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TRB 2023 Takeaways: Measuring Equity, Forming Partnerships, and Making a Difference

The TRB Annual Meeting saw fascinating and essential discussions about the future of cities and transportation networks.

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TRB’s Annual Meeting was back in full swing this year. The Replica team was thrilled to be there presenting, meeting, and mingling with the transportation professionals, academic researchers, and other tech companies in attendance.

After a smaller than usual showing last year, there was a palpable feeling of renewed vigor and excitement at Walter Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. As the transportation sector pursues extraordinary levels of investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act, the TRB Annual Meeting was host to fascinating and essential discussions about the future of cities, transportation networks, and more.

Here are our key takeaways from the 2023 TRB Annual Meeting:

Equity Must Be Measured and Monitored Before, During, and After Implementation

This year’s convention featured so many important conversations about quantifying the equitable outcomes of transportation projects, and the frameworks for considering equity. These discussions underscored how necessary it is to consider equity at every stage of a project, from planning and prioritization, through to implementation, and then evaluating the results and impacts on affected communities. We have to stay engaged in equity and prevent meaningful reform from becoming just another regulatory line item. 

District DOT’s Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer Nana Bailey-Thomas and Equity and Accessibility Program Analyst Zachary Smith did a wonderful job of driving this point home. In their presentation, “Using an Equity Assessment Tool to Support Project Selection in Washington, DC,” they spoke about how they informed and empowered DDOT staff with their Equity Assessment Tool. They highlighted the specific need to ensure that staff and stakeholders don’t just run their project through the tool once, but remain engaged to measure and respond to ongoing impacts. 

Another common thread was the importance of Census data in this work and the need for even greater detail and nuance in data that can help inform equity analyses. To that end, Replica continues to be a valuable resource in advancing and measuring transportation equity throughout the life of transportation projects in 2023. 

– Arthur Getman, Senior Solutions Engineer

Partnerships Will Drive Progress

So many essential efforts are underway in the transportation field, including improving reliability, sustainability, and equity. In presentations, panels, and conversations, we heard again and again that smart and effective partnerships are necessary to drive results.

Ambitious goals have been set by the U.S. DOT and countless other state, local, and regional agencies. Those include achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, reconnecting communities that have been harmed by past infrastructure decisions, and eliminating deaths and serious injuries in the transportation network. And while there’s an influx of funding for these efforts, public agencies still face staffing, resource, and operational constraints that stand in the way of making the most of this moment on their own. 

We’re excited to facilitate those partnerships through the Replica Partner Program, which connects consulting firms to leading data tools and other resources for the issues driving the future of cities and transportation networks.

– Emily Lucas, Community Manager

Data Vendors Have to Be Transparent

In technical sessions and hallway conversations at TRB, conversations about data repeatedly centered around the desire to validate large mobility data sets like Replica’s. 

With more vendors in the marketplace, practitioners are demanding more transparency around methodology, penetration rates, and data validation — and for good reason. The initiatives and funding programs underway are too important for data of unknown quality from a black box. 

That’s why we work closely with customers to validate our modeled data outputs and explain our methodology in detail — because data has to be trusted to be useful for public agencies and their consultants alike.

– Sean Johnson, Vice President of Sales

We’ve Come a Long Way

Throughout the 2023 TRB Annual Meeting, I found myself reflecting on how much things have changed since a small group from Replica attended the same meeting for the first time three years earlier.

At the 2020 Annual Meeting, Replica had been an independent company for only about four months. We were, for the most part, an unknown entity with one product that would be considered rough by today’s standards, and that only covered a fraction of the country. It was easy to feel overwhelmed by the immensity of the event and to wonder if we could become relevant and play a part in the kind of work being presented throughout the convention.

Fast forward to 2023. The Annual Meeting, while still sizable, had become manageable. We met with numerous DOTs and MPOs, as well as engineering consulting partners, universities, and mobility related nonprofits. We also met with other tech companies that want to see if there are ways to collaborate. We hosted a jam-packed event on Tuesday evening that featured outstanding conversation and relationship building. 

Our own presentation and panel discussion segment showed that Replica is more than a serious player when it comes to providing a data platform focused on mobility and the built environment. One moment I will always remember is the sense of pride I had when I saw Replica’s name on the four electronic “big boards” in the massive entry into the Washington Convention Center. There we were as a sponsor alongside industry titans like AECOM, Bentley, HNTB, PTV Group, and Cambridge Systematics. 

By the end of the meeting, my question from 2020 about becoming relevant had been favorably answered. I heard so much about how our data is being used across the country and how it can assist projects that are still to come. We’re not only relevant, we’re providing data that’s really making a difference.

– Mike Lally, Head of Business Development

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