ITS America annual meeting focuses on smart transportation
First publishedin ITS International
ITS America's next Annual Meeting, in Fort Washington in May 2012, is being planned at a turning point for US transportation and the nation's economy. We asked event organising committee chair Connie Sorrell a few pertinent questions on why attending Fort Washington will be essential for all transportation professionals
1. With the US facing acute financial constraints, the cost effectiveness and value associated with Intelligent Transport Systems present a compelling case for their greater use. How do you intend to drum home this message at the Annual Meeting?
The title of the 2012 Annual Meeting, "Smart transportation: a future we can afford" really helps give context to our goals. The economy continues to be at the forefront as budgets shrink and organisations are forced to do more with less. At the same time, Congress is slowly progressing towards a reauthorisation bill but the issue of funding remains. The hard truth is that there will be fundamental changes in the way infrastructure is funded and deployed.
Our message is that ITS is a cost-effective way to bring valuable solutions to states - and key to addressing the mobility and performance measure goals of any reauthorisation bill. From traveller information systems to emergency response and traffic management, states are using ITS to manage their systems, reduce congestion and provide more value to motorists for less.
There could not be a more crucial time for us to showcase the importance of ITS as an integral component of transportation systems and planning. The programme and activities of the Annual Meeting will focus on the affordability of ITS and how integrating advanced technology into transportation planning and policy can yield tremendous benefits.
2. Historically, generating sufficient public sector attendance from Capitol Hill has proven to be a challenge. How are you looking to overcome that?
We understand the challenges associated with the public sector and are working to shape the meeting programme so that government agency officers or representatives can experience the value of attending this type of event. The metropolitan Washington based location is a unique setting convenient for any number of public bodies, giving attendees access to law makers and policy makers in a way that no other meeting does.
The Congressional Fact Finding sessions give attendees a unique opportunity to meet with their legislator and provide important testimony to Congress. In addition, the technology demonstrations and technical tours will give attendees a first hand look at successful ITS deployments in the DC, Maryland and Virginia region.
3. How does the Annual Meeting differ from the recent World Congress and why should delegates regard attending the Fort Washington event as essential to the nation's increasing transportation requirements?
The World Congress was successful on several fronts and we certainly want to capitalise on that success by continuing the momentum. The consensus of the major policy makers and industry officials in attendance in Orlando was that intelligent transportation systems will be the key to improving travel efficiency and safety, as well as improving the economy. The prevailing theme articulated by speakers such as Secretary LaHood, House T&I Chairman John Mica, Florida Governor Rick Scott and Ford's Executive Chairman Bill Ford is that intelligent transportation is the "next generation for technology and safety." Orlando was also successful in raising the profile of ITS as a driver of the economy and a generator of jobs. At the 2012 Annual Meeting we want to keep conversation going with a focus on transportation policy - particularly so since Congress is still working on reauthorisation.
"Based on our success in Orlando, we are continuing our focus on the next generation of ITS professionals"Connie Sorrell, event organising committee chair
4. What successes from the World Congress will be taken forward and developed for the Annual Meeting or demonstrated at Fort Washington?
The World Congress capitalised on growing interest from the investment community in ITS and saw the debut of the first Investor Matching event. Investment firms like Kleiner Perkins and Fontinalis Partners participated in the World Congress, with others. They got to witness first hand all of the innovation that is happening in our industry and what a sound investment it can be.
So we are planning additional Investor Match activities for the annual meeting as well as sessions on finance. Orlando also featured successful targeted sector days for students and incident management and emergency responders. We want to expand upon the offerings for these groups by providing additional sessions and activities for them.
5. How have you set about ensuring that the content of the Annual Meeting is relevant to the information requirements of delegates?
There are several things we do to make sure our programme content tracks member needs. Our Programme Committee consists of a cross section of members - from public agencies, companies and the research community - all of whom contribute topics to be covered in executive and special sessions of the annual meeting.
For the high level executive sessions, we are using our national contacts to bring in speakers who are well versed in the policy arena. Additionally, we are tapping into our extensive network of over two dozen technical committees to add ideas and populate the special sessions with presenters offering the latest information on cutting edge technologies, deployment efforts and future initiatives.
An additional initiative we reintroduced a couple of years ago for those seeking an even greater level of technical detail is a Call for Papers. This yields presenters for a set of technical sessions that look at emerging ITS technologies in fine detail. One way or another, we have the content covered for all attendees.
6. How might you look to attract new entrants to the Annual Meeting, potentially from other sectors such as tolling, parking and mass transit?
A lot of our outreach for World Congress paid off as we attracted new interest from tolling, transit and parking industries. We recognise that these are growing sectors leading the way with ITS research, planning and deployment. Our programme committee is building session content and subjects that will address the specific needs of these industry segments. Parking in particular is a new sector that is rife with ITS and we are excited to be bringing them into the mix in May.
7. Exhibitors will showcase industry's answers to demand. What can we expect to see?
The exhibit hall in Orlando was an exciting place and the centre of a lot of the action. The hall for 2012 is already two thirds sold with companies signing on every day. We are expecting the same level of activity and energy on the floor with even more integration between the exhibits, sessions and technology demonstrations. The 75,000 square foot hall will feature the latest and emerging technologies from businesses representing private sector companies, public agencies and research institutions.
8. What can young transportation professionals gain from attending next year's ITSA meeting and importantly, what fresh thinking do you think they can deliver?
Based on our success in Orlando, we are continuing to focus on the next generation of ITS professionals. These include students at undergraduate and graduate levels and even those in our technical high schools in the Washington area. We will be providing them with a specific area for networking with public agencies and private companies engaged in ITS. There will also be career counselling, a job board and a chance to hear presentations from accomplished leaders in the field about what the future holds for young ITS professionals.
Investing in the next generation is critically important. It is the fresh thinking of young transportation professionals about the next great innovations, how to work with limited resources and what we can do to connect with the people and communities we serve that will get us where we need to be - a safer, more productive and sustainable place.