By Danielle Dirksen, USC BS Urban Studies and Planning, Fall 2020
People do not typically associate the beautiful Downtown Los Angeles with its public transit system, and nor would most choose to describe the city as “beautiful.” As an urban advocate, I frequently refer to Los Angeles as the most beautiful city in the world. I also adore our public transit system, though I know it is far from perfect.
In fact, people usually gawk at me in disbelief when I tell them that my focus is transportation and I start gushing about LA Metro, Metrolink, bike share, hostile architecture, and other facets of urbanism and the transportation world. What can I say? I am a true transit nerd at heart, and I am eternally grateful that I have discovered my passion at such a young age. I know for certain that I want to pursue a career in transportation as a transit planner and/or a transportation consultant, specializing in community engagement and perhaps strategic planning.
My internship with Metrolink in the Planning and Development department, where I’ve been for about two months now, has me heavily involved in strategic planning. I can see the level of thought and planning that must go into the 10-, 20-, and 30-year plans that envision and shape Metrolink’s future, for example. I have also had the opportunity to create memos and briefs for the CEO regarding station relocations and involvement with our member agencies. I enjoy the work environment, and this internship fuels my passion for transportation each and every day. In the coming months at Metrolink, I hope to also explore other departments, experience a ride-along with a train conductor, and continue to collect special edition pins and memorabilia.
Danielle Dirksen at the Metrolink Office
Starting at Metrolink was nerve-wracking, certainly, as my first non-remote internship. I felt extremely lost for my first few weeks, but am growing into my role more and more. Working regularly in an office as an intern has already given me valuable experience and has proven to me my potential in the workforce. I have a much better grasp of my skills, and a more poised outlook on my future education and career path. For this I am truly grateful.
I could not have secured my internship without the help of METRANS-sponsored tickets to events, though. Seriously – I owe it all to the connections I made at the California Transportation Foundation Transportation Education Symposium and a couple of different Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) events. Without METRANS and the various professional networks I have been able to take advantage of, I do not know where I would be professionally (and even personally). So if you hold any role with METRANS, have ever mentored a student, if you belong to a professional organization, or if you have ever sponsored a student, I thank you. Please continue this work!
I am just getting started professionally but I would not have been to make these early strides by myself. It’s difficult to put into words just how important this kind of support and mentorship and the ability to attend professional and networking events are, especially for students like me. Students who started out without a clue of their passions or abilities. Students who used to dread their classes and work. Students who felt hopeless.
I used to be one of those lost students back when I was majoring in Environmental Studies, which was not the right major for me. But now I am one of those students who absolutely loves what she does without a shadow of a doubt. I cannot wait to see what more I will accomplish here at Metrolink, and which events I will be lucky enough to attend in the future.
About the Author:
Danielle Dirksen is a rising fourth year undergraduate at the University of Southern California, pursuing her Bachelors in Urban Studies and Planning, with a double minor in Environmental Studies and Occupational Science. She is currently the METRANS Student News publisher and interns with Metrolink. Her specialty is transportation and she plans to live car-free in the future, and wants to make walkability more doable for everyday people. She can be reached at email@example.com.