It’s not every day that you see your CEO in a spacesuit.
But that’s what happened during the keynote presentations at the 2019 ThinkTransit Conference.
Now where exactly you get a replica of a NASA spacesuit is a whole other question, but let’s leave that aside for now.
When I think about ThinkTransit, Trapeze’s annual conference, I think about those keynote presentations. I think about the new innovation-themed track that dealt with issues like moving to the cloud, managing your data in an AI world, and solicited feedback from customers on the software that would make the biggest impact in their jobs (think: a new safety management solution that went live just a few weeks after the conference).
I think about the energy in the room, as attendees listened to a live version of Transit Unplugged, which brought five transit CEOs together to talk about how their careers started. I could see the audience captivated when they listened to a CEO talk about his days in the maintenance facilities, perhaps imagining that one day, they might be on that stage, talking about their humble beginnings too.
The truth is, ThinkTransit itself has humble beginnings. What started as a small user conference over 25 years ago has morphed into an industry conference that brings together transit professionals from all over North America to talk about the issues that are affecting them most.
I couldn’t be more excited to announce that we have so much more in store for the 2020 ThinkTransit Conference, which will take place April 19-22, in Tucson, Arizona! Get ready for lots of learning, hands-on training – and lots of sunshine.
Before we look ahead at what 2020 will bring, let’s look back at the themes that arose at the 2019 conference.
If you couldn’t make it, here’s an interactive recap with some videos from the conference and an audio recording of Transit Unplugged, our podcast that was filmed live, for the first time, at ThinkTransit.
Where is Transit Heading?
At this past ThinkTransit in Tampa, Florida, a wealth of ideas was presented during the keynote presentations, identifying the major trends moving transit toward a new era of mobility:
A future of “priced roads,” awaits, with free access for public transit and fees for ride-sharing vehicles and other private transport
Artificial intelligence will make smart transit systems smarter, improving the safety, efficiency, and reliability of public transit
By working with both traditional and non-traditional partners, agencies create new transit solutions that leverage technologies as well as design innovative processes
Adopting technological innovations, however, should go hand in hand with implementing people-focused initiatives that drive up community engagement
The future of Mobility-as-a-Service
In the opening keynote, journalist, futurist, and urbanist Greg Lindsay charted a future of multiple, competing mobility services in a wide-ranging discussion on future mobility titled Innovation, Politics and Standards.
Greg noted that the conventional Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) paradigm, in which public transit remains the core of a shared mobility ecosystem, is being challenged by transportation network companies Uber and Lyft, who are taking the lead in shaping the emerging mobility landscape. This could create a problematic environment of vertically-integrated “walled gardens,” where TNCs could dominate the industry with little oversight. Open data standards, however, ensures that public transit systems align with those of TNCs’, creating the foundation for any future regulatory framework governing ride-share and other mobility providers.
The future also will see the emergence of “priced roads,” where fee structures will be set up for classes of vehicles using public roads, Greg said. Technology will enable lanes to be allocated to various transportation modes, which will be charged accordingly. Meanwhile, micromobility could compete with public transit instead of helping relieve traffic congestion.
AI-powered and other transit innovations
A highlight of this year’s keynote program was the first live broadcast of Trapeze’s award-winning podcast series, Transit Unplugged, which regularly features top transit professionals sharing their industry insights and experiences. Transit Unplugged Live, on the second day of the conference, hosted a vigorous, thought-provoking forum participated in by five transit CEOs on how to transform the industry with both big, bold ideas and smaller yet impactful initiatives. Among them were free fares, clean-energy production and employee engagement campaigns.
The Machine Learning keynote, by Trapeze Vice-President for Research and Development Boris Gernega, explained in layman’s terms how artificial intelligence could leverage transit’s massive data output for automating and optimizing transit operations.
An interesting sidelight was a “man vs. machine” encounter between Trapeze founder and CEO Mark Miller, clad in a spacesuit, and HAL, the self-aware computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey, exploring the tensions surrounding the issue of automation and learning machines.
In the concluding keynote, Innovating HART: Moving Tampa Forward, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority CEO Benjamin T. Limmer underscored the importance of collaboration and innovation in a transit agency’s transformation agenda. Partnering across the range of stakeholders, he said, can generate new transit solutions and deliver the seamless customer experience driving many agencies’ service strategies.
Find out why ThinkTransit is the place to be for all things transit and mobility. Check out this interactive "Keybook" summary of presentations here.
See you in Arizona in 2020!
Ashley Di Iorio is the Marketing Campaign Specialist at Trapeze Group, where she manages all the email and demand generation campaigns, marketing operations, marketing reporting and analytics. Previously, she was the Marketing Programs Specialist, focusing primarily on our critical events such as tradeshows, conferences, and ThinkTransit: The Trapeze Technology Conference. Prior to that, she worked as a Marketing Intern at Trapeze Group. Her previous work experience includes customer-facing positions in Customer Order Management and Supply Chain, where she worked for both an oil and gas company as well as a consumer packaged goods company. From them, she learned that she loved solving business challenges, designing new processes, and being creative. She recently graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration from Wilfrid Laurier University.