Book my flight to Chicago – Check
Figure out how to use local agencies to get to ThinkTransit Headquarters (Swissôtel) – Check
Research local transit agencies (CTA and Pace) – Check
Look at the ThinkTransit Guide to Chicago – Check
Research keynote speaker Gabe Klein – Check
Research sessions and tech tours - Check
Download the ThinkTransit App – Check
Pack 70s outfit – Check
As a newcomer to the transit industry, I didn’t know what to expect when I was told about ThinkTransit: The Trapeze Technology Conference. I use transit every day to get to work, but I never thought that there was so much behind the scenes – well… I was wrong.
Before working for Trapeze, I would sit on the subway’s red moquette seats, listening to some podcasts, lost in my own little world. The only thing of concern about public transit was getting from point A to B. I only understood the items that would directly affect me as a customer.
After I started working here, however, I was amazed by all the interesting things that were happening behind the curtain – like the type of work agencies are doing with transportation network companies (TNCs), how the bus schedule shows up on my app, or even what goes into smartcard technology. And before working in the industry, I definitely wouldn’t have wondered if the train I’m riding to work is compliant with State of Good Repair or American with Disabilities regulations.
Now, thinking about these things is part of my job.
Travel and Local
After getting the easy thing out of the way – booking my flight to Chicago – I needed to figure out how to get to Swissôtel, the place where the ThinkTransit magic will happen. Luckily, whichever airport you are coming from, you can get downtown with ease. From O’Hare International Airport, all you have to do is take the Blue Line down into the Loop and the hotel is a short walk away. Midway Airport is a little quicker to downtown, but the same idea applies – hop on the Orange Line and take it for a ride, once again into the Loop and again a short walk away.
Once I figured out how to use CTA to get to ThinkTransit, I needed to look into all the local agencies to understand their fascinating history. It is incredible to think that public transit in Chicago began in 1859 with a horse car service. A lot has changed in 158 years – horses have been transformed into an elaborate network of buses and train cars weaving in and out of the city. Public transportation is deeply rooted into the Windy City – downtown, the Loop, is named after the transit system.
With their vast history, it is going to be great to learn what these agencies have to share during the CTA and Pace keynote addresses.
Flash-forward a few months and I’m in the thick of planning and researching things for ThinkTransit. First things first, the fun stuff. I’ve been to Chicagoland before, but for those whom this will be their first time, I wanted to make sure they had some cool adventures (sights and/or food) to do after a long day of learning. Now, Chicago is a big, beautiful city with so much to offer, but in order to help, check out the ThinkTransit Guide to Chicago for anyone that might need some inspiration. This was almost too hard for me to accomplish because we could only fit and recommend a finite number of sites to see and restaurants to enjoy.
In addition to the keynotes from Pace and CTA, one of the things I’m most excited about is the keynote by Gabe Klein. Building smarter cities and how transit, among other things, answers this problem is a curious notion. You can hear the passion Gabe has for this in the TEDTalk he did a few months ago – and this passion will resonate and change the way you look at cities and what it means to have the freedom of mobility.
Peeling back the layers, you are able to get to the heart and inner workings of top agencies like CTA and Pace. Both of them will be providing technical tours of their facilities where someone from the local agency will show you an inside look into some of their operations. Last year attendees got an exclusive look at VIA Metropolitan Transit’s Centro Plaza. I’ve heard through the grapevine that the tech tours are one of the most interesting things for a newbie like myself. Not only that, but there is some serious education going on that will give you insights and ideas on what to bring back to your agency.
Customers were the reason we started this conference. But now they are helping us make our conference even better. You’ll be able to see some amazing customer speakers during their own sessions, on a discussion panel or pitching ideas at the ThinkTransit Shark Tank. Make sure you don’t miss out on any of these fabulous people sharing their ideas, stories and education with you.
The Nitty Gritty
I’ve downloaded the ThinkTransit App (which will be available for you soon) and have been getting it ready with all the information you will need when you are at ThinkTransit. This app will give you the agenda, have a map of the conference, give you information on the speakers and keynotes and allow you to share your favorite moments of the conference.
And I mustn’t forget to pack my 70s gear for the closing reception. I’ll need to go and invest in some clothing, since I wasn’t around in the 1970s, but I’m sure some of you still have those bell-bottoms floating around. Dressing up for the closing reception isn’t necessary, but it is encouraged. I hope to see some great style coming from you.
I still have a few more things to do before ThinkTransit is underway, so that leaves with one final item on my checklist:
Ready for ThinkTransit – Check!
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