Monday, July 30, 2007

More On The Weakness Of Our Region's Transportation Team

I know I was hard on our region's transportation team in the previous post. Yet, my concern is that our transportation team is somewhat mediocre compared to the teams in other regions. By "transportation team" I mean that extended network of planners, academics, NGOs and transportation agency executives that is largely responsible for the stewardship of our regional transportation system.

One big indication of the relatively poor quality of our region's transportation team is the failure of this region's Urban Partnership Program grant application. Another indicator is the lack of a Chicago area presence on national transportation policy making committees and professional organizations.

For example, below is a recent DOT press release announcing the appointment of an Intelligent Transportation Systems Advisory Committee. Intelligent vehicle/intelligent roadway technology is at the cutting edge of research and funding as we search for ways to use our highways more efficiently and more safely. There is significant potential that such systems and equipment could comprise a significant economic growth sector over the next several decades.

So, review the list of appointees and what do you see. Not one transportation official, academic, or industry representative from this region was named to this important committee. This is another unfortunate indication that this region's transportation team lacks the depth and creativity sufficient to be asked to be a part of what could be the "next big thing" in surface transportation.

We can debate the causes--institutional fragmentation, poor political leadership, and the like--but the fact remains that when the federal government looks for innovation in managing today's transportation system (the Urban Partnership Program) and in laying the foundation for a more sophisticated highway operating system (ITS Advisory Committee) it doesn't look to this region for help. That is a problem because to maintain its global competitiveness this region can't be a laggard when it comes to transportation.

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DOT PRESS RELEASE

US Transportation Secretary Names ITS Advisory Committee Members
U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters has named the following candidates to serve on the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Advisory Committee, pursuant to Section 5305(h) of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). The ITS Advisory Committee is charged with reviewing areas of ITS research being considered for funding by the Department and advising the Secretary on ITS aspects of the Department's strategic plan. The ITS Program is overseen by the Department’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA). For more information, contact Marcia Pincus in the ITS Joint Program Office.

1. Randell H. Iwasaki. Mr. Iwasaki is Chief Deputy Director of the California Department of Transportation.
2. Alfred Foxx. Mr. Foxx is Director of the Baltimore City Department of Transportation.
3. John M. Inglish. Mr. Inglish is General Manager on the Utah Transit Authority Board of Trustees.
4. Ann Flemer. Ms. Flemer is Deputy Director of Operations for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission of the San Francisco Bay Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.
5. Dr. Lawrence D. Burns. Dr. Burns is Vice President of General Motors for Research and Development and Strategic Planning.
6. Tomiji Sugimoto. Mr. Sugimoto is Vice President of Honda Research and Development Americas, Inc.
7. Robert Peter Denaro. Mr. Denaro is Vice President of NAVTEQ.
8. Iris Weinshall. Ms. Weinshall is former Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation.
9. Ronald Greer Woodruff. Mr. Woodruff is Senior Vice President of Corporate Safety and Security for J.B. Hunt Transport.
10. Bryan P. Mistele. Mr. Mistele is Founder, President, and Chief Executive Officer of Inrix Technologies.
11. John Worthington. Mr. Worthington is President of Transcore.
12. Joseph Averkamp. Mr. Averkamp is Director of Product Strategy for Sprint-Nextel.
13. Dr. M. Granger Morgan. Dr. Morgan is a Professor and Department Head of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University.
14. Dr. Joseph M. Sussman. Dr. Sussman is JR East Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering within the Engineering Systems Division at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
15. Dr. Kenneth J. Button. Dr. Button is a Professor of Public Policy at the George Mason School of Public Policy and is Director of both the Center for Transportation Policy, Operations and Logistics, and the Center for Aerospace Policy Research.
16. Dr. Adrian Lund. Dr. Lund is President of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and affiliated Highway Loss Data Institute.
17. Michael Replogle. Mr. Replogle is the Transportation Director for Environmental Defense.
18. Thomas C. Lambert. Mr. Lambert is Vice President and Chief of Police of the Department of Police and Traffic Management at the Metropolitan Transit Authority in Houston, TX.
19. Steve Albert. Mr. Albert is Director of the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University.

3 comments:

HealthyCity said...

As has been said elsewhere, the "weakness" of the team is actually an intential result of a fragmented regional structure of governance in NE Illinois, and this frequently leads to losses of Federal dollars.

Now, I'm not one to pass-up any kind of Federal largess, but I think the Moderator is making too much of both this Urban Congestion project and the ITS committee just formed.

Both of these areas are overwhemingly bent towards highway construction and roadway capacity enhancement, which are failed missions if they don't center around alternatives to the automobile. There's little evidence that the Fed's interest is moving in that direction at all. Just because they say "creative" doesn't mean that's what it's going to be. I think the Moderator is crying a little too much over this, although I do agree that the region didn't stand a chance, because, frankly, there isn't a region to speak of.

Anonymous said...

No, as Moderator says, the weakness extends well beyond governance to the rest of the "transportation community." Academics are even a small part of this; probably the larger failure is among the consultants who employ countless engineers, planners, and the like.

I recently reviewed responses to an RFP explicitly asking for innovative programmatic (not building stuff) transportation solutions, and the local respondents were beyond dull, without any hint of innovation. There's not even good copy-catting going on here.

Anonymous said...

Dearest Moderator

You split many hairs but you paint with a really big brush-- again.

The region's major transportation and planning agencys (IDOT/Tollway/RTA/CMAP)are all under relatively new management. When the local Urban Partnership Program "Team" as you call it was convened, they all sent their most trusted and loyal representatives-- not their most innovative and experienced.

There is much, much talent in this region--check with national sources for confirmation--the problem is that it has to operate under the region's orwellian political yoke.

But you conveniently hop-scotch to your conclusion--again. An independent might easily hop-scotch as well, to an alternate conclusion-- that in concert with the neoleadership, you are actually a co-prosecutor of the "unperson".