Getting to Know: Katie O'Sullivan, ICF

Posted: 03/26/2020
Category: Member Spotlight

Katie O’Sullivan is a Senior Transportation & Smart Mobility Specialist at ICF, which supports agencies with TDM planning as well as the design, implementation, and evaluation of TDM programs. She is based in Buffalo, NY and grew up in Vermont. Prior to her current role at ICF, Katie worked in TDM and multi-modal transportation planning for an MPO (GBNRTC), the FHWA New York division office, a state DOT (MnDOT), and another firm (IBI Group). She studied geography at McGill University and regional transportation planning at the University at Albany. Outside of the TDM world, Katie volunteers as a hotline counselor for Crisis Services.

What brought you to TDM/how did you get involved in the field?

I was drawn to transportation planning and TDM, in particular, by the imperative to shift focus from vehicles to people within the transportation field. I decided to go and stay car-free when I left my rural hometown for college. That has proven to be one of the most formative decisions of my life, both personally and professionally. TDM is about systemic change rather than any silver-bullet service or solution, and it sits at the intersection of many paradigms that support this shift. While TDM is not always as tangible as the supply side of the transportation sector, it is powerful because it is human-centered, operating through partnerships and focusing on behavior, culture, and social norms.

Why did you get involved in ACT? What has been the most memorable moment of your experience in ACT?

My first and most memorable experience with ACT was at the 2019 International Conference in New York City.  I had the opportunity to co-present with the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission about their regional strategic TDM action plan on a panel about regional TDM planning in the 21st century.  It was a great experience to connect with others representing all facets of the TDM industry from different regions, learning about the similarities and differences in the issues and strategies we work on.

Within your work, what do you see as the future opportunities/challenges for TDM?

As technology helps improve the convenience and accessibility of mobility services that are shared and/or on-demand, there are great opportunities for TDM to help people make sense of their travel options, thinking beyond driving and parking. Because the benefits of TDM span environmental, health, equity, and economic development goals, it is a powerful framework for coordinating disparate interest groups towards the shared goal of reducing vehicle travel and boosting active and shared modes of transportation. A challenge for TDM is overcoming the limitations of its jargon-y name and history focusing on congestion management and carpooling. I think TDM could benefit from a rebrand or refreshed lexicon that plays up mobility options relative to demand management.

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