International Communications Intern Jeremy Tang shares his experience attending TransportationCamp New England 2023, a participant-driven “unconference” with sessions entirely planned, proposed, and run by attendees. Originally from Boston, Jeremy is currently pursuing a Masters in Urban Studies at the University of Amsterdam and has been with Mobycon since January 2023.
I had the opportunity to attend a variety of sessions throughout the day hosted by people passionate about a variety of transportation-related issues. After a plenary session at the start of the day explaining the format, attendees were given the opportunity to brainstorm and propose their own sessions. The first session I attended featured a presentation from three MBTA employees on communicating real-time service changes to riders at stations. The “screens team” highlighted the unique challenges of ensuring that both planned and unplanned changes to transit service were communicated to riders and gave a sneak-preview of their new system for generating service alerts.
After the screens presentation, Integrated Mobility Consultant Emily Thomason co-led a session on the unique transportation issues facing small towns in New England. While much attention is given to improving urban transportation networks, the issues wrought by car-dependency are just as apparent, if not more so, in small towns. Emily facilitated a large-group discussion to identify problems and potential solutions. Planning students and professionals alike shared their own experiences, contributing to a productive and inspiring discussion about the future.
I attended another MBTA-focused session after lunch: this time, on the upcoming fare transformation and AFC 2.0 technology that the authority hopes to unveil soon. The deep dive into the technical aspects of fare collection shed an interesting light on the challenges that transit agencies face in implementing policy changes, but the dedication of the employees to improving service despite resource constraints was certainly inspiring to see up close and personal.
The final session of the day that I attended was led by a student group, Sustainable Transportation at Northeastern (STAN), exploring ways to improve cycling facilities on campus. “Transportation camp was a very eye-opening experience, and as an undergraduate, it was a wonderful peak into the diverse field of transportation,” said Brant Barbera-Hwang, an engineering student at Northeastern.
Overall, I really enjoyed the opportunity to learn from the dedicated, enthusiastic people pushing for better a better transportation system across New England. The participant-driven structure of the “unconference” helped create open dialogues to tackle existing challenges, explore new solutions, and learn from a variety of experiences and backgrounds.