In this episode I have a fantastic conversation with Renee Autumn Ray. Renee is an urban planner who has worked in transportation planning, policy, operations, and data evaluation. She is currently the Strategy and Innovation Leader at Conduent Transportation, a technology company which includes payments and data analytics for transit, curb-side management, road user charging, and public safety. She also serves on the Transportation Research Board committees for Intelligent Transportation Systems and Innovative Public Transport Services and Technologies, and the Board of Directors for Georgia Bikes, so she’s another great guest in the #mobilitymarch series. Renee and I discuss the early career experiences that sparked her interest in Smart Community concepts and the power of bringing data, including qualitative data, into decision making. Renee tells us about some of the projects she’s been working on, including curating panels for conferences with a focus on mobility and accessibility. We also talk about why we should be looking at the way parallel industries have solved similar problems when we’re looking at problems we’re facing in our own industries. Renee also shares with us the emerging opportunities for accessibility in the micro-mobility space, and the different ways people are thinking about reducing accessibility barriers to travel. We then have a great chat about how important accessible and flexible workplaces are for everyone, and especially those with disabilities, which is timely considering the way Covid-19 is forcing a lot more people into remote work. We finish our chat with Renee sharing a couple of her favourite resources for learning more about these concepts. As always we hope you enjoy listening to this episode as much as we enjoyed making it.

Listen here:

What we cover in this episode:

  • Renee’s background as an Urban Planner and her passion for transport that serves everybody
  • The early career experiences that sparked Renee’s interest in Smart Community concepts 
  • The power of bringing data, including qualitative data, into decision making 
  • What a Smart Community means to Renee
  • The importance of mapping, measuring and monitoring existing foundational assets rather than investing in new flashy tech
  • Projects Renee is working on, including curating panels for conferences with a focus on mobility and accessibility 
  • Why we should be looking at the way parallel industries have solved similar problems when we’re looking at problems we’re facing in our own industries
  • The emerging trends of diversity on teams and opportunities for accessibility options in the micro-mobility space 
  • The emerging and different ways people are thinking about accessibility and reducing barriers to travel 
  • How accessible and flexible workplaces are important for everyone, and especially those with disabilities
  • Renee’s favourite resources for learning more about Smart concepts

Quotes:

“I started working in actual operations of transportation services for older adults and people with disabilities. And I became really interested in the future of transportation and how we should be doing a better job of investing in that future in a way that serves everybody. And not just people that can afford and have the ability to drive a car.”

“One thing that people do in public health that I wish we did more of in technology and transportation is think about data as qualitative data: expert opinions and what they might call key informant interviews and not just numbers on a page. I like to try to remember that consulting with experts, and having conversations also counts as data and is also something that can inform our work.”

“Every community has assets. We may look at a community of most people living in poverty, under invested, you know, very poor infrastructure. But there are assets in that community. We just aren’t focusing on them and identifying them, but the people that live there can tell us what they are if we ask them.”

“One of the things that I think makes cities very challenging is that we want there to be easy solutions that are applicable everywhere. There are so many unique variables in cities. And it’s everything from typography to the demographics that live in a particular region, to what are the existing built environment assets. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to say [this city] did something and it worked really well, so we should be able to do it in [other cities]…There’s a lot of messiness trying to figure out what’s going to work in a particular place.”

“The tech industry that is driving a lot of the innovation in the future of mobility, for the most part does not represent the population as a whole. So that means it’s very much likelier that we will not end up with solutions that are equitable and as well-designed as they could be. Because you don’t know what you don’t know, and I think there is a lot of lived experience that adds richness to diverse team that is missing in the technology space.”

“There’s a lot of other ways that we’re starting to expand how we think of disability to better reflect what the range of disabilities actually are. It can be somewhat limited mobility, it can differ by the day, it can be cognitive or behavioural, as well as physical. So thinking about all the different ways that we can reduce those barriers, and focus not just on wheelchair accessibility, but on other accessibility tools. We’re going to have a ton of innovation in this space because people are starting to think differently about what accessibility is.”

Links: 

Transportation Research Board Conference 

National Association for City and County Transportation Officials Conference 

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Connect:

Connect with Renee on LinkedIn or Twitter @reneeautumnray

Connect with me via email: hello@mysmart.community 

Connect via LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook @SmartCommHQ

The Smart Community Podcast is produced by Perk Digital.

My Smart Community

My Smart Community offers consulting and media services with a focus on making our communities more accessible, liveable and sustainable for all. We have a focus on Smart Mobility, Smart project management, Smart technology in regional communities, dealing with disruption and facilitating genuine collaboration. As well as podcast production, communication and media advisory and engagement, keynote speaking, moderating, master of ceremonies and workshop design and facilitation.

The Smart Community Podcast

The Smart Community Podcast is a hub where smart and exciting people from all around the world come to discuss all things Smart City, Smart Town, Smart Region - anything that makes a place more liveable. Together we can create our own Smart Communities.

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