2020 40 Under 40: Justin H. Resnick, AICP

Aug. 18, 2020
Justin H Resnick, AICP, Service Planning Manager, Washington State Ferries (WSF)
  • One word to describe yourself: Dedicated
  • Alma Mater: University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of California, Los Angeles
  • Favorite hobby: mountain biking
  • Fun fact about yourself: My sideburns have the blessing of the Burnside family directly from a descendant I met in my Washington, D.C., days.
  • Favorite station or stop that you have ever visited or frequent: Sunsets from the Vashon Island ferry terminal are a real treat.
  • Favorite route you have ever ridden or frequent: Traveling the Indian Railways in the summer of 2012 while I studied at the Center for Environmental Planning and Technology in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India, was simply incredible. The ride from Ahmedabad to Agra served as my transportation and lodging for the night while taking me through amazing views at a pace that perfectly fit the experience.

Justin H. Resnick, AICP, service planning manager for Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT)--Washington State Ferries (WSF).

With limited resources or tools, Resnick and his team work to optimize the on-time performance of 160,000 yearly sailings and devise sailing schedules that must consider numerous factors, such as ridership, vessel maintenance and preservation needs, fuel consumption and operational efficiencies, labor agreements with crew schedule requirements, and community and political considerations.

Resnick and his team complete this work without any sophisticated software or modeling tools; they primarily employ their intelligence, creativity and an inclusive approach to problem-solving that focuses on community and employee engagement. Because of Resnick’s work, last year WSF was able to implement a successful new sailing schedule for one of its most problematic routes after an 18-month revision process that involved ferry advisory committees, members of the public and employees as part of the solution.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee and other state leaders had to respond quickly to a growing crisis, and Resnick was a key performer in this regard. As ridership plummeted to 35 percent of its typical capacity, Resnick and his team have been working every day–including weekends—to provide executives with real-time updates on ridership, help make difficult service reduction decisions and overhaul schedules that would normally take months to overhaul in a matter of days.

Some of their work product is being delivered directly to the governor as he also needs to consider traffic and transit data to inform his own decisions. Resnick and his team are accomplishing all this work remotely, without any special transportation planning technology or tools.

As a result, the rest of WSDOT and other transit agencies are looking to WSF as a model of how to respond to service reductions in a time of crisis.

Resnick is a member of the Transportation Research Board’s Ferry Transportation Committee, in addition to serving as WSF’s Active Transportation Coordinator. He is currently organizing a planning roundtable to discuss transit and transportation in a post-COVID world.

“Washington State Ferries represents a fascinating intersection of so many urban and regional planning issues. From our terminals making up the town center of many smaller communities to the hustle and bustle of people traveling across Puget Sound to Seattle every day, ferry life is iconic in Washington and the Greater Pacific Northwest. While my primary responsibilities today revolve around service planning specifically, so many of our agency’s and communities’ issues fascinate me.”

“Truly listen to your constituents, whether they are customers, coworkers, supporters or detractors. Meet them where they are, be open to their motivations and needs. You may not be able to deliver what they’re asking for, but by clearly showing that you are taking their needs seriously and weighing them against all of your other constraints you can develop credibility that is crucial for garnering informed consent where consensus may not be possible.”