With nearly 20% of our workforce currently at retirement age, the transportation industry faces the potential loss of significant institutional knowledge as baby boomers consider trading in the brief case for a golf bag.
For many of us, a greater emphasis has been placed on succession planning and ensuring we prepare those who will take over to successfully lead our agencies into the future. And not only do we need to focus on those right behind us, we also have a responsibility to inspire and educate the youngest generation entering the workforce.
A program started by the Orange County Chapter of the Women’s Transportation Seminar is an ideal example of this kind of effort. Known as the Transportation Academy, the program exposes students to aspects of the transportation field they would otherwise not have the opportunity to experience.
For those who are unfamiliar with it, the Women’s Transportation Seminar is a national professional organization that has promoted the advancement of women in the transportation industry since 1977. The Orange County Chapter, where I am a member of the advisory board and chaired in 2010, took the idea of advancing transportation careers to the next level by launching the first Transportation Academy two years ago.
The program provides an in-depth look at various aspects of the transportation industry for 25 students who range in age from high school seniors to graduate students. The participants are selected from a pool of applicants and given the opportunity to visit various transit agencies in Southern California and hear from top executives in the field.
The program has grown over the past three years to involve10 participating agencies, including major metropolitan planning organizations, port authorities, consulting firms, a toll agency, an airport authority and rail agencies.
Each organization dedicates a half day to the students, providing insight about challenges and opportunities, emergency response and business continuity plans, as well as case studies highlighting unique features of large and small projects. Many of the visits are capped off with a tour of the agency or a site visit to an active construction project.
The lessons give students a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into completing large-scale construction projects and operating and managing port complexes and airports.
The Orange County Transportation Authority has been a participating agency in the Transportation Academy since its inception and is proud to be a partner in a program that is educating and training the next generation of transportation leaders.
Generation Y will bring with them high expectations — of themselves and the organizations they represent. These young people will challenge the status quo, which in turn will bring innovation to our industry. I encourage agencies around the country to consider similar programs and would be happy to provide any information that can help.
In the end, it will be to the benefit of transportation providers and private-sector employers to teach students what to expect and how to use their skills and knowledge to be successful in the transportation industry.
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Read our METRO blog, "Amid heat wave, L.A. transit center to combat global warming" here.
Seeing a canine passenger on mass transit is not uncommon, but the reasons why a dog might catch the train or hop a bus are varied (remember Eclipse, the Seattle Lab mix that uses the bus, often on her own, to get to the dog park?). Most public transit pooches are working —as K-9 officers or service animals. In the Philadelphia region, other animals — in approved carriers only—are permitted to ride the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s buses, trains and trolleys. However, a new pilot program underway by SEPTA allows registered therapy dogs volunteering at two Philadelphia hospitals to use two designated bus routes to travel to their sites.
To be sure, there is no substitute for offering high-quality bus or rail transit service, but many transit agencies skimp when it comes to marketing, outreach, and education and, as a result, the public often has no idea how good the service may actually be. Buses also have an image problem in many communities, which proper marketing could help address. Witness the huge sums spent by automakers in crafting the image of their automobiles.
The Uber website proudly states that, “Uber is evolving the way the world moves. By seamlessly connecting riders to drivers through our apps, we make cities more accessible, opening up more possibilities for riders and more business for drivers. From our founding in 2009 to our launches in over 200 cities today, Uber's rapidly expanding global presence continues to bring people and their cities closer.” Such hype is common on corporate websites, but when the braggadocio is backed up by an article in the Wall Street Journal that discloses a valuation of $41 billion their ambitious words take on relevance.
As the world changes with the rapid advancement of connected devices and technologies, so must the transportation industry. In a business area where change is sluggish, DOTs across the country must adapt quickly to the evolving technologies that are going to impact their operations and budget. There are at least three technologies that will have immense impact over the next two decades on how we travel and how state transportation departments react to provide mobility — connectedness, big data and automation.
Around the world, artwork of all forms adorns transportation centers, stations and bus shelters. While many of these statues, paintings, mosaics and sculptures are permanently installed as part of a station’s architecture, transportation organizations can use their spaces for art exhibitions that not only make transit hubs more aesthetically pleasing for commuters, but also inspire budding artists. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) recently partnered with two organizations to showcase the artistic talent of youth from the Greater Philadelphia region and around the world.