It started as a mere suggestion when I was barely a consenting adult at age 18, a freshman in college. “I think you might like it,” he said. “You should try it,” my advisor suggested. So, I innocently tested the waters. I thought of some questions to ask, some threads to pull—to see if there was any attraction. What started in relative silence, a dip of the toe, rapidly evolved into what I now know is a lifelong love affair … with transportation planning.

Once I got a taste, it was never enough. The classes that I took, the internships that I had…the illicit rendezvous with copies of the ITE Journal in the back room of the engineering library. I became obsessed with all aspects of transportation, particularly transit—the technical, the policy, the agencies, the consulting firms. For the rest of my four years in college, I would go on to take numerous classes in transportation engineering, transportation planning, and urban studies. I would write several term papers and conduct research. I would serve as the first “employee trip coordinator” (the early 1990s term for a transportation demand management (TDM) professional) for a major financial institution. It was a job intended for a graduate student that I no doubt got (for $1 per hour less than the posted rate due to my undergrad status) when I opened my backpack and dumped out a large pile of all the transportation studies I had done up to that point. I clearly had passion.

Like most intense love affairs, what started as a spark and had grown into a roaring fire started to fizzle by the end of my time in college. I went out too fast; I didn’t pace myself. But it didn’t take much more than a year away, working in logistics and later software development, to realize that I had lost my true love. I came back to the field, and 25 years later I’m still here.

What I love about transit is how much of an equalizer it is, giving people of all kinds, ages, and social and economic status the ability to access all kinds of opportunities. And what I adore about transportation planning is how it calls upon so many of the things I enjoy doing: solving problems, writing, strategizing, and doing something that will benefit someone else. And I realized all of this during my first dalliance with it in college.

What came later, besides naturally a more mature and deep love of the subject matter, was my realization of how much I love so much more than the topic. Of course, I truly enjoy thinking of ways to solve our clients’ challenges and helping them help the communities that they serve. I am endlessly fascinated by how far the industry has come in terms of the data, tools, and technology that we can use in our craft. But what I never expected was just how much I love the people.

The people who, like me, are attracted to this profession have to be some of the best people in the world. They are intelligent, hardworking, kind, funny, diverse, and most of all, passionate about what they do. In my position, I have the great joy of working directly with my employees, ranging from mid-career to fresh out of college. I love seeing their pride in their work as well as getting to know them. I also get to work with our clients at transit agencies and all levels of government, from local to federal.

I have also had the good fortune of collaborating with people at numerous partner firms throughout the country. In all of these people there is so much good, so much shared interest, and so much shared love of our chosen profession. Through this work, I have established so many strong relationships with these people as both colleagues and as friends.

So it’s no surprise that the first of Foursquare Integrated Transportation Planning, Inc. (Foursquare ITP)’s four (naturally) core values is Passion for the Profession. I know firsthand how much passion can fuel one’s curiosity, desire to be innovative, drive to do your best, and love of helping others through your work. While our other values—dedication to our clients, investment in each other, and positive outlook—are all essential parts of what makes our company what it is, with the passion and love for what we do, the rest comes naturally.

What began as a tentative thought more than 30 years ago bloomed into unbridled passion, and ultimately what I would call true love.

Happy Valentine’s Day!