In celebration of Foursquare Integrated Transportation Planning’s 10th anniversary we are launching a blog! It will provide us an opportunity to share interesting projects that we are working on, lessons learned that are potentially helpful and of interest to clients and peers, and other thoughts and ideas related to transportation planning.
For this first post I want to take a trip down memory lane, recounting how we got started. After spending six years in the planning office at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) I was looking for a change. In February 2006 I “inherited” a couple of freelance planning projects from a colleague from graduate school, Jon Makler, currently at Oregon DOT. I thought I’d try piecing together work to keep myself busy, and adopted a business name that my husband Gary had come up with but never used – AG Samuel Group. Little did I know that from this inauspicious beginning, this firm, now with nearly 20 employees, would be a leader in transportation planning in the mid-Atlantic just ten years later.
In the beginning I worked part-time on a wide variety of projects: financial planning best practices for State Transportation Improvement Programs (STIPs); some air quality analysis; a long range transportation plan for Southern Maryland; planning work for the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District; and, the first strategic plan for Arlington County’s TDM program, something that we continue to work on to this day.
Eventually, I found enough work to keep me busy for four and five days a week and even started hiring people I knew to work on a contract basis. One of these people was Shana Johnson, who I met in December 2006 at a Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) holiday party. Shana impressed me with her deep knowledge of transportation and planning and her incredible abilities to research and analyze any issue.
After two years of working as a contractor, Shana came on full-time in 2010. In early 2011 we started our first big project as a prime contractor, and soon hired David Miller – sight unseen – from California. We had no money to fly him out, so we interviewed by Skype, twice.
The first time I met David in person, he was standing in my living room filling out paperwork with Gary and holding my nine-month old daughter who was home with a fever. It was a big leap on his part, too – moving his family across the country and going from a 40,000 person engineering company to a three person company run out of someone’s house!
Once David was on-board, we were off and running, soon exceeding the capacity of my living room, which then housed four cubicles; and the dining room which served as our conference table. In the fall of 2012 we moved to a real office in Rockville (right at the Metro station, of course) and we’ve since grown to 19 full-time staff – an amazingly high concentration of transportation planners in one office.
Even more importantly, we have a fantastic group of people – smart, experienced, innovative, easy-going, and just a lot of fun to work with. I am frequently amazed by the work that we do, and I truly believe, that while this company was my idea and I nurtured the seed, the company would be nowhere today without the amazing dedication of our whole team. Everyone is truly passionate about our work, helping our clients, and making the world a little better one step at a time.
Today, our projects are often (but not always) bigger and farther reaching than the ones we did at the beginning – planning for and supporting the DC Circulator bus system, redesigning the entire bus system in Baltimore, developing capital plans for Hampton Roads Transit, and overseeing a $58.8 million TIGER grant covering 16 bus priority projects in the DC region.
But despite this growth, I love that we still maintain the same values as when we started – passion for the profession, dedication to our clients, a positive outlook that results in innovation and creativity, and investment in our employees that makes Foursquare ITP a great place to work. And I know that we’ll still be the same way 10 years from now when I’m writing a blog post for our 20th anniversary.