It’s Saturday. It’s rainy, and, because you don’t own a car, you’re hustling half a mile to and from mass transit to get to the nightclub on time. This time though, when stepping through the doors of the club, you’re not getting a wristband. It’s 9am and you’re getting a cool transit pin.
Typically the domain for deep house beat making, this weekend the Public Works club was cranking out a remix of a different kind – transit geeks 2.0.
Organized and led by OpenPlans, Transportation Camps are weekend long unconferences that bring together transportation professionals, technologists, and others to discuss and collaborate on issues facing urban transportation and technology. This year, OpenPlans held a “Transportation Camp West” on March 19 and 20th, at the Public Works club in San Francisco.
Unconferences are unscheduled beforehand, and provide attendees the opportunity to pitch and host session topics. The chaos that typically ensues from dozens of people pitching ideas was poetically organized and efficient at Transportation Camp West, with the added charm of Frank Hebbert’s British accent.
Some of the Saturday unconference sessions included such topics as “Car-Free Living,” led by Aaron Ogle, with assistance from John Mertens, both Code for America fellows. Here, transit professionals and riders alike discussed tips and tricks on how to manage difficult tasks like transporting children, or moving bulky items, without having a car.
Additionally, Michael Bernstein of Code for America led a session entitled “Civic Commons Wants Your Apps!” where civic hackers discussed various transit applications they developed, and how to develop a wider community around their applications.
To keep the party rolling, in between sessions, Ryan Popple, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, gave a rousing talk on the elegant value of green energy technologies such as electric engines in mass transit.
After the Saturday sessions, attendees had a few hours to get dinner before the Ignite session which began at 8pm. A random group of attendees headed over to a local pizza place to revel in their inner transit geekdom, where conversations ranging from saving CalTrain from slashing service to bucket list transit journeys were discussed.
After dinner, it was off to the Ignite sessions being held at Automattic. Aaron Ogle of Code for America kicked off the Ignite session.
After an evening of inspiring Ignite talks, Sunday kicked off with Jen Pahlka, Executive Director of Code for America discussing the progress, vision, and potential of the next generation of government technologists.
Sunday included three sessions, including a session entitled “Clipper: Love it or Hate it?” led by Jake Avidon, from the California Metropolitan Transportation Commission, and Trevor Findley, from Booz Allen Hamilton. At this session, attendees learned of the complexity behind integrating the many transit agencies which use Clipper, and some of the future features that Clipper users can look forward to.
On the way to the last session, “Transit Trademarks,” I spoke with attendee Bridgette Davila, a professor at San Francisco State University, about trade dress in transit stations in Mexico. My discussion with Bridgette made me reflect upon the trade dress present in San Francisco transit stations, leading to a lively discussion at the Transit Trademarks session about the underlying cultural influences that drive transit marketing, trade dress, and service marks.
In all, Transportation Camp was a huge success in bringing together transit professionals and customers to bring greater awareness and collaboration to transit issues. Further, I realized, how being a transit geek is really just about loving the freedom to travel anywhere; which is something the globe-trotting DJs gracing the decks at Public Works can surely appreciate as well.