Transportation Camp DC 2020 Takeaways

Earlier this month, I attended Transportation Camp DC- a one-day “unconference” held before the annual TRB gathering. It’s what happens when more than 500 professional transportation nerds come together to discuss their shared passion. In other words, it’s awesome :). Here are my takeaways.

Data sharing

Cities, private mobility operators and other interested parties (e.g. the ACLU) are engaged in multiple complex debates about the rich data now being generated by new mobility services.

  • Can the legal ability to operate in a city be predicated on sharing data about an electronic device, such as a scooter?
  • Do we want governments “actively managing”, as LADOT terms it, what happens on the streets?

Micromobility sustainability

Micromobility vehicles are so modular that the vehicle definition is important in understanding environmental impact. MDS defines a vehicle as the communications device- “the unit that transmits GPS or GNSS signals for a particular vehicle”. If you swap out every other part, is that really the same vehicle? Measuring the waste stream may be a better way to assess impact.

The opening session where every single attendee introduced themselves. Photo: @andrewdefrank


Four major use cases are emerging: rebalancing to meet anticipated demand, recharging, reparking, and on-demand hailing. Testing these in practice will

Transportation regulators

City transportation departments manage city streets, but often not the public transportation services that operate on those streets. This complicates any initiative that requires resource coordination (e.g. creating a Bus Rapid Transit corridor).

Cities often want to “take their hands off the wheel” of private mobility operator management. However, they are still held responsible when safety issues arise. For example, NYC DOT and Citi Bike’s brake issue.


“Breaking the car culture” can have legitimate privilege implications and we must be more sensitive about these. Outlying, more affordable neighborhoods served by infrequent buses react very differently to this language than affluent, downtown neighborhoods with great public transit. Think about San Francisco’s Hayes Valley versus the Bayview.

On a more personal note, interacting with many transit enthusiasts who weren’t as focused on the role of tech companies was humbling and refreshing.

Thanks to Transportation for America for organizing this year’s event and see you next year!

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