Alma Mater: University of Connecticut
What’s your best experience on transit and what made it memorable?
Hayden Clarkin's interest in transit began at a young age when he would join his grandfather, who was a bus driver, for rides to the Amtrak/Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) station in Providence, R.I., where they would watch trains arrive and depart. This early fascination has fueled his unwavering commitment to transit and his dedication to fostering vibrant urban environments today.
Clarkin pursued a dual major in German Studies and Civil Engineering at the University of Connecticut, which paved the way for a transformative six-month period studying public transport operations and urban planning at Universität Stuttgart in Germany. Back in the U.S., Clarkin held a planning internship in Central Falls, R.I., where he collaborated with civic leaders, including the mayor and school district, to establish the state's inaugural contraflow bike lane.
Following his academic pursuits, Clarken ventured to the West Coast, where he worked as a “plangineer” and focused on transit accessibility for large projects. He says one of his favorite projects was leading a team in the development of an in-house app, which allowed field engineers to survey pedestrian infrastructure to measure ADA compliance.
When the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the world, Clarkin’s response was the establishment of TransitCon. The event aims to democratize the sharing of insights and ideas while fostering meaningful impact. The free, inclusive and accessible virtual transit conference platform provided a critical space for transit industry professionals and enthusiasts to convene during lockdowns. The inaugural TransitCon in January 2021 drew more than 1,000 participants and featured 40 speakers. Subsequent annual conferences and a women in transportation lunch series have collectively engaged more than 3,500 attendees and welcomed 90 speakers.
Clarkin’s influence extends into the digital realm through "The Transit Guy" persona, amassing more than 120,000 followers across X (formerly Twitter), LinkedIn and Instagram. He leverages this platform to advocate for transit-centric urbanism, advocating for the removal of urban freeways, enhanced transit systems, elimination of parking minimums and the creation of car-free spaces. His content encourages individuals to recognize the potential of transit in their lives and embrace positive change. Clarkin also collaborates with transit and urbanism organizations, using his platform as a catalyst for action and assisting advocacy groups in enhancing their online presence.
Recent endeavors have seen Clarkin presenting as part of the "Five Powers of Transit," a concept aimed at motivating transit industry professionals to recognize the significance of their work. He has also been selected to be part of New York University's Emerging Leaders in Transportation program and serves as a product manager in the digital rider experience for MBTA, contributing to inclusive and accessible transit services.
Is there a specific experience that led you to where you are today?
At the beginning of my college experience, I really wanted to use my Civil Engineering pursuits to build buildings and bridges. As part of my freshman year studies, I needed to take Transportation Engineering with Dr. Norman Garrick, and the principles I took away from that class were indelible. From that course onwards, my entire career and aspirations changed.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Working in the digital rider experience is a really amazing opportunity to design and implement tools that are somewhat based on your own expectations when navigating transit. When your train or bus is late, and you wonder, "how could I have been notified about this better?" Additionally, I am able to interface with riders and walk through every stage of how they go about their commutes, which is a really awesome experience as it's a reminder of why transit is so important to so many people.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
With transit constantly changing to meet the needs of a post-COVID landscape, it's challenging to continuously iterate as we all figure out what "normal" looks like.
What accomplishments are you most proud of and why?
What we've created at TransitCon has truly been one of our best accomplishments. Recognizing the need for an inclusive transit conference with little to no barriers to entry was really important for us, and I am really excited to see where the next chapter takes us.
Best advice/tip/best practice to share from your area of expertise?
Always build and maintain your network, even if you don't feel it's necessary. I have a group of transportation peers in New York City who continually stay in each other's lives, and we genuinely care about how we can uplift and help each other. Having a healthy network of peers, you can call on and support is truly invaluable.