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What We Learned at Transportation Camp LA 2024
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What We Learned at Transportation Camp LA 2024

Over 70 transportation technologists, advocates, students, and enthusiasts came together at UCLA for Transportation Camp LA. Here are a few of our takeaways.

Jawnt Team
June 20, 2024

Over 70 transportation technologists, advocates, students, and enthusiasts came together at UCLA for Transportation Camp LA. Jawnt sponsored the event, with Nolan, one of our software engineers, and Ruth, on our product team, attending to join the fun. Here are a few of their takeaways.

What is Transportation Camp?

Transportation Camp is unlike any conference you’ve attended. It’s an entirely volunteer-led “unconference”, where the participants propose sessions and set the agenda on the day of the event. Sessions traditionally range from “here’s a cool thing I did” to “here’s a question I have” to “here’s a thing I like, let’s talk about it.” This format leads to more interactive and discussion-based sessions and attracts a wide range of folks and topics. This year’s event in LA had staff from several city, state, and county departments, transit agencies, transportation coordinators, graduate students, and many, many more. It also featured a burrito bar for lunch, because LA.

Favorite Sessions

Nolan

Two sessions I enjoyed focused on real-time transit data and the other on people's expectations for an ideal trip-planning app. The speakers took ideas from the group about potential improvements related to real-time data.

A common theme between the two sessions was the need for more reliable real-time information. The discussion was targeted at improving the commuter’s transit experience. These included: accurate data about trip assignments (which train is running a specific trip), transit frequency (whether trains arrive at the times listed), and more frequent updates on these data points.

While the groups hoped transit providers like LA Metro could implement these improvements, they were also interested in crowdsourcing data that is not easily tracked, such as bus stop amenities, accessibility compliance, and the quality of the surrounding areas of transit stations.

Ruth

Because Transportation Camp attracts such a wide range of people, with so many different perspectives, sessions can sometimes feel a little hard to wrangle. If you randomly have several people with policy experience, but want to talk about data, you’re now talking about data policy. This can be fun, but it’s refreshing to see a session and a facilitator that channel this diversity of perspectives to work.

Vyki from Compiler ran a session about Los Angeles’ currently-paused Transportation Demand Management (TDM) ordinance. Several cities have laws that require employers with more than a certain number of employees to offer pre-tax commuter transit benefits. This is near and dear to Jawnt, of course, and a proven effective tool at diverting solo commuter trips to transit. Los Angeles came close to passing a TDM ordinance last fall, but it stalled out. Vyki took advantage of the interested parties in attendance to brainstorm how to get the draft program back in front of the LA City Council and passed. 

The group came up with some great insights. We brainstormed potential supporters, shared advice on how to get agendized, weighed potential champions at City Hall, and crowdsourced a group of allied organizations. I especially appreciated learning about programs in other cities, and really seeing this ordinance in the context of a nation-wide movement among cities.

Key Takeaways

Nolan 

Being new to the transit space and this being my first transportation camp, it was encouraging to see how passionate the people were about wanting to improve the transit experience for users. While discussions showed that there is still more progress needed to change the perception of transit to the average person who doesn’t take it, it is clear that over the past few years, the improvements made have had a positive impact on the everyday user. I look forward to attending more events like this to learn more about transit and hear all the positive updates being made. 

Ruth

My earliest urban planning memories are of adults worrying about traffic around the Atlanta Olympics, so I was very interested to hear the hot takes from this group about the LA Olympics coming up in 2028. And it felt pretty bleak! There were also several sessions focused on mitigating wider social problems that affect transit’s perception and ridership, from fare evasion to copper theft. Yikes.

But when pressed on the Olympics, almost everyone had something positive to say about a good project that wouldn’t be happening otherwise, or something that was actually going to happen early or on time. And thinking of the bigger picture, LA has rolled out more new subways lines in the past 15 years than anyone thought possible. There’s good stuff happening, you just have to let yourself look.

Along these lines, the session I was saddest to miss was called Postcards from the Future, hosted by an amazing engineer with the State of California. We can only build what we can imagine, and it’s important to allow ourselves time to imagine beautiful, bold, life-changing things.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jawnt Team

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