What: Making the Connections is a series of stories about the people and processes bringing Wake County’s transit investments to life
Who: Jenny Green
Role: GoTriangle transit service planner currently serving as project manager for the Wake Transit Bus Plan
Degrees: Bachelor’s, computer science and cognitive science, University of Rochester; master’s, city and regional planning, UNC-Chapel Hill
Quote: “Ten years from now, you’re going to have 68 times 365 times 10 more people who are traveling around, and what will your drive be like then?”
Change is the operative word when it comes to Jenny Green. It was the alarming march of climate change that prompted her to change the course of her life in the hope that maybe she could help change the worsening world one transit plan at a time.
A native of Vermont, Green arrived in North Carolina in 2003 when she took a job as a software engineer for IBM. After five years, she started feeling as if she needed to find work that added more meaning to her life.
“It was around 2007 when there was a lot of talk about climate change, and I started to explore how I could contribute to making the world a good place to live,” she says. “That piqued my interest in planning as a tool to promote good growth patterns, which has an effect on fossil-fuel consumption and quality of life.”
Once she decided to get her master’s in city and regional planning at UNC-Chapel Hill, she accepted a marketing internship at GoTriangle to learn more about transit’s role in improving people’s lives by increasing access to opportunities and enhancing communities. For her thesis project, she studied how transportation options affect where people choose to live.
With her new degree, she moved into data management at GoTriangle. The process of figuring out where bus stops should be, how the routes should go and how often buses should run requires an extraordinary amount of information and technology. Laser beams on buses, for instance, track the number of people getting on at each stop and where they get off.
“All of the technology systems on the buses also allow us to track how long it takes to get between two locations so we can make sure the schedule remains accurate,” she says. “As planners, we look at aggregate-level details on numbers of people and travel times, and then we can make adjustments.”
Now Green is serving as the project manager for the Wake Transit Bus Plan. In November 2016, Wake residents approved a half-cent sales tax devoted to paying for transit initiatives, and last spring the county put in place a 10-year transit blueprint that included the creation of the bus service plan.
Green is working with GoRaleigh, GoCary, NC State University, Research Triangle Park, the Capital Area Metropolitan Organization and a representative of Wake’s other 10 municipalities to design the rollout of new and expanded bus service and related capital projects. First, though, the group must decide how to prioritize the projects.
“We have our 10-year vision, but how do we decide what we do in the first three years versus what we do in the remaining seven years?” she asks. “Is it very important for each of the 12 municipalities to have bus service in the first three years? Or is it more important to implement the frequent service network first?”
A great thing about the Wake Transit Plan, she says, is that all of the stakeholders and community groups are working together toward the same goal: developing a system that, regardless of who provides the service, works well, is integrated and gets people to where they need to go across the county.
“Part of my role is to make sure we can get to the 10-year mark and have that frequent service network, have those regional connections, have the rural service and the additional service that different communities might want to see that go beyond the specific routes identified in the plan,” she says.
The fact that Wake County grows by more than 60 people a day adds urgency and even more import to the work of setting up a bus network that entices people to get out of their cars.
“You can’t just compare your drive today to Downtown Raleigh and say your transit trip is going to take two times as long so I’m not going to do it,” she says. “Ten years from now, you’re going to have 68 times 365 times 10 more people who are traveling around, and what will your drive be like then?”
With a math teacher mother and an electrical engineer father, Green has always been practically minded, she says, and transit planning plays to her strengths.
“I like to be on the ground and see the fruits of my labor,” says Green, who lives in Chapel Hill with her husband and 3-year-old son Calvin. “Transit is an area where I have found a lot of fulfillment in terms of seeing the ideas I have affect the issues the community is dealing with. I’ve been able to work toward making the system work a little better.”
More service means more buses
That system has many moving parts beyond what a transit agency itself provides. The North Carolina Department of Transportation may control how and where streets are built, and towns decide land-use and housing regulations.
“All of that ties in to how effective transit is and how useful it is for people,” Green says. “Our team also will be looking at improving access to transit through bus stops and sidewalks while doing some larger investments like transit centers and administration facilities like maintenance.”
The Wake Transit Plan calls for tripling bus service over the decade, which means a need for scores more vehicles and places to house them and maintain them.
Helping to corral all of the complexities into a workable bus service plan is a challenge Green welcomes.
“It is really important to me to be able to tie what I do on a day-to-day basis to a larger purpose,” she says. “Any way that I’m helping to get more people in a transit vehicle, expanding the ways they can get around, their connections with other modes, improving pedestrian and bike access to transit or even around where people live and work, this is my way to reduce our impact on the planet.”
For Calvin. And his children. And grandchildren.
Help shape the priorities
Is it more important to extend buses to areas of the county that do not have service or to add more frequent service where there is already high demand?
Drop in to one of the 10 upcoming meetings to have your say:
The meetings, all from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. unless otherwise noted, will be:
- Wednesday, Oct. 25: John Chavis Community Center, 505 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Raleigh
- Thursday, Oct. 26: Carolina Pines Community Center, 2305 Lake Wheeler Road, Raleigh
- Monday, Oct. 30: Tarboro Road Community Center, 121 N. Tarboro St., Raleigh
- Wednesday, Nov. 1: Wake County Northern Regional Center, 350 E. Holding Ave., Wake Forest
- Thursday, Nov. 2: Laurel Hills Community Center, 3808 Edwards Mill Road, Raleigh
- Monday, Nov. 6: Wake County Eastern Regional Center, 1002 Dogwood Drive, Zebulon
- Wednesday, Nov. 8: Wake County Southern Regional Center, 130 N. Judd Parkway NE, Fuquay-Varina
- Thursday, Nov. 9: Green Road Community Center, 4201 Green Road, Raleigh
- Tuesday, Nov. 14: Cary Senior Center, 120 Maury O’Dell Place, Cary
- Thursday, Nov. 16, from 1 to 3 p.m.: Cary Arts Center, 101 Dry Ave., Cary
Take the survey
You also can help shape transit priorities by taking our survey at publictransit.com/waketransit.