While many University of Tennessee at Chattanooga students must complete an internship to fulfill their degree requirements, Arsen Martyshchuk found one that allowed him to pursue his passion.
For Martyshchuk, a graduate student pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree, the path to landing that internship was just as unconventional as his path to Chattanooga.
Martyshchuk’s first day of life in America came in August 2022. He was born in a rural village in Krasnyk, Ukraine, and earned a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Kyiv National University of Culture.
Following the start of the war in Ukraine, UTC’s Global Response Assistantship was created. It’s a graduate program for Ukrainian students that covers the cost of travel, tuition and board.
After a lengthy application process, Martyshchuk was one of the two students accepted out of a pool of 300 applicants, joining Nina Klimenkova—a native of Voznesensk who is pursuing an MBA in the Gary W. Rollins College of Business.
Upon his arrival in Chattanooga, Martyshchuk wanted to explore something in the new city he called home that many others may not have thought of—the bus.
As someone passionate about urban planning, specifically transportation planning, Martyshchuk enjoyed learning about public transit in Chattanooga and public attitudes toward it. Sometimes, he said, he rode the bus “just for fun.”
When it was time to find a summer internship, Martyshchuk wanted to channel his passion.
Because he frequently used public transportation in Chattanooga, he was familiar with the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA). CARTA operates local public buses, a free electric shuttle and customized services for disabled people.
CARTA did not have an internship position when Martyshchuk reached out. He remained determined.
“I messaged them first on Instagram,” he said. “Then I reached out to them via email. They were interested in my research because I’ve done some research on them before.”
Martyshchuk secured an interview, and on May 8, he started his first day as a CARTA intern.
Some of Martyshchuk’s work involves transportation research and planning for a pilot project called CARTA GO.
The project involves a service that allows users to book bus rides from their phones at specific zones in East Brainerd, Cromwell, Eastdale and North Brainerd, enabling transportation to destinations including Hamilton Place Mall, Volkswagen and Enterprise South Industrial Park.
Martyshchuk said his work consists of researching and surveying the public on their opinions about public transportation so CARTA can improve the CARTA GO service.
As both a researcher and a transit user, Martyschuk said he is disheartened to see Chattanooga residents and tourists avoid public transportation due to inaccurate stereotypes.
“There is a paradox where people go to Europe or somewhere else with good public transportation,” he said. “They use it over there and come back and they’re like, ‘No, I’m not going to use the buses.’”
He said there is a belief among some that public transportation in the U.S. is unreliable or unsafe, which he considers to be untrue.
“The buses are great quality. They’re not dangerous as a lot of people say,” he said.
According to Martyshchuk, using public transportation rather than commuting by car removes the possibility of car troubles and is much safer.
Martyshchuk said people underestimate the complexity of transportation planning.
“A lot of things are related with transport,” he said. “Starting with pedestrian infrastructure, like sidewalks. You know, if there’s a small piece of sidewalk, you can’t put a bus stop there.”
Martyshchuk also mentioned that, because of the car-oriented nature of Chattanooga transportation, many people do not see public transportation as an option.
“Most of the cities in America are car-oriented,” he said. “When you get up first thing in the morning you don’t even think of other options. You could get into your car and it doesn’t matter how congested it is on the road, because that’s how people do it.”
Martyshchuk understands that attitudes vary depending on location and accessibility. He moved from a small Ukrainian town of about 1,000 people to Kyiv—which has a metropolitan population of approximately 3 million.
Martyshchuk dreams to one day significantly increase ridership in Chattanooga by making public transportation even more accessible and especially more normalized for its residents. Not only does this come from urban planning but also from dismantling stereotypes about public transit.
He wants Chattanooga residents and UTC students to challenge themselves by broadening their transportation options to discover how safe, practical and convenient it is.
“You don’t have to worry about gas, parking, everything, you know. So try doing it, see how it goes and talk to me if you need some help,” Martyshchuk said. “It’s a really great option to kind of diversify your means of transportation.”