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Tilly Chang, 1992 WTS San Francisco Undergraduate Student Scholarship Recipient


When Tilly Chang received a WTS scholarship in 1992, she was an undergraduate at The University of California, Berkeley, working toward a BA in Economics and minoring in City Planning with an emphasis on transportation. Since then, her academic and career path took her across the country to MIT, to a job in development finance, to the wireless communications industry, and ultimately landed her back in San Francisco where she currently serves the city as Deputy Director for Transportation Planning.  WTS sat down with Chang to find out more details about where her WTS scholarship has led her, and what she sees in her future.  

WTS: Where has your career path taken you since receiving that scholarship?

Chang:  I went from UC Berkeley to the graduate program in transportation at MIT, where I earned a Masters of Science in Transportation.  I focused on urban transportation systems and policy. I took a year off after my first year of graduate school to work at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) in 1993. There, I helped produce the first financially constrained Regional Transportation Plan for the Bay Area, which was a new requirement under ISTEA (the landmark 1991 Transportation Act). I eventually graduated in 1995 and was fortunate to be offered a position at the World Bank to support the East Asia Infrastructure Unit, focusing on inter-city transportation lending and economic sector work. I eventually became a Transport Officer with the Bank’s China Urban Transport program, allowing me to work on development loans for cities across China.

In 2000, I married and returned home to California to work at a wireless start-up company for a few years.  What an adventure!  Although a detour from transportation, it proved helpful to work in marketing and media relations, which is a key aspect of our field that often doesn’t get enough attention or training. That work eventually ended, and I landed at the San Francisco Transportation Authority – a dynamic organization that I had first observed in action as a transportation planner back when I worked at MTC.

WTS:  What do you do in your current role?

Chang:  I currently serve as Deputy Director for Planning at the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. The Authority administers the Prop K local transportation sales tax and it also serves as the Congestion Management Agency (CMA) for San Francisco.  I manage a multi-modal transportation planning program that includes development of the city’s long-range transportation blueprint—called the San Francisco Transportation Plan—and the city’s Congestion Management Program. I am also leading several policy and planning efforts, including congestion pricing initiatives, multiple neighborhood, station, and corridor planning studies, and the development of San Francisco’s first full-featured Bus Rapid Transit projects.

WTS:  What is it about the transportation industry that keeps you excited?

Chang:  I am constantly amazed and inspired by the smart, dedicated and caring people that are involved in transportation, particularly urban transportation.  I also like the creative challenge of blending technical tools and methods with economic and policy analysis, and combining these with community involvement and communication, to arrive at a great transportation project or strategy –and then seeing it get built or implemented.

WTS:  How did your WTS scholarship help get you to where you are today?

Chang:  I was supported not only financially by the scholarship but by the honor of being identified as a young person with the potential to contribute in this field that I was already passionate about by the age of 20. Over the years, whether at the local level or at the international level, I have been energized by the programs and impressed by the strength and resources of the WTS chapters.  In my current post, I am fortunate to work with colleagues at agencies and firms who I’ve known for years through WTS, as well as members of my own staff who are mentors and mentees of our local Bay Area WTS chapter. They are a constant source of fresh ideas and they’re lots of fun!  Finally, I have had the privilege of working with a great group of managers—male and female—who are leaders and experts in our field and committed to the advancement of women in our field and in our region.

WTS:  Do you feel that WTS is a worthwhile organization for others to be a part of?

Chang:  Absolutely, it’s the first thing I tell people to do when they move here.  Whether you are an experienced manager or a young up-and-comer there are rich programs to participate in and people to meet through WTS. WTS supports life-long learning and invests in the next generation of leaders, particularly female leaders. That’s rare and important.

WTS:Where do you see yourself going next?

Chang:  With all the exciting things going on in San Francisco, I hope to be able to contribute locally and regionally for many years to come!

WTS Foundation has provided more than $1 million in scholarships to deserving women like Tilly Chang throughout the transportation industry, supporting the next generation of transportation professionals and advancing the principles of WTS. The Foundation is committed to attracting, retaining, and advancing women in transportation by expanding existing scholarship opportunities to women pursuing transportation-related degrees and by providing and promoting more educational opportunities and career development programs.  If you’d like to contribute to the WTS Foundation, please visit www.WTSinternational.org.

WTS profiles a past WTS Foundation scholarship recipient several times each year. To submit a recommendation for a Where Are They Now profile, please email mpetto@wtsinternational.org.



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