2023 40 Under 40: Charlotte Obodzinski, AICP

Aug. 22, 2023
Charlotte Obodzinski, AICP, Department Manager, Priority Project Management Office, Pace Suburban Bus

One word to describe yourself: Collaborative

Alma Mater: Master and Bachelor of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Fast fact about yourself: Got the distinguished honor of WEEK-25’s (Peoria/Bloomington, Ill., local news) “Jim Dandy Award” for doing a purposefully bad breakdance after winning a sectional basketball championship my senior year of high school.

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

I was a reverse commuter from Chicago to Arlington Heights for eight years, using a combination of bus, rail and vanpool services. While it was a long commute, I was able to share the trip with a group of coworkers that I got to know well and who made me feel so welcome as a new Chicago resident after college. The group even did a Pace Vanpool promotional video.

Charlotte Obodzinski joined Pace Suburban Bus in 2008 as a service planner and has committed herself to the mission of Pace for the past 15 years. In 2014, she was promoted to oversee the implementation of Pace’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Program, which encompasses arterial and highway-based services and infrastructure.

Obodzinski led the implementation of Pace's first arterial BRT project, the Pulse Milwaukee Line, which launched in 2019 along a 7.5-mile stretch between Chicago and Niles, Ill. Throughout the planning and construction phases, Obodzinski collaborated closely with stakeholders and worked to implement sidewalk and bus service improvements to support the Pulse Milwaukee Line. She remains at the forefront of Pace's Pulse Program and is currently overseeing the implementation of the agency's second BRT line on Dempster Street, with two other lines in the planning phase for south suburban Chicago.

Additionally, Obodzinski played a crucial role in bus rapid transit projects along Chicagoland expressways. Notably, she was the planning lead for the I-90 Market Expansion Program, the largest service expansion in Pace's history. This program involved working closely with the Illinois Tollway to implement a network of express bus services along I-90 between Elgin and O'Hare Airport, utilizing a newly constructed "flex lane" that allows buses to bypass traffic during congestion. She also advocated for the construction of bus rapid transit stations at key interchanges, resulting in the award-winning Barrington Road Interchange project in Hoffman Estates.

“Creating a transit network that safely and efficiently meets the needs of those we serve is our priority. Charlotte has been integral in helping Pace reimagine our system with innovative services that serve existing riders and attract new ones,” said Pace Executive Director Melinda Metzger.

Obodzinski was promoted to department manager of Pace's Priority Project Management Office in January 2021 where she oversees two Project Management Oversight contracts and manages the planning and coordination of Pace's capital improvements, including the development of Project Zero—a plan to transition to a zero-emissions fixed-route fleet by 2040. She is deeply committed to collaborating with others and staying informed about rapidly evolving vehicle technology.

Outside of her work at Pace, Obodzinski is an active member of the transit community, serving on various conference steering committees and advisory commissions. She was part of APTA’s Bus Rapid Transit Standards Committee, that published recommended practice standards for BRT implementation and was elected as vice chair of APTA's BRT Committee.

Despite her expanding professional responsibilities and being a mother of two, Obodzinski finds time to mentor new professionals and collaborate with industry peers. Her dedication to improving transportation infrastructure in Chicagoland and promoting transit-supportive land use is evident and represents a valuable contribution to the industry and region.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Working as part of a team on transit infrastructure projects that invest in the communities that Pace serves.

Accomplishment you’re most proud of and why?

I am most proud of being a part of the team that planned and built Illinois’ first BRT station on a highway at the Barrington Road Interchange in Hoffman Estates. The project team encompassed a broad range of stakeholders the led to the development of a pedestrian and transit-friendly transit station within the context of a new interchange. The project reimagined what transit could look like on an expressway and has since spurred transit-oriented development discussions for the area, something you don’t typically see along a highway.

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

My best piece of advice is to get involved. Volunteering for roles at professional organizations such as APTA and APA has been extremely rewarding and has enabled me to forge relationships with professionals across the U.S. The public transportation community is filled with so much experience and knowledge and it is nice to know I can always pick up the phone to learn from my peers. This is especially true of the group of professionals that I had the honor of serving with on APTA’s BRT Standards Committee.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.

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