Young Professionals in Transportation – International provided the opportunity for Candidates running for the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) Vice President position to answer some questions about why they wanted the position, their qualifications, and their goals for the role. YPT International also asked questions about their vision for the future of the organization, and how organizations that bring together transportation professionals can better collaborate and interface.
For more information and to learn about all of the Candidates, please visit ITE’s candidacy page.
Below are the questions we’ve asked Randy McCourt, P.E., PTOE, Principal at DKS Associates in Portland, OR, USA; and his answers.
What drew you to the transportation industry?
My senior year in high school I prepared a paper on Urban Mass Transit in America which was the next “big” thing in transportation with BART, WMATA and MARTA all under construction. I pursued that through a degree in Civil Engineering at Oregon State and then a masters degree at UC Berkeley. I was fortunate enough at the time to be hired by DKS Associates which had just started up and has had the great opportunity to work on a wide array of transportation project from LRT to BART, airports to neighborhood traffic calming, arterial/freeway operations to ATMS, safety assessments to travel demand forecasting.
What skills have you learned along the way to improve your effectiveness as a leader and prepare you for the position of International Vice President?
A big one for me is listening – I bring a lot of energy and ideas about transportation to every endeavor I engage in. I can get very excited about transportation. I have benefited from being engaged in ITE at every level from Technical Committees to Section, District, Council and the International Board of Direction, and have served several other organizations including being President of DKS Associates. To effectively lead ITE you need to listen and experience what the members need and be able to translate that into actions that allow member to make a difference in their own careers.
What excites you about the future of transportation and what do you see as the most pressing issue facing transportation in the coming years?
Virtually every aspect of transportation gets me excited – from recent projects involving LRT and airport ground access to working with communities on transportation plans to setting of speed limits and establishing standards for dynamic message signs. Transportation plays a role in everyone’s future. While our industry has nearly 90 years of history, many challenges continue to lay before us creating opportunities to solve issues for the generations to come – Vision Zero, autonomous vehicles, livable & vibrant communities, smarter mobility, balanced transportation choices in urban areas, safe highways in rural areas, the economic development/land use/transportation nexus – can’t wait to get after all this!
What project or task has been your most significant accomplishment so far?
I have had the good fortune to be involved in a wide array of significant transportation projects and tasks. Early in my career being able to perform much of the technical analysis surrounding the I-280 Transfer Concept Program (studies of the removal of the Embarcadero Freeway in San Francisco) to more recently being part of the independent project manager team to advance consensus on the Alaskan Way Viaduct Project in Seattle within 12 months or opening the Portland Transit Mall to vehicle traffic, LRT, streetcar, bus, bike, pedestrians, parking, loading and trucks – these were exciting transportation projects in the west. Working for the same organization for nearly 39 years has also been a significant accomplishment.
Did you have any mentors along the way? How did they inspire you?
My journey began with a high school teacher (Gary Baton) challenging us to find topics of interest and writing about them. Robert Layton, Dolf May and Wolf Homburger were my advisors through college (and later) and steered me toward the profession. If I began to name people within ITE who have provided insights, support and encouragement I would more than fill pages with names. At every ITE event I am inspired by members who are passionate about transportation, share the excitement about making a difference in our communities and seek innovative and better ways to address mobility challenges. That always inspires me to learn more.
What is the biggest risk you’ve had to take in your career so far?
As President for an organization there is a constant stream of risks emerging every day/week/month. Early in my career, I chose to engage on projects that many times I did not know a whole lot about (transit maintenance base equipment select, return of streetcar track to Market Street in San Francisco, coding of Highway Capacity into software, travel demand modeling). Each case I could have defined my career by what I knew but I chose to define more from what I did not know and learn. The risk is how to manage time when you are learning – an art I continue to learn.
Do you have one piece of advice for young transportation professionals on how to succeed within their careers?
Be passionate about transportation. Every aspect of it. People that see their careers as simply a job miss the most exciting, creative, remarkable and dynamic part of our work – making a difference in our community. And it does not have to be a 57 foot tunnel under Seattle – I find small things that I would never have thought 30 years ago would fire me up (signs, markings, flashers, signals, parking symbols, access consolidation, speed improvement to bus routes) all play a role in their daily interaction with the traveling public. Each small step can contribute to a greater whole – that was the tough part when I was young and might miss the nexus between incremental progress and the “big” change.
How can young professionals organizations better collaborate – and if you are elected ITE’s next International VP, what will you do to support young professionals in the transportation world?
On my web site (www.Randy4ITE.com) I devote a substantial space to partnerships,
leadership and member experience. We have over 40 organizations now competing for our professional development time. In separate silos the voice of transportation is defused and less relevant. Finding ways to fuse activities, meetings and conferences together enriches everyone’s professional development experience. We have been working to advance joint meetings as a great way to collaborate (Rapid City 2014, Keystone 2018) and using common events (Transportation Camp) as a means to engage younger professions in ITE. Over the last 15 years, I have helped guide WesternITE investment in student initiatives and programs for young professionals – it has made a difference in attracting people with passion for transportation to a community that shares our values. ITE provides opportunities for leadership (officers) and technical development (committees) for younger members. With social media and technology we can bring more people together over broader space – maybe even joint section meetings across the country on key technical topics of interest. My top goal in running for ITE VP is to enhance every member’s ITE experience to advance their careers and their professional development – something that supports every young professional.