Scott Presslak

At a Glance

  • Age: 32
  • Certification: Professional Transportation Planner (PTP)
  • Education: 
    • Bachelor of Arts, Urban Planning – University of Illinois, May 2007
    • Master of Urban Planning and Policy – University of Illinois at Chicago, December 2013
  • Work History:
  • Memberships:
    • Active Transportation Alliance
    • American Planning Association
    • Young Professionals in Transportation

In 2002, as a junior at Lake Park High School, one warm spring evening Scott hosted a few friends to a bonfire in the backyard of his childhood home in Itasca, Illinois. Growing up in Itasca, a community uniquely located along Metra’s Milwaukee District West Line and under a prominent flight arrival path to O’Hare International Airport, hemmed in by Interstates 290 and 355 and now Illinois Route 390, transportation and its impact on Itasca’s growth from its founding in 1890 through the suburban boom of the later half of the 20th Century played a significant role in Scott’s upbringing. During middle school and high school, Scott volunteered at the Itasca Historical Society’s depot museum –housed in the village’s former train station — which piqued his interest in how closely Itasca’s growth and evolution was tied to its transportation infrastructure.

After graduating from Lake Park High School in 2003 (and continuing to host friends in “The Yard” regularly), Scott enrolled at the University of Iowa as a civil engineering major. As an elective, Scott took an introductory urban planning course and quickly made the decision to change majors. Unfortunately, the University of Iowa did not offer urban planning as a standalone undergraduate major, so he transferred to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts of Urban Planning degree in May 2007.

Throughout his undergraduate career, Scott worked one summer job that would prove very useful to his future career: as a field technician for a mosquito abatement contractor in the Chicago area, Scott was tasked with performing mosquito larvae inspections in dozens of Chicago suburbs, building a significant knowledge of Chicago-area geography as well as first-hand experience with a wide variety of building styles and neighborhood development concepts throughout Chicagoland. Summers back in Itasca also allowed events at The Yard to continue and thrive as his group of friends continued to expand.

Scott initially planned on continuing directly into graduate school following his bachelor’s degree, having been accepted to the University of Central Florida’s urban planning masters program. However, he decided to pursue a professional internship instead, interning at the Landrum & Brown aviation consulting firm in Chicago. Also in summer 2007, Scott became very ill and was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, a chronic disorder of the lower intestine. Spending much of the summer and following fall on bedrest when not serving at his internship, Scott concluded his internship in August 2007 and began searching for a full-time position.

He ultimately was offered and accepted the sole planner position at TERRA Engineering, Ltd., a civil engineering firm in Peoria in late February 2008. While at TERRA, Scott worked on a variety of transportation planning projects including the Eastern Bypass Study, a 20-mile freeway corridor study to complete a beltway around metropolitan Peoria; Washington Street Improvement and Warehouse District Complete Streets Projects, a TIGER grant recipient to reconstruct Peoria’s Warehouse District streetscape into a more pedestrian-friendly area; and the Lucas Museum of Narrative Arts, the (failed) project to construct a new museum on Chicago’s Museum Campus between Soldier Field and McCormick Place.

File_000 (6)
Scott points out a feature on the map to a concerned resident at an Eastern Bypass Study open house in Peoria.

Scott lived in Peoria through 2010 but would still frequently come back to Itasca to spend time with friends and family — and, of course, The Yard.

In the summer of 2009, The Yard hosted its first Yard Olympics, a doubles competition of bags, beer pong, and bocce. (In 2016, in the interest of competitiveness and duration, the format of The Yard Olympics was changed to five-person teams competing in four events.) The summer of 2009 also marked Scott’s dabbling into wood-working, constructing the two professional-grade beer pong tables still in use at The Yard and other events.

civicctr7
The Red Table and The Blue Table in summer 2010, following plexiglas upgrades.

Wanting to further his professional career — and wanting to relocate back to Chicago — Scott was accepted into the College of Urban Planning and Public Administration at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He transferred to TERRA’s Chicago office in January 2011, working full-time while taking grad school classes at night. To save money, Scott moved into the in-law apartment of his grandmother’s bungalow in Chicago’s Portage Park neighborhood. The bungalow, which had a full bar in the basement, became a satellite branch of The Yard and was branded as “The Speakeasy” while Scott completed his degree.

File_000 (5)
The bar at The Speakeasy.

In April 2012, Scott and his fellow University of Illinois alum Kevin Olsta successfully set a world-record of stopping at every one of the CTA’s 143 ‘L’ rail stations in 9:24:05 using only public transportation, beginning at the Halsted station on the Orange Line and finishing at Linden terminal on the Purple Line. (The record would be broken five days later and broken yet again shortly thereafter.) The CTA has since added three stations, is currently consolidating two Loop stations, and significantly improved the south branch of the Red Line; Scott remains open to attempting a sub-9:00:00 run.

File_000 (7)
Scott (right) looks on as his former housemate and fellow U of I graduate Kevin Olsta checks the schedule during their successful ‘L’ Challenge run in April 2012.

Scott hosted his first train crawl in 2013 while living in Portage Park, utilizing the Union Pacific Northwest Line that served nearby Jefferson Park. The crawl included stops in Fox River Grove, Barrington, Palatine, and Arlington Heights.

Scott completed his classes in spring of 2013; following the completion of his masters project — naturally, a “Complete Streets” pedestrian, bicycle, and transit plan for the Village of Itasca — he graduated with a Master of Urban Planning and Policy degree in December 2013. With grad school completed and one of his best friends purchasing a townhouse, Scott moved back to Itasca in March of 2014. Later that year, Scott became a certified Professional Transportation Planner (PTP) and departed TERRA for the Performance Management department of the Chicago Transit Authority. At the CTA, Scott specialized in “post-planning”: data analysis focused on quantifiable metrics of the CTA’s performance, including schedule adherence and regular maintenance intervals. Scott would go on to play a key role in revamping and automating the CTA’s Daily Flash Report.

On September 6, 2015, Scott married Cassie, his girlfriend of two years. They moved to an apartment in downtown LaGrange, where they currently reside.

File_000 (2)
Scott and Cassie at the Itasca MD-W station on their wedding day.

While at the CTA, to celebrate the rollout of the Ventra smartphone app and Metra’s adoption of the Ventra platform for mobile ticketing, Scott hosted a winter train crawl along the Milwaukee District West Line in January 2016. Following the successful train crawl and to reflect the broadening range of events he hosts, Scott re-branded his events as The Yard Social Club, devoting his event-planning resources to public events intended to encourage sustainable, walkable suburban development and discretionary suburban transit use, and a few traditional events at The Yard for the regulars since high school.

Scott served as Metra’s Senior Planner for a year and a half before accepting his current position as an Outreach Liaison for the Illinois Department of Transportation, where he encourages local Chicagoland residents to take a more active role in local transportation projects. His ulcerative colitis is currently in remission, and he and Cassie continue to live in LaGrange.


Further Reading