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Tolling Points

Happening Online Today and Tomorrow: IBTTA's First Virtual Workshop

By: 
Bill Cramer

With its focus on the COVID-19 experience, the profound shift in tollway operations, and the hands-on opportunities to build back better, IBTTA’s two-day virtual workshop is under way—and thanks to easy online access, there’s still time for you to sign on and participate over the next 24 hours.

With more than 400 participants pre-registered, the Maintenance, Engineering and Roadway Operations Workshop has more than doubled the attendance of last year’s face-to-face gathering. By the time the opening session wrapped up this morning, participants knew they were in for two intensive days of learning and networking.

“The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to try something new. We knew we could turn that into an opportunity for tolling professionals to meet online, share best practices, and network together without even leaving their home office,” says IBTTA Deputy Executive Director Wanda Klayman. “The opening session was powerful, and we’re seeing people sign in from around the world and across the industry—from maintenance and operations, but also individuals working in finance, technology, communications, and more.”

Where We’ve Been: Coping Through Crisis

In this morning’s opening session, Above & Apart: Reflections on COVID-19, panelists looked back on a moment of crisis when every aspect of their business—from traffic and toll operations, to maintenance, customer service, procurement, and even Board meetings—had to be transformed overnight.

John Keller, Executive Director of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, said he took his cue from an old proverb that casts danger and opportunity as opposite sides of the same coin. He recalled that so many of his organization’s 2,500 employees stepped up far above and beyond their regular duties to respond to the crisis during a period of high demand from trucking, but low overall traffic.

Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise took advantage of its high all-electronic tolling rate to minimize disruptions to customers, said Executive Director and CEO Nicola Liquori. The agency modified operations at its service plazas and shifted many of its staff to teleworking—and in some cases, to unrelated duties for other agencies.

Bill Halkias, Managing Director and CEO of the Attica Tollway Operations Authority in Greece, said his agency moved swiftly to rotate personnel between office and teleworking duties, close its customer service centers, encourage electronic toll payment, reduce maintenance activity to the essentials, and cope with traffic reductions that peaked at 93.2% on the Greek Orthodox Easter Sunday in April. In June, more adjusting as the tollway’s volume was down just 16% compared to 2019.

James Hofmann, Executive Director of the North Texas Tollway Authority, said his agency divided its response into two practical necessities—managing its COVID-19 supply chain, and making it easy for customers to pay their toll bills. Centralizing supply ordering and distribution helped keep employees and customers safe, while the outreach effort delivered a 57% increase in video customers opening TollTag accounts, while helping NTTA humanize its brand.

Where We’re Going: The Future Begins Now

One of the (many) great things about an online format is that the Workshop is still going on as we speak—and there’s still time for you to participate and catch some of the highlights. Registration is free for IBTTA Members. The point of learning from the past is to build back better, stronger, and more resilient and successful than ever before. If you want to know what other industry leaders are thinking about that pivot, you can start finding out right now.

Tomorrow’s program (Tuesday, July 14) begins with an hour-long Vendor Forum at 10:00 AM ET, where you’ll get to hear from eight companies sharing their newest products and services. Attendees will also have the opportunity visit 25 companies in our Virtual Exhibit Hall. Business relationships are key to our industry members, the Virtual Exhibit Hall is shaping up as the place to be for professional networking and peer learning.

At 12:30 PM, you’ll hear front-line stories from panelists in the Law and Enforcement and Security general session. Panelists will talk about incident management and enforcement teams that have been out on the roads, and in contact with customers, working to keep everyone safe while most of the country was hunkered down, and the creative solutions they came up with to keep their facilities open, and describe the permanent changes resulting from the pandemic experience.

Then at 1:45 PM, the Closing General Session will focus on the future, Mapping the New & Improved Toll Facility, highlighting opportunities that will continue to emerge once the pandemic itself moves into the rear view mirror.

The Port Authority of NY and NJ is looking ahead to a better state of preparedness, based on an even keener understanding of the need for business continuity. The biggest change for the Pennsylvania Turnpike has been to accelerate the shift to All-Electronic Tolling, out of an abundance of concern for the safety of toll collectors and customers.

The New Jersey Department of Transportation built a bigger, mutually supportive working relationship with the truckers who were still using its tolled facilities to keep supplies and provisions moving during the stay at home order, while Georgia’s State Road and Tollway Authority (SRTA) gained a renewed appreciation for the connections between tolling and transit. For the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission, one goal is to create opportunities for a talent pool of people for whom commuting is not an option.

That’s a quick snapshot of the ideas, experience, and emerging best practices you’ll hear and take away by attending the virtual workshop. There’s never been a time when it’s been more important to connect with and learn from your industry colleagues. Today and tomorrow, that opportunity is just a few keystrokes away.

Join us now for IBTTA’s Maintenance, Engineering and Roadway Operations Workshop, taking place online today and tomorrow.

 

Newsletter publish date: 
Monday, July 13, 2020 - 12:30

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