RT15 – Dr. Velvet Fitzpatrick and Dr. Drew Dara-Abrams – Fostering Transit Innovation: TRB’s Transit IDEA Program

RT15 – Dr. Velvet Fitzpatrick and Dr. Drew Dara-Abrams – Fostering Transit Innovation: TRB’s Transit IDEA Program

Researching Transit – Episode 15

Published: October 2020

Keywords: technology, gtfs, IDEA, innovation, transit, real-time, TRB, research, entrepreneurship

In this episode of Researching Transit, Professor Graham Currie speaks with innovators Dr. Velvet Fitzpatrick and Dr. Drew Dara-Abrams. Dr. Fitzpatrick is a Senior Program Officer for the Transportation Research Board (TRB) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. TRB, host of the world’s largest annual meeting for transportation research, plays an immense role in both generating and disseminating transport research.

Dr. Fitzpatrick discusses her work with novel technology projects through TRB’s Transit IDEA program. The Transit IDEA program – Transit Innovations Deserving Exploratory Analysis  – was founded in 1992 with the aim of funding unproven early-stage research; projects that are too risky for other institutions to invest in. Each year, a call for proposals is developed which reflects needs in the field of transportation. An expert panel evaluates proposals and selects eligible projects. To date, 99 projects have received funding through the program.

Transit projects funded through the program are diverse in scope. Examples include drone technologies that make parking at Commuter Rail stations safer; and bus sensor technology that identifies riders in need of extra assistance for boarding and alighting. Dr. Drew Dara-Abrams of Interline Technologies has been involved in a recent IDEA-funded project. Drew works with transit agencies realise the value of high quality real-time transit data (through general transit feed specifications, or gtfs). Funding from the IDEA program has spurred incorporation of this real-time data into the Transit.Land open access platform, that provides an interface for agencies to query their timetable data. Learn more about Interline Technologies’ work by visiting www.interline.io.

Dr. Fitzpatrick speaks about the complexity, partnerships, risks and dedication that go into developing implemenetation-ready technologies in transport. One challenge is the longer-term payoff associated with early-stage innovation; which means projects require sustained effort and investment beyond the life of Transit IDEA funding. This is why Transit IDEA works with project teams to grow their networks and attract funding. She highlights two key lessons for innovators in transportation should be:

  1. Project goals should be sustainable, beyond the life and modality of the project
  2. Project teams must be flexible; accepting of risk and unexpected events

Want to learn more about transit innovations?

  • Visit project descriptions on the Transit IDEA website
  • Innovation in Action is the Transit IDEA Program’s first ever innovation report. Released in January 2020, the report highlights the impact of the program to date.
  • The Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) first received funding in 1991 after Willim (Bill) Millar and APTA highlighted the importance of research in public transportation. Since then, over $10 million has been invested in over 500 projects under the TRB banner. Source: Bill Millar’s Exit Interview: APTA’s Chief Signs Off (Metro Magazine, 2011)

TRB’s 100th Annual Meeting is set to go virtual, bringing TRB’s wealth of resources to a wider audience all over the world. To commemorate this milestone, TRB kicked off a year-long celebration with the 99th Annual Meeting in 2020 and will conclude with the 100th Annual Meeting in 2021. More information and registration: http://www.trb.org/AnnualMeeting/Registration.aspx

Technical architecture diagram showing how GTFS Realtime feeds fit into the overall process of sending real-time data from a bus/train to a rider/user. (Source: Interline Technologies)
Transitland GTFS Realtime Validation Platform providing a report on a particular feed's quality--clicking on the links takes agency staff into detailed maps and tables for each error. (Source: Interline technologies)

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Music from this episode is from https://www.purple-planet.com

  • Date October 11, 2020
  • Tags Podcast