That Fellow Walking Just Named “Walking Fellow”

5 Questions for MTD’s Evan Alvarez

Urbana, IL—Evan Alvarez, Planner at Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (MTD), has been chosen as one of 24 advocates from 19 states who will receive fellowships to participate in this year’s Walking College training program. Walking College Fellowships are awarded to community change agents to advocate for walkable community policies and funding at their local levels.

“We are delighted to welcome this group of passionate community leaders,” said Ian Thomas, State and Local Program Director with America Walks, “…[and] we expect to include a major focus on issues of access and inclusion in the group’s discussions and community activities.”

Evan Alvarez near the bike racks at CUMTD

The candidates were chosen based on criterion such as:

  • A passion for making their communities more walkable and livable, and a vision for what that would look like;
  • A desire to develop a network of peer mentors and learn to advocate more effectively for walkable community policies and funding; and
  • A willingness to invest personal time and energy in training.

The Walking College curriculum is an interactive, online program. Fellows spend 5 to 10 hours per week for 10 weeks covering the science behind the benefits of walking, evaluation of built environments, and learning communication and relationship-building skills.

In September, Fellows will participate in the National Walking Summit in St. Paul, Minnesota, and develop their own Walking Action Plan for improving walkability in their communities.

Q: What do you think you will include in your walking plan for CU?
A: Well, first off, walking doesn’t always mean walking. My sister is in a wheelchair, so I’m acutely aware of issues of inclusivity and accessibility and want to make a difference in how all sorts of community members access the resources and opportunities our area has to offer.
Q: You’ve done some work like this before. Can you tell us about it?
A: Yes, my Capstone Project examined pedestrian activity in Mobile County, Alabama and how it had been impacted by a sidewalk waiver program. I looked at how that policy could be revamped to extend the sidewalk network to make walking safer and sidewalks more usable.
Q: When did you know you would become a Planner?
A: Unincorporated Mobile County, Alabama, where I grew up, was very car oriented, so I guess I’ve always liked the idea of active transportation.
Q: Where’s your favorite place to take a walk?
A: Downtown Champaign. The urban form is really interesting and the short blocks make it human sized. Or anywhere Pokémon GO takes me.
Q: You’re a podcast aficionado. What’s your current favorite?
A: You Must Remember This. It’s a collection of old Hollywood stories.

Evan has worked at MTD since May 2016 and has been a resident of Champaign-Urbana since August 2014. He has a Bachelor of Science from University of Alabama and a Masters in Urban Planning from the University of Illinois. MTD offers mobility options to the residents of Champaign, Urbana & Savoy that include buses, rides for seniors, ADA Paratransit, ZipCar availability, SafeRides home for Illinois students at night, and resources to encourage walkability, biking, and safety.