News | Price MPP Jacob Wong Looking to Make a Difference In Transportation Policy

Stop the Video



by William Graswich, USC Master of Public Policy, 2023

Commute time is a daily consideration for almost everyone, but second-year Price graduate student Jacob Wong takes a particularly long look at how he and other Angeleos navigate the city. As a full-time Master of Public Policy (MPP) student, intern for the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT), and METRANS student staff writer, transportation is both a professional and personal interest. “I’m always thinking about how to maximize my commute, like how long it will take me to bike to Metro and lining up transfer times, as well as how the daily commute can be improved for people in general,” said Wong.


A San Francisco native, Wong grew up taking Muni and BART, the world-class transit systems in the Bay Area. However, it wasn’t until he started his MPP program at Price that he saw transportation as an academic pursuit. “Public transportation was always big for me in San Francisco, but I didn’t fully understand the effects that it and transportation policy, in general, had on efficiency and urban sustainability. These connections started to become clear through my classes at Price,” he said, citing PPDE 644: Land Use and Transportation, and PPD 634: Issues in Transportation Policy as examples.


Wong earned his undergraduate degree in Political Science from UC Santa Barbara. “Policymaking was the foundation for many of my classes, including a mock Congress class I took where we participated in a simulation of a full congressional session,” he said. “I really enjoyed learning about what went into those decision-making processes.” During his tenure at USCB, he participated in the UCDC program, an internship-based program that lets students work in Washington D.C. while earning academic credit. Wong interned in the Capitol Hill office of his home Representative, current Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. “It was a great experience to see the policymaking process at a national scale and played a part in my decision to pursue my MPP degree,” he said.


Jacob Wong, Master of Public Policy(MPP), USC Price


After graduating from USCB, Wong worked at a law firm. “As a political science major, I thought that I would go down the law school track after graduation like most of my colleagues,” said Wong. However, he soon realized he was more interested in public policy and began applying to graduate programs in public policy. “My work only reinforced my previous interests on the policymaking side, and I decided this degree program would be a better fit for my professional interests,” he said. Wanting to stay in California, Wong applied to USC Price and was accepted for the class of 2023. “I never spent much time in Southern California, but having lived in the Bay and Central Coast, I wanted to see more of the state I call home,” he said.


Wong also chose USC Price for its in-depth quantitative coursework. “In undergrad, we didn’t really focus on hard skills as much, and the [Price] MPP program has exposed me to more quantitative skills and their use in policy design,” said Wong. “I’ve learned more about the application of econometric methods and software like ArcGIS (geographic information system) and Python to interpret data.”


Wong joined the METRANS team as a staff writer during his second semester at Price. “I was starting to get into transportation and urban planning at the time, so when METRANS offered me a position after I applied, I had to accept,” he said. Wong had previously worked as the national beat reporter for The Bottom Line, a student-run newspaper at USCB, where he honed his writing and journalism skills by examining national news and policy outcomes that would affect or be of interest to the student body. He credits this past experience from his college days with creating the opportunity to hold his current position at METRANS.


With one semester left, Wong is looking forward to using what he has learned at Price and METRANS to improve transportation systems in California through smart and sustainable policy.


About the Author:

William Graswich is a second-year MPP student at the Price School of Public Policy. He is interested in transportation and sustainability-related policy issues.