Veronica O. Davis – Transportation is Essential

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Oct 14, 2018
by Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu
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Veronica O. Davis – Transportation is Essential

Co-owner of consulting firm discusses how cities can get more people to use public transport Veronica O. Davis at Salzburg Global Seminar - Davis is also principal planning manager at Nspiregreen LLC, a firm which describes itself as a global leader in sustainability

Veronica O. Davis is a self-confessed “transportation nerd.” She jokes she was literally “born into transportation.” Both of her parents worked in public transportation agencies, and her mum even went into labor with her outside the US Department of Transportation building in Washington DC. Ultimately, what moved Davis to pursue her present career was her exposure to transportation’s “power to destroy or the power to bind” by her professor Dr. M. William Sermons at the University of Maryland, where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering.

Davis is a co-owner of Nspiregreen LLC, a consulting firm that assists businesses and governments to achieve sustainability. She is also one the co-founders of the Black Women Bike initiative. For her work, she was recognized by the White House as a Champion of Change and Transportation Innovator. Davis is among 60 architects, health workers, urban planning officials, academics and activists who are taking part in Building Healthy, Equitable Communities: The Role of Inclusive Urban Development and Investment.

This program is being held by Salzburg Global Seminar and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It also features as part of Salzburg Global’s Health and Health Care Innovation multi-year series.

Salzburg Global caught up with Davis to talk about her passion for transportation and how cities can encourage more citizens to use public transportation.

This Q&A with Davis has been edited for length and clarity.

SG: In what ways is public transportation a social justice issue?

VOD: When you are talking about jobs, when you are talking about access to education, access to health care, access to healthy food, at the end of the day, people need to get there. If everyone has to own a car, it is expensive to own a car, and then you have the issue of single-occupancy vehicles, air quality and all the things it comes with it. So you really need a robust public transportation system so people can get access to all these opportunities.

SG: As the co-founder of Black Women Bike, can you talk about how powerful a bike is in a city?

VOD: A bike is very powerful in a city. It is an important aspect of freedom. Whenever you drive a personal vehicle, you are subject to whatever the congestion [situation] is. Even with public transit, you are subject to whatever the schedule is but with a bike you can go wherever you need to go and get past the congestion. I especially want to see more women specifically black women getting on a bicycle - and it doesn’t have to mean biking to work. There are [many] other trips people make in a given week - to the grocery store, to go see friends, you know, just for enjoyment. And particularly with women, who may have knee or back issues, it is a lot gentler on the body sometimes than walking or running.

SG: What can cities do to get more people using public transport?

VOD: It has to be comprehensive. It has to be a robust system that goes where people want to go. It also has to be reliable and predictable. There should also have very short times between buses and trains. If people have to wait and plan around 20 minutes between buses, they are not going to use it, or if the bus comes five to 10 minutes late, they aren’t going to use it. But if it is on time, reliable, people will use public transit. And there is plenty of evidence out there, whether it is in the Netherlands or Freiburg, in Germany, there is very good evidence [which shows that] where you have a robust transit system, people will use it.


The program Building Healthy, Equitable Communities: The Role of Inclusive Urban Development and Investment is part of Salzburg Global Seminar's multi-year series Health and Health Care Innovation. This year's program is held in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Keep up to date with the conversations taking place during the program. Follow #SGShealth on Twitter and Instagram.