Latinos in Transit targets more people of color in leadership positions at transit agencies

Majority of US transit agency managers and executives are white, says Latinos in Transit President Alva Carrasco. Organizations like his and the Conference of Minority Transport Officials are working to change that, however, and diversify the ranks of transit management to better reflect its frontline workforce, which is comprised primarily of people of color.

Alva Carrasco, President of Latinos in Transit

Permission granted by Latinos in transit

Carrasco has worked with Latinos in Transit since its inception in 2016. She began her career in public transportation 30 years ago, as a junior administrative assistant, when she was one of the very few Latinos to hold administrative positions, she said. “No one looked like me”

Today, in addition to leading LIT, Carrasco is Vice President, National Rail and Transit Business Line, Market Leader for the West Region, at transportation design and engineering consulting firm WSP USA. Smart Cities Dive spoke to Carrasco shortly before LIT Leaders SummitSeptember 23 and 24 in Dallas.

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

DIVE INTO SMART CITIES: Tell me about Latinos in transit.

ALVA CARRASCO: Latinos in Transit started very organically about 15 years ago. A very small group of Hispanic professionals saw each other at major conferences each year. We would just say how great it would be if we had some sort of group that could meet regularly to network and support and advise each other throughout our careers due to the lack of [other] Latinos in the industry. We finally formed as an official non-profit organization in 2016 with the help of some [industry] veterans and titans of the transportation industry.

What is the mission of the organization?

We knew we had to do a better job of bringing more Latinos, and more people of color in general, into the transportation industry. The other element was also bringing in disadvantaged businesses, minority-owned businesses [and] women-owned businesses to help connect them with our transit members and organizations.

And how do you do it?

We are working on launching a mentorship program for our members. We want to match a junior person with someone who has some of the same interests they are looking to experience or think they need. We have so many retirees. We have old [Federal Transit Administration] officials. We have former CEOs and Managing Directors. We really want a senior to sponsor this person and really be more involved than just a monthly call.

We will be announcing our scholarship recipients for this year in Seattle during the [American Public Transportation Association] conference. The scholarships are for a Latino who works in industry or is going to school or someone who is pursuing a career in transportation.

This week, Latinos in Transit will hold its second Leadership Summit. What will it be?

We have a dual purpose at this summit because of everything that has happened over the past two years. We focus on our member organizations and how to attract Latinos, [how to] recruit and retain them. The other goal is diversity, equity and inclusion in their organizations.

What are your goals for the organization?

We’ve always known that our front lines are mostly made up of people of color. It’s just a fact no matter which agency you look at. Then, as you move up the chain of command, you see less and less. We need to work harder to prepare our local members to be ready for these positions when they come to their area.

Our member organizations really rely on us to help them attract Latinos. We are a resource for both our individual members and the organizations and small businesses that join our organization.

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