If you asked me three months ago what I thought about transportation, I would have said that it’s something you use to get from point A to point B; no more complex than that. Before moving to Washington, D.C., and working for ITS America as a summer intern, I gave little thought to our transportation system and transportation policy. I’ve only lived in cities that are car-centric or where cars were the most accessible mode of transportation other than a bike. Now, after spending three months in Washington relying on public transportation and micro-mobility options and researching transportation policies and topics at ITS America, I think about transportation much differently. I realize now that transportation is a critical part of our society that helps safely connect us with people and places, can help combat environmental deterioration, and can facilitate community equity.
At the beginning of my internship at ITS America, a couple of things caught my attention: the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the MobilityXX initiative, and the ITS America standing committees. The IIJA, with its emphasis on equity with the Justice 40 initiative, in addition to its intent to create jobs and address climate change, illustrated to me how valuable transportation policy is and how little I knew about it. I had a similar experience with the MobilityXX initiative, which aims to increase the number of women in the transportation sector by 10 percent in 10 years. I found that I was oblivious to the inequities women have within the transportation system and saw the importance of addressing them. After learning about new transportation policies and initiatives, I had the opportunity to sit in on a MobilityXX Peer Exchange and ITS America standing committee meetings, with representatives from state DOTs as well as other public and private sector organizations as they convened virtually. I was impressed with how ITS America organized so many different groups and the robust collaboration between them. These meetings made me optimistic that initiatives and policies like the IIJA and MobilityXX have a chance to make a difference due to the collaboration I experienced in these meetings.
Leaving my internship with a new desire to pursue a career in transportation, I can reflect on what I learned from my experiences in the transportation sector. I found that addressing transportation needs and exploring intelligent transportation technologies are viable solutions to daunting objectives such as mitigating climate change, promoting equity, and aiding the economy. Technologies like Vehicle to Everything communications (V2X) or Automated Vehicles (AVs) not only promote safety but can also address zero-emissions goals through electrification. Initiatives like MobilityXX and Justice 40 address equity concerns for disadvantaged communities and women. Lastly, the collaboration of the public and private sectors can help develop the best practices for tomorrow. If you asked me today what I thought about transportation, I would say that it’s complex and critical to the future of our society and the health of our world.
Victoria Christopher is an Intern with ITS America and a rising Senior at The University of Redlands