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Meet Elizabeth Pugh: Profile of a TAC Volunteer

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

This article is part of a series profiling some of TAC’s volunteers. Learn more about TAC’s volunteer structure, the role of volunteers and the benefits of volunteering.

Introducing Elizabeth Pugh - a TAC volunteer who works at the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal. We interviewed Elizabeth about her experience as a TAC Volunteer and working in the transportation sector.

TAC: Tell us about yourself!

EP: I was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and immigrated to New Brunswick when I was four. I grew up in Fredericton, NB, and attended the University of New Brunswick (UNB) for my undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering, as well as for my Masters in Transportation Engineering. I now live in Halifax and work for the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal (NSTIR). I am married to a great guy, Dave, and have two amazing daughters who are both in high school. When I am not driving the girls to activities, I am walking, hiking, biking, swimming, reading, or taking photos.

TAC: What led you to a career in the transportation sector?

EP: When I was doing my undergraduate Civil Engineering degree, I took courses in Urban Planning and Traffic Engineering and I was hooked on that general area of practice. I really enjoyed doing my Masters in Transportation Engineering, learning about all the modes and logistics of transportation, however I was (and still am) most fascinated with moving people around, and making the spaces they move through inviting. I started my career in highway planning, then did environmental impact assessment and other environmental road work for many years. However, I never lost my interest in moving people around, and was fortunate to take a position within the Department that tries to move people around in an environmentally friendly way. Perfect combo!

TAC: What professional achievement are you most proud of? 

EP: I think the thing I am most proud of is the connections and relationships I have developed in my recent job working with active transportation, with other departments, communities, and NGO's as well as within the Department. This has enabled me to help communities and other groups communicate with the Department, help them understand our processes, our limitations, while trying to help them as much as we are able.

TAC: Tell us about your history as a TAC volunteer.

EP: I started volunteering with TAC on the Environment Council when I was in a previous position at NSTIR. When I moved to my current role, I wanted to stay involved and the Sustainable Transportation Standing Committee (now the Mobility Management Committee) seemed the best fit.  Luckily, my new manager supported my continued TAC involvement. I became one of the committee representatives on the then-newly forming Joint Active Transportation Subcommittee (now the Active Transportation Integrated Committee) of which I am now the Vice Chair. I also sit on the Mobility Council (former Urban Transportation Council). I have participated in various volunteer projects over the years.

TAC: How has volunteering with TAC helped you?

EP: The best thing about volunteering with TAC by far is the contacts and connections I have made with transportation professionals across the country. I am in a unique position in Nova Scotia, with very few peers doing AT work in the provincial context, so having people to learn from, bounce ideas off, is invaluable. It is also fun to be involved in, or aware of, projects that are not directly applicable to my work.

TAC: Tell us about a challenge that you would like to help solve.

EP: I am not sure this is a challenge to be "solved" but I am very interested in championing the conversation that Provincial roads passing through rural communities are not just for cars and can serve a larger purpose. In these situations, I want to help make the shift from a car/vehicle-based model, to one that recognizes a wide variety of modes and users, while of course keeping everyone safe and comfortable. The challenge of engineering compromise and finding the dynamic balance between mobility and community placemaking… it is not easy!

TAC: What advice would you give someone just starting out in the transportation sector?

EP: Find something you are interested in and pursue it! There are so many aspects of transportation, there is a place for everyone. From details to big picture thinking. From world logistics, to creating a parklet. Do not be afraid to chase something you are passionate about. And of course getting involved in an association like TAC or ITE (or many others) is a great way to discover aspects of the field you may not be aware of, and connections to help find a spot you’ll fit into.