People Spotlight, Sustainability, Transportation

Our People Spotlight series gives you an inside look at our technical experts around the world. This week, we are highlighting a practice leader from our Transportation business line in the U.S., providing an insight into their inspiration and work.

Thom Cerny, AICP, TDM-CP specializes in behavior change, with an emphasis on travel choices. His 33-year career has focused on raising understanding of transportation congestion in relation to a community’s well-being, building civic leaders’ capability to communicate traffic impacts to the people they serve and delivering a suite of mitigation options tailored to a population’s values, needs and resources. As AECOM’s Travel Demand Management (TDM) Practice Leader, Thom has managed many high-profile travel behavior change programs at the state, regional and local government levels, empowering partners and stakeholders to take ownership of communications and congestion reduction activities. His work regularly integrates travel impacts and human behavior influences into transit, air quality, sustainability and resilience initiatives.

Tell us about what inspired you to join the industry. 

It kind of found me. I participated on a club cycling team at the University of Florida. Our uniforms, equipment and travel were sponsored by the school and bike companies, which made racing more feasible for a broke college student. Racing sparked an interest in improving conditions for cyclists and pedestrians in the community, and I began making bike safety presentations to elementary and middle school students. While still in school, I conducted bicycle traffic counts for the City of Gainesville and after graduation went on to start a bicycle and pedestrian program for the Orlando Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (now known as MetroPlan Orlando). This evolved into a much broader career focused on reducing reliance on single occupant vehicles and developing a more balanced transportation system.

What is your favorite AECOM project that you’ve worked on and why? 

It’s so hard to choose one project over the others. One of the things I love about being a practice lead is that I work alongside many truly inspirational people and get to provide input into so many of our projects. The first project I managed directly, a comprehensive commuter assistance program known as South Florida Commuter Services, really opened my eyes to the impact that an experienced consulting team and private sector mentality can have on a community-focused government program.

Tell us a story of how your work positively impacted the community. 

Every day our TDM programs are removing cars from the roads, reducing congestion, improving air quality and saving travelers money! It’s especially rewarding to see how nicely our projects fit into AECOM’s ESG initiatives and culture, as one of the key pillars of AECOM’s Sustainable Legacies strategy is improving social outcomes. On programs such as CTrides and Georgia Commute Options, where we’re representing large government agencies, we’ve documented reduced travel miles that correspond directly to air quality improvements. We’ve saved commuters money by helping their employers set up telework programs that are now permanent, and we’ve helped businesses with manufacturing plants and distribution centers establish carpool programs for employees coping with high gas prices.

Share a piece of career advice. 

Be honest with yourself. Recognize your weaknesses, then surround yourself with smart, talented people who can balance those out. I also try to avoid saying “so-and-so works for me,” instead replacing it with “I have the privilege of working with so-and-so.” To achieve success, I believe the focus should be on the entire team, not on senior leadership or any one person.

Originally published Jul 20, 2022

Author: Thom Cerny