2020 40 Under 40: Carly Macias

Aug. 18, 2020
Carly Macias, Senior Transportation Planner at Regional Transportation District (RTD)
  • Alma Mater: UCLA and CU Denver
  • Favorite hobby: Hiking with my husband and my greyhound
  • Fun fact about yourself: I didn't get my driver's license until I was 24-years-old.
  • Favorite route you have ever ridden or frequent: I loved using the MTS 215 Rapid Bus when I lived in San Diego because it's fast and frequent and you get great views of Balboa Park on your way to downtown.

Carly Macias began her career in transit in 2011 as a transportation engineer/planner at IBI Group.

One of her first projects was a shuttle planning study with the Port of San Diego where she completed field work, proposed shuttle stops and gave input on operations. The shuttle went into service in May 2012 and it has been operating every summer since then.

In 2015, Macias decided to join the public sector as an assistant traffic engineer at the city of San Diego where she worked on the Complete Boulevard Planning Study. This project required extensive collaboration and negotiations with a variety of stakeholders. It seemed that every group prioritized a different mode of transportation but there was not enough space in the four-lane roadway to give everyone what they wanted.

After developing numerous scenarios, Macias and the team were able to work with the stakeholders to come to consensus on a preferred alternative. However, this battle of the alternative modes has stuck with her and leads her to challenge the status quo in the projects she manages.

Macias later pursued a graduate degree in urban planning, and her decision to apply to certain programs was based on which transit agencies were doing the most exciting projects. She was accepted to the Urban & Regional Planning graduate program at the University of Colorado Denver and a couple months later got her foot in the door at Denver RTD as a planning intern.

In less than a year, she was promoted to her current position, a senior transportation planner, where she focused on the FasTracks Quality of Life Study. She managed a team of consultants who developed metrics to show how the RTD FasTracks Program has impacted the Denver Metro region. As the project manager of this study, she was passionate about making data transparent and easily consumable for staff, board members, partner agencies and the public. The team accomplished this goal by transitioning the study’s primary deliverable from a lengthy report to a graphic PowerPoint format.

In March of that same year, her supervisor left RTD and Macias volunteered to take on several of her projects, including a graduate student capstone project focused on transit fleet electrification. Even though Macias didn’t know anything about electric buses, she took on the challenge. As she managed the team of four graduate students, she became increasingly involved in RTD’s planning for zero-emission vehicles.

Fortunately, her background in civil engineering and urban planning allowed her to understand and communicate technical details while also forming strategic partnerships by discovering shared goals. She started reaching out to the electric vehicle (EV) community by joining the Colorado EV Coalition (CEVC).

She saw a need to form a group dedicated to addressing transit electrification, so she helped form the CEVC Transit Subgroup and is currently serving as the chair of this subgroup. During one meeting, she

was encouraged to look into the EV electricity rate case recently initiated by Xcel Energy and submit a request for RTD to intervene in the case. She worked with RTD’s legal staff to submit a motion to intervene and represented RTD’s interests through multiple testimonies during the case. The result was a new EV electricity rate that would significantly lower RTD’s operating costs for the current fleet of 36 electric buses and for all future electric buses.

Following this EV rate case, she shared her lessons learned at several local and national conferences including Rail~Volution, APTA Sustainability & Multimodal Planning Workshop, Smart Cities Connect Conference and Expo, Colorado Transportation Symposium, Colorado Association of Transit Agencies Fall Transit Conference and American Planning Association (APA) Colorado Conference. During these presentations, she emphasized the need to develop a thorough understanding of the electricity rate and the importance of joining groups like the Colorado EV Coalition to share information and build partnerships.

In addition to speaking at conferences, she also serves in leadership roles for a variety of professional organizations. Over the years, she has been involved with the Women Transportation Seminar, the American Planning Association, the Transportation Research Board and APTA.

She's been involved with APTA for several years starting as an American Public Transportation Foundation Scholar in 2016 and then joining the APTA Emerging Leaders Class of 2020. In addition, she was elected as an APTA Clean Propulsion Committee officer, serving as the vice chair of the resource guide from 2019-2021. She is also working with staff at the Center for Transportation and the Environment to organize the 2020 Zero Emission Bus Conference.

In 2019, Macias had a major role in developing two successful grant applications for a fleet of electric buses, which resulted in a VW Settlement award of $8.5 million and an FTA Low or No Emission grant award of $2.6 million. She will be working with RTD’s operations staff to procure and successfully deploy this fleet of 17 electric buses. She is also continuing to develop RTD’s partnership with Xcel Energy.

“With my focus on zero-emission vehicles, I love that my work is contributing toward improving air quality and making transit more sustainable by decreasing our carbon footprint. I was honored to be highlighted on RTD’s News Stop blog for Earth Day 2020. This blog post reminded me how incredibly grateful I am to work at a transit agency like RTD that prioritizes innovation while also taking time to appreciate and support their employees.”

“I would encourage engineers, planners, strategists, communicators, and other transit professionals who are interested in transit electrification to not be intimidated by the technology or terminology. It is essential to have people with different perspectives and strengths involved in the transition to zero emission vehicles so that we can ensure the future of sustainable transit.”