RTD senior transportation planner Carly Macias named to Mass Transit’s ‘40 Under 40’ list

Today, Mass Transit magazine has declared what RTD knows to be true: that Carly Macias is exceptional at her work. The publication has named the 31-year-old senior transportation planner to its “40 Under 40” list, an annual honor bestowed upon individuals who have shown capacity for innovation, leadership and a commitment to making an impact in the industry.

Macias considers this to be an important career milestone as a transit professional. 

“Many of the transit leaders that I admire have been selected for this honor, and I am incredibly grateful to be chosen for the list this year,” she said. “This honor inspires me to continue my work in public transportation even as our industry enters an extremely challenging period. I know that the work that we do is essential for the future of our communities and the environment.”

At RTD, Macias is leading two significant projects: the agency’s annual FasTracks Quality of Life study, a data-driven evaluation of system performance and regional trends that affect transit service and ridership; and zero-emission bus planning, which has led her to build strong relationships with the entities involved in transportation electrification, manage state and federal grant applications for zero-emission vehicle funding, and chair the Colorado Electric Vehicle Coalition Transit subgroup. 

The expert testimony Macias provided in Colorado Public Utilities Commission hearings last year was instrumental in a settlement agreement with Public Service Company of Colorado, a subsidiary of Xcel Energy, that provided a new rate structure for RTD and other customers with electric vehicles. For the agency, this decision meant that powering the battery-electric bus fleet on the 16th Street Mall now costs at least 30% less than it did before.

Fred Worthen, assistant general manager of bus operations, is working closely with Macias to prepare for and purchase the next fleet of battery electric buses. He notes that she is a huge advocate for reducing RTD’s carbon footprint and helped to bring the Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE) onboard to assist with modeling that will help the agency more effectively manage this purchase and better understanding the effects of the technology on daily operations. “Carly is leading efforts to help prepare us for the future,” he said.
“Carly is also inquisitive and self-motivated to learn outside the traditional planning realm,” Worthen added. “Her knowledge and understanding of our operations will help bridge the gap between operational needs and the limitations of the current technology.”

Macias began her career in transit nine years ago – but her passion for it began much earlier. 

Macias grew up in a low-income, single-parent household, and she relied on transit to get to school from middle school all the way through college. She did not get her driver’s license until she was 24 years old. While she now has a vehicle of her own, Macias rides transit whenever possible and believes all of these experiences influence her perspective, understanding and passion to improve transit for everyone, regardless of their income or transportation options. 

Macias spent the first five years of her career working as a transportation engineer/planner at IBI Group and then the city of San Diego. In 2016, Macias moved to Colorado to earn a master’s degree in urban and regional planning at the University of Colorado Denver – and because she was intrigued by RTD’s buildout of various FasTracks projects. She joined the agency as a planning intern while she was in graduate school and was promoted to senior transportation planner within a year.

Colleague Brian Welch, senior manager of planning technical services, called Macias “an outstanding, exceptional colleague,” able to execute complex work with a minimal amount of oversight and direction. On the FasTracks Quality of Life initiative, he said, she has translated an array of transportation and socioeconomic data into digestible, informative results. 

“She has an exceptional ability to use communication tools to effectively illustrate outcomes that are meaningful to stakeholders, riders and elected officials,” Welch said.

Macias has spoken about her work at many local and national conferences. She credits much of her professional development to organizations of which she is a part – including Women Transportation Seminar (WTS) and American Public Transportation Association (APTA) – and the opportunities to network with peers across the country and share lessons learned.

While her work is frequently challenging, Macias said, “meaningful projects and a strong support system keep me motivated every day and determined to do my part to improve transit for my community.”