2021 40 Under 40: Maggie Cheung

Nov. 23, 2021
Maggie Cheung, Senior Project Manager, Transportation Planning, Mott MacDonald
  • One word to describe yourself: Inquisitive
  • Alma Mater: University of Oxford and Imperial College London
  • Fun fact about yourself: I’ve been evacuated from a train twice and a station once (not on the same journey), but I promise that I’m lots of fun to travel with!
  • Favorite station or stop that you have ever visited or frequent: My favorite station is Disneyland Resort Station (Hong Kong) as the trains and station are Disney-themed!
  • Favorite route you have ever ridden or frequent: Docklands Light Railway (an automated light-rail system in London) is a favorite route and it used to be a frequent route I used when I lived in London.

Maggie Cheung is a senior project manager in transportation planning and a pedestrian modeling expert at Mott MacDonald. Throughout her 14-year career, she has worked in Los Angeles, London, Toronto and Hong Kong. Highly experienced in planning for transit operations and facilities, she has served as project manager or pedestrian modeling task lead for high-profile domestic and international projects in 10 countries across five continents.

She is currently Mott MacDonald’s Project Manager for Sound Transit’s West Seattle and Ballard Link Extensions Project to provide pedestrian microsimulation consulting services. Though currently operating from the Los Angeles office, Cheung sometimes begins her work day coordinating with a project team on Canada’s Ontario Line Subway Technical Advisory early in the morning. For the Sydney Metro West Expansion Engineering Design Project in Australia, she regularly works through her night so she can coordinate with the station design engineers during their daytime.

For each project, Cheung uses pedestrian modeling analysis to assess the provision of vertical transport facilities, ticket gates, platform, concourse areas and other key circulation routes for multiple stations, verifying the design provides an adequate level of service for customers.

After graduating from Oxford University and Imperial College London, Cheung worked on many rail planning and design projects for Transport for London, then further developed her skills on projects for numerous other transportation hubs, including the John F. Kennedy International Airport, London St. Pancras International Railway Station, London King's Cross Railway Station, Toronto Union Station, New York’s Pennsylvania Station, Kai Tak Cruise Terminal Building in Hong Kong and others.

In addition to her expertise in modeling, Cheung has taken project management roles for several large transit planning studies for L.A. Metro. She served as the deputy project manager for Environmental Assessment and Technical Studies for the Metrolink Antelope Valley Line (AVL), Conceptual Design/Planning to support the Metrolink San Bernardino Line/Metro Gold Line Task Force and she is the planning lead for the Vermont Transit Corridor South Bay Extension Feasibility Study.

During her career, Cheung was curious about why a pedestrian might choose one side of the road and when they would choose to cross the road. She researched, “Public Life Tool,” developed by Danish architect Jan Gehl, and applied that tool to a train station design project. She has also expanded her pedestrian modeling expertise from normal operations to special event scenario planning in transit station design.

For the London 2012 Olympic Games, she was responsible for leading the development of sensitivity tests to determine operational plans suitable for the Canning Town Station layout so that the large crowd demand during the Olympics could be accommodated. For the Cutty Sark Station, her pedestrian demand assessment work, including tests of evacuation scenarios, helped stakeholders decide that it would be unsafe to stop the train at this station in peak times during the Olympics.

Having grown up in Hong Kong and the UK, Cheung developed a passion for promoting public transportation. Now, living in Los Angeles and relying on transit when traveling, she often uses her social media platforms (and many emojis) to encourage the use of rail and bus in Los Angeles.   

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

For as long as I can remember, I got around town using transit or active transportation. Working in this industry allows me to improve mobility options for more people, which in turn allows them to get around to do whatever it is they need to do, and in a more sustainable way.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Transportation is a really exciting industry right now with lots of new developments happening, from new technologies such as zero emissions technologies to new ideas such as dockless bicycle sharing. I have been fortunate to work on some interesting projects, and with people from a diverse range of backgrounds, each bringing a new experience or new knowledge in the industry.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

I work with a lot of numbers and data and it’s not always easy to share the key findings of my analyses with others. It’s really satisfying when my analyses just clicks with people.

Accomplishment you’re most proud of and why?

Seeing one of the projects that I’ve worked on come to fruition and used by passengers! It can be a long time for a project to be implemented. It’s not unheard of for a project to take over 10 years, because of the many steps we need to go through to get to the end product. From environmental clearance, design work to accommodate local conditions, thorough community engagement to garner support and input, right-of-way acquisition, construction, to systems testing, all these things need to come together and so I’m always excited when one of my projects opens. For example, the Northern Line Extension (London) just recently opened to passengers and I have worked on this project in different roles with different organizations since 2012, so I’m really excited now that it’s finally open.

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

When traveling, try out the local transit system (or new transportation mode). Your experience from using the local system will add to your knowledge of transit systems and your perspective will help shape your next project for people using the system for years to come.