2021 40 Under 40: Andrea Aaby, MPH

Nov. 23, 2021
Andrea Aaby, MPH, Director of Compliance and Development, Laketran
  • One word to describe yourself: Persistent
  • Alma Mater: Case Western Reserve University
  • Fun fact about yourself: I’m a mother to twin boys.
  • Favorite station or stop that you have ever visited or frequent: The University Circle Rapid Station on Greater Cleveland RTA’s Red Line was my main way of getting around Cleveland as a college student, and I have fond memories of taking the Rapid downtown to go out to dinner for half-priced sushi night.
  • Favorite route you have ever ridden or frequent: Greater Cleveland RTA’s Red Line was the first public transportation I used on a regular basis when I was in college. When I travel to Chicago or D.C., whether it’s subconscious or by chance, I typically end up using the Red Lines there, as well.

While Andrea Aaby has only been in the industry for 3.5 years, she has made a significant impact on Laketran’s ability to serve the public and the management of the organization. In February 2018, Aaby was hired by Laketran to serve as the grants and procurement specialist after a 10-year career at the Cleveland Clinic as a grants and research coordinator. She quickly learned government compliance and grant reporting procedures. In the past year three years, Aaby has prepared, wrote, developed and managed more than 15 state and federal grants, securing $52.6 million in funding for Laketran.

Most notable, Laketran knew its fixed-route bus fleet would be reaching the end of its useful life, but had not secured replacement funding for the fleet of 16 35-foot transit buses. In three years, Aaby secured more than $10.5 million in funding for 10 electric buses and charging infrastructure through competitive grants. She secured an additional $3.6 million to purchase seven diesel fixed-route buses.

Aaby also serves as the project manager on major capital projects. From 2019-2021, she is managing the building construction of two transit centers that includes installation of electric bus chargers for Laketran to charge buses en-route. Concurrently, she is overseeing the installation of two additional standalone electric chargers at other community locations that will allow Laketran to electrify its entire fixed-route bus system. She is also spearheading the design and engineering for the headquarters and vehicle storage expansion.

Aaby has improved Laketran’s policies and compliance for its Title VI, Disadvantage Business Enterprise, Procurement and Public Transit Agency Safety Plan programs. She also wrote the agency’s first Equivalent Service Plan to give Laketran an opportunity to purchase non-accessible vehicles to operate a more efficient microtransit service, while still meeting the FTA and ADA requirements that guarantees people with disabilities access to public transportation. In her procurement role, she develops multiple competitive procurements for IT, construction, equipment, buses, software and goods and services throughout the year. In November 2020, she was promoted to her current role of director of compliance and development. In this role, she is responsible for Laketran’s Triennial Review.

In addition to writing and preparing federal and state grants, Aaby has also taken a lead role in advocacy efforts by creating meaningful relationships with federal and state elected officials. These relationships have helped Laketran leverage funding opportunities and receive imperative support for grant applications. Aaby is described by peers as a young, dynamic and passionate director who drives to make meaningful changes in the community by improving transportation access to residents. 

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

I have taken an indirect path to find myself in the transit industry. I have a degree in biology and I had originally planned to be scientist. But working in the lab doing benchtop research was isolating; I need to be around people. After leaving a PhD program, I spent ten years helping physicians run clinical trials for drugs and devices before applying for a job a Laketran. Switching careers and industries to work in transit has been one of the best decisions I have ever made because the work is challenging, engaging, and collaborative, but most importantly the work we do at Laketran has the power to make an immediate and positive impact on our riders and our community. Working in the transit industry requires the perfect blend of my skills and interests: technical communication, public service, community impact, and research.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love that the work that I do directly impacts the community in which I both work and live. Obtaining grant funding and implementing capital projects improves the service that Laketran delivers which directly impacts the lives and quality of life of Lake County residents.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging part of my job is having to having to give bad news. Because I administer Laketran’s capital procurements, I am responsible for communicating to contractors and vendors that they did not win a project. Being the bearer of bad news is tough, especially when I know that contractors have spent a lot of time and effort developing proposals for Laketran.

Accomplishment you’re most proud of and why?

I am most proud of the role I have played to help bring ten zero emissions battery electric buses and six opportunity chargers to Laketran and Lake County. Our fixed route fleet is now majority electric and over the next twelve years, the buses will save over 8,000 tons in carbon emissions. Being part of a forward thinking and innovative agency like Laketran, makes getting out of bed every day easy.

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

The best advice I can give to a grant writer or procurement developer is do not assume that the person reading your work knows anything about your agency, your community, or your projects. Being able to explain your agency’s goals in clear, concise and easy to understand language will lead to winning grant applications and solicitations with fewer addendums.