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Tolling Points

IBTTA Annual Meeting Brings a World of Innovation to You

By: 
Bill Cramer

Kevin Hoeflich, Senior Vice President and Chairman of Toll Services at HNTB Corporation, and Alison MacDonald, Communications Manager at Halifax Harbour Bridges, are Chief Meeting Organizers for IBTTA’s 87th Annual Meeting and Exhibition, September 15-17, 2019 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. In this interview with Tolling Points, they talk about the transformative trends and topics that participants will learn about during the Meeting.

Driving the Future of Mobility is IBTTA President Chris Tomlinson’s theme this year. How do the various dimensions of that theme play out in the program for this year’s annual meeting?

KH: From the beginning, the program was an effort to bring best practices, lessons learned, and innovative projects to Halifax, literally from around the world. In all three tracks, what you’ll see sprinkled throughout the program is that we’re trying to go beyond the borders of the United States and really tap into what’s going on everywhere. All of your buzz topics—technology, Mobility as a Service (MaaS), autonomous and connected vehicles, transit partnerships—are well represented across the agenda.

As a U.S.-based organization and as an industry, U.S. members tend to think the U.S. is far ahead of everyone else. I went to IBTTA’s meeting in Rome a few years ago, and the bottom line is, it’s just not true. There’s a big world of innovation and this meeting provides with a tremendous opportunity to continue to learn and share with one another unless they go to IBTTA’s international conference. The ‘I’ in IBTTA stands for international. The Meeting Planning Group has made a concerted effort to bring a world-wide scope to this annual meeting. We’re bringing the world and its innovations to our members in Halifax.  

AM: With aging infrastructure, it’s very important that bridge authorities, road authorities, tolling authorities maximize the life of their facilities. We can do that much more easily with toll revenue, and that’s one of the reasons we were able to do The Big Lift in Halifax. The Macdonald Bridge opened in 1955, so it’s 64 years old. Almost the entire structure on the suspended spans has been replaced—the road deck, the floor beams, the truss, all the vertical hangers, and we’ve added a dehumidification system, all of which will extend the life of the bridge for at least another generation. We’re looking forward to the technical tour during the conference so we can show our industry colleagues what we’ve been able to accomplish.

How do you see each of the three conference themes—the business of mobility, technology and the customer, and the world around us—reflecting and advancing the incredibly fast transformation that has been sweeping the transportation sector and the tolling industry?

KH: The tracks are very timely when you think about the way we use technology to interact with our customers and provide a higher level of service, how we communicate with our services and use apps and all different kinds of technology. We’re talking about the business of mobility, as opposed to the business of tolling, and that takes in transit, MaaS, and different ways of getting more people through a corridor, as opposed to more cars through a corridor.

We’ve tried to be very forward-looking about preparing for the future. One of our panelists, Wes Guckert from Baltimore, will remind us that “the transportation revolution is happening NOW”. I give a presentation quite often where I ask the audience what was the golden age of tolling, and you might have thought that was the 40s and 50s. But many people say it’s now, and it might just as well be 10, 15, or 25 years from now.

AM:  I think our attendees will find our Keynote Speaker, Charles Fishman fascinating, as he explains what innovation under-pressure looks like, and how to manage a project and never lose focus. Fishman is famous for his writings on NASA’s race to the moon. With us, he will share the relevance and outcomes of that mission to our lives at work today, and for our lives as citizens, as we tackle some of the complex issues each day, whether they be in the workplace, such as the business of mobility or an issue like climate change. As NASA’s Apollo mission and Fishman will vividly remind us, we can tackle and solve the biggest problems.

The Annual Meeting is one of the best opportunities each year for members to build contacts beyond their immediate surroundings and learn about innovations elsewhere that they can bring home to their own agencies and companies. What are you looking most forward to?

AM: The Worldwide Showcase is one of the highlights of the IBTTA annual meeting. There’s never time to talk to everybody, and even with all the interaction in sessions, not everyone gets to share their story. The Showcase is a great way to hear from representatives from many countries in a short period of time and to get the basic nugget, then follow up afterwards to find out more. In Halifax, we’re just now considering going to all-electronic tolling, and we know other tolling authorities in other countries are light years ahead of us. This meeting presents a great opportunity to hear what other toll operators and countries have done.

The meeting also includes: a strategic development workshop for past Leadership Academy graduates, part of IBTTA’s effort to provide an environment for alumni to continue to grow and share with one another; a big exhibit hall with lots of new product offerings; a First time Attendees/New Members reception; and a forum for the Young Professionals Council to meet up.

Bridge asset management—the ‘B’ in IBTTA—is the focus of a key general session during the meeting. What can participants learn about state-of-the-art bridge work by visiting Halifax, and what else can visitors look forward to while they’re in Halifax?

AM:  During the technical tour, we’ll get to walk on the sidewalk and see the many improvements to the structure. We’ll go into the anchor pier of the bridge and look at its state-of-the-art dehumidification system. And you’ll get to see the incredible collection of videos we produced during the project.

Halifax Harbour Bridges is also active in the International Cable Supported Bridge Operators Association (ICSBOA), where our General Manager and CEO, Steve Snider, is past chair of the board. A few members of ICSBOA will play a large role in the general session on bridge asset management, and the insights they share will be important for everyone, whether or not the asset you manage is a bridge.

You’ll also want to take this opportunity to meet Halifax again for the first time. When we attended last year’s conference in Baltimore, I talked to so many people who were last in our city for IBTTA’s annual meeting 20 years ago. It’s great to see that we have so many ambassadors across the IBTTA family, but we aren’t the same Halifax from 1999. We still have the same small-town charm, great seafood, gorgeous scenery and sightseeing, amazing early fall weather, and legendary Maritime hospitality. But now, we are a modern city with all the amenities of a big city, without losing that local flavor.

Register today for IBTTA’s 87th Annual Conference and Exhibition, September 15-17, 2019 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Newsletter publish date: 
Tuesday, August 6, 2019 - 11:45

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