Canada, People Spotlight, Transportation

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

Steve is a senior rail consultant with more than 30 years of experience. Before joining AECOM, he worked for Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) and Bombardier Transportation. Throughout his career, Steve has focused on all aspects of operations. His work has progressed through the years from a Director role in CP’s Network Management Centre to being the General Manager overseeing operations in Manitoba and in Northern Ontario. Steve’s experience as a contractor expanded through his work with several government agencies. Specifically, in his role as the Director of Operations and Maintenance Canada, he worked closely with Metrolinx to make sure GO Transit and UP Express fleets were operated and maintained to achieve peak performance.

What inspired you to join the industry? Growing up, I was surrounded by railroaders. My father, sister and brother-in-law all worked at CP. Their dedication to railway operations was something that resonated with me. Through the changing seasons and operational difficulties, they never relented in their determination to “keep the trains rolling,” as my father would say. The fact that this industry was so integrated with our economy was something that I also found fascinating. The volume and variety of goods that move by rail in Canada is impressive and when the trains don’t move, our store shelves aren’t full, and many people are affected.

As a second-generation railroader, I guess I was born into the industry. When I started working summers on CP’s track maintenance crews, I knew I had found a great place to work because of the camaraderie. There was a real sense of teamwork and collaboration when working on the railway. Everyone understood that safe, on-time train performance was our main objective.

With experience at a Class 1 railway, followed by roles as both a contractor and now a consultant in the rail industry, I know my career choice has been the right one for me. There are so many interesting aspects to the railway industry and I’m not sure that any one person can experience them all in one career.

What is your favorite AECOM project that you’ve worked on and why? I have had the privilege of working on several projects since joining AECOM. However, launching our Railway Operations and Simulations Centre of Excellence (COE) is a special project for me. The COE provides both internal and external clients with a complete package of rail modeling services including train performance and network capacity analysis, terminal operations, and operating and capital cost estimates. We use multiple simulations and modeling tools to provide in-depth analysis of a railway’s operation including RTC, RailSim, OpenTrack, and AnyLogic.

While based in Canada, the COE team serves and collaborates with AECOM technical teams and clients around the globe. As we rolled out the COE across AECOM, I was able to connect with several regional teams throughout the Americas. This helped me create an awareness of the COE and the services provided, while also establishing a broad network of people—many of whom have since become COE clients.

In my experience working with one particular railway, our team provided direction on capital investments to enhance their operational performance. As a result of our simulation work, this railway was able to more confidently support its capital investment program knowing that it would achieve its operational goals.

I feel fortunate to collaborate with this highly technical team and operate world-class railway simulation software. Our team members strike an effective balance between simulation outputs and practical railway experience. It is truly a privilege to lead such a talented and passionate team.

Tell us a story of how your work positively impacted the community. Since joining AECOM I have had the pleasure of working on several light rail transit projects in Ontario.

The Hurontario Light Rail Transit (LRT) project is one that I believe will have a significant impact on the communities it will serve. Located in Peel Region, Ontario, this LRT line will help to address the regions growing population and its increasing demands for improved mobility. The region has a 50% projected population growth by 2041 and new transit will be key to managing this growth. Being involved in the operations planning for this project gave me a real sense of just how important the LRT will be to local residents and how it will positively affect their future quality of life.

What career advice would you like to share? Never assume that you have all the answers. Asking questions helps people understand and grow and allows you to gain greater insights into everything you do.

Originally published Aug 25, 2021

Author: Steve Cavanaugh