Sarah Syed is the transportation project manager at the Othering and Belonging Institute. As part of the Community Power and Policy Partnerships team, Sarah works to transform existing systems that perpetuate racial and economic injustice by partnering with government agencies, community and policy organizations to advance transportation planning that protects the climate and addresses transportation injustice.
Prior to joining OBI, Sarah led planning and design for over ½ billion of transportation infrastructure in northern and southern California where she developed an understanding of how systems of oppression function in institutions. She began to examine who it is that holds power in designing transportation systems and how might their identities and narratives be shaping them in ways that are causing harm. Sarah works to center communities and community knowledge in the planning process to support equity seeking communities playing a central role in shaping their opportunities and outcomes.
Sarah’s specialties include transit project management including complex planning studies and multi-year planning, design and engineering contracts, inclusive community engagement, beyond Title VI compliance, active transportation, and parking policy. Sarah led research and planning for the Bay Area Rapid Transit District to reduce cross subsidies of people who park at BART by people who walk, bicycle, and take transit to BART. She also led planning for shared use electronic bicycle lockers and the second largest staffed bicycle station in North America at Downtown Berkeley BART. At Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, Sarah led the Light Rail Efficiency Program to design and set on track delivery of capital infrastructure and operating changes in light rail service. Sarah also worked for a civic tech start up developing community engagement kiosks to meet people where they are. In this role she delivered award-winning immersive environment visualizations for the City of Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and Redwood City that people move through virtually to explore the space to understand topics including proposed transportation projects, sea level rise and local history.
Sarah is a founding member of Planners for Equity, Accountability and Justice who recently launched the website isplanningracist.com to normalize having conversations about experienced racism in the profession as it occurs within our workplaces, educational institutions, professional organizations and across our communities. Her current research focuses on how individual decisions made within institutional frameworks, supported by powerful interests, continue to deny Black, Indigenous, and people of color equal access to opportunity. Sarah holds master’s degrees in city planning and civil engineering and a bachelor’s degree in geography from UC-Berkeley.