Adrian Ayala MCRP ’21 awarded top honors for TPD Student Paper Competition

March 9, 2021

Adrian Ayala, a second-year Master of City and Regional Planning student at the Bloustein School, was awarded first place for the 2021 Transportation Planning Division (TPD) Student Paper Competition, Exploring Alternatives to Police-Based Traffic Enforcement and Overcoming their Potential Barriers to Implementation.

The award will be presented virtually at the TPD Annual Business Meeting during the 2021 National Planning Conference.

The paper demonstrates the pressing need for alternative means of traffic enforcement and explores potential barriers those alternatives may face, along with possible solutions.

Traffic collisions are a serious threat on U.S. roadways, causing the death of over 35,000 Americans each year. Although there is a clear consensus that this public health crisis must be made a top priority throughout all levels of government, current traffic enforcement methods are not directly tied to increased traffic safety. Instead, traffic stops are often initiated by racial bias and devolve into the site of escalation, criminalization, and violence.

The use of police to initiate traffic stops fails on two fronts – the lack of a positive effect on safety as compared to alternative means of traffic enforcement, and the explicit and implicit racism that results in severe, harmful outcomes for Black people. Poor, Black communities disproportionately carry the burden of traffic-related injuries and fatalities due to being neglected in terms of transportation design and enforcement techniques that would lead to safer transportation networks and greater health outcomes. In addition to facing unsafe conditions across all modes, Black drivers are stopped much more frequently than white drivers. Thus, alternatives to police-based traffic enforcement could potentially serve to distribute traffic enforcement more fairly, while at the same time encouraging safer driving behavior and avoiding possible escalation and subsequent violence. Although alternatives to police-based traffic enforcement may serve to significantly reduce opportunities for racial bias in enforcement, the correct methods for implementation of these alternatives are heavily debated.

Adrian is concentrating on transportation planning and is currently working as a graduate research assistant for the Voorhees Transportation Center. He is also completing independent research projects with assistant professor Kelcie Ralph and VTC senior research specialist Charles Brown.

He currently works in the private sector as a transportation engineer for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) on projects related to bus infrastructure improvements as well as design processes for improved pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure.

“Having been born and raised here in the greater Boston area, I have a unique connection to the metropolitan area and a passionate interest in developing more efficient and equitable multimodal networks to serve the diverse groups who rely on alternate modes of transportation. I hope to continue to serve my local community once I graduate,” said Adrian.

Previously, Adrian interned with the Bus Planning Department at the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority (WMATA), He completed an undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering with a concentration in transportation at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

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