TDM TAKEAWAYThe innovative approaches discussed at TransportationCamp provide a glimpse of the way public transportation will operate in the future.
Four-hundred twenty-five transportation enthusiasts converged at George Mason University’s Arlington campus on Saturday in the largest TransportationCamp yet.
The unconference – which occurs in other cities but also in Arlington just before the National Academies’ Transportation Research Board January conference in Washington D.C. – requires the participants to show up that day with session topics in mind that they want to lead. Organizers then pick the most-fitting ideas to fill out the agenda – for a total of nine workshops in each of four sessions throughout the day. And there were more ideas to spare.
Discussions ranged from de-stigmatizing transit buses to transit pricing to “oHail,” a standard for hailing taxis and other rideshare forms of transportation.
Danielle Dai, a self-titled “plangineer” from Oakland, California, led a session titled “What’s the deal with low gas prices?” She said the session idea came from a conversation with her friends in New York who said they were going to drive to D.C. instead of taking the train or bus because gas was so cheap.
“I don’t study gas prices,” Dai said. “It was just personal.”
The session started with a basic discussion of how states tax gasoline but then veered into discussing the utility of charging for road usage per gallon versus per mile. Oregon’s Department of Transportation is moving forward with a pilot program that includes 5,000 drivers who will be charged for fuel by vehicle-miles-traveled rather than by the gallon.
“I’m planning on doing research into this,” Dai said of proper pricing for gas and overall car usage. “We’re not paying the full price of cars.”
Esther Dyson, founder of HICCup and the Way to Wellville program, held a call-for-funding-ideas and general brainstorming session. The Way to Wellville is looking at how smaller communities can provide transportation options that increase access to health care, healthy foods, and healthier lifestyles. The problem is paying for these options.
The session attracted the public-health-related crowd and left Dyson with many leads on data sources and, potentially, some new partners.
Christine E. Mayeur, a planner with NspireGreen, which consults on sustainability issues, attended the Way to Wellville session, lending her public-health expertise to the conversation.
“It’s a diverse group of people,” she said. Later in the day she attended a session on using and analyzing data. “I’ve been toying with this idea of tracking pedestrian safety,” she said. “I just got out of a session on data … [maybe using skills learned] I can develop an app or continue research in that direction.”
A big draw of TransportationCamp is that the unconference occurs at a time when transportation researchers are coming to the TRB conference from all over the world and can simply add an extra day to their travels. Camp is a nice twist on the very academic, in-the-weeds TRB conference. According to a poll taken of attendees, half also planned to attend TRB.
Richard Moeur, traffic standards engineer at the Arizona Department of Transportation, said this is his third TransportationCamp and is a welcome pre-event to TRB.
“[TransportationCamp is] a chance to be exposed to a lot of different people,” he said. “[Attendees] are not just advocates. They’re not just professionals in the industry.”
Photo by Paul Mackie of Mobility Lab.