Jan 23, 2017 | Atlanta, GA
Please explain what your option paper was about, in terms that someone who knows very little about planning would understand. Why did you pick that topic?
My option paper was about the history behind the development of high speed rail in France and its current financial state. High speed rail, or trains that travel at an excess of 120MPH, have become an important form of cross-country travel in Europe. States such as California have begun building the infrastructure in the United States. However, high speed rail is a controversial topic in the US with opponents criticizing the costs to develop and maintain the infrastructure and rolling stock (trains). I wanted to take a deeper dive into the economics of high speed rail in France (which has been around since 1981) to see if these criticism had any merit. Most of the documents available were in French so I translated a lot of the work into English in order to complete the option paper (thank you mom & dad for forcing me to learn your native language).
Talk a little bit about your relationship with your advisor, and how they helped you complete the paper.
My advisor, Tim Welch, was supportive throughout the process, at first we met one-on-one to agree on a topic and then we met in a group with his other advisees to hash out the methodology and talk through our progress. The group meetings were really helpful because they really kept me on track. I didn't want to fall behind the other students so we banded together and set common deadlines.
What are you up to these days? Is your research related to what you are doing now?
I accepted a job as a planner for a consulting firm in Florida before graduating. I rarely do transportation work; it's mostly updating comprehensive plans, redevelopment plans and amending land development code. High speed trains have mostly been discussed in the western US where the distances between large cities could support the technology and the political climate is more favorable. My option paper has not impacted the work I do directly but I have received emails from individuals who have read my work. I feel as though the case study I did on French high speed rail was unique because of my ability to translate French documents and make them available to English readers.
What are a few of the things you enjoyed most about the program here?
My classmates constantly challenged me and introduced me to new ideas and perspectives. I miss debating planning theory and development alternatives for our studio project. I have kept in touch with classmates and it's amazing which direction each has taken their MCRP education. That's probably my favorite part of the planning profession, you'll rarely do the same thing twice since the work is so context-sensitive.