One word to describe yourself: Innovative
Alma Mater: University of Florida
What’s your best experience on transit and what made it memorable?: In Curitiba, Brazil, I was studying BRT at the time, and it really struck me how innovative they have been with building out their system. My favorite part was actually the design of the individual stations, where you paid to enter and then could board the vehicle seamlessly.
As one of Foursquare ITP’s vice presidents, Jessica Alvarez, PTP, helps set the direction of company operations and strategic planning. Additionally, she serves as a senior project manager and practice lead for Foursquare ITP’s bus rapid transit (BRT), Bus Priority, and Corridor Planning service area, leading a team of transportation planners at various stages in their careers. During the past nine years at Foursquare ITP, Alvarez has worked on more than 80 transportation projects across 12 different states. She began at Foursquare ITP as a transportation planner and has worked her way up into an executive leadership role that showcases her leadership abilities and innovative thought processes.
Alvarez has led the technical analysis for several high-profile projects, including serving as the deputy project manager of service design for the Better Bus Network Redesign in the Washington, D.C., region. For the project, Alvarez spearheaded the development of detailed market assessments and existing conditions dashboards and reports, helped create a redesigned bus network plan for the region that will address transit needs of the community and identified opportunities for extensive public and stakeholder engagement.
Over the plast few years, she has also shepherded new approaches to microtransit planning, including microtransit feasibility and implementation projects across the country. Alvarez has worked with Foursquare ITP to write the microtransit and on-demand DRT guidebook for the National Center for Applied Transit Technology. She has also guided the development of the firm’s in-house microtransit demand and operations planning tool. Through Alvarez’s work, her clients were able to expand their services to serve those communities that rely on transit.
Also a skilled public speaker, Alvarez has presented at major conferences as a subject matter expert on microtransit, including at the WTS National Conference and Rail~Volution (now Mpact). Alvarez is also a technically savvy professional and excels in applying her knowledge of transit scheduling, GIS and ITS into her project work.
As the corridor practice lead at Foursquare ITP, Alvarez has served as a project manager and senior technical analyst on many of the firm’s BRT and corridor planning studies. She specializes in creating regional bus priority plans, which she completed in Albany, New York; Charlotte, North Carolina and Washington, D.C. For corridor planning, Alvarez works at all stages of the planning process, from analyzing the feasibility of a corridor to creating the operating plan. She has done so for Baltimore and Montgomery County, Md.; Orlando, Fla. and Hampton Roads, Va.
Alvarez has also worked with her team to create detailed travel flow analyses, develop transit ridership estimates and incorporate creative public input processes to devise bus priority and BRT alternatives that meet the specific needs of the corridor and region. She is a project manager in other areas of transportation planning and has worked on transit development plans, long-range vision plans, comprehensive operational analyses and monitoring of operational activities. She specializes in service analysis, forecasting ridership and working with partners and the public to develop service recommendations. Some of her key projects in this area have included a major Transit Development Plan update for the Jacksonville Transportation Authority), for which she also led and helped implement a post-COVID-19 systems optimization initiative and expansion study of their on-demand services.
Additionally, she was the project manager for the Metrobus Annual Line Performance Report the plast two years, working with a team of data scientists to create an elevated process that quickly synthesizes and visualizes important route level data across the system. She also recently worked with a team on the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) Envision My Ride – Bus Priority Study and led the development of a comprehensive bus stop improvement plan. The project included rendered facility diagrams to help guide CATS in the future for both identifying where to allocate facility funding and providing a detailed design guide on how to do it.
Alvarez began her career in the public sector working in both planning and operations to gain an in-depth knowledge of the inner workings of a transit agency. She holds two bachelor’s degrees, an Master of Science in Civil Engineering with a focus on Transportation, and a Master of Arts in Urban and Regional Planning.
Is there a specific experience that led you to where you are today?
My first internship was with the city of Gainesville’s Regional Transit System. I wasn’t focused on transit planning at the time but within a few months of working with the city, I fell in love with transit, both planning and operations. At this position, I was able to flex my planning, data science and creativity skills all at once. This internship instilled a deep understanding of the importance of transit to the community by allowing me to participate in activities such as bus stop relocation and route realigning and working directly with the public to receive input firsthand from people who both loved and hated recommended changes. It opened my eyes to a career that gave me an opportunity to positively impact people’s lives.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The challenge. In my current position, I’m able to work on a wide variety of projects across various geographies. Each project comes with its own unique challenge and perspective. I love approaching each project by building upon my previous experiences and growing my methodology or processes in a way that allows me to create a final plan that solves each individual communities’ puzzle.
Best advice/tip/best practice to share from your area of expertise?
Don’t become stagnant. To create systems that work for the community, transit planners need to be able to grow and change in the way they do things. Transit planning is an ever-evolving field, ranging from the introduction of new types of service to new technologies. To be effective as a transit planner, we need to be able to welcome these innovative changes and build off of them.