About two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the Association for Commuter Transportation’s (ACT) 2022 International Conference, held August 1st through 3rd in Chicago. In this blog, I will describe some of the highlights of the conference, while the next blog will focus on some of what I found impressive and inspiring about the City of Chicago itself.
For anyone who has attended a conference, you’ll know that they generally consist of large gatherings of people who meet up for a series of workshops, presentations, or “breakout sessions” to learn about the most innovative trends of particular industries or institutions. The duration of these conferences is typically anywhere from one day to about a week. I attended three of the four days of the conference – the main part of it – which took place at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Chicago.
While at the conference, I had the opportunity to meet the founder and staff members of Agile Mile, the company that operates our RIDE Solutions app, which many of you are familiar with. Speaking of the app, don’t forget to log your non-single-occupancy vehicle trips to earn points toward discounts on shopping (brick and mortar, as well as online), dining, activities, and services – or use your points to enter raffles to win gift cards! If you haven’t done so yet, download the RIDE Solutions app at www.ridesolutions.org today!
I attended a variety of interesting sessions over the several days of the conference, and some of the sessions and themes which stood out to me included the following:
- Vanpooling Trends
The vanpool sessions I participated in were presented by representatives of the Salem (Oregon) Area Mass Transit District, Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, and Commute with Enterprise. Some of the highlights of vanpooling include the following:
- Vanpooling has traditionally served white-collar professionals who travel from their homes to one or more employers in a given area.
- Vanpools have traditionally served workers in urban areas, and were often facilitated by employers as part of a benefits package, as well as to address the scarcity of parking common in urban environments.
- In recent years, a significant change in vanpooling has involved a shift to the blue-collar manufacturing and agricultural workforce. Unlike white-collar workers, who have traditionally vanpooled by choice, the more recent blue-collar workers often consist of shift employees, refugees, and the previously-incarcerated.
- These more recent vanpool participants often lack the transportation resources of white-collar professionals, and they vanpool out of necessity, given that many of their workplaces tend to be outside of cities, in industrial parks or agricultural areas that are not well-served by transit.
- DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) Outreach
A second very interesting and relevant topic is a concept known as DEI, or Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. DEI, in the context of the commuting industry, emphasizes the most effective channels by which to conduct outreach, particularly for underserved communities. This topic was mainly presented by Dezra Nauls, of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas.
According to the presentation, some strategies to conduct effective community outreach include the following:
- Involve a diverse group of people at the table and follow through on their advice, don’t just listen.
- Have or develop an intimate familiarity with the community that is being served by the initiative, otherwise marketing and outreach may not be effective, may be tone-deaf, and may fall flat.
- Create diverse advertising content to reach a variety of community members.
- Lead with authenticity.
Bicycling/Bike to Work Events
Another prevalent topic that I found very interesting and relevant was effective bike-to-work strategies. One initiative took place in the Washington, D.C. area, while the other took place in San Diego. These topics were presented by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, the O’Donnell Company, and Steer (consultant to San Diego Association of Governments). Highlights of the presentation included the following:
Metro Washington, D.C.
- The Bike-to-Work Day event in the Washington, D.C. area included 19,000 participants in 2019. While the event was canceled in 2020 due to the Covid pandemic, about half the participation took place in 2021, and approximately 12,700 cyclists participated in the 2022 event.
- The event was promoted with cycling classes, bike to work guides, nearly 100 “pit stops” across the region, and other features.
- Freebies were included, such as T-shirts, bike raffles for those without bikes, bike tune-ups for those with bikes, and food and prizes.
- Bike-to-Work Week was changed to Bike Anywhere Week
- Each day of the week featured a different event, such as virtual quick-check guidance for bikes, and commuting classes based on levels of cycling experience.
- Like the Washington, D.C. initiative, this event featured “pit stops,” which are designed as designated stops to encourage cyclists, make them comfortable, and serve as community focal points. They also offer food and raffle opportunities.