Women in TransitTech: Tiffany Chu.• 2 min read
In honor of International Women’s Day and throughout the month of March, Via is proud to profile a number of changemakers driving real innovation in their communities. Enjoy the story below, and then check out the rest of the series.
Challenging the status quo takes diligence, determination, and vision — especially when it comes to an industry that hasn’t seen a seismic shift since the automobile was invented. And, as it turns out, it’s often women who choose to challenge these norms. In honor of International Women’s Day and throughout the month of March, Via is proud to profile a number of changemakers driving real innovation in their communities and inspiring their peers. Enjoy the story below, and then check out the rest of the series here.
Tiffany Chu is a designer, planner, and the CEO & co-founder of Remix. She currently serves as a commissioner of the San Francisco Department of the Environment and sits on the city’s Congestion Pricing Policy Advisory Committee. Previously, Tiffany was a fellow at Code for America and the first UX hire at Zipcar. She is an alum of Y Combinator and has a background in architecture and urban planning from MIT.
What did 10-year-old Tiffany want to be when she grew up? How did you evolve from there to your current position in transportation?
I wanted to be an architect. I loved drawing as a kid. I remember visiting my friends’ houses growing up in New Jersey and, as the kid of a Taiwanese immigrant family, being fascinated by how differently they lived and the different ways people make a home. During architecture school, I realized I was interested in the design not only of buildings, but beyond buildings — the built environment as a whole. And that, I found, was an entirely separate field: one called urban planning. Transportation is, in my opinion, one of the most fascinating parts of urban planning because it deals with not only space and people, but space, people, and time.
What do you think are the most important qualities in a leader? Are there any leaders in particular you look up to?
1) Clarity of thought and documentation of communication: Ambiguity hurts your team when they have to navigate ambiguity that only you understand the constraints of.
2) Being great at handling rejection: If you’re not experiencing no, you’re probably not pushing the boundaries or status quo enough.
3) Exhibiting vulnerability and being human: It’s the best way to build trust and get people to want to follow you.
What are the big transit challenges in your community that your team is solving with innovative mobility projects?
It’s been really rewarding to watch projects like the pedestrianization of the French Quarter in New Orleans and their new bike plan take shape in Remix. And help agencies around the world plan new shuttle routes to COVID-19 vaccination centers. And see transit priority corridors in Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Sydney, Vancouver be designed in Remix to grow transit mode share. Supporting real, tangible multimodal progress makes me so happy.
In your view, what’s the biggest challenge the transportation industry as a whole will have to tackle in the next 2-5 years?
Funding in the United States. It’s absolutely absurd that highways arbitrarily get 80% of the transportation budget and transit gets 20%. Which system moves more people on a regular basis?
Tell us about a defining moment in your professional life that has helped guide you on your path.
Deciding to quit my job and move across the country to do a 1-year non-profit fellowship at Code for America. I met people who cared deeply about the same kinds of civic things that I do — and ultimately ended up starting a company with them.
And finally, what drives you? (Pun intended!)
Fear of climate change.