The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has a new voice on its transportation team. The agency announced last week that Talia Jacobson would be the new “ODOT Active Transportation Policy Lead.”
Jacobson has been with ODOT as a transportation planner since 2008. In that time she’s worked on major projects like the Southwest Corridor Plan, the Congestion Pricing Pilot Program, the Columbia River Crossing, the Sellwood Bridge and others. Jacobson is a graduate of the urban and regional planning program at Portland State University and she also has a degree in psychology (Whitman College) and a professional background in mental health and social services. At ODOT, she’s used that background to lead internal trainings about diversity and cultural competency.
Asked about what she’ll be working on at the 5,000-employee agency that holds many powerful cards in local and regional transportation decisions, Jacobson said that, “The Bicycle and Pedestrian Mode Plan is at the top of my list right now.” (ODOT began an update to that plan back in April.)
“I’m excited to start thinking about how we can craft policies that lead directly to on-the-ground improvements,” she said via email, “I want to see this plan carry the same weight as ODOT’s other modal plans, so it can play a strong role in how we balance our transportation priorities.”
Jessica Horning, ODOT’s transit and active transportation liaison for Region 1 (Portland metro), worked with Jacobson and described her as “a new emerging leader in Salem.” “As someone who didn’t learn to ride a bike until her 20’s but now uses it as a main mode of transportation,” Horning added, “Talia brings a great perspective on how to get more people on bikes and build a system that serves an “8 to 80″ community.”
Jacobson is 32 and has lived in southeast Portland for the past 10 years. You might recall the guest article she wrote for us back in July about the challenges of being a “klutz” who learned how to ride well into adulthood.
As she gets up to speed in her new role, Jacobson said she wants our feedback. “I’ll be spending the next few weeks doing a tremendous amount of homework. If there are new ideas I should research, policies you consider to be the gold standard, rides I should try, or big thinkers I should take out to coffee, please share your thoughts in the comments!”