Tuesday, December 17, 2013

DVRPC: Changing Technology, Changing Transportation meeting

The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) has held its annual Board Retreat and, as usual, has given us some provocative thoughts and thinkers.
The meeting focused on changing technology and its effect on transportation.  Some nuggets from the speakers will give a sense of the sessions:
Andrew Bata of MTA in New York showed us some cutting edge technology in transit, including realtime multimodal information, automated transit, and no-catenary light rail.
Daniel Lee of Penn impressed upon us how rapidly new transportation technology, such as driverless cars, is arriving (and entertained the group with a video of robotic soccer!).
Sabrina Sussman of ITS America said we are entering the “my transportation” era, when people can use their smartphones and other devices to move around in a wide variety of modes.  Just ahead are integrated payments systems, multimodal navigation and trip planning, smarter cities, and connected and semi-autonomous vehicles.
John Gartner of Navigant talked about the future of electric vehicles.  He believes the EV industry is “vibrant and healthy” and expects the German manufacturers (stimulated by the success of Tesla) to be the key growth market in the next couple of years. 
Jim Hughes, dean of Rutgers’ Bloustein Planning School, gave a fascinating account of the growth of New Jersey’s “autocentric office corridors” and their relation to the advent of personal computers and a style of office-based knowledge work based on them.  That day has now passed, he argued, as we enter an “untethered era” based on a mobile internet technology.  Both the new technology and the Millenials who have grown up with it are more oriented to dispersed work and “interactive team spaces” than to the old world of office parks and cubicles.  This shift has left New Jersey with an obsolete suburban office infrastructure that is “oversupplied and underdemolished” with “stranded assets” sitting in “seas of asphalt.”  He suggested that “densification” is no longer just a planning concept: it is being pursued by private sector executives who find the old model expensive and inefficient.
Deron Lovaas of the National Resources Defense Council pointed out the interconnection between new technology and climate change preparedness.
Tom Glendening of E3THINK described new developments in urban mobility, including new bikeshare technology and a new bike-boat-bike trans-Hudson intermodal system under development in New York and New Jersey.
How do all these ideas link up?  See the board below!
On a nontechnical note, Jim Simpson, New Jersey Commissioner of Transportation (and DVRPC Board Chair) recounted some of the frustrations he has experienced in New York/New Jersey relations and said he intends to use the example of Pennsylvania/New Jersey cooperation (facilitated by DVRPC) as a model for improving bistate problems to the east.
DVRPC also presented its Regional Excellence awards (described here), including one of my favorites, the new Pennsauken Transit Center, which provides a connection between NJ Transit’s Atlantic City Line and River Line (story here).  Networks are good!

Congratulations to Barry Seymour and company for another outstanding program in cutting-edge transportation planning!

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