Transportation Tomorrowland: Annual summit offers road map to the future

The mobility landscape is evolving. Traditional modes of transportation are giving way to innovative mobility solutions, from drones to autonomous vehicles that promise to transport people and  products more efficiently than ever. With these changes comes a reimagined urban backdrop to accommodate this new mobility paradigm.

We are experiencing the transportation Tomorrowland, today.

On Friday, Feb. 17, thought leaders and innovators in transportation design, development and implementation will converge upon the Hurst Conference Center for the Eighth Annual Northeast Tarrant Transportation Summit to share their knowledge on what the future of transportation holds for the millions of travelers in our region and beyond.

As one of the fastest-growing areas in the nation, Tarrant County continues to be at the forefront of the transportation dialogue. Through our efforts to raise awareness of mobility issues and support transportation funding, we have achieved great accomplishments in infrastructure development. The North Tarrant Express recently celebrated two years of becoming fully operational, and is producing the anticipated results: Overall congestion relief is averaging more than 70 percent with speeds up by 15 percent across the entire project. Progress is also being made on Interstate 35W from downtown Fort Worth through Eagle Parkway at AllianceTexas, and the final phases of the 36-mile network should be completed over the next three years. Construction efforts to improve State Highways 114 and 170 are well underway, and a proper interchange at SH 114/170 will be developed; completion is expected in two years.

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While these major projects are certainly helpful in relieving congestion and improving the economic climate of our region, it’s time to think beyond infrastructure. The theme of our summit, “Creating the Transportation Tomorrowland, Today,” encompasses all facets of mobility. From package delivery via drone to autonomous vehicles – and urban planning to unite this new transportation landscape – our distinguished panelists and moderators will take us on a journey through the transportation Tomorrowland.

Our first panel, featuring speakers from Hillwood, BNSF and Texas A&M’s Transportation Institute, will explore the world of logistics. From autonomous trucks to drone delivery to underground freight transportation, technology is revolutionizing how products are delivered to homes and offices. This panel will provide an overview of the future of freight transportation, and how it will affect regional, interstate and international commerce.

Of course, no program about the future of transportation would be complete without a session on autonomous vehicles. Our second panel features guests from NTE Mobility Partners; the North Central Texas Council of Governments’ automated vehicles division; and Contra Costa County, the first county in the U.S. to legalize testing of driverless vehicles on public roads. Contra Costa’s GoMentum Station serves as a 5,000-acre proving ground for autonomous vehicles, and has contracts with numerous transit organizations and manufacturers. Representatives from the NTE and the North Central Texas Council of Governments will provide an update on where autonomous transportation stands locally and what plans are being made to accommodate the technology in the region.

Regarding urban development, the efficient movement of both people and materials is an essential aspect of any city planner’s vision. With advancements in transportation moving at an exponential rate, panelists in this session will explore advancements in urban planning from a transportation perspective – from bikes to Uber to public streets designed for autonomous vehicles. Experts from the Urban Land Institute, the design consultancy CallisonRTKL and the engineering firm Teague Nall & Perkins will present information on how developers will plan for sustainable mobility.

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The summit’s keynote speaker, Kent Larson, director of MIT’s Media Lab’s Changing Places group, will wrap up the program with a presentation on mobility planning innovations that will improve everyone’s quality of life. An expert on city design and organization, since 1998 he has directed the MIT House_n research consortium in the School of Architecture and Planning. His current research is focused on four related areas: responsive urban housing, new urban vehicles, ubiquitous technologies, and living lab experiments. His TED talk, “Brilliant Designs to Fit More People in Every City,” has more than one million views. From folding cars to better bike lanes, Larson routinely presents on innovations that improve everyone’s quality of life.

Now one of the largest transportation programs in Texas, the summit provides an excellent resource for business owners, community leaders and citizens across the region to learn more about what we can expect – and, indeed, look forward to – from the transportation Tomorrowland. We look forward to seeing you there!

Gary Fickes is Tarrant County Commissioner for Precinct 3.

Eighth Annual Northeast Tarrant Transportation Summit

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Friday, February 17

8:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Hurst Conference Center

1600 Campus Drive

Hurst 76054