In New York and San Francisco, TransportationCamp aims to build a better to and fro


Photo by Richard Drdul

Transportation enthusiasts will gather in New York City and San Francisco over the next few weeks for TransportationCamp, a series of transit-meets-tech unconferences organized by the non-profit OpenPlans. TransportationCamp East will be held in New York City March 5-6 and TransportationCamp West in San Francisco March 19-20. There are also Ignite #Transpo afterparties. Here’s how it works, and here’s where you can suggest ideas.

Nick GrossmanOpenPlans Director of Civic Works Nick Grossman discusses TransportationCamp’s objectives and transportation’s impact on the bigger issues around Gov 2.0 and open government:

What is TransportationCamp? Who should attend?

TransportationCamp is an “unconference” focusing on the intersection of transportation and technology. How is technology (such as mobile apps, powerful mapping tools, open data coming from government agencies, etc.) changing the way we move around our cities? How is it changing the way we plan our cities? What does this mean for governments agencies who manage transportation systems, for companies working in the space, and for citizens? How can we insure that advances in transportation tech help us work towards equitability and sustainability goals, and not against them?

For two upcoming weekends (March 5-6 in NYC and March 19-20 in SF), a group of about 250 technologists, transportation enthusiasts, public officials, and others will convene to discuss these issues and work on related problems. This is not a traditional conference: following the BarCamp or “unconference” model, nearly all of the working sessions will be proposed and led by attendees.

You should attend if:

  • you work in transportation operations or policy, especially in roles relating to the management of technology and data;
  • you work for a company that’s building tech tools for transportation (there are tons of startups entering this space right now);
  • you’re a transportation or urban planning advocate with a futurist bent (either skeptical or optimistic OK!); or
  • if you are just generally interested in how cities operate.

We already have a great list of participants signed up for each event, representing these communities and more. Both East and West are currently sold out, but if you’re interested, you should definitely sign up for the waiting list, and we’ll do our best to open up tickets.

What is the goal of the camps and longer-term objectives?

The technology landscape, effecting transportation and of course more broadly, is evolving really quickly. TransportationCamp intends to make connections between many players working in the space, across industry and sector lines, to help make sense of the problems and opportunities. By bringing together a group of people who share a common interest but do not often cross paths, we hope to spark collaborations and partnerships and provide a venue for collaborative problem-solving.

In this short-term, this might mean connecting a transit agency with members of the software development community who are building apps on that agency’s data, to help inform the direction of those data sets. Or simply exposing people to a side of the problem that they don’t typically think about.

Longer-term, we’d love to see that connections made during TransportationCamp have blossomed into longer-term projects, collaborations, and partnerships. As the organizers of TransportationCamp, we can’t force that to happen; but we can create an environment that’s fertile ground for these types of connections.

How do transportation issues relate to broader open government / Gov 2.0?

The transportation space is a great one to watch for those interested in “Gov 2.0” for a few reasons:

First, from a public service perspective, transportation is one of the only government services that people interact with directly on a daily basis. Whether it’s riding the subway or paying for a parking space, transportation is one of the most accessible and tangible government sectors. We think that’s why we’ve seen such an explosion in government and private sector innovation in the transportation space: agencies across the US are opening up data sets for developers to hack on; entrepreneurs and interested citizens have made hundreds of transportation apps (from bus trackers to tax-sharing apps and way more).

Second, beyond the immediate mobility and efficiency concerns represented by the transportation app explosion, transportation planning is an area where policies, plans, and their related public involvement processes touch countless citizens. While innovations in “open government” approaches to transportation planning are slower to develop and materialize, they will no doubt have a major impact on how cities are planned and managed. We believe that agencies that are experiencing the benefit of Gov 2.0 on the efficiency side will also be more inclined to pursue open government activities on the planning side.

So, transportation has really been an amazing place to study the effects of “Gov 2.0” approaches, and we expect this to continue.

Follow @transpocamp and the #transpo hashtag on Twitter.

About Luke Fretwell

Luke Fretwell is the founder of GovFresh, co-founder/CEO of ProudCity and co-host of the podcast, The Government We Need. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn or email at

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