Observations from Montreal

By Mr. Eric Rensel posted 11-13-2017 12:38 PM


I had the opportunity to attend the ITS World Congress, held in Montreal Canada, two weeks ago. The theme of smart cities and a focus on connected automated vehicles was on full display. Nearly every exhibit hall vendor and nearly every session, whether formally or informally, referred to these two topic areas. While making one of my four or five trips through the exhibit hall maze, I couldn’t help but think about ITE’s focus on smart communities.

Some would suggest that the difference between a smart city and a smart community is pure semantics – a play on words if you will. Indeed many speakers at the ITS World Congress did speak to the ideals of a smart community, even if they didn’t use the vocabulary.

  • Empowering People
  • Solving quality of life issues
  • Placing even greater emphasis on collaboration
  • Taking a whole community approach to evolution.

It’s true, technology and in particular the integration and intelligence that comes from data science, holds a tremendous amount of promise for the future of transportation engineering and planning. But I would challenge conventional thinking that suggests all we need to do is keep up the pace. It is our responsibility as practicing professionals, perhaps even our duty, to evolve with change. To not maintain our course on the technology curve, but actually reshape the curve itself. As ITE professionals the public, our employers, and our clients insist on and expect unbiased solutions to the problems they face. Sound familiar? I would suggest that is the true definition of a smart community and an ideal that has been at the center of ITE since its formation.

Throughout 2017 the Transportation Systems Management and Operations (TSMO) Council sought the input of people from across ITE to include different professional backgrounds, levels of experience, gender, ethnicity, and other differences that make us one united ITE. The results were inspiring.

The members of ITE embrace the essence of independent opinion, solving the most pressing needs of the communities they serve through a balanced approach to research, policy, technology, and practice development. We also found that your needs are diverse and your ideas are limitless. Therefore we worked with the International Board of Directors to create a Smart Communities Task Force. The taskforce as already undertaken some very important activities designed fully realize the benefit ITE members have to the smart communities and set the stage for accelerated leadership on the topic. You will be seeing some communication about that in the very near future.

Moving forward the Smart Communities task force will work hard to bring people from every corner of ITE together so that dreams and practical worlds can come together for the next generation of ITE members and so that our customers continue to rely on the unbiased opinion that expected of an ITE member. Together, with your help, our organization is poised to reshape the view of applied technology to all practitioners that call ITE their professional home. In the next few weeks look for more opportunities to interact about smart communities and please feel free to continue sharing your thoughts by joining the Smart Communities ITE Community space.