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Takeaways from Transportation Camp PHL 2024

Takeaways from Transportation Camp PHL 2024

This past weekend, 150 transportation practitioners, advocates, students, and enthusiasts came together at Drexel University for Philadelphia’s seventh Transportation Camp.

Jawnt Team
April 23, 2024

This past weekend, 150 transportation practitioners, advocates, students, and enthusiasts came together at Drexel University for Philadelphia’s seventh Transportation Camp. Jawnt sponsored the event, with Leo, our Senior Customer Success Manager, and Ruth, our Senior Product Manager, attending to represent Jawnt and 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 Philadelphia had staff from several municipal departments and transit agencies, high school and college students, and everyone in between.

Favorite Sessions

Ruth: Of course my favorite session was the one hosted by the City of Philadelphia’s Zero Fare Program team! Philadelphia’s Zero Fare Program is the most impressive public benefits project you’ve never heard of. Dozens of people have been working to make this program happen for years. Since the funding kicked in last summer, and Jawnt signed on to host their participant information, I’ve been proud to say I play a small role in this program. This session was well attended by public transit supporters, and it was exciting to watch them start to fully understand how much the City of Philadelphia has done so well and so thoughtfully. And even more exciting to watch the program staff get to experience this positive feedback. The discussion itself focused on exchanging best practices for getting the word out, and as always I look forward to seeing what the ZFP team does next.

My second favorite session was Amtrak’s Q&A. This session echoed the one they presented at the Transportation Camp in DC this January, but there were several more Amtrak staff in attendance, and many, many more participants (despite this being a smaller event overall). I’ve been following Amtrak’s evolving and expanding data sharing policies since my days at Apple Maps, and it’s heartening to see them getting such a positive reaction to making themselves available for questions. The deeper bench of staff came in handy, when the audience grilled them on the nuances of dynamic pricing policies, real time arrival information, catenary line design, and working with state DOTs. 

Leo: My (biased) opinion is that the Zero Fare Program session was the best, most impactful, most important session of the day. I heard a few people walking out of the session tossing around words like “impressive” and “inspiring”, which is exactly the type of conversations and impressions that Transportation Camp endeavors to cultivate with these sessions. Successfully running a publicly-funded project that resulted in 1.5 million rides in a matter of months is truly unprecedented. And just like anything that is first-of-its-kind, the butterfly effect of telling the story and showing people what is possible is what excites me most. Who knows what might come of the Zero Fare Program’s success? What will be the ripple effects of sharing the ingredients of that success?

Key Takeaways

Ruth: I met the founder of Walk around Philadelphia, a group that coordinates outings to literally walk the 120-mile boundary of the City of Philadelphia. They break it up over several days, and some people do pieces off and on over years to finish. I love this idea and immediately looked up the boundary of my town. This reminded me of leading tours with Oakland Urban Paths, and inspired me to make similar connections in my new community.

I’m also a volunteer organizer for Transportation Camp New England, which takes place at MIT across the river from Boston. Last year I designed and led the block printing party to create our souvenir tote bags, but had to miss the actual event. But some of my fellow organizers also made the trek to Philadelphia, and it was such a delight to get to meet some of them in person for the first time! 

Leo: Like many millennials before me, a YouTube rabbit hole fostered my foray into (and eventual obsession with) the weird and exciting world of transit. What began with Not Just Bikes and Climate Town eventually led to more niche transit content creators like Miles in Transit and Alan Fisher. The videos on these channels have helped open my eyes to the imperative role that good transit plays in a fruitful, human-first society, so it was pretty cool to see some of these folks in-person and hear voices I thought I’d only hear through headphones while doing the dishes. I didn’t get to say hi to Alan, but if you’re reading this, hi Alan! Thanks for making a video about the Lackawanna Cutoff.

Jawnt Team

The Jawnt blog

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