Student Spotlight: Jai Daniels, Portland State University

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Jai Daniels is a first-year Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) student at Portland State University, currently working with PSU's Transportation Research and Education Center (TREC) as a Graduate Research Assistant under faculty advisor John MacArthur. She is interested in urban livability, bicycle and pedestrian planning, transit planning, and the intersection between urban planning and the environment.


Tell us about yourself?

I grew up in a small town in North Carolina, often referred to as 'Mayberry.' Living near the Blue Ridge Parkway and not having much to do, apart from spending time outside, largely influenced both my passion for environmental conservation and my desire to travel. This in turn influenced what I chose to study. I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2019 with a degree in environmental studies and minor in city and regional planning. Now, I live in Portland and am in my first year of the Master of Urban and Regional Planning program at Portland State University. Outside of school, I enjoy listening to podcasts, watching movies, taking film pictures, and hiking.

What (or who) has influenced your career path in transportation?

As an undergraduate student, I studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark, which sparked my interest in transportation planning. Living in the city taught me that it is possible to redesign a transportation system to not depend on car traffic. Using the reliable and convenient public transportation, and biking and walking on streets that prioritize cyclists and pedestrians, motivated me to pursue a career in transportation and to work to improve transportation systems in cities around the United States.

You're working on a Transportation Recovery Plan for the Regional Disaster Preparedness Organization (RPDO). Tell us about that work?

As the climate crisis worsens, our transportation systems are becoming increasingly vulnerable to natural disasters. This project intends to raise awareness, deepen knowledge, and increase motivation among local and regional stakeholders on transportation resiliency and recovery planning within the Portland metropolitan region. We plan to survey these stakeholders to assess their interests in transportation recovery and resilience, the challenges they may face when working on transportation recovery planning both locally and regionally, and their needs for training and technical guidance. The information gathered from this survey will be incorporated into a workshop designed to facilitate discussion about transportation resiliency and recovery, including how to develop and maintain potential local and regional policy or decision-making structures, concepts of operation, and transportation recovery prioritization decision-making tools.

After graduation, what future work do you envision doing in transportation?

After graduation, I envision myself working with communities to ensure more equitable access to active transportation and public transportation in an effort to improve environmental health, especially for marginalized populations, and encourage less dependency on cars.

This is an installment in a series of monthly Student Spotlights we're shining on students and alumni that are involved with National Institute for Transportation & Communites (NITC) universities. NITC is a university transportation consortium funded by the U.S. DOT, and is a Portland State-led partnership with the University of Oregon, Oregon Institute of Technology, University of Utah, University of Arizona, and University of Texas at Arlington.

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