What’s Next for ITE and the Transportation Profession?

Jason DeGray has a thought provoking op ed in the latest ITE Journal.  Some interesting facts Jason points out about our changing industry –

  • The rate of suburban population growth has outpaced that of urban centers in every decade since the invention of the automobile, but in 2011 for the first time in 100 years that trend reversed.
  • During nearly every recession in history urban home prices have suffered the most, but in this latest downturn real estate in the urban cores predominately retained its value at a higher percentage than surrounding suburbs.
  • In 1990, 7% of building permits in New York City were in the urban center and 70% were on the suburban fringe; in 2008, 9% of the building permits were in the suburban fringe and 70% were in the urban core.
  • In 1980, 66% of 17 year olds had a driver’s license; In 2010, that was reduced to 47%
  • Only 50% of adults are married today, down from 75% in 1960.

We clearly cannot continue the business as usual mentality that served our profession in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.  If we continue to base our traffic forecasts on the historical 2% annual growth rate, Jason believes we will become irrelevant.  I agree with him on that.

Not satisfied with what ITE has to offer, industry leaders and the youth of our profession started the Young Professionals in Transportation organization in 2010.  They are up to 6,000 members and friends with twenty chapters – all in four years!  A key to their success?  $20 dues.  Why does ITE still have $250 dues???

I know our numbers of twenty-something’s at NCITE are down.  You can see it at our luncheons.

As Jason points out, our profession can play a major role in solving several of the big issues facing our world:  obesity, crumbling infrastructure, global warming, and promoting healthy human interaction.  Jason goes on to say ITE will need to evolve, not adapt in order to stay relevant.  Otherwise, the professionals in our industry will move onto a different organization that better serves their needs.

I posted my 10 Big Ideas for ITE in 2012 and I still believe they should be on the table.  Some of the ideas have been worked on along the edges (the ITE Journal is better, the ITE Community system is improved, and there are more webinars online), but Jason’s article and the growth of YPT both indicate ITE is in adapt mode – not evolve mode.

Pete Frenz, ITE’s Deputy Executive Director just retired and the word on the street is that the Executive Director, Tom Brahms, will be retiring in 2015.  I hope our board of directors is successful in hiring an Executive Director who will push ITE through the evolution.  A big part of this evolution is dependent on who we elect as International VP next month.

Stay tuned for who I’m endorsing……

 

 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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2 thoughts on “What’s Next for ITE and the Transportation Profession?

  1. I served as an ITE student chapter officer from 2007 to 2013, at two universities (BYU and Georgia Tech). Now that I have joined a consulting firm, I am seriously considering whether ITE is worth anything to me. I know that a former boss of mine (PE, PTOE, AICP) stopped his ITE membership years ago.

    A key issue to me is the generational/cultural shifts happening within the transportation industry. I know that many young people (especially young women) who are interested in today’s real transportation issues – social equity, complete streets, automobile over-dependence, vehicle sharing, community transportation – feel that ITE meetings are simply get-togethers for old traffic signal and highway men. They’re not completely wrong, and YPT gets this. I think YPT makes a nice bridge between college and ITE or ASCE or APA, but I’m beginning to wonder if it might not just replace ITE.

    Another real issue is that ITE meetings often occur in places that are easy to access from suburban-styled businesses and driving. If you’re in a downtown startup space, the inconvenience of going to the ITE meeting may cancel out any “networking” you could do with people who your business doesn’t really depend on. Consider the adverts you see in ITE Journal; how many of them are interesting to you, much less to someone who is developing for Uber, AirSage, or Google Transit?

    Transportation is changing, society is changing, but will ITE change with it?

  2. Good points Greg. I think a lot of people are questioning the dues (or they’re like me – one full ITE membership and two affiliates to the local chapter because the value isn’t there for all of us to be full members).

    There is still value in ITE. I think the online community is great for technical questions/answers. We still have roads and traffic signals to design. Most of the folks in our industry still make a living somewhat related to those tasks.

    And there’s still a tremendous amount of value with networking with peers at the section level. YPT may be stripping off that local networking environment for twenty-somethings in the industry. That could mean a death spiral for ITE.