2021 40 Under 40: Austin Jude Stanion

Nov. 23, 2021
Austin Jude Stanion, AICP, Manager of Solutions Engineering, TransLoc
  • One word to describe yourself: Encouraging
  • Alma Mater: UNC-Chapel Hill and UCLA
  • Fun fact about yourself: I travelled from Mexico to Colombia by bus and boat.
  • Favorite station or stop that you have ever visited or frequent: Grand Central Station in New York City. It’s cliche but nonetheless magical.
  • Favorite route you have ever ridden or frequent: The Metro in Medellín, Colombia. Medellín’s trains are not only the best way to get around the city, but are also a symbol for the city’s transformation as a model for innovation, inclusivity and “social urbanism.”

Austin Jude Stanion is an urban planner and data strategist by trade, and currently works at TransLoc. Just six months after beginning work with the organization, he was promoted from senior solutions engineer to his current role, manager of solutions engineering. Here, he helps transit providers evolve to meet the challenges and the opportunities of economic recovery, while working to improve mobility for all.

In the year he has been a part of the organization, Stanion spearheaded the launch of TransLoc’s planning and design services, providing transit agencies with data analysis and mobility simulations for various route and service scenarios. This tool was used by the Napa Valley Transportation Authority (NVTA) to address ridership impacts from the pandemic. Stanion took the reins, developing heat maps indicating where riders began and ended trips using historic transit and demographic data. With thorough analysis and innovation, he and his team were able to help NVTA determine how to redeploy fixed-route buses alongside microtransit to meet the transportation needs of Napa County residents.

In addition, Stanion is part of the team leading TransLoc’s On-Demand Summit to help the organization better understand how to best help transit agencies whose communities often rely on on-demand transportation.

Stanion continues his commitment to improving mobility accessibility for all outside of TransLoc. He received a Masters of Urban and Regional Planning at UCLA, where his research focused on the environmental impact of freeway congestion on 710, particularly greenhouse gases and local air quality contamination on surrounding communities. He took the lessons learned and applied them to real-world experiences, using urban planning to reduce the impact on the environment, while also improving lives and communities. He has worked for the city of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County, where he advocated for environmental justice in mobility planning, contributed to the L.A. County Climate Action Plan and mapped L.A.'s underrepresented populations in preparation for the 2020 Census.

With that said, one of Stanion’s crowning achievements came as a research fellow with L.A. Metro, where he helped broker the city’s first microtransit project. While at L.A. Metro, Stanion wrote and published the “Congestion Pricing Whitepaper: Managing the Automobile: Empowering Angelenos to shift their travel behavior.” He was also part of the team that launched the first bikeShare and first modeshare in Las Vegas, where he led efforts at downtown projects to create a more walkable and connected environment in Downtown Las Vegas.

Active in several industry organizations, Stanion is a member of APTA, ACT, IPMI, CalACT. With a passion for urban planning and transportation that began at a young age, Austin is committed to creating a better, more sustainable society, both in and out of the workplace. 

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

Many experiences have influenced my journey in tech, planning, and transportation, but I will never forget my first trip on a true Bus Rapid Transit system in Mexico City. Every step of the journey was easy and seamless, from waiting on the platform, to at-grade boarding, to a smooth and fast ride through the city on dedicated lanes. I still dream of BRTs and will sing their praises to anyone who will listen.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love working at the intersection of communities and data to solve tricky transit problems. I’m fortunate to work with transit agencies across the United States to help them plan for uncertain times by embracing adaptive service models and new technologies. Much of my work focuses on finding the right balance between core fixed-route service and more flexible microtransit so that each mode can play to its strengths and contribute to the broader mobility ecosystem.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Data can be our best friend, but it is also our constant foe! Datasets like transit ridership and community demographics can be powerful tools for designing equitable and efficient transit service, but messy data can quickly throw a wrench into the process. The most challenging part of my job is wrapping my head around what data is available, what data is reliable, and what data is relevant to the task at hand. I also constantly remind myself that data only tells part of the story, and all data comes with its own set of limitations and biases.

Accomplishment you’re most proud of and why?

I’m most proud of my time working in the Mayor’s Office of the City of Los Angeles leading data analysis and mapping in preparation for the 2020 Census. Los Angeles is the most undercounted city in the United States, resulting in billions of dollars in lost federal funding for community assets like healthcare, education, and transportation. Unfortunately, these funding impacts are concentrated in chronically-undercounted census tracts, including low-income communities, immigrant communities, and communities of color.

Our team mapped out LA’s “hard-to-count” communities and developed Census outreach strategies to educate individuals on the importance of the Census and the consequences of an undercount. We employed state-of-the-art digital outreach, as well as in-person, community-led events. The 2020 Census was challenging for many reasons, but thanks to the efforts of our team, the most overlooked communities in Los Angeles were included in the process, ensuring representation and funding for the next generation.

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

Mobility technology is a growing field in the realm of transit planning. I believe that there will be incredible opportunities in the next decade to transform the way we use data and technology to provide better transportation, but right now the job opportunities can seem limited.

My advice to anyone interested in mobility technology, or civic tech in general, is to not get discouraged. Continue to find opportunities to strengthen your technical skill sets, and gain experience working with the public sector. Learn from others, and build a network of like-minded data nerds. Make sure you take the time to get up from your computer and engage with the communities you’ve only seen on a map. Buy the ticket, take the bus. Never forget who we serve.