Sec. Pete Buttigieg and NYU Wagner student talk policy, climate change, and social justice

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg speaks with NYU Wagner and The Century Foundation during a virtual event on October 18, 2022.

NYU Wagner and The Century Foundation hosted U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg in a virtual event on October 18, 2022 to discuss transportation and climate policy. The Century Foundation is a progressive think tank that conducts research and drives foreign and domestic policy change to improve lives at home and around the world.

The conversation with Secretary Buttigieg centered on the Biden-Harris Administration’s historic investments in transportation and how they will not only help to combat climate change, but will also benefit historically marginalized communities across the country. The Administration is undertaking tremendous investments in transit, including substantial investments in public transit and promoting emissions reduction by investing in clean energy across many forms of transportation. Secretary Buttigieg spoke to the future of electrification and clean energy usage, as well as the importance of the benefits of these investments going to disadvantaged and marginalized communities. For the Department of Transportation, this means assessing and rectifying disadvantages in transportation access, related health issues, and more.

In many ways, our ideas of the future of transit are both imminently upon us and seem a long way off. Secretary Buttigieg noted that George Jetson of The Jetsons, a show that impacted how many Americans saw the future of transit technology, was canonically born this year, in 2022. While the world of the Jetsons is a long way off, the Transportation Secretary acknowledged the ways in which investments today are making way for a greener and more equitable future.

Following Secretary Buttigieg, Sonam Velani, Founder and CEO of Streetlife Ventures, and Peggy Shepard, Co-Founder and Executive Director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, spoke about the progress being made at the intersection of transportation, climate, and equity work.

The event was moderated by Sarah Kaufman, an Adjunct Associate Professor of Urban Planning and the Interim Executive Director of the NYU Rudin Center for Transportation, which conducts research on today’s transportation and infrastructure challenges.

Questions for Secretary Buttigieg were screened by Sarah Internicola (MUP 2023), a co-chair of NYU Wagner’s Urban Planning Student Association. Secretary Buttigieg was interviewed by Aisha Balogun (MUP 2023), a Georgina and Charlotte Bloomberg Public Service Fellow and vice chair of Wagner's Black Student Association.

The Georgina and Charlotte Bloomberg Public Service Fellows Program is a rigorous leadership program for NYU Wagner MPA or MUP candidates that provides high-potential students with the skills and networks to be impactful public service leaders. Aisha is an advocate for equitable approaches to creating, maintaining, and accessing built environments. She worked on the development of a neighborhood vision plan in Richmond, VA that centers historical reconciliation and economic opportunity. Aisha was an AmeriCorps VISTA member supporting community efforts to increase housing access for citizens returning from incarceration.

Through its fellowships, programs, research centers, and more, NYU Wagner is proud to be at the cutting edge of conversations on transportation, infrastructure, and climate equity.