Inez Evans joined WSP as sr. VP, national bus practice, after a four-year term as president and CEO of IndyGo. - Photo: WSP

Inez Evans joined WSP as sr. VP, national bus practice, after a four-year term as president and CEO of IndyGo.

Photo: WSP

In January, Inez Evans joined WSP as sr. VP, national bus practice, after a four-year term as president and CEO of IndyGo.

Evans is responsible for leading the national bus practice for transit and rail and for developing strategies associated with WSP’s thought leadership and emerging technologies, such as zero emissions, autonomous vehicles, and bus rapid transit trends.

She also manages national resources around innovative approaches for the design and delivery of projects for these technologies, as well as facilities and procurements, working with transit professionals who serve the firm’s transportation clients across the U.S. She is based in Austin.

Evans joined METRO's Executive Editor Alex Roman to discuss equity and inclusion, workforce development, and much more.

How are consultants helping transit agencies, if at all, with the idea of transit equity and inclusion?

Transit systems focus on local operations and know what equity and inclusion issues exist in the markets they serve. They’re typically in their own ecosystem, which is unique to them. Consultants, such as WSP, have national and worldwide transit experience.

Professionals bring a global perspective to diversity and inclusion challenges and initiatives that address them. This broader insight helps transit systems see beyond their immediate ecosystems and benefit from the knowledge, ideas, and best practices that consultants can offer.

Has transit’s focus on diversity and inclusion increased their desire to use DBE, WBEs, and MBEs for projects?

Yes. There’s a requirement to maintain DBEs on federally funded projects. Many cities, however, have created separate goals to obtain DBEs, WBEs, MBEs, and VBE services, and many of the transit agencies have adopted the same policy. So, there’s a greater focus, but it’s important for transit agencies to educate their communities on their policies.

I think transit agencies have a responsibility to help communities and get local DBEs, WBEs, and MBEs on board. They can’t, however, just sit back and look at the state registry of such businesses anymore. They need to create a process that looks at upcoming projects, what DBE gaps exist, and how to fill them.

Additionally, they can hold educational seminars to teach business enterprises how to become certified in those areas, fill out required paperwork, respond to RFPs, and provide feedback after a proposal period. Some transit agencies have started their own academies to foster growth in this area.

What is your company’s biggest challenge and what are you doing to overcome it?

Our greatest challenge is talent acquisition. In public transportation, a sizeable percentage of workers is eligible to retire today. Finding talent feels like you’re on a hamster wheel sometimes. For us as consultants, it’s the same. Getting individuals excited about transit and engineering, and what they do to connect communities, strengthen economies, and improve lives is important work for us.

How do we become more attractive, that cool employer that folks want to gravitate to? For WSP, that means expanding our internship program, broadening recruiting efforts to more schools, and continuing scholarship initiatives with industry groups. We also need to listen to the workforce and understand what drives it today. The drivers go beyond the paycheck.

For many it is work/life balance, flexibility with time and location of work, and the ability to work on passion projects that have a positive impact on the community. Hybrid work schedules have their place in our work communities today and have proven to be a great equalizer in the consultant world.

Additionally, exposing youth to engineering careers is something WSP is working on as a company and with industry colleagues, like WTS and COMTO.

What steps have you taken to increase workforce development?

We’re upgrading our learning management system and developing courses and programs that sharpen knowledge and skills in the industries we serve. As a global organization, we’re able to integrate insights and best practices from around the world. We’re looking to develop staff in a holistic way that gives them the skills to advance their careers in a workplace environment they want to be part of.

Also, because WSP is a large organization, we have the ability for individuals to post their areas of interest. We then match those with current opportunities giving the individual real time work experience. Let’s not forget that ultimately it comes down to great projects, great people at WSP, favorable compensation and benefits, and global interaction.

What will some keys be to transit being able to bring back ridership post pandemic?

That’s a tough one because every system must find the correct recipe for themselves. There’s not a one-size-fits-all answer. For some it’s going to be embracing new technology to make it easier when it comes to trip mapping. Or it could be tighter integration of services, such as microtransit or ridesharing programs. Or it might be new routes, single payments for multiple modes, or new transit-oriented developments. It’s going to be some combination of these approaches, along with the frequency, reach, and reliability that gets customers where they want to go. I do see that the public is very engaged in this topic of customer experience.

About the author
Alex Roman

Alex Roman

Executive Editor

Alex Roman is Executive Editor of METRO Magazine — the only magazine serving the public transit and motorcoach industries for more than 100 years.

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