New Faces and Big Ideas: Tejus Shankar
TransForm has a long and successful history of pulling people with big hearts, big ideas, and tons of expertise into our orbit. Both our staff and board are full of folks for whom transit and housing are not just professional and political, but personal. Our newest board member, Tejus Shankar, is no exception and we are thrilled to have an opportunity to work with someone so enthusiastic and insightful about what’s possible for TransForm.
What brought you to TransForm?
I’m impressed with TransForm’s commitment to transportation, housing, and equity—three pillars of urban development that I deeply care about. Few organizations intertwine these highly interdependent topic areas, and instead focus on one pillar rather than the cross section that can enable progress. My work experience is in transportation, my academic background is in housing, and both experiences need to be grounded in equity. I see the board service opportunity at TransForm as a way to further the connection between mobility and housing.
TransForm aims to address key questions such as how can we create more walkable, livable communities? How might we create more affordable housing near job centers? How might we create the policy change needed to enable a more equitable future? In grad school, my focus was in real estate and I took all my electives in urban planning. My rationale was that if we are to transform the future of mobility, we need to focus on land use and the built environment. As I learned more about TransForm’s GreenTRIP Certification and the Parking Database, I was really impressed with how TransForm links the built environment with transportation. I’m also a transit nerd, and highly committed to ensuring the success of public transit in the US. TransForm’s Survive and Thrive campaign is a huge step forward to make sure the Bay Area continues to support and advocate for resilient transit systems. The more I learn about TransForm, the more I find that many of my own passions are embedded in the mission of the organization.
What’s your Transit-and-Land-Use Nerd Origin Story?
Growing up in Tokyo as a kid, I became obsessed with public transportation. Moving back to the Chicago suburbs after living in Tokyo, I wondered why I couldn’t walk down the street, go to a corner store, or interact more with those living around me. This motivated me to focus my academic and professional experiences on mobility and the built environment. Personally, I have never been a car owner, even though I know how to drive. It’s liberating to be able to bike, take transit, and walk most places. I’m grateful to be able to live a life where I have the privilege, ability, and choice to be car-free. Now living in California and working on new mobility solutions, I want to ensure that these solutions are equitably built with the goals of improving density and walkability. I see the work that TransForm does as empowering our community to be the best versions they can be.
Can you tell us about your work in transportation?
I’m a policy development manager on Lyft’s Transit, Bike, and Scooter Policy team where we focus on research to support bikeshare growth. My role also identifies public funding solutions that enable cities to invest more in developing public-private partnerships for shared micromobility. I love that my work plays a vital role in creating more bike- and pedestrian-friendly cities.
What do you do for fun?
I might be a broken record, but I love to bike (and hike)! I love getting out in nature, connecting with nature, and feeling how vast and beautiful this place can be. One of my spiritual teachers once taught that we should keep growing our circle starting from individual to family to community to society to humanity, and whenever I’m in nature it reminds me to think bigger and give more since we get so much from Mother Nature.
I know you like to bike on SF’s Slow Streets. Which Slow Street is your favorite and how have you seen it change the neighborhood?
I am definitely biased here as a resident, but I would hands down say Page Street. It’s been incredible to be a part of the Page Street Community—there are so many people biking on the street with many unique bike form factors: tri-bikes, cargo bikes, bike bus to school for the kids, the list goes on! In addition, Page Street has block parties, sing-a-longs, and even a workout class called Page Street Fit where I’ve had a chance to meet so many neighbors. It’s really incredible to see how opening up a street to pedestrians and cyclists brings us so much closer together.
We’re so excited to welcome you to the board, Tejus! Even in our initial conversations, I’ve already learned so much from you and been inspired by your ideas.
I’m also super excited to be part of TransForm with you, Jenn, as the executive director with your incredible background, vision, and optimism. Also it’s such an honor to be part of this awesome board with amazing people who have such diverse backgrounds and experiences in urbanism.