As we get ready to visit Philadelphia, the “City of Brotherly Love,” where the United States Constitution was written, and the Declaration of Independence was signed, liberty is foremost on our minds. The liberty and freedom that epitomizes this great city will be on full display, and will envelope the theme for the International Association of Transportation Regulators (IATR’s) 31st annual conference – i.e., “Regulatory Freedom!”
The concept of “regulatory freedom” may mean different things to different people. For passengers, the freedom to have options, in terms of various types of service and fares, with no inequities and greater efficiency is paramount. When it comes to transportation equity and accessibility, some consider this to be the civil rights movement of our time. As more and more people are moving to cities, living longer and wishing to reside in urban environments to enjoy their golden years, the wheelchair accessibility and equity issue is critical. Driver income and the proliferation of transportation deserts and underserved communities are also big issues within the accessibility and equity sphere.
From a regulator’s standpoint, with the Transportation Network Company (TNC) movement having run its initial course, the attacks on regulators appear to have subsided, and there is some freedom from political pressures exerted on regulators who may now pick-up the pieces following the casualties of disruption. Finally, for the incumbent taxicab and limousine industries, key decisions are being made on whether to lobby for the elimination of regulations that tie their hands from competing.
Our conference next year will be held on September 14th to the 17th at the Logan Hotel in Philadelphia, Pa. The tentative program has been announced and can be accessed at http://iatr.global along with our early sponsorship menu. Also, this year, the IATR will be restricting conference attendance access for non-regulators, only to conference sponsors.
By popular demand, the Austin Inaugural Boot Camp Training is back for an all-day training session in Philly. Topics will include regulatory basics, but also workshops on specialized topics, including an introduction to shared mobility, Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS), as well as automated and connected vehicles.
The theme for Day 1 will be “Smart Urban Mobility – Technology, Shared Mobility and Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS).” Experts in the field will discuss how cities and countries around the world are dedicating resources to multi-modal integration, collaboration and coordination, with an emphasis on “Smart Cities,” the use of transportation data for policymaking and service delivery, and how technology can be used to leverage seamless connections between public and private transport modes, as well as to encourage first-and-last mile solutions and shared rides. This day will also include a policy-oriented workshop session on automated and connected vehicles. Unlike panels in the past that focused on the progress and application of new technologies, this interactive session will dig down deep into how such technology and its implementation will impact issues for both transportation regulators and their regulated industries, including an interactive focus on: regulatory governance (who regulates and what?); safety (testing protocols and the “hand-off” back to passenger control); data privacy and cyber-security (preventing hacking); insurance (end of auto liability and new forms of insurance?); labor displacement (will taxi drivers disappear?); and impact on sustainability, equity and wheelchair accessibility.
There will also be a first-ever “War Games” session involving “Data Mining” – where TransAd, the regulatory agency from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, will be showcasing the unique work of their data mining department, and how taxi and other transport data is analyzed to help shape policy and regulatory management. This interactive session will include real-life policymaking or “war game exercises,” where attendees are put in the driver’s seat to solve transportation policy problems using the data sets available.
The theme of Day 2, consistent with our historical presence in Philadelphia, will be “Transportation Equity.” Sessions will include the finalists for the “Accessible Transportation Solutions Data Challenge” (a “hack-a-thon” over an extended timeframe of several weeks) where the IATR data commons will be used by students and researchers to develop solutions to specific challenge questions developed by conference attendees in Austin and through the work of the IATR’s technology/innovation and accessibility committees. Sessions will be held on how new service models, technology and policy will impact the reduction of transportation deserts, increase service to underserved communities (and rural transportation), as well as the impact of the changing for-hire market on driver earnings and wages. Sessions and workshops on the use of demand-responsive transit for public paratransit will take place, along with sessions involving a review of wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs) and designing the “WAV of Tomorrow.”
Finally, our last day will focus on safety. The sessions will focus on the best way to regulate and promote public safety in a de-regulated or self-regulated TNC era (such as third-party validation), the latest developments in Vision Zero policymaking, new technologies for preventing driver fatigue, as well as black box and telematics initiatives to track driving behavior. The topic of workers’ compensation and other insurance models and funds to protect passengers, pedestrians and drivers will be discussed.
Of course, there will be more cutting-edge keynote speakers, IATR committee meetings will be held, and members from many sister organizations from our Advisory Board, will be on full display. We hope everyone will sponsor early, register early, and participate, as we enter a new phase of our regulatory life for the next 30 years of IATR’s existence. It is time for IATR to hold its own regulatory “Constitutional Convention,” where we revisit what we do, why we do it, and how we can do it better – working together under a new paradigm, and charting a new course for our future.