Eno Welcomes 2024 Thomas J. O’Bryant Fellow

The Eno Center for Transportation is proud to welcome our 2024 Thomas J. O’Bryant Fellow, Steven Parks. A fifth-year transportation engineering Ph.D. Candidate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Steven is conducting his doctoral research at MIT’s Center for Transportation and Logistics focusing on the design of efficient delivery routes for last-mile logistics vehicles in U.S. cities. We sat down with him for some full-mile coverage on his career and interest in Eno.

How did you become interested in transportation?

Cities fascinate me. They are complex systems – simultaneously organized and chaotic. As a kid I loved sightseeing with my family in downtown Seattle. I would watch people passing us on sidewalks, boarding buses, and taking the Seattle Center Monorail. I wanted to better understand where people were traveling, how, and why. I think bettering our transportation systems is an opportunity to enable better quality of life, connecting people to loved ones, work opportunities, and education.

What experience or development influenced your view of transportation the most?

During an immersion trip my sophomore year of college, I visited a remote mountain town in Nicaragua. With my classmates, I spoke with a local community member who told us that the nearest hospital to their village is a 3-hour journey along an unlit road. She recently lost a family member experiencing cardiac arrest because they couldn’t reach medical care quickly enough. Speaking with her helped change my perception of transportation from that of an unexamined routine in my daily life to that of an essential service that connects people to opportunities, each other, and sometimes, life-saving care.

What is something you’re passionate about within the transportation industry?

Creating and advocating for well-funded, accessible, and reliable transportation systems that work for everyone is my ultimate career goal. I think that access to effective transportation options is a civic right. However, historically marginalized communities have often received less transportation investment. I want to help correct this imbalance in my future career, particularly by connecting low-income communities of color to high-quality public transit services. 

What made you apply for the fellowship?

During a recent visit to Washington, D.C., I met with a staffer in the U.S. House of Representatives’ Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. As a policy analyst whose day-to-day responsibilities include being a transportation subject matter expert, she told me that she frequently turns to the Eno Center’s scholarship to stay informed on current transportation issues in the U.S. I wanted to join this organization that helps shape the conversation around transportation at all levels of government. I think that Eno occupies a special nexus point in the transportation sector – research, policy, and outreach. I’m eager to learn from the Eno team how all these activities combine to create better transportation systems.

What are you looking forward to about the fellowship and your future career?

So far my transportation career has been mostly in the lab, using quantitative methods to create algorithms and optimization models for transportation system design. I’m excited to learn how I can translate that research into policies that are beneficial to real communities. I think transportation research is most valuable when it can be used in practice. I’m excited particularly to meet with transportation experts who develop and implement academic research so I can determine how I might chart a future career at the intersection of scholarship and policy.


We hope you enjoyed meeting Steven as much as we did! Make sure to check back here this summer at Eno Transportation Weekly to read more of his work.

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