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Profile: Jackie Douglas

Name: Jackie Douglas
Job title and company: Executive director, LivableStreets Alliance
Degree(s): BA, Independent Concentration: Child Development and Cultural Studies (self-designed major to study the forces that shape people from genetics to culture and the built environment), Boston University
Professional interests: Rethinking systems from transportation networks to organization operations and commodity chains; community and public spaces; leadership development

What are you working on now?

Right now at LivableStreets, we are working to challenge people, government and businesses to think differently about the role of transportation in our daily lives. We’re working to create a system that better balances transit, walking and biking with automobiles to make the Boston region more connected and livable. Two specific campaigns include:

  • The Better Bridges Campaign—to ensure that along with structural repairs, improvements for pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users and overall safety are made [a] part of each bridge project [within] the state’s $3 billion Accelerated Bridge Program.  
  • The Neighborhoods Not Highways Campaign—to advocate for the immediate removal of the McCarthy, Bowker and Casey overpasses and Rutherford Avenue underpasses as the first step in reconnecting the neighborhoods along the corridors and building safe, livable neighborhood streets for all.

A vision for River Street Bridge                            A vision for Longfellow Bridge

How do you explain to your mom what you do for a living?

Fortunately, it’s really easy to explain what I do to my mom. When I was a child, my family lived in the Netherlands, where we were able to bike everywhere together and enjoy the community and health benefits of a world-class transportation network of separated bike lanes (also known as cycle tracks), trains and shared streets. Today, I am working to bring best practices from the Netherlands and around the world to Boston.

What inspired you today?

LivableStreets members, volunteers and supporters inspire me every day to do what I do. Their personal stories, passion, dedication and generous donations continually energize me to advocate day and night for more livable streets.

When you’re working, do you discuss or exchange ideas with your colleagues?

All the time. My immediate colleagues in Boston, as well as people working on similar efforts across the country and world, are always discussing and sharing ideas, best practices and materials. It’s great!

What are you reading?

News articles all the time

Do you sketch by hand or digitally?

By hand

Has your career taken you anywhere you didn’t expect?

Yes, definitely. Who knew that I would be executive director of LivableStreets after calling [the organization] five years ago because I was interested in what [it was] doing?! But as my adviser said in college, study what you love because your future job probably doesn’t exist yet. I have carried that philosophy through my work, continuing to make new connections and see what happens, and here I am.

Where is the field of architecture headed?

My hope is that it continues its current trajectory of expanding its reach beyond the look of the outside of a building to incorporating public-space design and thinking critically about how people will move through and around the space. It can’t just be about the building or aesthetic look of the landscape; it’s about people.

Can design save the world?

No, but it can help a lot!

What do you hope to contribute from your work?

[To] inspire a vision for what our streets (the majority of our public space) can be, build partnerships, empower individuals and create change

Who or what deserves credit for your success?

My parents

Your least favorite college class?

Economics—because the professor was not engaging, unfortunately

If you could give the you-of-10-years-ago advice, what would it be?

Work hard so you have choices.

Your favorite Boston-area structure?

Not one structure… I love the diverse skyline.

If you could sum up your outlook on life in a bumper sticker, what would it say?

Just do it.