Reflections on #transpo: Collaboration is tough for everybody

Transpo crowd, originally uploaded by transportationcamp.

A few weeks ago I skipped soccer (and my team’s historic 7-0 victory) to attend Transportation Camp in San Francisco. It was a blast, and I sort of regret missing the second day of it, but I also had a great time at the Baseball Hall of Fame last week.

The whole day was really invigorating and somewhat overwhelming, but it also helped me see new perspectives, look for new partnerships, and get some much needed fresh energy. (I don’t want to say I was close to burning out, but there was some fatigue.)

The morning was all about collaboration and partnerships for me. What makes them successful? Why do they fail? What lessons have people learned? Are there new partnerships we should be looking for?

I lead a discussion about forging new partnerships, and the thing that stuck with me most is how little people know about the big picture. Lots of the grievances people had about collaboration in transportation were a reflection of the murky waters so many different players with so many different interests creates. You would think an issue of a transit line would be confined to one agency? Ha! You got all the operators, the MPOs, the state DOT, the feds, private developers, researchers — it’s a quagmire. I think this is true for any industry that has so many groups involved from so many different sectors. (Like libraries and education.)

I don’t think our session came up with much that was concrete, other than making it more personal. Some of the people in attendance were community advocates who weren’t really aware of the big network outside what’s local to them and other advocacy groups. I need to get out of the TRB/USDOT paradigm. The programmers/developers could benefit from the human side, and understand a bit of the politics. All in all, everybody benefits from meeting new people and getting broader perspectives. While I wish we did have some actionable solution to foster better collaborations in the vast transportation community, I know it’s too dysfunctional to fix in an hour. Maybe, if we make more of these to build up better relationships we can get the process moving? Ins’t that the key for everything? It’s all personal.

So that was just one thing I got from Transportation Camp. Tomorrow I’ll try to blog about the other thing – data licensing. Exciting stuff, I know!

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