Interview with Sam Corbett – Senior Associate at San Diego’s Alta Planning & Design

Sam Corbett. Image from Alta Planning & Design
Sam Corbett. Image from Alta Planning & Design

Alta Planning & Design, a sustainable transportation planning and design firm, recently opened an office in San Diego. They are working on bicycle and pedestrian plans for San Diego and other local cities to assist them in becoming more friendly toward non-motorized forms of transportation.

Next week, the city of San Diego is hosting an open house to gather public input on the Draft Bicycle Master Plan. The Consultant Project Manager responsible for the creation of this plan is Sam Corbett. I recently sat down with Sam to chat with him. I wanted to learn more about yet another car-free resident in San Diego. Below are my notes from our conversation.

Sam grew up in Western Massachusetts, an area he describes as being fairly rural and lacking in public transit infrastructure. As a result, he began riding his bike everywhere that eventually culminated in his first tour around Lake Erie at age thirteen. He found that bicycling was very liberating and it allowed him to engage with the people and landscape in a much more meaningful fashion than if he were driving a car.

He eventually moved to the West Coast and prior to enrolling in college in Northern California, took a year off. During this year he did a ten day bicycle tour from San Bernardino to San Francisco. Sam’s love for long distance riding continued after college when he rode from Anchorage, AK to Prudhoe Bay where he followed the oil pipeline north from Anchorage. Most recently, Sam and his wife, Ginny, did a bicycle tour of New Zealand’s South Island in 2009.

Sam’s love for riding and experiencing the world from a bicycle, inspired him to pursue a career in transportation planning. He explained that he wanted everyone to experience the same joy he gets from getting around on a bicycle. Because the transportation in Southern California is not as mature as it is in in Northern California and other parts of the country, Sam found that he wanted to work towards creating better transportation options for people beyond the private automobile. Since moving to Southern California in 2004, Sam has worked on that very goal at UCLA, UCSD and now with Alta Planning & Design.

Being car-free in San Diego has its own peculiar challenges resulting from the fact that the city has been designed primarily for the private automobile. Sam and his wife are car-free in San Diego. From that standpoint, he is able to understand how best to design and promote a non-motorized focus. The city in its attempt to meet the goal of increasing bicycling modal share to 10% in ten years is in the process of working with Alta to develop pedestrian and bicycle master plans to improve conditions for sustainable transportation throughout the city.


I thank Sam Corbett for taking the time to meet with me and chat with me about biking and his work at Alta Planning & Design.