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IBTTA’s Summit on Finance, Policy and VMT Explores Big Opportunities for Tolling

Bill Cramer

Cedrick Fulton, Director of Tunnels, Bridges and Terminals at The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, is Chief Meeting Organizer for IBTTA’s Summit on Finance, Policy and VMT, April 23-25, 2017 in Jersey City, NJ. In this interview with Tolling Points, he talks about the emerging issues and unique opportunities participants will get a chance to discuss during the conference.

The conference program refers to a “brave, new world” in revenue generation, and the disruptive technologies that are driving new business models. What’s brave, what’s new and disruptive, and what are the most important trends in mobility and financing over the next three to 12 months?

CF:  What’s remarkable right now is that the new administration is signaling what the transportation community loves to hear, and that is making infrastructure investment a top priority. The next step is to drive toward real money, real solutions, and real policy tools that will help every state grapple with how to fund its roadway systems.

It certainly looks like great news for the tolling business, because user pricing clearly has to be part of the solution. I can’t imagine that $1 trillion will just manifest itself coming out of Washington, and we know private investment isn’t going to want to carry the entire ball. What they love about tolling is that it’s a revenue stream an investor can see.

How do those trends translate into opportunities for IBTTA members?

CF: A great deal depends on what policy-makers decide about the possibilities for states to garner revenue from new sources, and for private investors to seize opportunities. Those decisions are still taking shape. But the dramatic change and the disruption are real.

We know that the whole shared transportation model is growing by leaps and bounds. We know that new tools and technologies are allowing people to operate, to communicate, in ways never envisioned before. When you start talking about how vehicles communicate to roadside infrastructure, that infrastructure is going to lag behind because no one has the money to invest in it. But we do know that vehicle-to-vehicle communication is already happening, so it’s just a matter of how quickly those vehicles will join the everyday traffic on the road.

For agencies like the Port Authority, with 7,500 bus leavings per day from New Jersey to New York, we see tremendous opportunities for connected vehicles in transit, and that platooning means getting as much use out of our road space as we can. It’s a way to get some folks out of cars and deal with congestion issues in urban areas, particularly during peak periods, and that points right back to the work IBTTA members have been doing with managed lanes.

What makes this summit the right place to dig into the details and discuss the opportunities and challenges ahead?

CF: With all that is happening and the changes in Washington, we have to have a voice, and that’s why IBTTA is such a valuable organization right now. Private and public tolling agencies want to make sure we get our ideas known, share them among ourselves, make sure we’re talking to decision-makers, and be a part of the decision, and not on the sidelines.

A conference like this makes a lot of sense because the ultimate question is how you pay for it, including what’s next after the gas tax. What is that going to look like, and how do we shape a dialogue that is suitable to both the travelling public and elected officials? Both segments have to buy into it, and we believe tolling is a big part of that. This is a process that will require a lot of thinking by a lot of smart people, because we’re working on solutions for the future.

What aspects of the program are you most looking forward to?

CF: We’re hearing so much about public-private partnerships, but the details are very complicated. The specifications, the rules of engagement during the period when someone else is running your asset for a fee, need careful attention and controls. That all needs to be laid out in the procurement, and we’ve learned a lot about how to make that relationship work for both parties.

The other important phrase is enterprise asset management, which represents the life cycle, cradle-to-grave understanding of the asset that helps you make informed investment decisions. That’s how agencies deliver on operating service life and safety, and also convince the CFO that the timing of those investments makes sense. The CFO is rarely the one taking the incoming complaints that the road surface is too bumpy. So we’re putting the operational and finance people together on a single panel, to talk about the kind of shared vision that makes sense.

And our guests from outside the region won’t want to miss the technical tour of the Oculus Transportation Hub at the World Trade Center! It opened last March, and it’s become one of the great wonders of the world that you just have to see.

Time is running out! Register today for IBTTA’s Summit on Finance, Policy, VMT, April 23-25, 2017 in Jersey City, NJ.