By Yang Deng, USC Viterbi MSCE, Transportation, 2018
Rosa G. Guillen-Sanchez is a Transportation Analyst in Rail Operations at Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) whose wish is to improve transportation in her community. She recently shared her personal and professional path that has guided her toward a career in public service.
Guillen-Sanchez grew up in Orange County, a child of a low-income family of four, and her family was transit-dependent. “My dad couldn’t drive because he had severe arthritis, and my mom never drove,” she said.
To get to doctors’ appointments, the library, grocery stores, and other places that were too far to reach on foot, she and her family members relied on buses. While she was grateful for buses as an affordable transportation option, it was very hard to get around sometimes, as every trip needed to be planned very carefully and could take a considerable amount of time.
Guillen-Sanchez experienced firsthand how much transportation affects people’s opportunities and quality of life, especially when her family could not make certain trips at all.
“My first major in college was Earth and Environmental Science,” she said. Her coursework often highlighted the negative impacts of inefficient transportation systems and vehicles on people and the environment, and this made her genuinely concerned, motivating her to do something about it.
After taking a class in urban planning, Guillen-Sanchez realized that if she became a transportation planner, she would be able to address her environmental and public health concerns related to transportation. She also could play a role in improving environmental justice issues related to low-income families not always having a reliable and affordable transportation system.
She pursued a Masters in Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) degree with a concentration in Transportation Policy and Planning at UCLA. While completing the program, she interned at OCTA in the Bus Service Planning and Customer Advocacy Department. She added, “I worked to help improve bus schedules and respond to customer comments and concerns. This was a wonderful opportunity for me, as I was helping improve the bus system for thousands of people who relied on it, just like my family had for many years.”
Guillen-Sanchez later accepted a position at a private transportation consulting firm, and then returned to OCTA two years after that. “I am now working in rail operations,” she shared. “Specifically, I focus on analyzing commuter rail service in Orange County, provided by three Metrolink lines. I am learning a lot and love what I do because again, I feel I am helping improve transportation in the county I grew up in.”
Guillen-Sanchez is a problem solver. She came from a community with transportation challenges and decided to devote her time to addressing them. Her story is a good example to us all of drive, determination, and the ability to make a difference by working to solve problems that matter to us all.
About the Author: Yang Deng
Author Yang Deng is a graduate student majoring in Transportation Engineering at USC. He joined METRANS as a student assistant in 2016, and heads up the graphic and design efforts of the METRANS student team. He also works at KENDALL Planning + Design as an assistant planner. Deng holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial design, and is particularly interested in data visualization, infographics, and using design methods solve traffic problems. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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