We had the good fortune of connecting with Carolina Martinez and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Carolina, let’s start by talking about what inspires you?
I am inspired by the infinite potential that the San Diego region has to improve everyone’s quality of life solely by transforming the transit system to one that is efficient, affordable and that serves low-income communities of color first. I cannot wait for the day when I don’t have to depend on having a car to get to work. It currently takes me 15 minutes if I drive to the office and one hour and 30 minutes if I choose to take transit. The pandemic is a portal screaming out aloud that we must change our life styles to one that is healthy for all and this needs to happen in the next 2 years type of soon. A transit system that actually works to connect people to jobs is essential to the region’s economic recovery, improvement of our air quality and climate survival.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am an urban planner, but most people do not understand what that is or know how to engage in city planning decisions. In fact, the planning field is notorious for excluding people of color, and planners do speak a foreign language. When I started planning school, I did not understand that my local representatives, the mayor and council make decisions that affect my every day. They decide if the region invests in more buses to have frequent transit service. How about lighting so it is safe to walk home at night from the bus station? How do we build more affordable housing? Or, should hazardous sites like auto-body shops, which can explode at any time be located next to an elementary school? They make all these decisions. It has taken many mentors, school, and personal experience to understand and develop a voice in the planning world. I strongly believe it is key to support others to feel comfortable when engaging with the local decision-making process – it belongs to us if we choose to. In the fall, the San Diego region will determine its vision for transportation for decades to come. The 2021 Regional Transportation Plan is our opportunity to address the nearing climate disaster. Transportation is the largest source of global warming gases in the region, and we can turn that around by advancing a reliable and affordable transit system. We can and must do this, San Diego. We cannot afford to do otherwise; it is on us to voice our need for a state-of-the-art transit system that transports us to the future.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
When friends visit, I usually take them to Torrey Pines or the Mission Trails. A bike ride on the Bayshore Bikeway to end at National City’s Niederfrank’s homemade ice cream and/or see the murals in Chicano Park. If time allows, crossing the border is a must to enjoy tacos at El Taconazo.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My shout out goes to my momma, my sister, Margarita, Lorena, Esperanza, Monserrat, Laura, Magdalena, Monica, Julie, Allie, Maria, Lili, Letty, Rebecca, Karla, Angelica, Dominique, Diane and Georgette. It also goes to the transit system back at home in Medellin, Colombia. My momma is a frontline worker whose dedication to health for all is my core filter. I am also naming my colleagues in the Environmental Justice Movement who are showing up at critical policy decision-making meetings in effort to innovate solutions that protect our communities against racism, toxic air pollution, and climate disaster. Finally, my Medellin and its abundant transit system. I grew up riding the bus in the midst of its political and financial instability. Today, Medellin is a model of mobility that continuously reinvents itself to connect everyone to the city.

Website: www.environmentalhealth.org

Instagram: www.instagram.com/ehcsandiego

Twitter: www.twitter.com/EHCSanDiego

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ehcsandiego

Image Credits
Magdalena Ramirez Cerda Carolina Martinez Veronica Gonzalez

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