Announcing the First Ever YPT Baltimore Strategic Plan!

by Angie Hernandez, Vice Chair

YPT Baltimore is excited to announce that the chapter will be kicking off our first ever Strategic Plan in 2017! With this exciting announcement, you may be wondering what a Strategic Plan is and why does our chapter need one? Or, you may find yourself wondering; why should I, a well-meaning Baltimore YPT’er care to continue to read this blog post talking about a strategic plan?

The answer to all of these questions in short is that YPT Baltimore is looking to solidify our purpose as a professional organization and distinguish our chapter from the other professional transportation organizations in the area. The strategic plan will formalize our focus over the next year as well as begin to plan strategies to enhance and grow our chapter for years to come. You, as a member of YPT Baltimore, have a voice in planning our organization’s future and the strategic planning effort will provide the platform for your voice to be heard.

At a more detailed level, the Strategic Plan will serve as a short-term guide to ensure consistency in our organization’s purpose and ultimately serve as a road map for future YPT Baltimore endeavors. In addition, the plan will provide guidance for our leadership board to focus on expanding and enhancing our chapter as we grow through 2017 and beyond.

We are looking for participation from all members in defining chapter goals, strategies, and activities to be included in the strategic plan. There will be various opportunities for members to provide input and participate in the development of the Strategic Plan over the next few months. Our Executive Board will be leading an effort to develop a member survey to solicit input on the plan, in addition to hosting a strategic planning meeting, which is tentatively scheduled for February 2017. Stay tuned for more information regarding how to be involved in the strategic planning for YPT Baltimore throughout the New Year.

This plan will not be a success without all of your help and wonderful ideas. Please take some time over the next few weeks to brainstorm some ideas about what our Chapter could be doing differently, better, or even just something that you have been thinking about that our organization could explore together.

“If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.” – Albert Einstein

Another successful tour with a fellow YPT chapter!

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Amtrak hosted YPT Baltimore yet again, but this time at its Ivy City Maintenance Facility with our neighboring YPT DC chapter. We later found out that the day of our visit happened to be the facility’s 30th birthday!

An amazing and friendly group of Amtrak staff welcomed our group and started the day off with a safety briefing before we outfitted ourselves with hard hats, safety goggles, and ear plugs (a growing fashion trend in the transportation industry!). We were warned by our guides to keep an eye out for moving locomotives, described as “quieter than your neighbor’s Prius.”

We were guided into the maintenance facility where it’s safe to say that the group immediately and simultaneously turned into excited children in a candy store. We walked around, into, and nearly underneath trains, trains, and more trains! It was impressive to witness a mix of old and new equipment and rolling stock, and how both old and new are now outfitted with technology that allows for real-time data collection and quality control.

We can’t recap the whole tour in a single blog post, but welcome our attendees to share their experience in the comments! Also, look forward to a blog post in the Washington Post by an attendee who reports on transportation!

After a delicious lunch from an Ivy City favorite, MGM Roast Beef, we were off to Union Station for a two-fold tour: (1) A look at the station’s past which, like many of us, had an embarrassing 80’s phase, and (2) A discussion on future redevelopment plans for the entire station. If sharing Ivy City’s 30th birthday wasn’t cool enough, we ran into outgoing Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman on his very last day before retirement. He was kind enough to take a photo with the group and thanked us for being engaged in transportation.

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I don’t know how we’re going to top this tour, but we’re sure going to try! That said, take a look at the sidebar on our homepage and click the link to join our chapter’s board! You’ll have the chance to be a part of organizing great events like this for your fellow young professionals in transportation.

Until next time!

Getting there from here: Connecting Maryland through GTFS

This is a guest blog post by Jaime McKay! Jaime McKay and the MD TRIP team won the YPT Project of the Year Award for their project described in this here blog post. Give a big hurrah! for the MD TRIP team because they won a happy hour for their local chapter (that’s us!). A presentation will be given and drinks will be had, in no particular order. We’ll be posting the details soon, but leave you all with this light reading in the meantime…


TRIP team photo

Team members from left to right: Tim Wilke, Philip LaCombe, Hannah Younes, Jaime McKay, and Andrew Barrows. Not pictured: Chris Firehock

Raise your hand if you used any sort of interactive trip planner or transit app today. Many of us in the Baltimore Region rely on some form of technology to get us to and from the places we need to go each day, and sometimes, this can include taking transit. Many transit agencies in Baltimore (and throughout the US) have made their maps and schedules available online. However, when published in formats that tools like Google Maps and apps like Transit or NextBus can use, more people can access and utilize these interactive trip planning tools. While this is useful from a commuter’s perspective, it begs the question: what happens when there are no transit directions available?

Central Maryland Regional Transit’s TRIP team worked to establish statewide GTFS for Maryland. This allows people throughout the state — from Cumberland to Ocean City — to plan their trips using transit. The team of young professionals created 18 systems’ worth of GTFS and enabled access for hundreds of thousands of commuters across the state.

Developed by TriMet of Portland and Google, the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) exists today as a commonly used, standardized format of transit data.  GTFS feeds allow transportation agencies from around the world the ability to publically display their transit data and schedules via Google Maps or other trip-planning services. The TRIP team decided to utilize the National Rural Transit Assistance Program’s (RTAP) GTFS Builder in order to generate transit feeds from around the State of Maryland because of its overall simplicity and no-cost arrangement.

GTFS, and our GTFS efforts in Maryland, are critically important to a number of vulnerable populations. For transit-dependent riders with low-English proficiency, GTFS through Google Transit or through third-party applications is able to automatically translate the information provided in English to over one hundred other languages, allowing these individuals access to crucial transit information and access to jobs, healthcare, and more. Because GTFS can function in a way that makes transit information so much more accessible, it also can accommodate transit agencies’ Title VI requirements.

The numbers don’t lie: because of the TRIP team’s work, 187 routes for 18 systems have been placed onto Google Transit and are fully accurate, up-to-date, and functional. This valuable effort serves transit-dependent populations throughout the state, and commuters will now have accurate information allowing them to make regional connections. Maryland, through the TRIP project, is the first state to create these feeds for transit agencies for no cost, using tools that most transit agencies already have access to.

Read on to see a comparison of a trip planner before and after GTFS was added for locally operated transit systems in Maryland. Continue reading