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  • by Heloise Wilson



We might not think about the impact of urban planning in our everyday lives. We take public transportation, use maps and GPS, fall in and out of love of neighborhoods, and cherish our homes. We take all these things for granted; they are like white noise. We never wonder how they work or how they came to be. This is ironic because urban planning is at the core of what we do as a community; it is what brings us together, what allows us to create memories in places we love. Behind this process that participates in every single aspect of our lives, we find experts such as Harsheeta Gupta, a Certified Planner by American Planning Association. She is an authority in urban planning and currently works as a Transportation Planner. Her focus is on proposing creative transportation solutions for a sustainable world. Her career trajectory is truly inspiring.

Harsheeta grew up in multiple cities across India. Mostly in urban, residential areas, but she had access to hills and lakes. She also lived in a 600-year-old walled city, where renowned architects like Louis Kahn and Charles Correa added to the cityscape by designing impressive buildings such as the Indian Institute of Management (IIM-A) and Sabarmati Ashram. “Having lived in many cities over the years, I have always tried to experience fully what each city has to offer.” she shares with us.

Fig 1. LaGuardia Airport Redevelopment Transportation Management Plan

Credit: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

A trip to Europe as a young adult is what clicked for her. She recalls being fascinated by the “magnificent public squares and plazas, broad walkways, and the grand, wide boulevards sprinting across the cities. The marvel of the European cities’ design and planning intrigued me into learning more about it.” She had made her decision. This led her to attend the most prestigious institute for urban planning in India. She then went on to be one of the very few selected for the Faculty of Planning at the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology University. Since, Harsheeta has lent her versatile skills to multiple projects in India and the United States.

In India, she has worked for the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority. She developed a project focused on bus lanes in parallel to the new metro the city was building. This was right up Harsheeta’s alley. As cities are often built for cars, the gifted urban planner wants to use her skills to find alternative sustainable solutions.

Fig 2. Citi Bike Expansion Phase 3, New York City, NY. Credit: Sam Schwartz Engineering

In the Tri-state area, she has worked for acclaimed agencies such as Sam Schwartz Engineering. In partnership with the rideshare app Lyft, and the New York City Department of Transportation, Harsheeta oversaw the implementation of new Citi Bike stations, which resulted in an expansion of the bike rental platform in the Bronx and Manhattan. Harsheeta’s commitment to sustainability and alternative forms of transportation is directly aligned with her work ethic and practice. In the city of Newark, Sam Schwartz Engineering partnered with the new LaGuardia Airport. Harsheeta worked on the base map with the road realignment around the airport terminals. She led daily reports showing traffic flow analysis while conducting site visits to assist in the new signage plans for ground transportation in and out of Terminal B.

Radin Consulting is a full-service firm providing planning, architectural, engineering, and construction management services to government clients. As their Transportation Planner, Harsheeta has worked on many different programs in various busy locations, including Newark International Airport (EWR), home to 1,200 flights a day, where she was a consultant on the project. Her responsibilities were varied, such as reviewing and commenting on existing environmental issues and, most importantly, developing an outline of transportation connectivity around the EWR Airport vicinity. Harsheeta is involved in reforming the present infrastructures of every project she undertakes, but she also plays a critical role in envisioning their future vision. While working for the firm, Harsheeta was also involved in various proposals and projects, such as The Port Authority Bus Terminal Replacement, The World Trade Center post-Covid plan for pedestrians and vehicles, the Newark Penn Station Modernization, and more.

Fig 3. Port Authority Bus Terminal Replacement Project. Credit: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

Harsheeta has certainly left a mark in the realm of public transportation in New York and New Jersey. She has worked for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and their new restoration program for Grand Central and the Metro-North Railroad. The Grand Central station, perhaps one of the most beautiful in the world, welcomes 267,000 commuters a day. Harsheeta worked as a plangineer on the project to rehabilitate the 100-year-old train shed at Grand Central Terminal and improve Metro-North’s operations. Although her work is done in the shadows- and sometimes quite literally in the dark tunnels of the station- it has an impact on the lives of thousands of people.

Fig 4. Grand Central Terminal Train Shed Rehabilitation, New York City, NY. Credit: Radin Consulting, INC

Harsheeta has also made a considerable impact in her field through her research and the various proposals she has drafted. For Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, she co-authored a scholarly paper entitled Highland Park Placemaking Guide. She also co-drafted the proposal for the Frelinghuysen Avenue 2050 Corridor Redevelopment Plan for the City of Newark Office of Planning and Zoning and was involved in research for the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center. Harsheeta’s knowledge is multi-dimensional. It is important for her to have a comprehensive approach, whether it is in the field or through preliminary research and planning. The Transportation Planner thinks big. She is preparing our cities and the environment we live in for tomorrow’s challenges. This includes global warming and climate change. “I create accessibility with sustainability. My motto is to integrate different modes of commute to achieve sustainable transportation practices and provide an affordable, accessible, and safe transit network that brings communities together.” she shares.

As a solution-driven person, Harsheeta is always a few steps ahead while serving her community. She sees her work and craft as a delicate dance between honoring the city’s traditions and heritage and preparing for the future and its challenges: “I want to create organic and natural spaces that incorporate sustainable concepts while keeping the historical essence of the city intact. I am passionate to encourage and develop creative solutions for a sustainable car-free world.” she specifies. Urban Planning is about engaging with different perspectives, different viewpoints, and frames of reference. Sometimes they clash. Harsheeta does this effortlessly. Her secret? “To Grasp, Integrate, Involve, and Grow,” she tells us with a twinkle in her eye. In other words, following your own map, your own compass to make the world a better place.





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