Hey there! My name is Kaitlyn Schaffer. I am a fourth year civil engineering major from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. There are very few transportation options in Pittsburgh. Most people are dependent on cars to get from one place to another. There is a Port Authority of Allegheny County bus stop at the end of my street, but it is underutilized due to unreliable travel times. Pittsburgh also has a light rail option known by locals as “The T.” It has a limited number of stops given that it is only 26 miles long. I have only seen it operating at capacity on Sunday afternoons when the Steelers are playing at home. Other than those two options, there is the Duquesne Incline that used to transport steel workers living on Mount Washington to steel mills in downtown. Today the incline is a fun tourist attraction with an excellent view of the Pittsburgh skyline, but is not a practical option for commuters.
I studied abroad the summer after my second year at Georgia Tech in Eastern Europe. The program included nine weeks in the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary. There were many practical transit options to get to class and work. Mostly I used light rail systems and street cars. I was impressed at how many different routes there were and how close I could get to my destination without having to walk an extra mile or two. It was also cool to see how few cars there were on the streets and that a lot of space did not have to be devoted to parking. It was definitely overwhelming coming back to Atlanta and experiencing six lane highways with almost all single occupant vehicles!
Exploring is one of my favorite things to do and when some of my most valuable learning takes place. I have always thought the coolest aspects of civil engineering are having the opportunity to serve communities and the potential to see my designs in use every day. The Sustainable Transit Abroad course offers an incredible opportunity to learn through exploration of the innovative ways the Dutch design transit. After completing the Eastern Europe Leadership for Social Good program, my interest in effective and sustainable social missions was sparked. CEE 4803E will help me apply the things I learned abroad in the transportation sector and refine my interests in both social entrepreneurship and transportation prior to graduation in May.
(Just a fun side note… If you couldn’t tell from the images in this blogpost, I have a huge collection of postcards from every city I’ve visited. I’m really looking forward to adding a few new ones from the Netherlands.)