring together a diverse group of attendees for a full day of engaging sessions and extensive networking opportunities. Approximately 1,200 transportation professionals, elected officials, and community partners are expected to attend.
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Nov 8: 2018 Annual Scholarship and Awards Dinner

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Featured News

Heather Anderson: Presenting Our Future One Program at a Time

Tuesday, May 29, 2018 - “Programs are the most public face of the chapter. It’s how most people get introduced to the chapter. Who we get to speak and what programs we put together are very important in that regard. They showcase what we’re about as a chapter. Programs also give all of us a chance to get to know other people in our industry. More and more, with each program, I learn how big the transportation industry really is."
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A Transportation Revolution in the City of Angels: Existing, New and Combining the Two

Tuesday, May 22, 2018 - Guest author, Blair Schlecter, Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce Director of Economic Development and Government Affairs, will moderate the May 31st WTS-LA breakfast panel discussion on connected and autonomous vehicles. Blair is leading the charge for Beverly Hills's autonomous vehicle program.
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METRANS: The Center of the Transportation Universe

Tuesday, May 15, 2018 - Some things are inevitable. And if the 20-year old METRANS Transportation Center did not already exist, it would have to be invented. Dedicated to fostering and disseminating independent, high-quality transportation research, and training the next generation of transportation professionals, the METRANS center’s location is as instrumental to its inception as its mission.
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What’s in a name? Apparently, quite a lot…

Tuesday, May 15, 2018 - Through mixers, workshops, and other interactive events, the College Outreach Committee hopes to teach and promote networking in the transportation field. They are providing a necessary service to college students, young professionals, and the transportation industry itself
Read More »

As a Planner, Doreen Zhao Understands Patience

Friday, May 4, 2018 - Doreen Zhao, a planner with STV, is a perfect example of exactly how WTS-LA helps women advance in transportation through scholarships, networking, and access. "When you’re an established professional, it’s sometimes easy to forget that it’s hard for students when they don’t have an ‘in.’ When you join WTS-LA, you automatically get an ‘in."
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