I am lucky that it is both my profession and my passion to create safe and sustainable transportation options for people from all walks of life.
Iowa has a special meaning to me as the first place I landed in the United States. In 2004, I moved here from India to attend the University of Iowa and obtain my masters degree in urban and regional planning. After living in a few different parts of the US, I moved back to Iowa three years ago and have been working with the Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, where my focus is on long range transportation planning. This involves thinking 25 years into the future and anticipating what the metro area’s transportation needs might be, while strategizing goals and policies to address these challenges. My projects seek to increase alternatives to car travel by making communities safer for active transportation, including walking, biking and public transit.
Along with safety and fun, it is important that these transportation choices are environmentally-friendly. Single-occupancy vehicle trips are one of the highest sources of GHG emissions within transportation. As more people are riding their bikes and walking while fewer are driving, we have experienced declining air pollution during the recent pandemic. This has given us a taste of what life could be like if car trips are reduced, while bike riding and carpooling increase. To make these choices simple for everyday people, cities need to start planning and building adequate infrastructure, including safe bike routes, intersections, and more comprehensive bus routes.
In the Des Moines region, we are beginning to update the region’s bicycle and pedestrian plan, which will develop policies, action steps, guidance and best practices for communities to improve active transportation choices. Cities all across the world are reconsidering their transportation policies to address the biggest issue that challenges us today - climate change. Our policymakers can help Iowa’s cities address these challenges and become a better place to live, work and play by ensuring that appropriate policies and funding are in place. Public policies that encourage sprawl and separation do not provide safe, active, multimodal corridors and is not sustainable. Land-use decisions that encourage mixed-use and efficient, compact development can help support much needed sustainable transportation options.
From the troubling wildfires in California to local flooding of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, and a severe winter storm in Texas, elected officials need to pay attention to climate events which disproportionately displace BIPOC and the poorer communities. Now is the time for strong, concrete policies and actions because we don't know when the next climate disaster will strike. Here in Iowa, efforts are under way in watershed management and flood mitigation but more proactive efforts are necessary. Moving forward, our elected leaders in Iowa need to also focus their attention to issues such as sustainable transportation and animal agriculture. These can be challenging topics in Iowa, but by providing safe and good alternatives to driving and harmful agricultural practices, our leaders can promote the transition to a cleaner economy while ensuring that farmers and other workers in the transportation industry do not lose their livelihoods.
I am lucky that it is both my profession and my passion to create safe and sustainable transportation options for people from all walks of life. When our beliefs and passions intersect, we can help people and make an enormous impact on climate change.