2020 40 Under 40: Nicole McAden

Aug. 18, 2020
Nicole McAden, Marketing & Public Affairs Manager, City of Greenville on behalf of the Greenville Transit Authority
  • One word to describe yourself: Persistent
  • Alma Mater: University of Florida (undergraduate); University of Missouri (graduate)
  • Favorite hobby: Cooking
  • Fun fact about yourself: I perform improv comedy weekly with a local theater.
  • Favorite station or stop that you have ever visited or frequent: I traveled to New York in 2017 to cheer on a friend running the NYC Marathon. The closest station to our hotel was Grand Central Station and I was pleasantly surprised by the food court! After a long day of sightseeing, when the sudden wave of hunger hit me like a ton of bricks, the food court’s plethora of options satisfied every craving. I look forward to a return trip to NYC to visit TurnStyle at the Columbus Circle station!
  • Favorite route you have ever ridden or frequent: In August 2019, I hiked the Tour du Mont Blanc – which takes you around the highest mountain in the Alps through France, Italy and Switzerland. At one point in the hike, my legs were dog tired and I caught the Val Veny route on the SAVDA system in Italy. It shaved off hours of walking that day and I was extremely grateful!

Nicole McAden has been with Greenlink since December 2015. She currently serves as the marketing and public affairs manager, overseeing the agency’s communications and community relations efforts.

In 2017, Greenlink completed a Comprehensive Operations Analysis (COA) to better understand the current system’s productivity and to propose efficiency improvements. McAden helped the consultants facilitate a customer survey, collecting 1,371 responses. Additionally, she led outreach efforts that included a public open house and 10 focus groups. She also coordinated 16 public meetings in 2017 to get public input on the proposed recommendations from the COA study.

Also, in 2017, the Federal Transit Administration awarded Greenlink $1.45 million through its Low or No Emission Vehicle Program. McAden was an integral member of the grant application team, soliciting 57 letters of support from community partners endorsing the project. She also solicited 49 letters of support for Greenlink’s Bus and Bus Facilities grant awarded in 2018 and solicited 41 letters of support for the agency’s Bus and Bus Facilities grant awarded in 2019.

In 2018, the Greenville Transit Authority formally adopted the 2020-2024 Transit Development Plan (TDP). McAden was key in the planning phase, helping the consultants host five focus groups to weigh in on the proposed expansions. She helped mobilize crucial supporters to endorse this expansion, successfully advocating for the increase in funding.

In early 2019, McAden led an effort to recruit 92 beta testers to test Greenlink’s new TouchPass fare collection system before launching to the public in July 2019. She communicated with the beta testers over the course of a month to understand issues that the customers may face and generate messaging to promote the new product.

McAden has also focused on increasing community engagement and awareness by launching programs such as the Citizens Transit Academy (CTA), the Bike vs. Bus vs. Car Race and Adopt-a-Stop.

The CTA launched in January 2019 with 20 participants and aims to help the community understand how Greenlink operates. In its second year, Greenlink accepted 24 applicants and the class was extended to six weeks to include topics such as an outline of transit services, operations and safety, tours of Greenlink’s facilities, an overview of technology, finances, capital needs, bus route planning, service

change procedures, Greenlink’s TDP and other supportive efforts happening in the Greenville community.

McAden facilitated the first Bike vs. Bus vs. Car Race in 2017 in observance of Earth Day. The event has since expanded to include ride share services and has created an opportunity to partner with Furman University’s David E. Shi Center for Sustainability faculty and students. The fourth event is planned for Sept. 22, 2020, in honor of World Car Free Day.

McAden commenced Greenlink’s Adopt-A-Stop program in August 2019 and currently has seven volunteer agencies and individuals who are committed to 11 stops. The volunteers pledge to visit their stop(s) at least once per week to pick up any trash and report any vandalism or safety concerns to Greenlink.

Lastly, she is often sought to provide educational presentations on Greenlink and public transit topics. She provided trainings at the Transportation Association of South Carolina 2019 Annual Conference and annually presents to Clemson University’s graduate program in city and regional planning class on public transit. She also works with other local colleges and universities to administer Greenlink’s internship programs, which have included internship positions focused on transit advertising sales and curriculum development for elementary school students to learn about transit. She has served on the board of directors with local non-profits such as Bike Walk Greenville and the Upstate Transportation Coalition.

McAden is a Class 46 graduate of the Greenville Chamber’s Leadership Greenville program, a competitive 10-month program for committed leaders to take an intensive look into community needs and develop social capital.

“I [used to] serve as the deputy project manager for the SC Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Resource Center. In my five-year tenure with SRTS, I became passionately aware of how the built environment plays such a vital role in personal transportation behaviors. The skills I learned, specifically conducting walkability and bikability audits, transferred to the transit industry as we discuss bus stop accessibility. That position opened my eyes to the importance of alternative transportation.”

“I thoroughly enjoy the fact that every day is different. From providing new passenger orientations, filming videos for social media, talking about transit to community groups, or planning events like our annual Bike vs. Bus vs. Car Race – there is always something new and exciting happening.”

“Our agency has a multitude of improvements we would like to implement for our community. We are working towards later service hours and have plans for increased frequency and new routes. However, funding is an incessant hurdle. I find the inability to move forward with much needed service enhancements, due to a lack of dedicated revenue, an immense challenge.”