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Tolling Points

Annual Meeting Program Highlights Cutting Edge Technology, Customer Service

By: 
Bill Cramer

Cheryl Sparks, Director of Communications at the Maryland Transportation Authority, and Randy Brown, Senior Manager for Toll Facilities at RK&K, are Chief Meeting Organizers for IBTTA’s 86th Annual Meeting and Trade Show, October 14-16, 2018 in Baltimore. In this interview with Tolling Points, they talk about the program elements and local tours and attractions that will make this year’s conference a must-attend event.

What do you see as the top issues on the Annual Meeting program, and how do they tie in with the broader transformation of the global tolling industry?

CS: Everyone wants to be on the cutting edge of technology to deliver exceptional customer service. The IBTTA Annual Meeting and Exhibition is the perfect place to exchange ideas with peers and really dig into the issues. You have access to colleagues and peers from around the globe who you might not otherwise have the opportunity to meet and get to know. It’s a place to find solutions to deliver a better product for your customers.

RB: Tim Stewart set IBTTA’s 2018 theme as Trust and Accountability. We have carried this theme throughout the program of the Annual Meeting. We’ll look at transparency with all of our stakeholders on issues of social justice, sustainability, enforcement, funding, and contract management. As we collect and generate data, our industry is becoming more data-driven.  We understand this must be conducted in a systematic and responsible manner. The meeting is a chance to share our successes and challenges with these issues as we strive to maintain our customers’ trust.

One session topic in particular—Tolling on the Edge of a Revolution—seems to sum up much of the material on the Annual Meeting program. Where do you see the most significant opportunities and challenges and how will this meeting help participants respond?

RB: Technology brings opportunities to harness Big Data, improve safety with connected and autonomous vehicles, increase enforcement with improved video, and deliver a higher standard of safety with less staffing. Our customers demand it. Reflecting on the past decade, society has moved from the flip-phone to the computing and communication power of the smart phone. This meeting will address how our industry is keeping up with rapid advances in technology to improve service and reduce cost.

CS: Oftentimes, we don’t know what we don’t know. There is no better networking opportunity than this meeting for tolling professionals to learn about innovations in the industry. Advances in technology are always a key topic of discussion at IBTTA conferences, and this will certainly hold true for the Annual Meeting in Baltimore.

Parts of the program focus on collaboration and co-existence with a variety of partners and stakeholders. How do those goals and practices play out in the day-to-day life of a tolling agency, a DOT, or an industry vendor?

CS: The exhibit hall will showcase many innovative ideas and solutions. I’m encouraging attendees to take the time to visit all the vendors, because it only takes that one connection to find the key innovation for your agency that will help you deliver better service to your customers. 

RB: We all benefit from improved mobility and sustainable infrastructure. No one entity can deliver on those promises in a vacuum. By working together, we can bring forward diverse resources to solve common problems. The customer generally doesn’t know or care whose road they are on. They just expect continuity of information, capacity and emergency management as they move from one facility to another.

IBTTA’s theme for this year is Trust and Accountability, and it’s reflected in one of the session tracks in Baltimore. What can participants expect to learn and discuss in those sessions? 

RB: We won’t achieve trust or accountability until we understand expectations. Many of the sessions in this track present expectations from a stakeholder perspective and explain communication in stakeholders’ language. That’s deliberate, because we must seek to understand before we can be understood.

What will participants take away from the Technical Tours?

CS: Our Technical Tours feature two of the most unique toll facilities in the country. The William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial (Bay) Bridge was the world’s largest continuous over-water structure when it opened in 1952. The Fort McHenry Tunnel was the globe’s widest vehicular tunnel built by the immersed tube method when it opened in November 1985. We’re offering a behind-the-scenes look at these facilities, explaining how they maintain traffic flow for Maryland’s citizens and visitors. We’ll also highlight our new Emergency Operations Center, which houses our traffic management and police dispatch staffs and uses state-of-the-art technology to allow maximum communication, efficiency, and effectiveness in responding to incidents on MDTA facilities.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

RB: Networking at an IBTTA meeting is one of the most effective resource-gathering venues I have ever experienced. Whatever challenge you’re facing, it seems someone has already lived it. Don’t miss this opportunity to connect with peers who can offer practical solutions to your biggest issues.

CS: Conference participants should plan to arrive early and stay late in Charm City. There is so much to see and do here in Baltimore, including the National Aquarium, spectacular restaurants, museums, theatres, historic ships, and much, much more.

Sign up today for IBTTA’s 86th Annual Meeting and Exhibition, October 14-16 in Baltimore.

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