Copyright 2022 SPARK

The University of Michigan Grad Returns to Ann Arbor to Advance Career in Public Transportation

The Ride-UofM grad banner
Picture of Lilliane Webb in front of the AAATA transit center in downtown Ann Arbor.

There are many coming-of-age stories that begin with growing up in a small town and then moving to the big city to find success. In a very charming way, Lilliane Webb’s own journey followed a similar path. After growing up in Adrian, Michigan — a city with a population of 20,000 — she moved to Ann Arbor and attended the University of Michigan. During a summer internship in Washington, D.C. her senior year, Lilliane became enamored with metropolitan living. As graduation from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business neared, Lilliane applied for jobs in New York, Detroit, and Chicago — just to name a few. “The first place to offer me a job was in Chicago,” recalled Lilliane. “My lease was up so I wasn’t going to play around anymore. Someone was offering to pay me to work, so Chicago it was,” she added, laughing.

It would be a few more years before Lilliane found herself in the transportation industry, and still a few more before she’d return to Ann Arbor as the new business services program manager at the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (aka TheRide). “I always wanted to work in the non-profit sector,” explained Lilliane. “I studied business administration so I could contribute to organizations of any size. However, I didn’t entirely know how that would translate as a career. My first job was an 11-month AmeriCorps position doing communication and outreach specifically around volunteerism.”

After a couple of different stints, Lilliane moved into the public transportation space in Chicago. “At the time, I was working at a place called Metropolitan Group when through LinkedIn I discovered an opportunity with Metro Strategies for a very similar role — just focused on public transportation. I was like, ‘Hey! I like taking public transportation, I can do this!’ fortunately they agreed. I was there for four years and really enjoyed it. That’s where I blended my communication and outreach skills with transportation projects.”

It was during the pandemic when Lilliane started considering a move back to Michigan. Being quarantined helped her identify what she wanted to do next. “It was a moment of re-evaluation of what I wanted for myself and that was when moving back to southeast Michigan came on my radar.”

While Lilliane doesn’t describe herself as impulsive, the move back to Michigan — and Ann Arbor specifically — felt different from than decisions she made previously. “The job seemed like a good fit, both for what I was doing and what I wanted to do next. Even though I was not 100% confident about moving, I figured I’d apply and make the decision later. After they offered me the job, the decision was no longer theoretical. So, I made the decision to just do it.”

She went on to describe the decision process in even more detail. “While working in public transportation in southeast Michigan may not be the same as Chicago, there are opportunities here and when one came up, I was excited to jump on it, still advance my career path, be closer to family, and Ann Arbor is such a fun city and one I was already familiar with.”

Lilliane’s primary role is as the director of the getDowntown program which helps reduce parking overflow and congestion by encouraging people to walk, bike, or take transit. A lot of that is working with employers to help them present alternate transportation options and promote the go!pass program. “The go!pass program provides a significantly reduced rate for employers to buy bus passes on behalf of their employees. It’s lovely because it helps free up space for visitors who come into town for dining, shopping, or when visiting downtown businesses.”

Similarly, outside of the downtown area, Lilliane works with employers throughout TheRide’s service area who might want to help employees find sustainable modes of transportation. “For example,” Lilliane added, “if a company is moving its headquarters and needs to address concerns from employees who previously relied on public transportation, I can talk to them about vanpooling and some other options that TheRide offers in addition to the fixed-route buses.”

Now that she’s back in Ann Arbor, Lilliane loves refamiliarizing herself with the area. “I rode my bike along the Border-to-Border trail, and I’ve been biking around the city making mental notes of restaurants and places I want to check out more,” she said. “Sure, Ann Arbor is smaller than Chicago, but it’s not a sleepy town. With the university here, and everything that comes with it, there’s lots to do. I’m especially looking forward to Michigan’s women’s basketball games this winter.”