Time to get on a train or plane for the annual sojourn to DC with thousands of our colleagues. TRB is a chance to set the tone for the year and I find it useful to go in with a short list of philosophical objectives to guide my approach to conversations and events. Here are mine this year.
Standards development or no development
We need to improve transit and make it easier to use faster than we’re doing so right now. There are many things in the way of our progress. The majority of them are cars. But one of the major impediments is that we’re not fully cooperating. Companies are often focusing on sellable features not durable solutions. Agencies are sometimes buying buzz words, not tools and assets for their riders.
The answer is focusing intently on standardization. Is your technology work creating and/or relying on today’s and tomorrow’s standard processes and data formats? If it’s not, it’s probably a bad idea. If I’m in the room, I’m likely to tell you that.
Advocacy before pleasantries
We need to speak up and be direct about what our industry needs in all contexts. There isn’t time to accept the glacial pace we’re moving. Rural folk without the ability to drive a car are being left with just about no access to outside their houses. Urban folk are facing traffic violence from speeding drivers in cars twice the size of what should be socially acceptable. The entire world is burning, literally and figuratively.
I hope you have a great TRB, and if you see me, I’m likely to smile, and be excessively polite (I’m from Portland, OR it’s what we do). But if you tell me you want to build a highway. Well…
Be radically practical
We have problems as a world we need to solve, and transportation can contribute to those solutions, or it can work against us. We know what we need to do: more transit and mobility options, fewer cars; more use of standards, fewer technology fiefdoms; more women, people of color, people with disabilities, transgender and nonbinary people in positions of power, fewer white men pontificating and not knowing when to stop.
So I’ll be shutting up a lot, too. I’ll be doing more jazz hands and “mmhmmmm”s and “that was a great point she was making and can you let her finish?”. One of the most important practical ways we can work towards radical change is by making sure that we’re supporting all the radical and practical voices around us. Elevating those voices that aren’t getting enough time at the table will even the playing field and make for a more competitive marketplace of ideas.
Have fun y’all. If you see me, feel free to say hi!