USC Price School of Public Policy

Students Help Illustrate Future of LA Transportation for Capstone Project

Students Help Illustrate Future of LA Transportation for Capstone Project

MPA Capstone Project From left: Daniel Caroselli, Robert Florkowski, Sally Kikuchi, Preeti Piplani, Emelina Choi, Julia Capizzi, Diane Yoder and Nat Gale
Photo by Deirdre Flanagan

In 2008, two-thirds of Los Angeles County voters approved Measure R, which raised the county sales tax by a half-cent for the next 30 years to pay for transportation improvement and projects such as the Metro Expo Line to USC. Measure R is projected to generate $36 billion for transit investment, help create more than 160,000 new jobs, increase transit ridership by providing alternative transportation options, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by removing vehicles from the road and locating more people closer to transit.

Master of Public Administration students Emelina Choi, Julia Capizzi, Robert Florkowski, Sally Kikuchi and Preeti Piplani collaborated with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s Office of Transportation on their capstone project, developing and designing a concept brochure that would effectively articulate what the city will look like in 30 years based on the transportation enhancements resulting from Measure R’s multi-billion-dollar funding.

The Office of Transportation plays a key role in advancing the mayor’s transit agenda. It is responsible for policy development at the L.A. County Metropolitan Transit Authority, for which Villaraigosa serves as chairman. In addition, the office focuses on citywide public transit and roadway issues, overseeing the L.A. Department of Transportation and the Board of Public Works.

The students’ client contact was Nat Gale, manager of transportation project delivery at the Office of the Mayor. Gale is a recent alumnus of the USC Price School of Public Policy, having earned his MPA and Master of Planning degrees in 2011. That year, Gale and his group won the USC Price Haynes Capstone Award for their project, “Cases in Unpopular Infrastructure,” for The Planning Company in Pasadena.

“The capstone project is a critical component of the MPA degree,” said Diane Yoder, Price adjunct assistant professor who was the instructor for the capstone course, PPD 546: The Professional Practice of Public Administration. “It represents an opportunity for students to apply what they have learned in their courses, internships and other work experiences to a real problem for government or nonprofit clients.”

The students worked with transportation experts – academic, professional and governmental – to understand the changes Measure R will bring and how they will affect various stakeholders.

The students, Yoder noted, were “solely responsible for their work, acting as unpaid, independent problem-solvers.”

“In some cases, their capstone projects lead directly to job offers with their clients,” she added.

On April 24, Choi, Capizzi, Florkowski, Kikuchi and Piplani presented their capstone project at Lewis Hall to Gale and Daniel Caroselli, director of the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Business Policy.

“The Mayor’s Office was thrilled with the result,” Yoder noted. “In fact, they want to work with our MPA students on future capstone projects.”