When Monisha Reginald decided to pursue a master’s in urban planning, she already possessed considerable experience shaping the strategic vision of research projects for Boston’s transit agency.
Originally from Boston, Reginald spent five years working at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, or MBTA. As the manager of statistical research, she specialized in integrating automated data sources with survey data to understand transit riders’ demographics, travel behavior, and satisfaction with services. She played a key role in transitioning the systemwide passenger survey, MBTA Rider Census, into a new format that improved data quality and equity analyses.
Despite honing her quantitative and data science skills at MBTA, Reginald chose to enroll in the Master of Urban and Regional Planning program at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Her goal was to broaden her knowledge of core transportation planning areas and deepen her understanding of the relationship between transportation systems and the built environment.
During her time at UCLA, Reginald, now a second-year graduate student, has had the opportunity to work at the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies, contributing significantly to numerous research projects.
One such project was TRACtion: Transformative Research and Collaboration, the brand-new UCLA initiative led by Sustainable L.A. and ITS that aims to match academic expertise and research with the perspective of community groups and advocates. For TRACtion, Reginald provided research support to one of the five working groups.
Reginald recently started working with doctoral student Sam Speroni on a research project to better understand K-12 students’ experiences with public transit as a form of school transportation.
And she works with urban planning Professor Adam Millard-Ball on a global analysis of trends in active travel. For this project, Reginald processes and analyzes datasets spanning mode share, infrastructure, sociodemographics, and climate to identify determinants of high rates of walking and biking at the municipal level.
As part of the master’s degree requirements, she is completing a capstone project on behalf of Kounkuey Design Initiative. She hopes to provide her client with valuable insights into the challenges faced by Los Angeles transit riders, particularly women, by analyzing site constraints that have prevented the provision of bus stop amenities, especially adequate shade and light. Through her work, she aims to identify whether other sidewalk elements, like trees, fill in gaps or exacerbate disparities.
Reginald’s outstanding contributions did not go unnoticed. The Pacific Southwest Region University Transportation Center, a federally funded network of 10 universities in California, Arizona, Nevada and Hawaii, honored her as their 2024 Outstanding Student of the Year. Millard-Ball, who also worked with Reginald on TRACtion, nominated her for the prestigious award.
“Monisha richly deserves this award. She has superb technical skills in geographic information systems, data science, and statistics. But she couples those with deep subject-area expertise, particularly in transit planning and policy,” Millard-Ball said.
Reginald said she’s grateful for the opportunities she’s had while at UCLA.
“I’ve been able to work on so many interesting projects. I would like to thank everyone I work with for their advice, support and encouragement throughout my time here and for nominating me for the award,” she said.
In addition to her student of the year achievement, Reginald recently received the Myra L. Frank Memorial Scholarship from the Los Angeles chapter of the Women’s Transportation Seminar.
Reginald’s research and academic experiences at UCLA have influenced her goals for the future. Looking ahead, she plans to return to working at a transportation agency, ideally in a research-focused role that guides policy and planning decisions while also meaningfully engaging and representing communities.
Reginald will receive the award at a January ceremony in Washington, D.C.
This article originally appeared on the UCLA ITS website.