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30 November 2018

Former US DoT boss says job was sometimes like ‘sitting over trapdoor’

First publishedon www.ITSInternational.com

The political pressure on transit organisations was starkly highlighted by the distinguished former boss of Michigan Department of Transportation at a UK conference this week.

Kirk Steudle, who joined Econolite recently after a career in the public sector, said he often felt as though there was “a trapdoor under your seat” while he was in charge of state transportation.

Talking about the development of ITS solutions at regional authority level, he said: “The ability to move forward is largely dependent on the political structure in which you work.”

Having leaders who are receptive to the ideas that ITS brings means that some authorities will allow you to fail and learn from your efforts – but, he added: “Others will just kill you if you fail.”

Feeling as though you were sitting over a trapdoor was an uncomfortable experience, he says: “Some days it feels like ‘one mistake and you’re gone’. Some days [the trapdoor] felt like it was held together with toothpicks.”

But at other times, if politicians understood the challenges of introducing ITS, the ‘trapdoor’ felt as though it was supported by “steel rods”.

Speaking at the ITS (UK) 2018 summit in Bristol, Steudle praised current Michigan governor Rick Snyder’s support for ITS projects, saying: “Under Governor Snyder, it felt like it was welded shut.”

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