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Women in TransitTech: Jarice Rodriguez.

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.

Via Transportation •
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

Jarice D. Rodriguez is a transportation engineer and principal planner, responsible for project proposals and plans for innovative transportation initiatives focused on the safe deployment of autonomous vehicles, new service delivery models in transit, and smart cities technologies in Miami-Dade County, Florida. Jarice led the development, evaluation, and implementation of Miami-Dade’s first-and-last mile on-demand transit program, GO Connect — the first of its kind in the South Florida region. She serves as Project Manager of the Southeast Florida Vanpool Program and GO Connect and managed the Shared Mobility Plan for Miami-Dade County.

Jarice is currently working on the deployment of a delivery robot pilot in Miami-Dade County as part of the Knight Foundation Autonomous Vehicle initiative. She holds a bachelor‘s degree in civil engineering from the University of Puerto Rico and completed master’s and PhD studies in Transportation Engineering at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.  

What did 10-year-old Jarice want to be when she grew up? How did you evolve from there to your current position in transportation? I wanted to be an anthropologist, historian, or architect. I wanted to build beautiful structures, buildings and castles. I went to college to get my civil engineering degree and, shortly after my first courses, realized it did not appeal to me. Then I took my first transportation engineering course, where I became fascinated with the transformative power and role of transportation in our lives. I am still fascinated by transportation and the fact that everything we do, enjoy, eat, wear — everything is directly or indirectly impacted by transportation. Nothing is possible without transportation.   

What do you think are the most important qualities in a leader? Are there any leaders in particular you look up to? A leader is someone who has a vision of the future and the determination to make things possible. She’s a risk taker who has the courage to do things differently and is open-minded and willing to constantly learn and improve. She also must be a good listener in order to recognize and understand the needs of others, and has the compassion to see right and wrong. I admire ordinary people who make extraordinary things for our communities, such as the former Director of the Miami-Dade County Department of Transportation and Public Works, Alice N. Bravo.  

What are the big transit challenges in your community that your team is solving with innovative mobility projects? Filling the first-and-last mile gap and implementing and evaluating how on-demand transit, a new service delivery model, can more efficiently serve communities and connect with transit.

In your view, what’s the biggest challenge the transportation industry as a whole will have to tackle in the next 2-5 years? Continuing to deploy innovative service delivery models and making technology-based mobility services more accessible. Providing more equitable and accessible transportation services and providing multiple mobility options for everyone.

Tell us about a defining moment in your professional life that has helped guide you on your path. The moment I changed my research and teaching career to become an implementer.  

And finally, what drives you? (Pun intended!) The idea of making better and more livable cities by creating better mobility. The desire to contribute to something that will have a long-lasting positive impact in our lives. It is simple, better mobility that makes our journeys easier, more pleasant, and refreshing.