Orrin Konheim | Special to WJW
Doug Halpert, 32, is a traffic engineer with Greenman-Pedersen, Inc. In his profession, he’s worked on everything from traffic signals to roadway designs to sidewalk paths. He and his new wife, Dana, have just moved to Elkridge, Md.
As you grew up, what style of Judaism most resonated with you?
The style of Judaism that I identify with is that there’s no right or wrong way to practice. I appreciate the low stress of not needing to fit within a prescribed mold of what it means to be Jewish and the rules that must be followed without question.
You just got married in October to another Reform Jew. Were you looking to marry someone Jewish?
It was a factor in dating but it wasn’t the deciding factor. My wife and I met doing sports. We didn’t meet at anything that was organized by Judaism.
What are you and your wife’s involvement in Judaism at the moment?
We celebrate the major holidays. We’ll have people over for Shabbat or go to other people’s houses for Shabbat, so that’s most of it, and now that we have our house and are a little more settled, we’re starting to think about a congregation.
Since you mentioned you already have friends to celebrate Shabbat with, why are you looking for a congregation?
The opportunity to meet new folks who share somewhat common backgrounds, be a place to continue practice. When we’re ready to start a Jewish household, it will be a place for Hebrew school and all that fun stuff for our kids growing up.
How did you get interested in traffic? Were there any games you played (like Sim City) as a kid?
I enjoyed playing with Legos and K’nex as a kid. I was also curious about the work at construction sites. I knew I wanted to pursue something in engineering, but I didn’t commit to transportation until midway through college.
Who do we blame for the horrible traffic in the Washington area?
Unfortunately there’s plenty of blame to go around. People love their cars, so roads were prioritized for a very long time and this has come at a cost to all other users.
What is something people would be surprised to know about traffic engineers?
While there’s no official Hippocratic oath that civil engineers take in the U.S., we are instilled with the belief that our work is for the benefit of all users and should therefore be safe. Ethics is a continuing education requirement for an engineer’s professional license in Maryland.
If you were traffic czar, what three things would you do to give us some relief?
I would implement congestion pricing for all major cities. Cities in Europe have already shown positive results and it’s a great first step to help reduce congestion while addressing climate change.
Design and implement a robust, low-stress environment for cyclists of all rider abilities.
Even with bike lanes on some roads, there are still many riders who do not feel comfortable riding close to vehicles or don’t have a complete network of accommodations to utilize.
Completely redesign all traffic circles in D.C. They are confusing and don’t meet current demands.
When traffic disappeared during the pandemic, did you expect it would come roaring back again, or were you lulled like the rest of us in thinking things would be better?
Unfortunately, I’m not surprised. It was great while it lasted, but once people could travel again many did not feel comfortable using public transit and their destinations were beyond what could be reached by other modes. That being said, I wouldn’t say things are exactly as they were before. Many people have embraced working from home full or part time. The pandemic has also highlighted the failings of our current transportation systems that are starting to be addressed with new enthusiasm.
Have you ever heard of a rabbi who incorporated traffic into a sermon? I ask because I’ve had a rabbi who used traffic analogies.
A rabbi told a joke about a man trying to find a parking space. He’s praying that if God would only send him a parking space that he will recommit himself to his faith. All of a sudden a space appears. The man says, “Never mind I found one.”