I woke up knowing this day was going to be an adventure, as it marked the first day of CTAA’s new workshop tracks. In the past, CTAA has offered a multitude of workshops a day, spanning many topics. This year, CTAA staff wanted to try something new: align workshops in a four-part track series and at varying levels of skill. This was intended to allow an attendee to either attend all of the emerging, intermediate or advanced sessions or have the opportunity to attend a whole track (innovation, people power, operations and investment).
Before the tracks got started, all participants gathered for the General Session breakfast. Here, CTAA would announce the State Leadership Award and Gabe Klein would present the keynote on The Future of Mobility. The State Leadership Award is given in recognition of a state agency or transit association actively working to improve mobility options in its state and was given to the Oregon Transit Association (OTA). OTA was awarded this special title due to the fact they have proven over and over again, that even in tight budgetary times, effective outreach about the impact of all forms of community and public transportation can result in the most important outcome of all: more money. They worked hard to advocate for their members on the state and federal level, and ultimately succeeded in gaining increased funding for transit. Gabe Klein followed the award and led a dynamic presentation on how transit systems can influence the future of climate change and mobility. He focused heavily on the importance of multi-modal transportation systems, and how we as users need to be more engaged with using various modes and ways in which more Americans can get out of their cars.
The workshop tracks began sharply after breakfast. I made a point to sit in for at least an hour in every workshop. The Innovation track pulled in many speakers that delved into the details of data and what makes it so critical to a transit system. The Operations track was helpful in offering advice on service redesign and was led by CTAA’s top operation managers. The Wednesday morning Investment workshops I found particularly interesting due to its focus on state and federal policy. Here, we discussed the next surface transportation authorization, along with local transit ballot initiatives. CTAA members from across the country gave examples of how they advocated for transit at the ballot. The People Power track first focused on emerging topics, setting the groundwork for more in-depth conversations on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and transit HR.
After a packed morning, it came time for lunch. Today’s lunch-break would be at the Trade Show, giving CTAA staff and EXPO attendees another opportunity to explore the many vendors. Once again, I was happily overwhelmed with the forward-thinking approach to mobility and accessibility that was well-represented across the various vendors.
Following lunch, workshops picked up again, and I spent the first chunk of time listening to Kendra McGeady, Executive Director at Pelivan Transit, discuss how her system has used technology-enabled service delivery innovations in their transit vehicles to mine data to improve and expand their services. She presented information on an expanded service her operation was able to offer with Home of Hope (Home of Hope is a non-profit that provides services to adults with behavioral health disabilities). Before implementing a new pay system, which sought to make seamless payments for its users, Home for Hope had taken 119 trips with Pelivan. After the implementation of the new payment system, that number rose to 652. That demonstrated an increase of over 500 percent within the first six months.
I spent the rest of my afternoon workshops at the People Power track. Julia Castillo, Executive Director of Heart of Iowa Regional Transit Authority, gave attendees information on how to develop an effective marketing and communications strategy. She gave helpful examples from her own system and how they worked with minority communities to ensure that everyone in their community had information on the system.
At the day, I felt exhausted. However, I couldn’t let my weary attitude get the best of me, for it was time for: Big. Night. Out. For months, my colleagues had talked about Big Night Out and how much fun it is; telling me stories of years past and the various entertainment that performed. Needless to say, I was really looking forward to attending the event and interacting with attendees.
Big Night Out did not disappoint. The band, Pink Flamingos, had an irresistible energy that got more people than not moving around. Switching effortlessly between genres and time periods, they provided endless entertainment and amazing music. There was also a fantastic car show parked outside the doors of the event. In classic Palm Springs style, there were 1950-1960s Cadillac’s galore. As I went to bed that night, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad as I knew that tomorrow would be my last EXPO day.
Well, the last day of EXPO was upon us. It was a quick and quiet staff breakfast as we all got ready to dive back into the day’s workshops. Today, I had decided to sit on an Operations workshop. The presenters offered helpful ways in which attendees can effectively implement transit system safety tools into attendees’ operations. Joe Seitz, long-time CTAA PASS Master Trainer, led this discussion and gave local community examples.
The next item on the agenda was the roadmap sessions. Road Map sessions are intended for attendees to inform CTAA staff on the Association’s next steps. These sessions are critical when the Association is forming new legislative goals, new plans for projects and new ways to engage CTAA members. CTAA strives to serve our members to the best of our capability, so it’s helpful to have members’ input on what they want.
I joined the People Power Road Map session. Here, Caryn Souza and I listened to valuable input from those who joined us. We heard about the need for increased networking opportunities (both online and in-person) and the importance of encouraging EXPO attendees to attend workshops outside their comfort zone. At the conclusion of the Road Map sessions, all of the CTAA track leaders got together during the afternoon and broke the information down. This information was condensed to avoid repetition and would be presented at that evening’s Getaway Gathering.
Following the Road Map sessions, we all joined together for a Transit Trivia lunch. Here, Bill McDonald and Barb Cline (both members of CTAA’s Board of Directors) presented attendees with ten trivia questions. Participants worked together at their tables to answer the questions. The questions were tough – I only knew the answer to two or three. The winning table received free registration to next year’s EXPO in Louisville, Kentucky!
Next came one of my favorite parts of the EXPO experience – the tours. I attended the Palm Springs Architectural Tour. Myself, along with a group of 20, rode around Palm Springs and saw the houses of the rich and famous. We saw homes owned by Leonardo Di’Caprio, Elvis Presley, the Rat Pack, Debbie Reynolds, Marilyn Monroe, Nat King Cole, Clark Gable, and many more. We learned many fun facts, include the fact that females were the pioneer architects of the city.
The day ended with the Getaway Gathering. The Getaway Gathering provided an opportunity for CTAA staff and remaining EXPO attendees to mingle and learn what was revealed throughout the Road Map sessions. We learned that attendees wanted CTAA to focus more on: training, information exchange, supplementing small system, communications and enhancing technology.
The day ended as quickly as this entire conference began. It was a whirlwind of a week, but only in the best ways possible. I met many CTAA members, learned about new ideas and innovations happening across the country and most importantly connected with our industry. I already can’t wait for Louisville – see you then!
The Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) and its members believe that mobility is a basic human right. From work and education to life-sustaining health care and human services programs to shopping and visiting with family and friends, mobility directly impacts quality of life.