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Tolling Points

Jones: From Mary-Jane O’Meara to Greta Thunberg, Visionaries Shape the Future

Bill Cramer

Greta, Charles, Arielle, Mary-Jane, and Chelsea shared center stage in Halifax September 17 when IBTTA Executive Director and CEO Pat Jones delivered his report to the association’s annual members’ meeting. You can view Pat’s recorded remarks on video here at the 12:57 mark.

Greta is Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish high school student who’s catalyzed millions around the world to protest inaction on climate change, delivering a blistering call to action to delegates at last week’s United Nations Climate Summit in New York.

Charles is Charles Fishman, the author and conference keynote speaker who documented the epic mission to land an Apollo spacecraft on the moon. “The people in this room are the ones who can solve the biggest challenge we have today, climate change,” Fishman told participants.

Arielle is Arielle Rothenberg, the gifted graphic reporter who captured participants’ answers to this question: What is the most important thing IBTTA could do right now to be sure we are relevant in 2029? Some of the answers Jones homed in on in his remarks: Decarbonize transport, eco-routes, and sustainable mobility.

The answers to Rothenberg’s question showed that “the seeds of what Greta Thunberg and Charles Fishman are talking about are present in this room today,” Jones said, and they’ve “been present in this room for quite some time. They just need a little encouragement, a little nurturing, and a little sunshine.”

Mary-Jane, of course, is Mary-Jane O’Meara, past president of IBTTA, whose courage and commitment two decades ago planted many of the other seeds that have been sprouting across the IBTTA community ever since.

“In 1999, I was the second woman to ever serve on the IBTTA Board,” O’Meara told the opening general session in Halifax. “Our meetings were short, and by today’s standard, they were superficial: there was no expectation that the Board would discuss policy, discuss big ideas, or develop long-term strategy to move tolling and user financing forward. In 1999, convening an association board for a 90-minute, tactical meeting was pretty much the state of the art.”

Twenty years later, thanks in large part to O’Meara’s leadership, “I think we see the seeds of a new era all around us,” Jones said.

Chelsea is Chelsea Scheid of RS&H, who’d talked about her work on the Founders’ Committee of IBTTA’s new Young Professionals Council. After 22 meetings since April to write a mission statement, charter, and bylaws and plan a first election of officers, she told Jones: “When we started, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.”

That sense of overwhelmed uncertainty must certainly have been familiar to the NASA engineers who took on the moon mission, to Mary Jane O’Meara when she launched her own moonshot to transform IBTTA, and certainly to Greta Thunberg, who’s said that standing up to a looming, global catastrophe was what it took to work her way out of her own depression over the climate crisis.

The common thread that connects each of those stories? “They all did something about it,” Jones told the meeting. “They took the next step. Maybe they didn’t know what the next step was. Maybe they made mistakes. Of course they did. But they moved forward.”

Then he translated that experience into a call to action for an entire industry.

“We are at a moment of immense promise, challenge, and opportunity for our industry and our world,” he said. “We may not know what we’re getting ourselves into. But—guided by our past and inspired by those around us who see things that we can only glimpse faintly—we are going to take the next step.”

Glimpse the next step! Don’t miss IBTTA’s Global Tolling Summit, October 27-29 in Lisbon, Portugal.

Newsletter publish date: 
Tuesday, October 1, 2019 - 11:00


Great article and great summary of the key highlights in Halifax, thank you for posting. Yes indeed, guided by the past and inspired by those who have vision of future opportunities and positive changes, we can move forward, we can take the next step!