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Tuesday November 8, 2022 — California General Election
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Special District

Alameda-Contra Costa Transit DistrictCandidate for Director, Ward 3

Photo of Sarah Syed

Sarah Syed

Public Transportation Manager
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • Restore service and improve on-time arrivals
  • Prioritize safety through collaboration on our buses and at our stops
  • Be a voice for the underserved communities that need AC Transit the most



Profession:Public Transportation Manager
Transportation Manager, Othering and Belonging Institute, UC Berkeley (2021–current)
Senior Manager, Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (2017–2021)
Senior Planner, City of Palo Alto (2015–2017)
Senior Planner and Design Manager, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (2011–2015)
Planner, Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) (2006–2011)
Transportation Commissioner, City of Berkeley — Appointed position (2003–2011)


University of California, Berkeley Master of City and Regional Planning (2008)
University of California, Berkeley Master of Science, Civil Engineering (2008)
University of California, Berkeley Bachelor of Arts, Geography (2003)

Community Activities

Board Member, Programs and Sponsorship Chair, American Planning Association Los Angeles (2018–2021)
Reauthorization Task Force, Safety Council, Institute for Transportation Engineers, (2016–2021)
Board Member, Young Professionals in Transportation (2015–2017)


A life of centering people in transportation systems

I am a mixed race woman born in rural Texas to a Polish-Indian family. Our challenges there made me the person I am today: someone who wants to make an impact in the face of systemic racism and discrimination.

When I first got to the Bay Area 24 years ago, I had an experience with public transit that changed the trajectory of my career. I waited for a bus that never came, so I could not get home to the East Bay from Marin County. I began to advocate for better bus service. I met others who were working on similar issues. I began to see how access to reliable transit is a question of equity.

When we can get to and from our jobs reliably, we can do more with our lives. And we can have better jobs. I earned two Master’s degrees in city planning and transportation engineering at UC-Berkeley. I've spent my career building light rail and better bicycle access in the Bay Area at BART and in Silicon Valley. I led bus rapid transit planning in Los Angeles and championed safe routes to schools in Oakland and Berkeley. At the Othering and Belonging Institute at UC-Berkeley I help communities have their voices heard in planning and evaluate transportation equity grant programs. 

Running, rock climbing, and hanging with my pup Dolly help me find relief from the daily frustrations of being a change maker within entrenched bureaucracies. I do this work so that others can get to and from their jobs, schools and lives more safely and reliably. Help me do this work at a board director level in AC Transit, where I can bring about more change.

Who supports this candidate?

Political Beliefs

Political Philosophy

Essential workers are there for us, let’s fight for transit to be there for them


Meet Veronica. Veronica is a working mother. She is up at 6am to make breakfast and get the kids to daycare just in time to catch the bus to work. She depends on AC Transit to get to work and to get her kids from childcare before they charge a late penalty. As an essential worker, Veronica could not stop riding the bus during the pandemic, but it is less reliable. The bus comes less often and so she must be much more deliberate planning her day, ensuring that she can put food on the table and give her kids opportunities for a better future.


Meet Alex. Alex is a housing analyst struggling to save for their long-term goals. Alex’ family was displaced first, by a new highway and then second, by a rail project. Alex wishes their family had been allowed to build wealth through the home they owned in the central city but, instead, their home was taken by the government. Alex often doesn’t feel safe bicycling in Oakland but travels by bicycle to save money and because the bus isn’t reliable.


Veronica and Alex’s challenges getting around and being excluded from opportunity are felt by tens of thousands of people living with low incomes in communities of color across the Bay Area. Conversations with dozens of people like Veronica and Alex have taught me that public agencies must learn from their past and make reparations to support thriving futures for people whom government has harmed. But my graduate training in transportation planning and engineering at UC Berkeley taught me to ignore existing inequities when analyzing transportation options. Our regional transportation agency MTC operates the same way and has a long history of channeling funding to projects and service that benefits whiter, wealthier travelers at the expense of bus riders of color. As a result, AC Transit does not have enough money to provide the frequency that customers are looking for. Here are three things we can change for more equitable transportation:  


1.     Plan with marginalized people, not for them. Value transit riders, people living with low incomes, and people living in disinvested communities as experts on their own lives. By meeting people where they are, incentivizing their meaningful participation, and being willing to cede some decision-making power we can foster more equitable processes and outcomes.


2.     Fund projects and service based on how well it resolves disparities in access to jobs, education, and quality of life destinations. In the Bay Area today, the average resident can reach more than 9 times as many jobs in 45 minutes using a car than on transit. Black and Brown residents experience even greater disparities in access. Over 10 years ago a court agreed that Bay Area transportation investments have a harmful impact that falls disproportionately on bus riders of color. The court left matters to regional officials to correct but no meaningful change has occurred. More and better bus service is a racial justice issue. 


3.     Transform government so that our workforce reflects the community. As a woman and as the child of a first-generation immigrant I see areas where there are gaps. Management and executive positions remain overwhelmingly white and male in the transportation sector. We can improve language access by equipping staff to support community members in speaking the language they are most comfortable with. Investing in transit workers to support their well-being and career progression can improve morale and help address chronic staffing shortages. 


Finding solutions to these problems has been my top priority during my career for over 20 years. I’ve built new train and bicycle facilities and safer routes to schools. I’ve partnered with communities to implement more frequent bus service, better bus shelters, and improved lighting. I’ve spoken up about sexual harassment and the violation of civil rights laws at transit agencies. I’m committed to putting in the work to build broad, multiracial coalitions willing to stand up for bus transit so we can change these conditions. Join me and Team #SarahForTransit to create forward-thinking, compassionate policy to deliver a world class transit system that makes our cities better places to live at

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