2021 40 Under 40: Alexander Traversa

Nov. 23, 2021
Alexander Traversa, Sustainability Program Manager, Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA)
  • One word to describe yourself: Creative
  • Alma Mater: University of South Florida
  • Fun fact about yourself: My current home is one of three known remaining Sears Catalog Homes in Jacksonville, Fla. In the 1920s, the pieces were delivered by train and it was built by hand.
  • Favorite station or stop that you have ever visited or frequent: Stazione Milano Centrale – Milan, Italy. It is my most frequented international station as it provides a high-speed connection to Turin, where my family is from, and I often visit.
  • Favorite route you have ever ridden or frequent: My favorite route is my morning trip into the office on JTA Route 16.

Sustainability Program Manager Alexander Traversa has been with the JTA five years and has fostered teamwork and transformational leadership in advancing key JTA initiatives in the areas of environmental and sustainability planning, Transit Oriented Development (TOD) and improving equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

Traversa demonstrated his environmental commitment through the development of a comprehensive sustainability action plan that was adopted by the JTA Board of Directors to become the strategic vision for the sustainability program office. The plan outlines 15 goals and 23 projects that aim to address six key focus areas. In addition, it anticipates a conservation of 108 million gallons of water, 6.5 million kilowatt-hours of electricity, 2.9 million gallons of petroleum fuels and avoids sending 6.850 tons of waste to the landfill.

Traversa also plays a key role in leading the implementation of the JTA’s TOD policy. The policy is set to encourage new development and redevelopment in Jacksonville’s downtown area and outside the urban core that connects to expanded transit modalities. Traversa currently oversees the TOD Pilot Program being conducted to analyze what types of developments or land uses can best support transit service in the downtown area and around the Ultimate Urban Circulator (U²C) system. Post pandemic, Traversa wanted to increase the level of public participation throughout the U²C TOD process. In January 2021, he made an innovative decision to utilize a contactless public involvement resource called “Public Input” to host the U²C Virtual Pilot Open House.

While at JTA, Traversa’s dedicated leadership and project management helped the authority develop a short-term strategic plan to respond to the impacts of COVID-19. In October 2020, Traversa spearheaded an internal task force comprised of an agency-wide cross representation of departmental directors to lead the authority’s initiative to improve equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine. Under Traversa’s leadership, the VAX Trans committee was developed. The key objective of VAX Trans was to gather research and information so the JTA could develop service operations plans that would provide equity and access to the city’s vaccination sites. An early milestone of the VAX Tran committee was the development of a data tracking system to maintain up-to-date vaccination data. The tracking system allowed the authority to track the number of people getting vaccines, as well as the number of doses administered. The validity of the process allows the authority to pivot service operations as needed, allowing for sustainability of equitable access to the changing vaccination sites and policies. Traversa and the VAX Trans committee then led the development and continued management of the mobile vaccine unit, called Wellness on Wheels, in partnership with AGAPE Family Health. Because of this effort 6,681 community citizens that didn’t have adequate access to vaccination sites were vaccinated.

Traversa worked to further expand the JTA’s impact on vaccination access by brokering an agreement with Uber to develop a voucher program. The partnership with Uber expanded opportunities and resulted in a total of 4,000 subsidized rides to vaccination sites. Under Traversa’s leadership, the committee not only focused on getting the community vaccinated, but also developed programs to target greater employee participation by JTA employees. The committee, in partnership the JTA Marketing Department, conducted awareness campaigns, which included a special shuttle service to take employees to vaccination sites as requested. Because of this effort, 33 percent more of the JTA workforce was vaccinated during the internal promotional campaign. 

Is there a specific experience that led you to where you are today?

I initially began my undergraduate degree in Marine Science. I was always interested in the environment, but my career path did not change until I took an elective in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). My interest in GIS, and the ability to perform spatial analysis across a variety of social and environmental areas was the driving force of me switching my degree to Geography and Environmental Science, with a minor in Sustainability. GIS, and specifically the network it helped me connect to, led to my first opportunity as a planner and data analyst for the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA). Over my five years with the Authority, I have gained experience working in both the service planning and long range planning departments. Now I have an opportunity to build the Authority’s Sustainability Program from the ground up in my new role as the Sustainability Program Manager.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Being a change agent and making a positive impact on our community is the part of my job I enjoy the most. Through strategic planning and project implementation, I help to advance projects that expand sustainable transportation solutions throughout our community. I am able to help make Jacksonville and Northeast Florida a more sustainable and resilient community, and improve the economy, environment and quality of life for all of our residents. I enjoy using data and public feedback to develop innovative and creative solutions to address local problems.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part of my job is the coordination of both internal and external shareholders and stakeholders when planning and developing sustainability projects. My role requires me to work across the Authority, and requires extensive engagement with leadership and staff. Externally, there are a number of organizations involved in transportation planning in the City of Jacksonville, and coordination varies from project to project. This requires a good understanding of the key shareholders and stakeholders are for each project and robust outreach and engagement plans.

Accomplishment you’re most proud of and why?

The accomplishment I am most proud of is obtaining my master’s degree while working full time at the JTA. I have always been eager to learn, and this was an opportunity for me to advance my knowledge of sustainable transportation and help me improve on the work I am doing. Although it was a challenge, and most days I was doing twelve hours or more of sustainability and transportation work, I enjoyed the experience and feel a great sense of pride that I was able to accomplish a major goal of mine. Even better, I have been able to leverage things I learned while obtaining my master’s in my day-to-day work.

Best advice/tip/best practice to share from your area of expertise?

Be patient and persistent. The sector we work in is aimed at monumental changes in infrastructure, policy, and human behavior. It will take time to see the results of our actions, but know our work will positively impact future generations and will have regional and global impacts.