Momentum: Issue #12

February 4, 2019


On January 28, ITS America introduced the association’s Mobility on Demand (MOD) Alliance to Capitol Hill in a roundtable discussion entitled “Mobility on Demand: Providing Seamless Mobility for Consumers.” Participants included ITS America board members New York City Department of Transportation CTO Cordell Schachter, DC Department of Transportation Director Jeff Marootian, Central Ohio Transit Authority Vice President of Government Affairs Laura Koprowski, and Ford City Solutions Vice President John Kwant, in addition to B.J. Mahal, Mastercard Vice President of Cities and Mobility. ITS America President and CEO Shailen Bhatt moderated the panel.

Bhatt introduced the MOD Alliance by talking about the new forms of mobility that are being deployed even as others are being developed. Long-existing silos among cities, states, counties, and transit agencies are disappearing. The next generation of mobility is a collaboration of the public and private sectors. More choices exist now, but for consumers to fully realize the benefits, it must be easier to choose which option best meets their needs. He also stressed the importance of how transit fits into MOD.

The MOD Alliance exists to facilitate a transportation ecosystem in which consumers can research, book, and pay for all parts of their daily journeys—no matter the form of transportation (e.g., rideshare/bikeshare, transit, personal vehicles, micromobility, etc.)—on an integrated platform accessible on request. The MOD Alliance is committed to making this consumer-oriented transportation vision a reality for more Americans across the country.

Cordell Schachter, CTO for NYC DOT, said that MOD has the potential to help travelers, especially visitors, choose transportation options that make sense for them and that also are reliable, sustainable, and safe. He championed an environment that fosters an increased use of New York’s  great public transportation system but also supports the use of other modes to help address transit deserts and move travelers from their starting points to their destinations.

Additionally, Schachter commented on the need to share data.  On the public side, he said the data belongs to everyone.  The customers for that data involve corporations, researchers, and students, but also everyday Americans who need that information in a format they can understand. Data that is prepared for government use often actually has value beyond that narrow purpose, and we need to find ways to make this data accessible.  He said the private sector needs to share as much information as possible without compromising their business models or proprietary data, because it would lead to improved traveler, investment, and cost information, and better optimized use of roads and public transit, for example. 

Jeff Marootian, Director of the District DOT, agreed that a regional approach to transportation is necessary.  He said that government must provide transportation options that are coherent and understandable, affordable, and easy to access and use.  He added that Washington, D.C. is using data to inform decision making about how it uses the infrastructure, including curb space. 

Laura Koprowski, Vice President of Government Affairs for COTA, said that while the system’s ridership is increasing, it’s not accessible to all and that MOD could be a great solution.  She noted that COTA is committed to partnering and collaborating with communities and being part of the solution.

Koprowski said COTA’s buses are collecting a vast amount of data and have been designed with closets to house computers. COTA is addressing how to deal with and most effectively use all this data and how to establish the most effective metrics. She pointed out that COTA’s technology budget is now greater than its traditional capital budget.

B.J. Mahal, Vice President of Cities and Mobility for Mastercard, noted the importance of mobility to education, workforce development, and economic development.  He argued that transportation with closed proprietary payment systems adds friction into the system and pointed out that how we pay for anything else —whether it be a Mastercard, a Visa, American Express, Discover, Apple Pay, Google Pay, or a wearable—is about consumer choice.  Regarding transit, he used the example that if someone is visiting a new place and is faced with the prospect of waiting in a ticket vending machine line and learning a new system, he or she is likely to instead choose something more familiar, such as Uber, Lyft, etc. Mahal supported data sharing, provided it is aggregated and anonymized.  He noted that Mastercard is working with multiple jurisdictions to understand the economic impact, for instance, of road closures.

John Kwant, Vice President for Ford City Solutions, noted the trends of increased urbanization, the shared versus owned, and technology enabling the gig economy to connect supply and demand. MOD takes separate transportation options—micromobility, transportation network companies, transit, and one’s own driving – and aggregates them to provide travelers with full choice and transparency.  He argued for striving for a level of orchestration, where the ratio of passenger miles traveled over vehicle miles traveled keeps going up.

Kwant said there is some data that people will be more willing to share because sharing will be beneficial. He suggested talking with municipalities, transit agencies, regional planning authorities, and others about what data is needed, how to protect it appropriately, and what the benefits are of sharing it.

In addition to the roundtable, panel members met with the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Highways and Transit Subcommittee and Senate committees on Environment and Public Works; Commerce, Science, and Transportation; and Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.


The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) reached its 2018 year-end target by equipping 2,200 connected vehicles and deploying 75 connected infrastructure sites in the Ann Arbor Connected Vehicle Test Environment (AACVTE).

To date, nearly $50M has been invested in Ann Arbor. AACVTE is the world’s largest combined vehicle and infrastructure connected environment and is the first commercial launch of connected vehicle technology.  Additionally, $3.4M has been secured through the University of Michigan’s Mcity to operate and maintain the environment for the next three years. Mcity also has sponsored deploying pedestrian detection (V2P) in the AACVTE, as well as contracting Green Hills to use its production security credential management system (SCMS).  The Green Hills’ SMCS is the cornerstone for interoperability with production vehicles that will be rolling off the assembly line from GM, Toyota, and others. 

In the context of vehicle safety systems, connected vehicles are those that communicate wirelessly with each and with the infrastructure, as opposed to vehicles that are connected to the internet. This communication is accomplished through dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) technology.  DSRC is ready for production and has the potential to eliminate 82% of all unimpaired accidents, saving over 30,000 lives each year and saving hundreds of millions of dollars in costs associated with vehicle crashes. In Ann Arbor, the AACVTE vehicles are equipped with both vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle to infrastructure (V2I) applications. The applications include forward collision warning, emergency electronic brake light, ice warning, pedestrian detection, emergency vehicle approach, intersection movement assist, curve speed warning, and red light violation.

“Ann Arbor is an international hub for connected vehicle technology and research. DSRC is ready for prime time, as demonstrated in AACVTE, and the sooner we get it on the roads, the sooner we can start to save lives,” said James R. Sayer, director UMTRI.

Additionally, UMTRI is spearheading efforts to make all of southeastern Michigan’s connected environments commercially interoperable.  This includes the City of Detroit’s ATCMTD project, Macomb County’s deployment of over 300 RSUs, MDOT’s deployment of thousands of RSUs along SE Michigan’s freeways and major arterials including I-69, I-75, I-94, I-96, I-275, I-696, M-10, M-59, and M-153, and Oakland counties Telegraph Road corridor.

Learn more about UMTRI here.


Name:  Dr. Robert Edelstein
Title:  Senior Vice President
Company:  AECOM

Job Description:  ITS Practice Leader responsible for all phases of AECOM’s intelligent transportation system projects from research, planning, design, and software development to deployment, systems integration, training, operations, and maintenance.  Currently, AECOM is providing ITS services in 25 states throughout the US as well as abroad.  Specifically, my role includes thought leadership, serving as technical adviser, preparing publications, delivering presentations at conferences, and business development.

Current or previous #ITS Project:  Florida DOT Districts 4 (Fort Lauderdale) and 6 (Miami) TMC Operations, TXDOT TSMO Program Planning (Statewide), and Colorado DOT ROADx

Accomplishments:  PhD in Transportation Planning & Engineering (NYU / Polytechnic Institute of NY); Professional Engineer; and Professional Traffic Operations Engineer (PTOE).  Over the years, I have presented on the subject of ITS at numerous conferences (e.g., ITS World Congress, ITS America, TRB, ITE, IBTTA, AASHTO), testified before the US Senate Transportation Committee on the “Use of New Technologies to Enhance Infrastructure and Transportation Across the Country,” and authored technical articles on the subject of transportation management centers, managed lanes, congestion pricing, connected and automated vehicles. I have been an active member of ITS America since its inception in 1991; presented at most ITS America annual conferences; and previously chaired the ITS America Freeway Management Committee.

What’s the future of ITS look like to you?  Integrating legacy ITS infrastructure investments with emerging technologies to provide cost effective solutions to address our safety, mobility, and congestion challenges.  As part of this transformation, I envision our Transportation Management Centers will evolve into Smart City Command Centers, leveraging digital and physical infrastructures, to provide a broader range of proactive operations by applying machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Family: Three boys (Travis – doctor, Jared – future doctor, Donovan – software engineer) and my recent late wife of 44 years who continues to share in my journey

Favorite place to travel:  Europe

Most Unusual Job you have ever had before current position:  While in school, I worked at Adventure’s Inn Amusement Park (NY) in pushing obnoxious kids down a giant slide