2023 40 Under 40: Sanjay Paul, Ph.D.

Aug. 22, 2023
Sanjay Paul, Ph.D., Area Traffic Business Class Leader, HDR Engineering, Inc.

One word to describe yourself: A smiley face and open heart to embrace the changes.

Alma Mater: Doctoral and master's from Arizona State University and bachelor's from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology

Fast fact about yourself: I have a track record of successfully establishing new practices with highest client satisfaction. I am a proven business leader - I tripled my team size, from three to nine professionals, in the past 18 months, along with creating four new clients in the traffic business line at HDR.

What’s your best experience on transit and what made it memorable? 

Recently, both my wife and I have been recognized in “Top 20 under 40” by the Engineering News-Record and attended the national conference in New Orleans, La. The St. Charles Streetcar line, which is the oldest streetcar line in the country, was just in front of our hotel. We rode on it multiple times every day to either go directly or connect to other lines, to visit many destinations that we planned for our family activities. Amazing experience - kids loved it!

Sanjay Paul Ph.D. is a distinguished leader in his industry with 15 years of professional experience in providing multimodal solutions to both government and private clients. He has made significant contributions to multiple projects for Maricopa Association of Governments, Valley Metro, North Central Texas Council of Governments, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, Transit Cooperative Research Program and several agencies in eleven different states.

He is a licensed professional engineer, a certified professional transportation operations engineer, a certified professional transportation planner and a road safety professional. Paul has raised an extensive educational portfolio, with bachelors, master’s and doctorate degrees in transportation. He also graduated from the Leadership in Engineering Administration Program with the prestigious “High Achiever Award." With his industry reputation, he was appointed by the mayor of Phoenix to serve as a transportation commissioner to represent various facets of the community and oversee expenditures on T2050 transit projects for Valley Metro and the Phoenix Transit Department. Additionally, he serves several organizations in the industry, including an advisor to the Board of Directors of Intelligent Transportation Society (ITS) Arizona, which he previously led as the president. He serves the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) as the Arizona Membership Chair and represents Arizona in the Mountain District, which serves eight states.

As a safety professional, Paul identified how the commuting behavior and safety of the low-income households are influenced by mass transit service frequency, location of stops and traffic signal operations. Paul also assisted Phoenix and several other agencies with identifying issues and developing Strategic Transportation Safety Plans; and securing approximately $35 million federal funds for implementations.

Paul’s doctoral research on demographic evolution and proximity of walking, biking and mass transit revealed how future generations’ household and employment locations choice will evolve. He assisted several key developments in Tempe, with shared parking analyses and discovered that infrastructure for walking, biking and mass transit facilities can eliminate approximately 46 percent parking needs.

Paul’s current projects consist of an array of positions and responsibilities within the transit industry. He is currently assisting Valley Metro with the preliminary engineering of a light-rail project to connect the Arizona State Capitol Building to existing light rails. As part of the project, he is incorporating intelligent systems, advanced detections and transit prioritization for the safe and efficient operations of transit, pedestrians, bicyclists and vehicular modes. Additionally, he is assisting Phoenix with the planning of a bus rapid transit project on a 14-mile-long corridor as a general engineering contractor. He is working as an extended city-employee and collaborating with other consultants in analyzing different scenarios and identifying operational, mobility and societal impacts to the associated communities.

With his planning and engineering background and solid understanding of the unique characteristics of this railroad facility, Paul is helping bridge gaps among different entities including ADOT, Maricopa County DOT, Surprise and BNSF for the success of the project. Paul led pilot deployment of a driverless autonomous shuttle to facilitate mobility needs for medical visits of the retired residents at active and assisted living housings. He established a great example of multi-organizational collaboration in testing and adopting this cutting-edge smart mobility solution that fulfills safe accessibility needs for customers of different backgrounds and ages. The autonomous shuttle project was recognized with the “Best ITS Planning Award”.

Most recently he has been recognized as one of the National “Top 20 Under 40” by the Engineering News-Record, a “40 Under 40” by the Phoenix Business Journal and “National Transportation Safety Council Award” by the Institute of Transportation Engineers (along with two awards that were presented to him by HDR for his excellence in “Leadership” and “Creativity and Innovation” as part of its Pathfinder program).

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

Self-taught, I never cherry picked, rather worked on tasks of all sizes starting from $900 to multimillion-dollar projects to fulfill clients’ needs.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Work side by side with clients; and my work directly impact the lives of community members including my own.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Collaborating with diverse teams - I am a “Millennial” and a part of the leadership who are mostly “Generation- X” and “Baby Boomers”, whereas my staff are “Generation-Z”. However, with my interpersonal skill, I truly enjoy navigating these dynamics. I foster a collaborative and inclusive work environment and have been able to build a successful team in a very short period at HDR.

Accomplishment you’re most proud of and why?

I am very lucky to marry the girl I met in high-school and fell in love with and, together, we are raising two wonderful children as good human beings. Additionally, we both are very successful business leaders in our career.

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

Success is a combination of hard work and opportunities. As a leader, forward the opportunities to the hard workers.

About the Author

Eman Abu-Khaled | Associate Editor

Eman Abu-Khaled is a recent graduate of Kent State University with a bachelors in journalism. She works through Endeavor Business Media with Mass Transit as an associate editor. Abu-Khaled brings a fresh perspective to the visual side of journalism with an interest in video and photography work.