Top 40 Under 40 2017: Monica G. Tibbits-Nutt, AICP, LEED AP BD+C

Sept. 15, 2017
Monica G. Tibbits-Nutt, AICP, LEED AP BD+C, Executive Director, 128 Business Council
  • One word to describe yourself: Unorthodox
  • Alma Mater: The Ohio State University School of Architecture
  • Favorite book: “Maniac Magee” by Jerry Spinelli
  • Favorite TV show: "North Woods Law"
  • Favorite movie: "The American President"
  • Favorite hobby(ies): Collecting toys and Legos
  • Fun fact: She is in training to be a Master Outdoorsman.
  • What is your favorite transit system (outside of the one you work for or have worked for!) and why?: She loves the Chicago Transit Authority. It was the first system she rode as a child.

Growing up in rural Indiana, Monica G. Tibbits-Nutt, AICP, LEED AP BD+C has always been fascinated by how people choose to transport themselves. Her first real experience with a major public transportation system was in Columbus, Ohio, where she received her Master’s Degree in Regional Planning. While there, she commuted by bus, by foot, and by bicycle rather than driving. This engendered an appreciation in her both for the city form and for public transit, as well as a commitment to hold herself accountable to the lofty goal of fighting for equity of access. As executive director of 128 Business Council, a Transportation Management Association along the Route 128 Corridor of Massachusetts, she is tasked with ensuring that the community’s residents and employees can get where they need to be – even if they do not have access to their own vehicle. The shuttle system operated for 30 years by 128 Business Council brings commuters from Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) hubs to their workplaces, the majority of which are inaccessible by public transit. This service allows employees to get to and from work without the discomfort of sitting, stuck in traffic, in a single occupancy vehicle. It also enables companies to hire candidates who live in the urban center, without requiring those candidates to own a car. Tibbits-Nutt sees Massachusetts as the ideal location for a career in transit. She has worked in the Commonwealth for 10 years, previously with the MBTA Advisory Board and TransitWorks and now with 128 Business Council. When it comes to transportation planning, she describes the Commonwealth as a ‘laboratory,’ with areas urban, suburban, and rural. Just as Massachusetts has pioneered public transportation historically in America, it continues to house many of the field’s groundbreaking programs and projects.

Tibbits-Nutt believes that, to be truly successful, public transportation must evolve in keeping with what is not simply functional, but also innovative; she believes transit cannot merely be “as good as driving,” it must be better. She is in a distinctive position that allows her to be involved in transportation reform on many levels simultaneously. In addition to her work at 128 Business Council, Tibbits-Nutt sits on the Board of Directors for several noteworthy organizations in the Greater Boston area including the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, Metropolitan Area Planning Council, Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation, Harvard Kennedy Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston, and the MBTA Fiscal Management and Control Board. Her roles in these organizations give her a unique perspective and opportunity to connect suburban communities to the city, not only physically through the 128 Business Council shuttles, but also through legislation. She works as a liaison between decision-makers and the diverse communities under her representation. Tibbits-Nutt has filled this role impressively, remaining consistently connected with local representatives, and continues to candidly discuss opportunities for transportation reform. 

"I really love being able to give people options and access. One of the biggest things that I say as a transportation planner is that we are in the business of educational employment opportunities to people. TI think that giving people a method in which to improve their lives is really big for me."

"I grew up in rural Indiana and as a kid I bused to school for about an hour and a half each way. It was a decision that my parents made to basically give me a better school experience and a better chance to make it out. From that I was the first person in my family to go to college, first person in my family to go to graduate school and it really just gave me a method in which to improve my entire life and the life of my family. That was very pivotal, those bus rides are very much still in my memory. I think for me knowing that someone made that conscious decision to put that bus route in operation and to be able to get kids from these predominately manufacturing based rural communities into these better schools to get us into college — that was huge for me. It has pretty much informed everything that I have done for my entire career."

"I like the public aspect of it... I think our founded felt very similar to I in that everyone should have access and everyone should have access to better jobs, and that's what we do. I can't imagine working in a company that is a privately run place, because then you're really putting profit before the greater good. For me I think that I take that public service part very seriously."

"Trying to keep services affordable to keep the system operating the way that it needs to be. Transportation every year gets more and more expensive, operating these systems gets more expensive and I think trying to continue to find the private funding to keep it on the road is always a challenge. We don't like to reduce services and I work very hard that we don't need to do that. I think trying to find the balance and making sure that we are still putting a product out there that the private sector feels good enough to fund it to the level that they do, but also keeping that product open to anybody that needs to access it."