News | Meet Lilly Nie - USC Undergrad Actively Engaged in Transportation Planning

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by Adylbek Abdykalikov, USC, IPPAM 2020

Lilly Nie is an Urban Planning and Spatial Sciences student at USC with an interest in active-transportation planning, community advocacy, and spatial sciences.  


Nie's interest in transportation planning began while interning at Public Matters. There she co-taught workshops on multi-modal types of transportation to a class of juniors at Esteban E. Torres High School and helped them to design multi-modal tours emphasizing East Los Angeles' cultural heritage, which then were carried out at the Los Angeles Department of Public Works. During that activity, the students were encouraged to participate in the planning process and were able to identify problem areas within their communities.  Some students identified areas where transportation infrastructure was unsafe or deteriorating; others noticed cultural hubs that could help inform future improvement projects such as bike-share installations. This semester-long project not only piqued Nie’s interest in transportation but it solidified her commitment to inclusive planning and community advocacy. "I am passionate about promoting active-transportation programs and ensuring historically disadvantaged communities fully share in the benefits from public projects," she shared.



Since then, Nie has contributed to transportation research at the USC Spatial Sciences Institute, focusing on advancing Superblocks as a potential mobility solution for Los Angeles City, using Geodesign principles and spatial analysis tools. She worked extensively with ArcGIS Pro to identify locations for various pilot Superblock projects in the City of Los Angeles. Her team presented a research poster highlighted the framework they used to determine the least habitable areas of the city based on population density, median household income, parking, walkability, and air quality and won second place in the Communicating Science Spatially category at the 2019 Esri User Conference Map Gallery.


Nie also has experience working as a research fellow at the Transportation Research and Education Center (TREC) with Portland State University, where she studied scooter-parking trends in the city's second Shared Electric Scooter Pilot Program. She found that both of these fellowship positions helped her "leverage data visualization and spatial analysis skills to promote equitable and forward-thinking transportation solutions."


Looking ahead, Nie is excited to begin a Design, Storytelling, and Social Media Internship at the Los Angeles Mayor's Office of Economic Development. There will be working closely with the Associate Director of Mobility Innovation to help launch Urban Movement Labs, a new transportation initiative that will bring together public and private organizations to experiment, innovate, and pilot solutions in the face of the changing landscape around climate, technology, and workforce development.  Nie firmly believes that spatial studies are a critical component of transportation. "All urban issues have spatial and geographic components,” she noted.  “The Spatial Studies program equips me with the robust technical foundation needed to analyze and synthesize large-scale data. These software and hardware skills make it possible to produce informative maps and collaborate with experts and leaders from various industries to make data-driven recommendations.”



Her advice to other students is to be relentless in seeking out mentors. "Whether it is through structured programs, through peers in school, or—if you are a braver soul—through cold emails and LinkedIn messages, find individuals who are willing to support your professional development and be an advocate for you in and out of college."


After graduation, Nie would like to join a public agency and contribute to the advancement of active transportation of metropolitan areas.


We wish Lilly Nie all the best and good luck in her future endeavors!


About the Author:

Adylbek Abdykalikov is a graduate student in the International Public Policy and Management Program at USC Price. He has working experience in various positions at the Ministries of Transport and Communication and Investment and Development of Kazakhstan and was in charge of Transportation and Civil Aviation policy development and implementation. He serves as the lead writer to METRANS Newsletter and lead student event coordinator for METRANS and PSR.