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Meet Diana C. Mendes!
Diana C. Mendes, AICP
Senior Vice President/Director, DCS Americas Transit/Rail
Member, APTA Board of Directors; vice chair, Legislative Committee; member, Policy and Planning, High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail and Sustainability committees
Please describe your business’ scope.
AECOM is built to deliver a better world. And one way we do that is through advancing investment in public transportation! We are the Engineering News-Record Number 1 ranked firm in transportation and have held that ranking for a decade.
In addition, we design, build, finance and operate infrastructure assets for governments, businesses and organizations in more than 150 countries. As a fully integrated firm, we connect knowledge and experience across our global network to help clients solve their most complex challenges. From high-performance buildings and infrastructure to resilient communities and environments to stable and secure nations, our work is transformative, differentiated and vital. A Fortune 500 firm, AECOM companies had annual revenue of approximately US $18 billion during Fiscal Year 2015.
I have worked in public transportation for the majority of my career, but like many I did not start out pursuing a career in public transportation. I began my career doing growth management planning for municipalities, counties and states to promote sustainable communities and environmental quality. However, after seeing that transportation investment was such a driver of land use and environmental decisions, I decided to go into transportation planning. Early in my career, I was fortunate to work as a consultant to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) on the original 89.5-mile system, a truly remarkable experience that brought together all my areas of interest.
What drew you to a career in public transportation?
With the passage of the ground-breaking ISTEA, as a planner I was able to join in what previously had been largely the domain of engineers. My work with WMATA led me to the opportunity to work closely with FTA and subsequently with diverse transit providers, which I found to be very satisfying because I believed in the mission, the products and the outcomes.
Please describe your involvement with APTA and note what’s rewarding about it.
I have been a member of APTA since the mid-1990s. APTA has been critical to my professional development. APTA afforded me such great opportunities—beginning with the chance to establish and lead the first environmental subcommittee as part of the Policy and Planning Committee.
Along the way I have been tapped for a number of on-call assignments, such as contributing to Leadership APTA, serving on the Nominating Committee and facilitating FTA-sponsored peer exchanges. I have appreciated the opportunity to speak at a wide range of APTA conferences, which I value not only because of what I learn from others, but also because it provokes me to reflect on best practices in transportation planning and project delivery.
What have you found to be the most valuable APTA benefit or resource? Which one helps you do your job?
Well, you would have to give me a full page in Passenger Transport to fully answer this question—where to begin! APTA is the most comprehensive go-to source of information for anything and everything related to public transportation and is on the cutting edge of policy and legislation for the industry. The conference programs are exceptional, as are the research reports. I know with high confidence that the information I get from APTA is timely and reliable. But the benefits to me are so far beyond that.
The opportunity to engage with marquee industry leaders and to learn how they approach critical issues is invaluable. And so is the lasting camaraderie built by working through tough issues together. The diversity of interests gives me the opportunity to learn about the full breadth of issues facing public transportation, not just the ones related to my day job. This exposure helps me be better in my career by having a more comprehensive and holistic approach.
What do you like most about your career?
So many things. The people. The diversity of the work and its importance. The chance to collaborate on solving complex challenges. And most importantly the chance to leave places a little better off than they were by enhancing the transportation choices available and creating more vibrant, resilient communities.
What is unique about your business? What would readers be surprised to learn?
On a personal note, I have been honored to sustain a continuous working relationship with WMATA for more than 30 years. I feel like we grew up together, and we even share the same birthday, March 27! Readers might be surprised to learn how many AECOM employees enjoy similar long-term client relationships, as it has been a privilege for me and my colleagues to serve a wide range of transit providers for decades.