2021 40 Under 40: Shofi Ull Azum Shofi, MBA

Nov. 23, 2021
Shofi Ull Azum Shofi, MBA, Operational Innovations and Performance Manager, Kansas City Area Transportation Authority
  • One word to describe yourself: Focused
  • Alma Mater: The University of Kansas, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology
  • Fun fact about yourself: If I like a song, I play it for the rest of the day.
  • Favorite station or stop that you have ever visited or frequent (and why): The Kansas City Streetcar stop at River Market North is my favorite transit stop. When my friends visit Kansas City from other states, we hop on the streetcar, take a ride to the City Market and spend the day enjoying the area. The City Market streetcar stop also has access to bikeshare, electric scooters and RideKC’s MAX bus, so it’s the perfect example of an area with multi-modal transit options.
  • Favorite route you have ever ridden or frequent (and why): When I was in grad school, I used to take bus 10 daily from the Snow Hall bus stop at Jayhawks Boulevard to my apartment, which was about 30 minutes away by bus. I was solely dependent on public transit to get to class and the grocery store. The route was memorable because our driver made us all feel like family. It was one of the longest routes in the Lawrence Transit System and it was mostly used by KU students to get back and forth to school. I made many friends while riding this route and created some long-lasting relationships while I was in school. The driver was friendly and always had a joke when we boarded the bus.

Shofi Ull Azum Shofi’s journey to the transit industry began in Bangladesh and has led him to working on some of Kansas City Area Transportation Authority’s (KCATA) most innovative projects. His start as a KCATA intern resulted in the authority hiring him to work on its biggest and most substantial Capital Investment Grant project in the authority’s history.

Shofi was project controls manager for both the Prospect MAX Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Project and the Kansas City Streetcar Main Street Extension Project. He managed the budget, scope, schedule, assets and performed earned value analysis, including cost and schedule performance index for both projects. He also attended training on risk management and aided the project manager to identify and mitigate risks, which resulted in the Prospect MAX BRT project finishing under budget.

During his work on these projects, he developed an interest in innovation and technology. Shofi has leveraged this interest into deliverable solutions for KCATA. He wrote the technical specifications and managed app deployment along the Prospect MAX BRT route for RideKC Navigator, which is a wayfinding app specifically designed to assist customers with vision impairments or blindness. Since the app’s launch in October 2020, several cities have reached out to KCATA and Shofi shared his app deployment and testing experience with them.

Shofi was also part of the successful Accelerating Innovative Mobility grant awarded by FTA to pilot an advanced driver assistance system that will allow BRT operators to maintain ADA-compliant gaps at all stops. As a project manager, Shofi ensures equity, improved safety and efficiency for all customers, including persons with disabilities.

Shofi initiated a pilot project to provide an improved and reliable real-time transit arrival and vehicle crossing predictions to customers and he is working on piloting data science and artificial intelligence-based video telematics tools to improve fleet safety with real-time performance insights.

Shofi’s expertise and diligence also resulted in KCATA being awarded its first Low-No Grant and he will oversee the acquisition of three electric buses and the construction of charging infrastructure.

Shofi is described as big thinker who will play a role on a bigger stage before his career is over.

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

I grew up in a city with intense traffic congestion and inefficient multi-modal connectivity. I was solely dependent on public transit for my daily commute in college, which influenced my decision to major in transportation planning. My research in college and grad school focused on how to move people (not just the vehicle) seamlessly, how technology and innovative mobility strategies can improve transit accessibility for all including people with disabilities and the application of data-driven empirical strategies to improve public transit safety and efficiency. In 2016, I had an opportunity to work at KCATA as a summer intern and I took the bus to work every day. The bus stop was a 15-minute walk from my apartment and I had to transfer to another bus to reach my job. My first-hand experiences of using public transit helped me to understand how it works and allowed me to explore the strengths and weaknesses of the system. I realized that public transit is one of the best ways to connect with our community and help the people who need mobility assistance the most. With those experiences under my belt, it was easy for me to choose a career path in public transit to make a difference in people’s lives.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Operational innovations and performance analysis are two major aspects of my current role. I enjoy managing a wide range of innovative projects in my organization and applying innovative tools to solve operational challenges. I am fortunate that my leadership team promotes piloting new technology solutions to improve service efficiency and operational safety. I enjoy discussing fleet electrification, autonomous and precision docking pilots and artificial intelligence-based video telematics pilots to improve fleet safety with peer transit agencies. I strongly believe that artificial intelligence and advanced robotics technology in the near future will transform our mobility ecosystem from a ‘forecast-led paradigm’ to a more autonomous, connected and shared system. This transportation technology revolution promises many benefits but also raises challenges and concerns. Transit agencies should continue testing these technologies and share lessons learned with the industry to make progress and prepare our workforce for the next generation mobility ecosystem.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

The blessing of being a project manager in public transit is that I am involved from the start of an idea until the final delivery. Every phase of the project has its challenges. I find the most challenging part is getting the contract and/or service agreement in place for testing new technologies. Dealing with the unknowns and understanding potential risks of new technology often takes a long time which delays the whole project, causing the project team to miss important project milestones.

Accomplishment you’re most proud of and why?

The achievement that gives me mental peace and happiness is the deployment of the RideKC Navigator app in Kansas City. I developed the technical specifications for creating the app and managed the app deployment in Kansas City. RideKC Navigator is a custom mobile app that provides detailed directions and wayfinding help for people with vision impairments or blindness. This app gives people location-specific audio instructions to help navigate bus stops and intersections in Kansas City. I strongly believe that accessibility is a right, not a privilege and this motivates me to do what I do.

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

I believe that great things come at the end of your comfort zone. I have been through challenging situations both in my professional and personal life and the biggest takeaway I’ve learned is to never give up on what you truly believe in and keep pushing. You will see the light at the end of the tunnel. Always think forward and upward and have a willingness to learn and the ability to adapt to changes.

I always focus on the project details which is critical to becoming a good project manager. Having a project roadmap helps you remain on track and make the best use of your time.

Set goals for each quarter and try to achieve them on time. This is one way to evaluate your performance and understand your capability. This helps build your confidence. I am the biggest critic of myself. I find that setting and achieving goals on time, helps me to realize that I have achieved what I set out to accomplish.

Lastly, stay involved in APTA which will connect you with the industry leaders and subject matter experts. I am personally thankful to my mentor from APTF’s mentorship program. It plays a big role in why I am here today.