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Meet Jennifer Mitchell!

Jennifer Mitchell
Principal Consultant, Strategic Consulting
Parsons Brinckerhoff
Washington, DC
Leadership APTA Class of 2012

How many people does your business employ?
Parsons Brinckerhoff has about 14,000 employees worldwide. The strategic consulting practice I’m in has about 75 people. I think we have the most people in Washington, but they’re also in New York, Denver, Seattle, and a few other offices around the country.

How long have you worked in the public transportation industry?
I’ve been working in transportation for my entire career, about 18 years, but exclusively in public transportation for the past 10 years.

How long have you been an APTA member?
About eight years.

What drew you to a career in public transportation?
I worked on public transit through my entire career, but I’ve also worked on port and highway projects, toll roads, airports, and in other modes.

I grew up in Northern Virginia, so I always knew how important Metro was to the region. I decided to study urban planning in college, at the University of Virginia. I always had an interest in transportation. I was also really interested in planning and urban development, but once I realized how much of that is driven by transportation, particularly public transportation, I was hooked. After graduate school at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, I went into consulting and began working on public transit projects, as well as a lot of other things.

I’ve always worked with the economic and financial aspects of transportation projects. Eventually I started working on the consultant team that was doing the environmental analysis for the Dulles Corridor Metrorail project. I got recruited by my client to join them at the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation. The project then was transferred to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. I was there for about six years, then left to join PB and have been working exclusively in public transit since.

I work mostly on big New Starts projects: Honolulu rail, the West Side subway extension in Los Angeles, San Diego’s Mid-Coast Light Rail project, and I work on some projects here in the D.C. area.

We go on site to these projects, usually to meet with senior leaders in the agency to discuss the financial plan. We might help them prepare analyses they can use with their board of directors or state legislators, or advise people through the FTA process. A lot of what I do is FTA-related.

What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit or resource – that helps you do your job?
Definitely, right now, it’s being in Leadership APTA. It’s been a tremendous opportunity. It’s really helped me to understand a lot more about the public transit industry that I don’t get exposed to on a day-to-day basis.

Please explain why or how this has helped.
It’s given me the opportunity to learn about a lot of aspects of the industry: labor negotiations, maintenance, human resource issues, operations. Because I tend to work on big projects and especially on the planning and financial aspects, I don’t always see how the agencies deliver service. It’s been a great opportunity for me.

What do you like most about your job?
I get to help put funding strategies together for major transit projects. That’s usually a very critical phase of a project’s development. All the projects I’m working on are big and have complicated issues; they also tend to be very controversial. Those are the most fun to work on: they’re difficult, but they’re very rewarding. You know you’re helping the agency through its major concerns.

I have to travel a lot for work. Fortunately, I have a really good team that can take care of some of that travel. We can do some work remotely, but it’s good to work directly with clients because that’s how we understand what’s happening on the ground.

What is unique about your business?
I think a lot of people aren’t that familiar with PB’s strategic consulting process. We provide advisory services, financial planning, economic analysis, public-private partnerships, policy development, and strategic planning. For me, I really enjoy getting involved in both the strategic and the technical aspects of a project; we tend to work with senior leadership at the client agency.

We’re somewhat of an unusual practice for an engineering firm to have. We’re very highly specialized and tend to add a lot of value to PB’s clients and projects, helping them get through their biggest implementation challenges.

We’re really a small group, only 75 people within PB, but we have a national practice that works on projects around the U.S. It’s unusual for a big firm to have a group like us.

Aside from work, I serve on the Alexandria, VA, Transportation Commission. It’s interesting for me to be involved as a decision maker. I’m also the secretary for the international board of directors for WTS.

Make sure you see Jennifer Mitchell’s video, now that you've read this!

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