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6 Opening Session Laura Mester, Michigan Department of Transportation, Chair Panelists Laurie Berman, California Department of Transportation Gregory Kildare, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Kenneth Petty II, Office of Planning, Federal Highway Administration Following a tradition set at the 2016 TAM Conference, the opening session featured the conference chair and invited keynote speakers who discussed their perspectives on asset management and its impact on todayâs transportation agencies. Laura Mester, the chair, introduced each of the speakers and provided them an opportunity to share their thoughts on the following five themes: â¢ The role of the federal government in providing stewardship to transportation agencies, â¢ The demand for increased government accountability, â¢ The evolution of agency investment priorities to better meet economic and societal demands, â¢ The need for stronger collaboration across modes and jurisdictions, and â¢ The growing importance of climate change and extreme weather events in agency decisions. The major points raised by the panel on each of these themes are addressed in the remainder of this chapter. Role of the Federal Government to Provide Stewardship to Transportation Agencies As the federal representative on the panel, Kenneth Petty II provided opening remarks on this topic. He emphasized the FHWAâs focus on stewardship to help agencies consider comprehensive, performance-based strategies through training, peer exchanges, websites, and other methods of engagement. Gregory Kildare noted that he has observed a shift in FTAâs role since TAM requirements were issued to help agencies use data-driven decisions. Historically, Kildare noted that resource allocation decisions have been made using ad hoc, expert-focused processes in which those individuals with the best presentations received the most funding. These processes tended to provide funding to customer-focused, reliability issues related to service delivery rather than infrastructure needs (such as ventilation systems). Kildare supported the focus on asset management and recognized that it would take time for agencies to collect the data and implement the systems needed to support these types of decisions.
7 Demand for Increased Government Accountability Laurie Berman indicated that Caltrans has been improving its communication efforts with the public for the past 6 to 8 years. These efforts have benefited the agency because the recently passed Senate Bill 1 (SB1) funding package carries with it significant oversight responsibilities to ensure accountability in how the funds are used. The agencyâs prior asset management efforts helped support the passage of the SB1 funding because Caltrans could present its unmet needs and the potential consequences associated with a lack of adequate funding for infrastructure needs. Berman stressed the ongoing importance of communication so that the public understands funding needs associated with assets and programs that the public does not think about. Caltrans is also working on sharing information with the legislature and the public about steps being taken to reduce agency costs. This differs from past practices in which cost savings were not typically reported externally. Kildare noted that Los Angeles County voters approved five sales tax revenue increases because Metro demonstrated accountability and stewardship in a way that the public trusts. Evolution of Agency Investment Priorities to Better Meet Economic and Societal Demands Kildare noted an evolution in agency investment priorities to meet economic and societal demands. He suggested that within transportation agencies, there is a lot of competition for funding. He would like to see the quality of investment decisions improve, with a focus on activities that increase asset value. Need for Stronger Collaboration Across Modes and Jurisdictions Petty pointed out that agencies have limited resources to work with, including human resources. Therefore, he emphasized the importance of working collaboratively and thinking beyond traditional borders to consider freight, transit, and other needs in a region. Berman stressed that TAM is helping agencies break down the traditional silos. At Caltrans, they are looking at how transit, highways, and other modes work together. For example, in California they have managed lanes and great transit programs, but they still have heavily congested highways. They are looking at multimodal solutions to this problem, such as adding a high-occupancy vehicle lane while also providing more frequent and reliable train service in the area. Kildare stated that collaboration has always been important to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). Caltrans sits on their Board, so there is a lot of collaboration between these agencies. He stressed that their focus is on the best interests of the region. This involves knowing the needs of other agencies in the region, so funding
8 can be prioritized to meet the highest needs across the region, even if it means less funding for his agency. Growing Importance of Climate Change and Extreme Weather Events in Agency Decisions Berman and Kildare both recognized the increased importance of extreme weather events in California and its impact on the transportation system. Berman indicated that they are seeing fires year round and that in the past year, 33 freeways were closed because of floods and Highway 101 was closed for 12 days because of mudslides. Caltrans is addressing these types of events and now includes adaptation plans that consider sea level in their design activities. They also have performance objectives related to reducing greenhouse gases that have involved shifting to an all-electric and hydrogen fleet and installing more charging stations around the state. Kildare reported that the Los Angeles County MTA has a sustainability function in the organization because of the importance of these issues in all public agencies in California. He said they no longer use diesel buses and have taken other steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Petty reported that FHWA also has a team dedicated to resilience and extreme weather events and that weather-related risks are expected to be included in state DOT TAMPs. Other Discussion Topics Mester facilitated a question-and-answer session with the panel members. The questions and responses are provided below. â¢ How are you able to deal with the amount of data needed to support TAM? Do your staff have the skill sets needed to manage the data and how is that changing? â Petty indicated that succession planning is a key to ensuring that staff are trained when staff turnover takes place. â¢ How do you determine the value of data? â Kildare indicated that his agency has made concerted efforts to collect needed data, so they are dealing with much more information than ever before. The data have allowed them to develop maintenance schedules that are being followed. They can also better assess consequences. He indicated that it is difficult to put a dollar value on this information but that he sees direct benefit in being able to describe consequences. â¢ How should DOTs change their culture to make TAM part of the planning process? â Petty said this has been a long-running discussion in FHWA and collaboration is an important part of changing the culture. He stressed that it is important to have a common method of discussing the topic to ensure that everyone is thinking holistically about the planning process.
9 â¢ Is it harder to practice asset management when you have sufficient funding? â Berman indicated that it would be difficult for her to answer this question, as Caltrans does not have enough funding to meet all its needs. However, she stressed that it is hard to know what you need without a strong TAM program. She feels that having money makes it easier to do the long-term fixes that are needed instead of relying on Band-Aid solutions. It also allows agencies to show elected officials that the agency is using the money effectively to make progress toward goals. â Mester interjected that when you do not have enough money, TAM provides the context for prioritization. It enables an agency to communicate what they can and cannot do with the levels of funding provided. â¢ With the increased focus on technology, many of todayâs transportation jobs will not exist. How are you preparing your workforce for these changes? â Kildare stressed that there is not a surplus of talent, and within the industry, new jobs are being created that never existed before. He does not expect that people will be completely replaced in transportation agencies, so he sees a continued need for expert knowledge. â Berman reported that Caltrans is hiring more than 100 engineers each month; however, they are looking at new ways to organize the agency, and TAM is helping with that. She illustrated the changes in jobs with toll booth operators. With the new technology being used to collect tolls, she anticipates that within 5 years, there will be no more individuals serving as toll collectors. However, there will likely be an increased need for electrical engineers. Therefore, it is important to anticipate the kinds of skills that will be needed in the future and work with community colleges and universities to ensure that individuals with these skills will be available. â¢ How can industry help government agencies implement TAM? â Berman indicated that the private sector provides a lot of the information [e.g., geographic information system (GIS)] about the Caltrans system. She further emphasized that technology is changing at an incredible pace, so industry needs to work with agencies to build credibility in how the information can be used. â Kildare suggested that industry should also help steer practitioners toward the future. He indicated that many agency people are âbusy working in the nowâ so they are not as aware of potential future developments that could shape the industry. â¢ Are agencies really using information on how assets are performing? Is the information feeding into new designs, for example? â Kildare stated that this is an evolutionary process. There are many agencies that are now collecting and analyzing data and changing their business processes. Some types of data are easier to get than others, so many agencies are focusing on that data for now. Once they have confidence that the data can be kept current and are of good enough quality, they will take steps to expand the number of assets covered and the maturity of the data collected. Mester closed the opening session by thanking the panel members and inviting all participants to enjoy the remainder of the conference.