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Price MPL Receives Coveted James Cowen Scholarship

Sunday, November 11, 2018

by By: Drew Quinn, MPL

Second-year Price MPL Jared Bendifallah is the 2018 recipient of the James “Jim” Cowen Scholarship from the American Public Transportation Foundation (APTF), the philanthropy affiliate of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).  

This is only the second year that this scholarship has been offered, given in memory of a giant of the transit industry who had a long career in transit management, including contributions to the BART system in the San Francisco Bay area, the MAX Light Rail system in Portland, OR and the Oahu Transit Services system in the Honolulu area.  Bendifallah “received one of the largest scholarships that APTF awarded this year!” noted his sponsor, Executive Director of Foothill Transit, Doran Barnes. “Well done!”

Bendifallah discovered the scholarship opportunity via the Price School. “The staff always keeps [us students] aware of scholarships, events, and other opportunities via e-mail,” he shared. At the time of his application Bendifallah was well engaged in transportation studies via courses for the Transportation & Infrastructure Planning concentration, including the required courses and an elective on Land Use & Transportation Planning.  

As an intern at MoveLA, Bendifallah was researching student transit pass programs throughout Southern California and had started exploring best practices for bus rapid transit (BRT) around the United States and Canada with the goal of possible implementation in several Southern California corridors.

It was during his senior year at UCSD that he “got interested in climate change, sustainability and public transportation.” A visit to Japan then gave him a taste of efficient public transportation systems and after a few years of non-career-oriented jobs he decided to give in to his persistent passion about these issues and started researching graduate transportation programs.

 Bendifallah was born and raised in Los Angeles and realized that this region was greatly impacted by his new interests. “I love this region and returned here after graduating from UCSD in 2012,” he offered before adding, “I became more mindful of the fact that car and freight gas emissions, especially here in Southern California, contribute significantly to greenhouse effects.” Fortunately for Bendifallah he was admitted to the MPL Program at the USC Price School with a Dean’s Merit Scholarship.

The Cowen scholarship has helped Bendifallah move towards these goals, both by alleviating tuition costs and also opening doors for networking and scholarship. As a scholarship recipient Bendifallah received free admittance to this year’s APTA national conference in Nashville.

He credits this opportunity for allowing him to “meet and make connections with many professionals in the field of Public Transportation, including other scholarship recipients who share my passion for public transit… In addition, I was able to attend workshops relevant to my current internship at MoveLA, such as about BRT and transit-oriented communities.”

Also at the conference Bendifallah was able to deepen his relationship with his sponsor for the scholarship, Doran Barnes, the Executive Director of Foothill Transit.  “He has become my mentor and [introduced] me to several of his colleagues at the conference. One of my reasons for seeking out [a mentor] is to learn more about the many different types of work I can do as a transportation planner with my Master’s degree… I do not want to limit myself right now in terms of what career path I could take.”

The support of a mentor gives Bendifallah confidence that he is on a good path. Moving forward, Bendifallah believes there is much to be excited about both personally and regionally stating, “I am very excited about all of the funds that LA County has for expanding our rail and bus systems, especially the lines on the [Westside]. As my post-college travels in Japan and a visit to relatives in Paris, France last December have shown me, it is indeed possible to have a comprehensive public transportation system in a big metropolis.  

“I thus hope that, starting with appropriate expansions of our rail and bus lines, LA is on the right track to someday also have public transit that everybody can use reliably on a daily basis without a second thought.”

“I am also enthused about my current work as an intern at MoveLA exploring best practices for BRT in pioneering U.S. and Canadian cities, in hopes of learning from them to help expand BRT capabilities to several corridors throughout LA County. I believe that BRT could be a less costly way to expand LA’s public transportation network and provide more people with easier and less polluting access to jobs, schools, and services.”

At the conclusion of the interview Bendifallah iterated that he felt honored to have received this APTF award and was grateful to his professors for the letters of recommendations, Denny Zane, his supervisor at MoveLA, for his encouragement, and, once again, his sponsor Doran Barnes for his support and mentorship.

About the Author:

Drew Quinn is a Master of Planning student at the University of Southern California with a concentration in Transportation. Originally from Atlantic City, New Jersey, Mr. Quinn received a B.A. in History from The George Washington University in Washington, DC and has previously lived in Philadelphia and Madrid. Mr. Quinn serves as the Lead Editor for METRANS on the Move and is also the President and Founder of Trees by Trojans, a service organization at USC dedicated to increasing the distribution of green infrastructure in South Central LA.