Episode 92: Straighten, Then Strengthen with Paul Supawanich

TransLoc Marketing November 11, 2020 mobility leadership, podcast, the movement, urban planning, san francisco 0 Comments

The principles of good strength training that Paul Supawanich teaches moonlighting also have served him well in his day jobs as a transportation planner, consultant, technology executive, and, most recently, transportation advisor to San Francisco Mayor London Breed.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT TO COME

Cohen: Josh Cohen
Jensen: L’erin Jensen
Supawanich: Paul Supawanich

Cohen: Success as a leader requires keen observation of the world around you as well as a willingness to test those observations experientially. Our guest today, Paul Supawanich, the former transportation advisor to San Francisco Mayor London Breed does just that. L’erin, what jumped out to you?

Jensen: You know, Paul talked about proving people wrong. When it comes to transportation projects and, I think, public works projects generally, people are often reluctant to try or fund new things. But Paul’s experience has proven that many of these novel ideas such as car-free streets can and do work.

Cohen: Let’s go.

F: The freedom of movement to access jobs, education, and social activities is a fundamental human right, but that freedom is not distributed equitably, undermining our ability to create vibrant and sustainable communities for all. Welcome to The Movement where we talk with the leaders who are reshaping their communities with brave decisions, inspired advocacy, and a stubborn unwillingness to accept the status quo all in an effort to inspire the next generation of leaders. Here are your hosts Josh Cohen and L’erin Jensen.

Cohen: Our guest today, Paul Supawanich, recently left the San Francisco mayor’s office where he was a transportation policy advisor to Mayor London Breed. Prior to that, he served in several roles including policy, marketing, and customer success at transportation software company Remix and also spent five years at Nelson/Nygaard Consulting. Welcome to The Movement, Paul.

Supawanich: Thanks, Josh and L’erin. Thank you both for having me.

Cohen: You know, so, Paul, you and I have known each other for a number of years, I think, going back to your time at Remix. And during that time you have always produced what I considered great Twitter content. So I would highly encourage everyone to follow Paul on Twitter; @TweetSupa is his handle. And what I’ve noticed about you on Twitter is that you do a great job of noticing interesting and quirky things wherever you are, and you kind of put it up there, and it just always works. And so the one you posted most recently—and this is kind of a lead-in into the question—was that you’ve noticed on trash day the cars on your street go a lot slower. And you say, “Sometimes I leave my trashcan out a couple hours or days longer than I need to.” So I’m curious just kind of what you’re noticing about your new region. You left San Francisco and you moved to Atlanta. I’m curious; what are you noticing about Atlanta?

Supawanich: I appreciate you mentioning Twitter. I think some of my colleagues may be saying maybe I spend too much time on it, but I’ve been very—I guess, I’ve just always tried to be very observant throughout life. And, I think, doing transportation planning in a variety of places, some of the best lessons I’ve learned, of course, is that before you can make any recommendations or suggest anything you really have to understand a place. And that comes through listening and watching. And since I’ve been here in Atlanta I’ve taken this little bit of time off that I’ve had to try to learn about the history of this place. And, I think, whether—I’m sure most people probably recognize this, but a history of a place plays in a lot to its current-day state. And that’s certainly the case here in Atlanta in the way the city is laid out and kind of the policies that have come into place. And so, I think, by doing a little research about the history of this place and also just kind of watching what’s going on in the streets, it’s been interesting to learn about how the city is different than perhaps other places that I’ve lived or worked.

I would say, in my six weeks or so of living here, Atlanta is—it’s got a lot going for it. I know that perhaps people’s perceptions of it elsewhere you haven’t lived here may be one thing, but, I think, living here it’s been really fun to see the energy of this place and to be in a place that’s certainly growing. I mean, this is by many accounts is a very business oriented town, which means that there are a lot of people still moving here. I think, even in the pandemic Atlanta still has kind of had a same level—an interesting level of resiliency in terms of seeing people, you know, out enjoying themselves mostly safely, I would say, in my perception since I’ve been here. But with that growth it becomes a responsibility of how do you do so well and responsibly.

And Atlanta, it’s been interesting moving here and talking to people to say, “Oh, what do you do?” And it’s like, “Well, I’ve been in transportation.” People are always like, “Oh, my goodness. Thanks goodness that you’re here. We have so many issues.” And so I think people obviously know that transportation and traffic are big issues here. But, I think, especially within the City of Atlanta, it’s a big region, like many other regions, I should say, but the City of Atlanta has a lot of very great neighborhoods. It’s actually interesting, I think. A lot of people think about Atlanta being very auto dominated, which the region is. But, frankly, within the City of Atlanta I’ve seen narrower streets than I’ve seen in many cities, which results in great little neighborhoods, really slow traffic, and calm kind of neighborhoods for kids to play in and bike in. So it’s been fun so far. It’s been kind of fun to watch that energy, and I think we’ll continue to see the city grown. And I’m excited about some of the things that are happening that I’ve seen so far or that I’ve been reading about and learning about since I’ve been here.

Cohen: Now, you went to college in Atlanta, right?

Supawanich: I did. I went to Georgia Tech. It’s been a little bit of time now. And what I tell people as I come back, it’s interesting going to college here. Georgia Tech, for those of you who are familiar, it’s in Midtown Atlanta. It’s kind of an enclosed campus, so you can go to campus and not really get engaged in kind of what the city has going on. And certainly my time here—I’ll just share—2001 to 2006, I got to know to Atlanta a little bit, but, wow, it’s changed a lot in the 15 years that I’ve been gone. And certainly now kind of being in the neighborhoods you see a different side of it, a little more of the quirkiness and the energy that the city has going on.

Cohen: Yeah, I imagine. I imagine even if you were fairly plugged into the Atlanta scene and you even explored it quite a bit, probably living in a neighborhood would be different than what your experience would have been even if you had explored some of those neighborhoods as a college student. Not living in them is going to be a different experience, if you’re living in Midtown kind of ensconced in the Georgia Tech environment.

Supawanich: Yeah.

Cohen: You probably didn’t get the same feeling as you might kind of living in these neighborhoods now and seeing the trash trucks and say, “Oh, yeah. Interesting. If you leave your trashcan out, all the cars on the street slow down.” You probably wouldn’t have noticed that even if you had explored those neighborhoods then.

Supawanich: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you kind of bring up that example too. And, I think, over the time of my career as I’ve kind of more oriented towards my areas that I spend a lot of my time is on public transit and traffic safety it’s kind of like—you kind of understand, “Okay. Here are the outcomes that we’re trying to get to.” Right? “So we’re trying to get people to slow down, not because we don’t want people to get where they’re going; we want to try to make sure everyone is safe. But, like, what are the interventions we can do to get there?”
Right? It doesn’t always have to be the kind of silver-plated solution. I mean, there’s a lot of simple things that we can do. And this is across traffic safety, even transit reliability. You know, what are the simple things we can do, and what are the things we’re already doing? Right? Like, leave the trashcans out, and, like, what are the simple things we already do to help us get to some of those outcomes?

Jensen: Paul, I’ve been going to Atlanta fairly regularly in the 11 years I’ve lived in North Carolina. And I can say that it certainly has changed a lot over the years. But you have worked on a lot of projects throughout your career. Which one are you most proud of and why?

Supawanich: Yeah, that’s a great question and a tough one. I mean, it’s—I don’t know if I would—there are probably a handful of projects which come to mind, but, I mean, I think, broadly speaking, I mean, it’s kind of, like, the delta which people care about. Right? I think it’s for me—it’s like, where did you insert yourself and contribute to something where you feel like you’ve made the biggest change from status quo or from the trajectory something was on and you feel like you nudged it quite a bit? And, I mean, it’s probably some unconventional places. I mean, I’ve had a chance to work in places which people don’t think are necessarily as kind of the progressive transpiration mecca. I did a lot of work in Wichita, Kansas, for example.

And, again, I think I have a soft spot for a lot of these mid-tier kind of cities because I think that they have both the civic-mindedness of wanting to be the better version of themselves paired with perhaps a little less bureaucracy or a little less process than some of the bigger cities that come to mind when we think about major city transportation. I would say that in my time in San Francisco one of the things, again, maybe not a specific projects but a theme, it’s like, you know, proving people wrong. And I don’t mean that in a kind of a nefarious or negative way. I mean, I think, in transportation we always are fighting against the grain of the status quo, and it takes work and it takes effort to be able to show people that things can be slightly differently.

I mean, I think about even in San Francisco some of the projects we worked on like bringing a ticket bundle to the Chase Center or being the first kind of NBA stadium to say, “If you buy a ticket to the stadium, you get your transit ride paid for for the day.” I mean, most people were saying, like, you know, “Why would someone pay for that, or why would you do that?” but to be able to show people, “Hey, look. We can do it. You can do it too.” I think the same thing of accelerating car-free Market Street in San Francisco. I mean, again, I was a very small piece of that, I think, towards the tail end, but to show people, “Look. You can take the vehicles off a street, and the world doesn’t cave in, and it has a lot of benefits.” And, you know, we all lived to tell the story of the day after where we saw some of those benefits and understood the tradeoffs.

So I think those are just kind of maybe examples of just again and just showing people what can be done differently, because transportation is—it’s a tough industry in the sense that you have to sometimes be patient. And I know that in a world where instant gratification almost kind of holds the day, to be able to be willing to put in the time and work to see some of these things through.

Cohen: I know you meant that proving people wrong from a good place. You’re not trying to make people feel bad or anything like that. But, I guess, from a tactical standpoint how did you prove people wrong?

Supawanich: Yeah. Well, I mean, a lot of this has to do with listening and understanding that if—in my time as a consultant, my job was to come in and say, “Let’s come up with some recommendations that can help move the ball in a hopefully positive direction.” And I think it’s about listening. Where are people coming from? Right? Maybe people are—people have probably conceptions of what they want to see their future look like, the future of their street, the future of their city. And those may not all be the same thing. And, of course, that’s what makes urban planning and kind of dealing with transportation so complicated, is that we all have different expectations of what “better” quote-unquote is. And so, I think, something I learned early on in consulting is that you really have to understand where people are coming from, and the way you message something and the values around transportation inherently has to be different.

I remember very specifically working in some of our client cities in more of the midsection of the country. And, you know, you couldn’t talk about transportation changes, transit, biking, and walking in terms of environmentalism. It just doesn’t work. It doesn’t kind of ring in the same way in the value set. We had to talk about it in the way of, “Hey, we want to give people options. Like, we want to give the average person who is trying to get to work choices so they can get to work.” And by having a kind of monocentric transportation system that was just about driving doesn’t give that to people. You know, maybe that’s very different when you talk about, you know, in the Bay Area maybe you can use environmentalist or trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as a selling point or the reason.

So I think there’s a lot about getting people on the same page by understanding what are their value set and how does perhaps the idea that we’re trying to move forward fit within that value set. And if it doesn’t fit, then, you know, then trying to understand what is a middle ground, which may get us there.

Jensen: You said that you need to understand where people come from, and I am a firm believer that if you understand where people are coming from, you understand them. So I think it’s interesting that it also works in the transit space and urban planning generally, trying to figure out how things should work in communities, the best way to make them happen, that even in that instance you need to understand where these people are coming from so that you can understand their needs.

Supawanich: Yeah. And I think there’s nothing that is more sacred to people than where they live and, you know, the personal choices they make. And, I think, transportation is one step removed from housing. Right? Everybody—you can talk to anyone at a dinner party; you say you’re involved with transportation, and they have an opinion—right—because they do it. They go from point A to point B. I know, granted that 2020 is its own kind of wrinkle on that in itself, but people are very personally vested to how they move around. And I think that’s, to your point, L’erin, it’s why it’s so important to people, and that’s why it’s so important for people that are in this industry to really listen and understand where people are coming from.

Cohen: Yeah. I mean, we’re recording this the morning after the election, and we don’t have clarity yet on who won, but I think what we do have clarity on is that there is a pretty divided nation. Right? And so I think that lesson that you’re pulling out there, L’erin, I think, is true beyond just transportation, obviously. I think it’s true in the decisions that people made around the country on who they wanted for their president. I think, in order for us to move forward effectively we’re going to have to do that same thing, you know, on political side. Right?

Jensen: Right.

Cohen: So, you know, again, this is—you know, not necessarily to devolve this into political, but I think that lesson is 100% true, that we’re going to need to apply on the political side as well.

Supawanich: And, I mean, think about—and I’m not even going to go on a ledge and say that I’m here to be able to try to figure out how to bridge all of our divides. But, I mean, I think about something as simple as traffic safety and, you know, inherently the difficult tradeoffs people have to make to say, “If we want to make our streets safer, that means giving up some levels of freedoms around driving as fast as you want, perhaps even owning a vehicle that is far bigger than the scale of the street or the human body,” and so those are difficult conversations. But at the end of the day I do think we have the common ground. You know, nobody wants anyone to die. Nobody wants anyone to be killed at the hands of traffic violence and traffic issues on our streets.

And so when I was in San Francisco I feel like, you know, we were still working at it; we still had a long way to go, but at least there was a higher fluency around that conversation around, you know, “We all believe we can do something about making our streets safer.” And I think it’s interesting in working in the different cities that I have, you know, we aren’t quite there in different places, and I think it’s important for people that are in this work, whether it be practitioners or advocates, to help bring people along in that conversation so we’re at least speaking the same language and understand maybe we have differences in opinion about how we get there but at least understand the common goal of what are we trying to achieve.

Cohen: For sure.

Jensen: I think it’s interesting because you’re talking about, you know, speaking people’s languages. And so I, in my role outside of cohost of The Movement podcast, I’m a corporate communications specialist and a journalist by trade, so my job is to speak to people in a way that they understand, you know, to write for my audience. And so the fact that you have to do that in transportation as well as a consultant, as an urban planner when you’re in San Francisco talking to those people it’s different than talking to people in Wichita, Kansas and their needs and whatnot. Oh, it just all comes full circle.

Supawanich: And I will say in terms of communication, I mean, this may be things that people on the podcast have already said, but I feel like transportation professionals writ large, we’re not very good communicators. We’re great problem solvers; we’re great at understanding the problem and coming up with solutions. And, I guess, I’m doing broad strokes here and do not intend to offend anyone that—because there are good communicators in the transportation industry. But that’s where feelings get hurt. I mean, inevitably whether it’s we’re hurting the feelings of the public because we did something too fast or we didn’t do the right engagement, we’re hurting the feelings of a partner agency because we didn’t really spend enough time working together with them to understand what we’re trying to do and what they’re trying to do and then, you know, a wedge becomes between us which ultimately affects the public good, I mean, effective communication and putting in the time, again, is so important for this stuff to move forward. Because, again, there’s lots of opinions, a lot of differences of ways things can go, and it’s why it’s so important that we try to the extent that we can to try to be on the same page to make sure we can move the ball.

Cohen: Yeah, Lynn Ross who was on the podcast a few months ago has summed it up in a way that has resonated with me and has resonated with other folks, other listeners I’ve talked to, which is we only can move at the speed of trust. That just boils down a lot of that into a pretty nice bon mot there.

Supawanich: I’m going to write that one down myself, because I think one thing I wanted to chat about is I think one of the questions you were posing to me, Josh, in your questions about what kind of lessons have I learned from other leaders, I think—and this goes for people in the industry and, I think, goes towards people or working with people in the community. I mean, you can only do this work if you have trust. And I think that goes beyond any level of transportation genius or any level of technical expertise. If the people you work with can’t trust you or the community doesn’t trust you, you know, frankly, people have good memories, and that produces a setback not just for your career, I mean, potentially generations.

Cohen: For sure. I want to dig into advocacy a little bit. You were Mayor Breeds transportation advisor, so you were engaging with advocates all the time. And so I’m curious how you did that in an equitable way.

Supawanich: I think it’s a tough question that everyone is—I think cities across the country have—they’ve been grappling with for decades but also, I think, particularly in this year having to reexamine how are we approaching equity as our strategy across the city. And, I think, in San Francisco, I think, a key starting point—and I want to give credit to the SFMTA there who have been doing equity strategy for years as part of some of their programs, but assessing what are our gaps today. And, I think, one of the areas we did really focus on was our transit system. And, I think, from the perspective of giving people mobility across the city, our—the public transit system in San Francisco did reach every corner of the city.

I mean, it did—it is probably the one mode that gave people the most access in terms of jobs access and also in terms of just access for residents and giving residents upward mobility opportunities across the city. And so we really examined, like, what are the barriers to entry. And for, for example, something as simple as fare payment, you know, where can we invest resources to provide more access to the system for those who are less fortunate or traditionally have been in disparaged communities? And, I think, the challenge with this is, of course, in a city municipal budget we don’t have all the money in the world; we can’t make everything free, but how do we use the data that we have to be as precise as possible to make sure that we can invest and reinvest funds into the areas or groups of people who need it most? And so taking a look at what are our low-income programs, what free-fare programs can we offer students, and to make sure that we were not providing programs that necessarily over subsidized those who had the resource but were really precise in terms of directing the resources to where they were needed most.

So I think that’s, like, maybe just as an example of, you know, how we were thinking about our equity strategy in San Francisco in kind of, perhaps, one mode. But I think it’s one of these interesting things over the past few years, thinking about all of the micromobility options that are now kind of had flourished. I know they’re in kind of a tepid state today just given everything that’s happened in 2020, but taking the opportunity to say, “We have all these new mobility programs that we’re adding to our portfolio as a city. How do we make sure that similarly we can apply the same safeguard and the same opportunities for access for those in need for these new programs? Granted that the city is not themselves running it, but we want to create enough bumpers in the system and in our permit process to make sure that we can replicate some of the programs we did for our transit system with scooters and bikeshare,” as an example.

Cohen: Even having the conversation to say, “We want to do this,” or, “We need to do this,” or, “There are groups in our community that are not getting their needs met,” even having that conversation, I think, is obviously a step that has to happen. And then it’s, like—then you kind of go to that next level, which, you know, obviously cities like San Francisco and Oakland and Seattle and so forth are already doing, which is they’re having the conversations, and then it’s like, “Oh, yeah. And we have a plan on how to address that.” Right? I think, in a lot of places they’re not even having that conversation. I think we’re getting there. You know, so I do think that’s one of the benefits of kind of your experience there, and maybe you can bring some of that vision to the Atlanta area as well. And, again, Atlanta may be doing some good work on that as well, but I know that Seattle and San Francisco and Oakland are kind of setting the tone for, I think, a lot of communities around the country as far as not just talking about equity but having a real plan on how to make it a reality.

Supawanich: Mm-hmm. Yeah. And as you were saying that, Josh, I was thinking about something. So whether it fits here or not, I also free-lanced or, I guess, moonlighted as a personal trainer in my past. And one of the things that you learn as a personal trainer when you work with people is this concept of straighten and then strengthen. And the idea is that before you can add muscle mass or before you can add strength to your body, you have to have good form. Right? You have to straighten your body, make sure you’re in a healthy position before you add to it. This actually applies to a lot of things. In transit they talk about, like, you know, you have to have the right network first, and then once you have the right network then you can figure out the frequency to add on top of that. It’s kind of the same idea.

But I was going to apply it to what we were just talking about because similarly I was just going to bring up our Shared Spaces program, which I was working on right before I left, which was the accelerated permit to allow outdoor dining and outdoor business in San Francisco. And the straighten and strengthen kind of applied there too because, of course, making sure that there was equitable access to this program across the city was really important to us as we were launching the program, but before we could have that conversation we needed to get the program in place. We needed to have a functioning program where people were getting permits on time and just from the internal workings of the city that this process worked. And so we spent a lot of time early on fixing the program. Right? “How do we make sure that someone can go online, find the right information, and we can actually process this information and get it through the right departments as quickly as humanly possible?”

And that was, like, kind of the straighten part. Right? Like, “Let’s get the structure in place so we can build on top of it.” And then once we had that and done and once that was kind of the first priority, then we did the strengthen, which was, “Okay. We have this program. How do we make sure we’re getting the right resources to the communities who may not have access to an architect or a contractor to build a thing out in front of their business and figuring out where are the resources we can kind of shift around to strengthen our existing program to make sure that we’re putting an equity lens on access to the program?”

Cohen: That’s a cool analogy. I like that.

Jensen: And I think that can also be, again, applied to the political situation. Again, one way or the other, but I think it’s kind of the same thing going on there. Paul, let’s get back into some of those lessons we were talking about earlier. So in your career as a consultant, technology executive, and government official you’ve had the opportunity to see hundreds or even thousands of local, state, and federal officials. What did you learn from the best of those leaders?

Supawanich: I mean, you all have talked to so many people on this, on this podcast. I imagine that, you know, you’ve gathered some of those yourself. I mean, I think, for me, I think being in the transportation industry there’s a couple of things that, you know, I’ve come to learn since I’ve been doing this. I mean, I think, very quickly you learn that the industry is not that big. And I think that’s just a long way of saying that over the course of your career you end up working with people probably a dozen times over the course of, you know, a 40-year career. I guess, maybe a different way of saying it is you’re going to meet someone in your career; there’s a high likelihood you’re going to end up working with them again. And, I think, because of that it’s really important to build that trust and, frankly, to be very cautious about burning bridges just because, you know, over the course of a career you may be on both sides of an equation and you want to be able to continue to work with those people. And because we’re all humans, people remember things.

And this is not to say you don’t need to push back and be a good advocate or kind of fight for your side, but just knowing that you will end up working with a lot of people over the course of a long time, it’s really important to be thoughtful when you have those kind of tough discussions. And I think that applies both professional kind of working within the industry but also of course working with the community. I mean, the other thing too—and this probably goes without saying, but, gosh, you know, people and transportation can be experts in a lot of different things, and I think that those things can come and go. You know, I think the industry has changed so much, and so I’ve learned a lot about different aspects of transportation. But I think the thing that’s most important is, you know, thinking about, you know, how are you maintaining your ethics in this industry and how are you maintaining kind of your commitment to, you know, your core values and what you want to do and sticking to that, because, again, expertise in particular areas can come and go and trends come and go, but at your core, you know, your ethics and your ability to for people to trust you are things that carry with you regardless of what you do and who you’re working with.

I think maybe other aspects of different leaders in the industry, you know, some people are, again, visionary. Some people, that is their expertise. Some people are great implementers. Some people are great communicators. And, I think, you know, we can’t necessarily all be all of those things, but we all can be great at maintaining our core values and maintaining our ethics and our trust with one another.

Jensen: So which one are you, a visionary, a communicator, or an implementer?

Supawanich: That’s a good question, L’erin. I mean, I feel like I can be a little bit noble between those, but I would say my—I’ve always been passionate about implementation. I think, that’s something that has been fun for me when I was at Remix being kind of on the ground level of a startup and getting to see things happen. And similarly at the mayor’s office we were kind of nose to the grindstone trying to get stuff done. And there’s a lot of perhaps selfish satisfaction to seeing stuff happen, but I feel like that has always been something that’s motivated me to try to be close to the ground and seeing stuff move forward.

Jensen: Now, to cause a bit of commotion, which one do you think is the most important, or are they all equally important?

Supawanich: I mean, getting a project done and changing and moving the needle on transportation in any city, you need all of them. There is not one that’s most important per se, because there are lot’s of great visions. There’s a lot of—you can ask any planning professional. There are a lot of pretty books out there that have great visions and great ideas. There’s a lot of stuff that has happened and in hindsight people will say, like, “You know, I wish there was actually some kind of plan or vision behind this.” Right? So I think you can—there are plenty of examples where one was perhaps evident and perhaps not the others. So it’s tough to answer that question, because you really need all of them. I mean, you need to start with a great vision. You need to see someone be able to communicate that and make sure everyone is on board. And then at the end of the day you’ve got to find a way to make it happen.

Jensen: Yeah. I would have expected you to answer that way, but I was just seeing if maybe we could get a future fight started.

[LAUGHTER]

Cohen: Wait, we’re not trying to make news here. [LAUGHTER] So—that’s funny. So, Paul, one last thing before we go. I know one of the things that you’ve done in your career and another thing that you’ve profiled on Twitter that I think is great is you’ve ridden your bike from many airports. That’s like—which actually, you know, many airports kind of seem challenging to get around or to or from, especially on a bike. So I’m curious; have you done that in Atlanta yet?

Supawanich: I have not had the opportunity to do that in Atlanta. I don’t foresee it on my immediate list of things, however that—I mean, I think it’s just one of these kind of fun things that I’ve had an opportunity to kind of work in a lot of different places. And if you happen to be flying there, the first thing you recognize as a transportation planner is, you know, “Once I leave the terminal, what are my options in terms of getting to the city?” And there are some cities out there that for whatever reason my list of options are greater, and I try to take advantage of those to, again, show people, “Hey. You know, you can bike from the airport. Hey. You can even—in Boston you can walk from the airport to go to your neighborhood.” In other cities that’s more complicated. And I know it’s not as binary of a kind of design solution as that. But, again, I think it falls on that thread of, like, “Hey. You know what? I can show you we can do something different here, and it’s not the end of the world.”

Cohen: I think the experiential nature of that, I think, is what appeals to me. And I think that’s why that—when I saw that I was like, “I like that,” because it’s kind of, “Let’s just jump into this and see what happens.” Right? And, you know, again, you’re not—you don’t always have to do that, but, you know, experiencing that in the different places you go, I’m sure you learn a lot.

Supawanich: Actually, one thing if—I don’t know if we have time to go back to it. One thing you were talking about, working with advocates. I was just—I had a thought written down, and it was—I’m just going to share with it.

Cohen: Yeah.

Supawanich: I think something working within the city, particularly the mayors office, something I realized is that, I mean, advocates have a tough job in the sense they are working with a constituency, whoever they’re representing or if they’re just kind of an individual advocate, they obviously have a vision in mind. And, I think, in my time working with advocates in San Francisco, something you realize is that from an outset you kind of just imagine advocates just kind of always pounding at the door saying, “We want this. We want that.” And, I think, as a public official, you know, we need advocates to keep us accountable and to make sure that we’re pushing in the right direction. But, I think, the commonality between being a staff or working in an administration and advocates, it’s like, “Look. We all want to win.” Right? We all want to be able to have an impact on our community, and I think that’s, like, the common thread.

And I would say that I had a really, I feel like—and hopefully they would say the same. I’m not sure they would—but had a great relationship with the advocates because I think we all understood that. We understood there are place we can just be upfront and say, “Hey, look. We disagree about this, but at the end of the day we all want to kind of work on something together where we can all get a win and say we did something together.” And, I think, that’s really important for advocates and city officials to realize. Hey, we’re not—you know, we may have differences in terms of how fast we want something done or maybe the specific design of a project, but at the end of the day our common thread is, like, we want to see something move forward in a positive way, and we need to work together and figure out ways to communicate together to our representative constituencies to get a win and do so together.

Cohen: Well said. Well, Paul, thank you so much for joining us. There’s certainly a lot of great lessons here that I think folks can pull out and also some good reinforcement of some things we’ve heard before as it relates to trust and kind of values from the beginning, I think are certainly consistent with many of the key lessons that we’ve learned along the way. Check out Paul on Twitter, @TweetSupa. Anything else you want to share before we go, Paul?

Supawanich: I think, let’s all hang in there. I think, if anything, 2020 has taught us a lesson in involvement and civic involvement particularly. And I want to encourage people to continue to do so, particularly in transportation. And hopefully we can continue to see good things happen in the future, and let’s all hang in there for at least the rest of 2020.

Jensen: Straighten up and strengthen; right?

Supawanich: That’s right.

Cohen: Thank you so much, Paul. I appreciate it.

Supawanich: All right. Well, thanks, Josh; thanks, L’erin. It’s great to speak with you both.

F: Thanks for listening. If you like what you hear, head to Apple Podcasts and subscribe, rate, and review this podcast. You can find out more at TransLoc.com or follow Josh Cohen on Twitter at @CohenJP. Be sure to join us next week for another episode of The Movement.

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Tags: mobility leadership, podcast, the movement, urban planning, san francisco

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