Posted on: March 28, 2018 at 11:36 AM    

I was fortunate to attend the Transportation Group NZ conference held 21-23 March 2018 in Queenstown. This year's theme for the conference was ‘Then. Now. Tomorrow’ and it was convened by our very own Jeanette Ward.

The conference was launched on the historic 106 year old TSS Earnslaw Steamer, a living example of ‘Then’ working in the ‘Now’.  The ship continues to be powered by hand shoveled coal, and remains an icon of Queenstown.

With a broad theme came a wide range of interesting presentations from remembering what our past transport network looked like and using historic photos as consultation tool, through to discussing how autonomous vehicles can be integrated into our transport system in the future. There was also everything in between including parking policy, business cases and of course how to deal with the rapid urban growth in Auckland and Queenstown.

For me, there was a common theme through the presentations – Change.  While we are transport professionals, we are really trying to improve our cities and our the way we live through a process of change. We bring about change through a continual process of thinking, testing and trialling. However, every so often there is resistance to change, no matter how good the change might be.

Thinking about our profession and the skills that many of us tend to have, I wonder if we are missing some important skills to better equip us for the future, that need to be talked about now. Bringing about change, and telling a compelling story for how things could be better, requires a unique set of skills.  This is especially the case for projects we work on, that sometimes make their way onto news headlines, prompting outcries from the community.

Fortunately we are getting better at talking to our communities. There were inspiring presentations of how to work effectively with the community. Change is better accepted when people are part of the decision-making process, and when their values and desires are understood and addressed through our projects. Our communities often have a more diverse range of drivers than just improving the transport system. When we take the time to understand their drivers at the outset, there is a greater opportunity to achieve multiple outcomes, and a much better chance for us to bring about postitive change. Hopefully the good examples of engagement will become more common place in our industry.

Our future is going to be full of change, and as technology continues to be a key driver in this, there is no doubt change will affect our industry at an increasing rate. ‘Tomorrow’ is looking very interesting - I hope we can integrate it with the best parts of ‘Now’ and ‘Then’, just like the Earnslaw Steamer.

Blog written by Steve Carruthers, Principal Transportation Planner, Abley Transportation Consultants

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Thunderbirds are go! Our team dressed up for the Transportation Group Conference awards dinner.  Congratulations again to Eranga Dasanayaka for winning the 3M Young Professional Award.

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