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Tolling Points

Annual Meeting Program Brings Innovations From Around the World

By: 
Bill Cramer

Howard “Butch” Eley, President of Infrastructure Corporation of America in Nashville, Tennessee, and Heather Reavey, Vice President at HNTB Corporation in Austin, Texas, are Chief Meeting Organizers of IBTTA’s 82nd Annual Meeting and Exhibition, September 14-17, 2014 in Austin, Texas. In this interview with Tolling Points, they look ahead to the highlights of this must-attend event.

TP: What industry news and trends will participants learn about by attending this year's Annual Meeting?


HR: Technology is a continuing trend and a very hot topic, whether it’s payments, connected vehicles, or social media and smart apps. With each of these new innovations, the questions are the same: What’s the impact on our industry? And how can we use these technologies to improve the customer experience? It’s easier now for customers to make payments, or to get updates on incidents and congestion on our facilities. There’s a new generation of customers who expect ease of everything on their smart phones. That’s a really important connection for tolling agencies, from information to marketing.

BE: Financing is clearly the other issue of the day. No one has a silver bullet when it comes to paying for our nation’s surface transportation program. The Annual Meeting will focus on all different kinds of bold, new funding methods. Participants will also get to hear the latest updates from Washington and learn more about how to execute funding programs at the agency level.

TP: IBTTA has declared 2014 the Year of Customers and Collaboration. How is that theme reflected in the Annual Meeting program?

BE: The program is designed to capture the emphasis and impetus that our President this year, Mike Heiligenstein, is placing on customer service. It’s all about the customer—what they need and want, not just from the standpoint of how we operate out there today, but also with a focus on the future and what customers will expect. That brings us back to the program track on new technology trends, from mobile to social.  We also expect to hear from private sector leaders, companies that are known for mastering and delivering on the art of customer service.

HR: We’ll be looking at the influence of changing demographics. We’re seeing younger customers, as the market slowly shifts from the Interstate generation to the managed lane generation. Discussions will provide insights as to how we provide quality service to meet the range of customer expectations. We also have many different nationalities and languages, and we know that U.S. agencies can learn from our international peers about how we respond to that diversity in a way that benefits the customer.

We’re also bringing in perspectives from outside our industry—from business leaders, elected officials, customers, and related industries and associations, and we’re talking with some of our critics. We want our members to understand how those perspectives influence our industry, and what we can learn from them. It’s one thing to have an exchange among ourselves within the toll industry, but we wanted to be sure we heard from all of these different voices.

TP: What is the added significance of holding this year's Annual Meeting in Texas? What can participants from around the world expect to learn from the Texas experience, and what can local participants take away from the work of their international colleagues?


BE: Texas is a laboratory for the entire tolling industry, and everyone’s eyes are on the state because it’s seen to be on the cutting edge of all things tolling. We’ll hear from industry pioneers who are dealing with local issues that apply across North America and around the world. Texas has been on the cutting edge, and sometimes it’s been on the bleeding edge. Annual Meeting participants will have a chance to learn first-hand how to benefit from the Texas experience.

HR: In each of our program tracks—technology and innovation, customers and communication, policy and politics, finance and funding—there are important lessons to be learned from the way different agencies and countries deal with the same issues. Every project is local, and we can all learn from each other on issues like interoperability, border crossings, customer services, or changing customer demographics.

TP: The Annual Meeting is one of the main opportunities each year for the IBTTA community to gather from around the world. How will the networking and informal conversations during the conference help advance the industry?


BE: We’ve got some world-renowned music and venues, so there will be ample time for folks to get to be with each other informally. We all know that, oftentimes, more work is accomplished breaking bread together than listening to speeches. This meeting in Austin will be a great opportunity to do that.

HR: We’ve allowed more time for networking this year because we recognize how important those moments are. Hearing the presentations is great, but it’s just the start of the conversation. It’s in the hallways afterwards that you really get into sharing perspectives, ideas, and lessons learned, and who knows what can develop out of that? The dialogue with folks from all around the world will be an incredible opportunity, and we can’t wait to see everybody in Austin.

Click here to learn more about IBTTA’s 82nd Annual Meeting and Exhibition, September 14-17, 2014 in Austin, Texas.

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