By Dmitry Diment, MPP 2021
Entering Luskin, I knew that I wanted to study urban transportation policy in an international context. Through my Global Public Affairs IPP Fellowship placement at the World Resources Institute’s (WRI) Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, I had the opportunity to do just that. Although few plans this year have been unaffected by the pandemic, and this experience was no exception, the opportunity to conduct research on global policies that promote urban sustainability was exciting in light of the need for a recovery that can meet the challenges of the climate crisis.
WRI is an independent, nonprofit global research organization that works at the nexus of environment, economic opportunity and human well-being to promote sustainable solutions. Its research initiatives encompass everything from forests and water to energy and sustainable cities. The scope of its work is truly global, spanning more than 60 countries with international offices in Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and the United States, as well as additional regional and program offices. While I had originally planned to be in WRI’s Washington D.C. headquarters for the summer, the pandemic derailed that plan and I worked from my home in Los Angeles. However, with the rest of my team dispersed everywhere from Minneapolis to Rio De Janeiro, this was par for the course during this unprecedented year.
I worked with WRI’s Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, its cities vertical that conducts issue-specific research and works with local and national decision-makers to implement sustainable projects. Specifically, I worked on the Sustainable Urban Mobility team, which provides cities with assistance to shift to cleaner transportation, focusing on the promotion of better public transport, the adoption of electric vehicles, and alternative modes of transportation, among other topics. While my individual research projects were more narrow in scope, weekly meetings with my colleagues piqued my interest on a wide range of issues, while frequent webinars allowed me to get a sense of how policymakers are responding to challenges created by the coronavirus.
My research at WRI was focused on transportation demand management policies (TDM), which seek to reduce travel demand, and their potential impact on transit ridership. I studied the implementation of congestion pricing, parking regulations, and low emissions zones, examining a variety of global cases in cities including Singapore, San Francisco, Copenhagen, London and Berlin, among others. Throughout the summer, I analyzed these cases and drafted case studies to be incorporated into a future report on how policymakers can make use of TDM policies to maximize sustainability during the post-Covid recovery. At the conclusion of my internship, I had the opportunity to present my findings to my colleagues. The insightful discussion it generated presented further avenues for my own research during the second year of my coursework at Luskin.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the opportunity that the internship provided me to learn from my professionals on the Sustainable Urban Mobility team. Throughout the summer, I worked with colleagues on a variety of upcoming publications, contributing research, data analysis, written content, and providing editorial oversight. Among the highlights were two soon to be release reports on transportation network companies and the integration of informal transportation systems into bus rapid transportation network redesigns in cities across Latin America. Both topics were new to me, as was the region, and so I was fortunate to be introduced to them by a knowledgeable global staff. So while my time at WRI this summer looked far different than I originally imagined it would, I was still able to gain meaningful experience in the field, learn from fantastic colleagues, and ponder the future of sustainable transportation at this critical, if uncertain, juncture.