Sophia Benner

APBP Board of Directors Candidate Statement

Sophia Benner
Project Coordinator 
City of Austin Active Transportation and Street Design Division

Sophia Benner Headshot  

Please briefly describe your current position and how your work relates to the bicycle/pedestrian field:  
For the past three years I have worked as a Project Coordinator for the City of Austin Active Transportation and Street Design Division. I focus on planning, outreach and programmatic work. This includes a wide variety of endeavors, from translating my team’s work into Spanish for public meetings to writing the bike parking chapter in the City of Austin’s Transportation Criteria Manual update to partnering with other departments and outside agencies in conducting research to understand the impacts of heat and air quality exposure in different neighborhoods in Austin. Some of my most recent and most proud work is helping to establish and lead the City of Austin Transportation Department’s first Equity Action Team. The Equity Action Team originally formed in a grassroots, staff-led manner, after a damaging Diversity Training was provided by the Department in 2019. The group evolved to have representation from all teams within the Department, two Executive Staff sponsors and dedicated funding. I was elected by the group to serve as a co-chair and in this role I’ve helped to create the framework for the Equity Action Team, including hiring new consultants to provide Equity and Inclusion workshops and creating subcommittees to provide space and time for other members to lead focused work. I lead the Hiring Subcommittee which recently assisted in the hiring of the Department’s first Equity and Inclusion Program Manager.

Why do you want to be a Board member? What do you hope to gain over the term of your Board membership? 
I want to be a Board member so that I can help elevate issues I think are relevant in our field, including racial equity and examining office culture. I have been inspired by APBP’s work in many ways and believe this is an organization where I want to put my energy and ideas. I currently serve on the APBP Equity and Inclusion Task Force where I have learned to engage in meaningful and difficult conversations related to race and equity, and it is my hope that our work will be recognized by the Board and beyond. As a Board member, I would bring equity to the forefront of our work by examining all of our actions and goals with an equity lens. I hope to learn from my fellow Board members how other cities' transportation agencies are incorporating racial equity into their goals and implementation.

Please describe your goals for APBP and how your leadership on the Board will benefit the association. 
One goal is to dive deeper into understanding racial equity in transportation and create recommended approaches and guidelines that cities can refer to on how to implement racial equity. Another goal involves examining office culture. While the pandemic created drastic changes, leaders in our field have not truly reconciled with the changes many employees desire. The pandemic continues to be a difficult time for even the least-burdened of people, yet it does provide an exciting opportunity to examine many antiquated and discriminatory practices embedded into every day office culture. I believe my leadership on the Board would benefit the association because of my ability to think critically, to be unabashedly progressive, and my strength in collaborative working.

Past volunteer/leadership positions with APBP: 
APBP Equity & Inclusion Task Force | 2019 - present
APBP Mentor | 2021 - present

Past volunteer/leadership positions with other organizations: 
University of Texas Dean’s Ambassador | 2011-2013
University of Texas Community and Regional Planning Student Organization President | 2012- 2013
Vision Zero Citizen Task Force | 2015-2015
City of Austin Bicycle Advisory Council member | 2013-2017
Vice Chair | 2015 Chair | 2016
Board Member of Redline Parkway Initiative | 2017 - 2018
Co-chair of the Austin Transportation Department Equity Action Team | 2020 - present