2022 40 Under 40: Alicia Leite

Aug. 23, 2022
Alicia Leite, Transportation Supervising Planner, Connecticut Department of Transportation

One word to describe yourself: Resilient

Alma Mater: Western Connecticut State University (bachelor’s), University of New Haven (master’s)

Fun fact about yourself: I enjoy kickboxing and karaoke.

Favorite station or stop that you have ever visited or frequent (and why): CTfastrak Newington Junction. It’s a beautiful BRT station that is located adjacent to CTrail Hartford Line and has a renovated historical train building at the station as well. It's also less than a mile from my house, so I feel pretty cool that I live so close to a BRT station.

Favorite route you have ever ridden or frequent (and why): New Haven Line, Metro North. It’s the only way to get to the city (NYC) from CT, in my humble opinion. I love riding the New Haven Line and wondering where people are going and what their stories are. It’s a vibe. And it’s such an important asset in the Northeast.

Alicia Leite’s career with the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) spans nearly a decade marked by steady career advancement starting with the Office of Transit & Ridesharing. She helped launch CTfastrak, Connecticut’s first bus rapid transit system and took an active role in various start up activities in service planning, station maintenance and safety and security planning, fare collection and transit technology procurement, and customer and community outreach. Leite’s efforts, along with those of her peers, paid dividends with CTfastrak ridership more than doubling in the first few years.

Leite was also involved in the CTrail Hartford Line’s customer experience task force and facilitated CTDOT’s ambassador program for the opening of Hartford Line. While working on the launch of CTfastrak, Leite also obtained her master's degree in public administration from the University of New Haven and chaired the 2015 Connecticut State Employees Campaign for Charitable Giving for CTDOT with a seven percent increase in contributions from the previous year.

In 2019, Leite worked in CTDOT’s government relations office where she served as CTDOT’s staff legislative liaison for the entire agency and spent most of her time at the state capitol, where she interfaced with state senators and representatives to respond to their concerns and advocate for CTDOT’s needs and legislative proposals. Leite is credited with successfully leading CTDOT’s robust legislative package through the state House and Senate for passage in 2019.

In her current role, she directs CTDOT’s customer experience office where she is spearheading an effort to engage thousands of daily transit riders across the state and connect with other important stakeholders. She is engaging her team members and other agency staff to canvas the state for input on the current customer experience and to hear ideas for future improvements. The outreach includes pop-up events at stations and stops, focus groups, stakeholder interviews, community events and online outreach.

She is also responsible for CTDOT’s service and fare equity program to study how service and fare changes affect different populations of transit users and her team will be responsible for leading the effort to integrate the statewide fare system. She is described as outcome focused and thinks deeply about the perception of CTDOT’s outreach efforts, as well as what improvements might be delivered quickly to build credibility with riders.

Leite’s contributions to the industry extend to many professional associations including American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) Emerging Leaders Program, Class of 2018 and leadership roles with the Connecticut Chapters for Women in Transportation Seminar (WTS) and Council of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO). Leite was awarded the WTS Connecticut Member of Year in 2018 and received the Teamwork Award at CTDOT in 2015, as well as the Customer Service Award in 2018.

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

I was laid off back in 2012 while working in higher education. During this time, I was also working on getting my master's in public administration. I took an unpaid internship at a Council of Governments and got connected to the Connecticut Chapter of WTS. Through networking at WTS, I landed a position as a bridge inspection project coordinator at a consultant firm. While walking out of the Connecticut DOT from gathering bridge files, I was notified I got the position as a trainee that I had applied to a while back, in the Bureau of Public Transportation at the department. I started my career working on the launch of CTfastrak, Connecticut’s first bus rapid transit system and the rest is history.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The outreach we have been doing as part of the CTDOT Customer Experience (CX) Action Plan initiative has been awesome. We are going all over the state talking to customers and stakeholders about transit. The outreach has also been a great team building experience for the agency. Colleagues from not only our Bureau of Public Transportation have been volunteering for the CX outreach events, but from our other bureaus at the DOT, as well. It's been great to connect with people again in person.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Trying to not get bogged down by the magnitude of things and the rapid pace of change. We really want to work towards a more unified and seamless transit system statewide, as well as an integrated fare system. Sometimes things can seem so big and insurmountable. It can be tough to see how the “little things” add up to something big. Although it may seem like you aren’t getting anywhere, I would say, keep chipping away and it eventually adds up to big changes.

Accomplishment you’re most proud of and why?

This! Being recognized with this esteemed group of individuals is a highlight in my career. Cue the imposter syndrome! This wouldn’t have been possible without the support of so many people who have contributed to my career growth and successes. I’ve had great bosses, colleagues, mentors, friends and a small but strong family support system. I wouldn’t be here without them. I am also very proud of the launch of our Customer Experience Action Plan initiative and the great work the team has done so far. Stay tuned for more to come on our CX effort.

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

People want to be heard. Actively listening and engaging with people is the best tool we all have. If you want to improve the customer experience, get to know and understand your customers. Get out from behind your computer, ride transit and talk with people.

Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT)
Ctdot Logo 11289937