Every single day when we open our eyes and our body slowly wakes up, that’s a gift that life bestows on us. To try again. To tackle whatever we were facing the day before. To put in our best possible efforts.
How does this relate to ThinkTransit? Well, those same feelings were present and infectious throughout the conference – in the way the attendees and speakers engaged with each other – they were all genuinely invested in transforming the industry for the better so it’ll ultimately benefit those who are impacted the most – the public.
Motivational and Resonating Keynotes Grounded the Rooms
With that said, the 2018 ThinkTransit conference started off with an opening keynote presentation from Jim Carroll, one of the leading global futurist, trends, and innovations expert. He shed light on how the Jetsons show was released in the 1960s and predicted what the world would look like in 2060. Fast forward to today, we’re already witnessing tech innovations that parallel with what was on the show – FaceTime, autonomous vehicles, drones, and flying cars to name a few – more than 50 years earlier than expected!
There was an interactive component to his presentation. He asked:
When it comes to the fast future…
- Extremely well positioned for success – 6%
- Somewhat positioned for success – 73%
- Behind in our ability to keep up – 49%
- We’re toast! It’s way too fast – 8%
In 10 years’ time, our business model will…
- Exist in just about the same form – 6%
- No longer exist in the same form – 49%
- Have disappeared – 9%
- Be significantly disrupted – 37%
Jim also shared how innovation is much more than just about new products; it’s about what you can do to run, grow, and transform your organization for the better. A key highlight is the fact that the rate of change for technology is increasing while the cost of technology is declining at an exponential rate.
From Left to Right: Dr. Robert Schneider, Executive Director of PRTC. Lauren Skiver, CEO of SunLine Transit. Gary Rosenfeld, CEO of MATA. Paul Comfort, former CEO of MTA and current VP of BD at Trapeze Group.
For the keynote session on day two of ThinkTransit, attendees heard from transit executives during the CEO roundtable which was moderated by Paul Comfort, Vice President of Business Development at Trapeze Group.
Paul kicked off the panel saying how transit CEOs have a heart for transit and proceeded to ask the three CEOs questions that revolve around what life as transit executives is like, the culture for transit agencies, and the people that work for them, to name a few.
One of the key things Gary shared with the attendees was how much they have to rely on other people’s numbers such as performance data and ratios, so it’s crucial to teach the team how to interpret them to make sound judgments.
On a different note, Robert pulled back the curtain on his executive life by saying how he’s not in charge of his schedule as he needs to consistently respond to the city, council, accidents, and the likes. He does wish he can spend more time with the drivers and mechanics as they’re the backbone of the transit agency.
Lastly, Lauren inspired the attendees when she said how we need to learn to unleash our people to solve problems for us by providing them with the necessary resources and training to get them where they need to go. It all boils down to that culture and vision of excellence that helps them to all row towards the same direction.
Stephen Bland, CEO of Nashville MTA, spoke on the last day of the conference and walked through the past, present, and future of the agency. He also talked about how transit is crucial for the public as it’s providing them with mobility so they can break away from their confinements and do what’s important such as accessing medical career, their jobs, special events, and the like. This means that the transit system as a whole should be open, accessible, and easy to use.
He commented that a transit agency could only get to the next level because people know that they can do better and they will do absolutely better. Also, I’d say one of the key highlights of his presentation was when I heard him say how nobody can motivate you, only you can motivate yourself.
A Conference Isn’t Complete Without Newsworthy Announcements
Did you catch the video below on Monday when we announced our product launches?
Shortly afterward, Stephen Tanaka, CTO – One Commercial Partner of Microsoft Canada, took the stage to share the exciting news that we chose Microsoft Azure as our official cloud platform! You’ve been asking about cloud for quite some time now, and this was what we had in the works – it’s going to be revolutionary in the industry as the platform will enable your transit agency to be more agile and secure while being compliant with the latest regulations.
We also officially introduced Trapeze’s integration with autonomous vehicles (AVs) when Jeff Moore, our Vice President of Industry Solutions and Alliances, and Chris Pauly, Director of Business Development at Navya, spoke as our lunch keynotes on the first day of the conference.
Jeff talked about our autonomous shuttle pilot project in Switzerland, where a new route is connecting Neuhausen with the Rhine Falls Basin, and the shuttle also operates on the pedestrian walkway and public roads. He also mentioned the AmoTech and the Mobility Lab partnership which is helping to contribute to the existing efforts in autonomous mobility and developing solutions to help transit agencies make autonomous technology a reality.
Chris then shared some statistics about how by 2050, 70% of the world’s population will be living in cities and that means the issues with congestion, pollution, and parking will exacerbate. This new reality means we need to rethink mobility as a whole for the public and answer several questions before your agency decides whether AVs are a good fit for you:
- What type of transit system (if any) exists today?
- Is it heavily utilized? What is the source of fuel for my existing transit system?
- Does your area suffer from transit deserts – areas where utilization rates don’t justify rail or 40” buses?
- What first/last mile commuter struggles do you face?
- Is my area ready for AVs?
- Are there any State or local regulations that prohibit or hinder AV deployments? Are people receptive to AVs in your area? Are you located in a “Smart City”? Do you have financial backing/commitments for AVs?
The whole presentation concluded with Chris remarking the current pilot projects that Navya has with the University of Michigan and Downtown Las Vegas – looks like the future is already here!
ThinkTransit Awards of Excellence
This year we expanded our ThinkTransit Awards of Excellence program. We'd like to once again congratulate the following agencies in their respective categories:
Advancement Award – TransLink
The Advancement Award goes to the agency that is striving to expand the boundaries of transit. This customer brought local business, schools across Canada, and entrepreneurial young minds together to collaborate on a unique and innovative project.
Innovation Award – Oahu Transit Services
The Innovation Award recognizes the innovators who are thinking differently about how we ride transit. This customer has been working directly with Trapeze development on a solution that enables TransitMaster to enhance their Headway Management System.
Alliance Award – COTA
The Alliance Award was established to honor an agency who has gone above and beyond the norm to build a strong alliance or partnership with Trapeze.
Community Building Award – Edmonton Transit Services – Stuart Gerber
The Community Building Award recognizes an individual who has actively demonstrated leadership on the Trapeze customer community, Collaborate.
Best Live ThinkTransit Session – Hamilton Street Railway – Dennis Guy
Dennis Guy from HSR received the Best Live ThinkTransit Session award based on engagement and session ratings by the conference attendees. His session was about how HSR is tackling rising customer expectation in the information-hungry generation. It was relatable and really helpful for the attendees in attendance.
You Not Only Learned from Our Industry Experts but Also from Your Peers
There were well over 100 sessions in total that happened at the conference with over 45 customer speakers – they shared their future plans, experiences, tips, and tricks with the attendees. My team and I had the opportunity to sit in several of them, and these were the ones that we thought would pique your interests.
How Hamilton Street Railway (HSR) is Tackling Rising Customer Expectations
Dennis Guy, Manager of Customer Service and Innovation at the HSR, shared how there has been significant growth in the city and that the Ontario province has given them a billion dollars to build LRT.
With a financial vote of confidence as such, HSR continues to power through their ten-year transit plan strategy. Dennis’ focus is on refining the customer experience, improve deficiencies, comply with standards, and be prepared for the growth and LRT. A key point from his presentation was getting attendees to take a look at all the different touchpoints that their transit agencies have and note which ones evoke an emotional response. Based on that, those should be the key touchpoints to improve on so customers will have a more optimal experience with the transit system.
Addressing Rising Paratransit Costs
These panelists shared their perspectives on the current realities for the paratransit operations across transit systems. For this particular part, I wanted to share with you their responses to the question of whether or not outsourcing paratransit is effective:
- Lauren Skiver, CEO of SunLine Transit
- Our paratransit operations are in-house which means we have control over the service and how the way our system is dispatched but this isn’t usually possible for every agency. So keep in mind the risk of the service as contractors can’t deliver them perfectly either so need to understand better that relationship and when you need to put pressure on them. These relationships are really important to your success
- Chad Hockman, Director of Paratransit at West Palm Beach
- You need to be clear on what your KPIs are, communicate them to your contractors, hold them accountable, and ensure they share the same mission and vision
- Jeff Zarr, Industry Solutions Manager – Demand Response at Trapeze Group
- WMATA has everything very clearly defined, what constitutes a trip, what’s the on-time performance, and the likes
- Paul Comfort, Vice President of Business Development at Trapeze Group
- It makes sense to keep it in-house until you reach a certain fleet size. A big reason as to why agencies outsource is because of cost control while balancing the union rules. If you do decide to outsource, then you need to manage them by your desired outcomes (it could be OTP, productivity level, etc) and give those hard numbers to your contractor and let them run it. Don’t be blind to the incentives that your contractors are motivated by – find out what are those incentives. If you have a limit as to how many people you can hire internally, then the decision to outsource is much easier since you can’t add a bunch of roles to run your paratransit operations
- Christian Kent, Principal at Transit Management Consulting
- Public transit agencies have a responsibility to the public, and the best way to stay in this business is to get as many people to be in it with us – even if that means working with TNCs and the likes
Now What about the 2019 ThinkTransit Conference?
Well, here’s the thing – it’s top secret for now. This is good news for you. Why?
Because that gives you ample time to provide us with feedback and let us know what we can do to make the next ThinkTransit: The Trapeze Technology conference that much better for you. Word on the street is that 2019 will top off 2018 – you’ll have to experience it yourself and bring your colleagues along!
You Thought That Was It, Right? One More Thing!
You know that proverb that is along the lines of “it takes a village to raise a child”? For us, the ThinkTransit conference is that child. Every department here at Trapeze has worked tirelessly to create the optimal conference experience. When we hear from our staff and attendees that it indeed has been the best conference thus far – it’s a testament to all the hard work that we’ve all put in. So kudos to everyone!
But, above all, the conference wouldn’t have been possible without our wonderful customer speakers, keynotes, and all our attendees who came from near and far. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Every one of you brought your expertise to the table and enabled the other attendees to learn your actionable tips and tricks that they can take back to their agencies. We’re sitting on the edge of our seats waiting – eager to see how much further each of you will move the dial for the transit industry.
Now that we’ve wrapped up this blog post and the 2018 ThinkTransit conference, it’s onwards to 2019 – see you then!
P.S. If you’re more of a visual person, then I invite you to check our daily recaps which include photos and captions on a timeline format, so it’s as if you’re experiencing the conference on a day-by-day basis!