Penny Menton is Director, Communications and Commuter Services at UCLA Transportation Services. She has some perceptive comments to make about the relevance of public policy to TDM.
1. What connection does public policy have to your job and other activities, especially those related to ACT?
I have been a member of ACT’s Vanpool Council and have also chaired its University Council for over eight years. As director of UCLA Events & Transportation’s Communications and Commuter Services, I’m responsible for ensuring that UCLA focuses significant efforts on marketing and promotion aimed at continuing to increase participation in the University’s extensive commuter programs. The alternative transportation options are part of the comprehensive UCLA Transportation strategic plan for sustainable programs and services that provide a more balanced approach to campus access and mobility. With so much at stake, public policy on the federal, state, and local levels can and does impact our goals and objectives.
2. What do you see as posing the most significant opportunity or challenge to TDM on a federal (or state or local) level?
On a local level, I’m seeing the need for continued support of Los Angeles politicians willing to commit to a more walkable, bikeable, sustainable city. Recently, some here are experiencing a backlash from residents opposed to “road diets” and new bike lanes included in Los Angeles’ Mobility Plan 2035. And while statewide, California’s governor and lawmakers have committed to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions to help slow climate change, that seems to be going toe-to-toe with any effort that limits, constrains, or makes driving one’s car more inconvenient or expensive. On a federal level, the most significant challenge we’re facing as I write this is Congress’ tax reform efforts and its implications for the transit benefit. For all that ACT and its members have accomplished to date, this fight reminds us of the precarious nature of being a small fish in a big (federal) pond.
3. What do you see as the future of public policy?
The future transportation world of mobility and access is uncharted territory filled with complexity and tremendous scope. Public policy is at the heart of those challenges and opportunities. Members of ACT from government, private employers, technology system innovators, and educational institutions play a key role in shaping our future transportation access and mobility ecosystem.
Through our collaborative efforts, we play a tangible role in creating, defining, and instilling confidence in the economic, environmental, and social drivers of our TDM industry. Public/private partnerships remain tantamount as demographic trends, fast-moving advancements in technology, and social attitudes shift North America and the world toward a new transportation model of autonomous vehicles, driverless ridesharing, seamless multimodal access, and other mobility options. Emphasis on such a collaborative race toward TDM mobility innovations could bring a national breakthrough and increased competitive advantage to our global economy.
4. What is your take on the role of ACT in public policy?
The homepage of our association’s website includes this sentence: “Through advocacy, education, and networking efforts, ACT strives to improve the lives of commuters, the livability of communities, and the economic growth of businesses.” President Kennedy once said “Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.” I see his use of the word “efforts” embodied in ACT’s educational efforts; “courage” encompassed in our association’s long-standing networking efforts; and “purpose and direction” fitting hand in glove with “advocacy,” the natural outcome of public policy.
5. Why should ACT members get involved in public policy?
Being part of public policy through ACT can benefit your employer’s self-interest, but it’s more than that. Figuratively speaking, anyone can board a bus, join a carpool, or hop on a vanpool but there’s more peace of mind knowing that you’re helping steer that vehicle in the direction you want others (your elected representatives) to go. Some might call that having “skin in the game.” I call it being “ACTively-engaged.”
6. What outside interests do you have? Is there anything about you that might surprise ACT members?
Outside of work, I’m a voracious reader and enjoy cooking, travel, and dancing. Being a lifelong resident of Southern California and the San Gabriel Valley, triple-digit weather makes me happy. I’m a UCLA Bruin through and through, with my bachelor’s and two master’s degrees all from the University of California, Los Angeles.