By Lauren Harper
One MPA in Environmental Science and Policy (MPA-ESP) alum is looking to make getting around New York City way more fun. Frank Reig, a graduate of the MPA-ESP program, recently launched Revel Transit, an all-electric shared moped company in Brooklyn. Frank is applying his knowledge gained from MPA-ESP along with his experience and skills acquired from his time in the energy sector to provide a clean, emissions-free transit option to New Yorkers. Frank and his fellow co-founder, Paul Suhey, are working to revolutionize the sharing economy in New York with this new and exciting transportation option. I visited Revel Transit’s Headquarters in Bushwick to sit down with Frank and find out more about his professional journey since graduating from the ESP program.
1. What is your current job and what are the responsibilities associated with your position?
I am the CEO of Revel Transit. Paul Suhey, who is a co-founder and COO of Revel Transit, and I recently launched the company in late July. In the past six months leading up to the launch of Revel, we have been working on a series of tasks to get the business off the ground. So that included everything from submitting our incorporation documents, raising capital, negotiating with suppliers, implementing operations, and developing partnerships to get the business fully up and running. Now that we have launched, my job is continuing to fundraise, work towards our expansion goals and oversee the day-to-day operations. We’ve been fortunate to have launched with plenty of positive press coverage and a very healthy stream of new users signing up each day. All signs look positive right now, but we have a lot of work ahead of us!
2. What is your current job and what are the responsibilities associated with your position?
I always knew I wanted to start my own business. What that business was going to be and how I got there, I had no clue– but as an avid cyclist, two-wheeled transportation has always been a passion of mine. Coming out of the ESP program, I wanted to work in something related to energy or the environment. Immediately after graduating I worked for the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey and spearheaded their energy efficiency and environmental program goals, including LEED Certification for the World Trade Center. Because of the existing partnership between the Port Authority and Cushman and Wakefield, who operate the World Trade Center, I later took a role with Cushman and Wakefield’s Global Sustainability Team. After that, I worked in investment research at Gerson Lehrman Group in a variety of areas — utilities, oil and gas, batteries — anything related to energy, my team would cover it.
3. What skills and experiences from the ESP program have been beneficial to you in your professional development and how has it prepared you for where you are now pursuing your current and future goals? Is there still a learning curve?
There is a learning curve every day. The ESP program got my career heading on an interesting trajectory. I would have never been a Leadership Fellow for one of the largest government agencies in the country unless I had attended the program. From there, once you have gotten your foot in the door, it’s up to any ESP graduate to mold their career from there. For me, MPA-ESP was fantastic in helping me shift my career in the right direction.
4. Have you collaborated or had your work intersect with fellow ESP Alumni in your field of work?
At my last job I hired a fellow ESP graduate and we recently connected about his current work at NYSERDA. There is a natural synergy between anyone working in utilities and what we do here at Revel, especially as we think about the most efficient way to recharge our electric mopeds in the future. In general, I also continue to meet people from the program because everyone is related in some way—environment, energy, government, policy—and we all intersect.
5. Tell me about Revel Transit and the mission of the company?
Revel is about providing New Yorkers another travel option—we think it is the “missing link” from many urban transportation networks. Our mission is simple: “to make getting around fast, affordable, and way more fun.” It’s about not being the end-all–be-all of transportation, but it’s about giving people another way to get from point A to point B that’s fast, affordable, fun and way more interesting—that’s what we’re about!
6. What is next for Revel Transit?
First, we need to see how this pilot goes and how New Yorkers respond. Do they want an expansion? How are they using it? What makes sense for our neighborhoods? We also work hard to be an operator that makes certain that our users are operating safely. Once we are confident that can happen for every user, we can focus on meeting additional demand and expanding our service area. For now we are concentrated on making sure everyone’s ride experience is fantastic, that they are having fun and being safe while doing so. That’s first and foremost. After that we’ll see what happens.
7. What makes Revel Transit unique in the ride sharing revolution? Do you feel that Revel is heavily competing with other transportation companies in the sharing economy?
We get this question a lot and we don’t see it as competition. It’s really about giving people smart choices—the right choices—for how they get from A to B. The more people who use Bird, Jump or CityBike, the more people will use Revel. So it’s not about competing, it’s about what transport option makes since at that time for your travel needs. If it’s an Uber, great. If it’s a bike or scooter, great. But a lot of times, it will be a Revel—and we think that has been a missing link in New York. So as far as competition, I don’t see it like that. The more the better.
Students in the MPA in Environmental Science and Policy program enroll in a year-long, 54-credit program offered at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, in partnership with the Earth Institute.
Lauren Harper is an alum of the MPA in Environmental Science and Policy, Class of 2018.