ACS wasn’t ACS when its vice president of North American Public Transport, Marc Gordon, joined the company … it wasn’t even in the transit industry.
Gordon started with, “a series of companies” as he calls it in 1990 with Fairchild Space & Defense creating systems for satellites. Within three years the company became involved in transit and took the technology it was using for planes and GPS mapping tools and used it for vehicles.
“I’ve been here since day one and it’s really been a lot of fun,” Gordon says.
“I was a system engineer, so I started off designing systems. I had an early stint in business development. Then I went to be a program manager. I managed a number of programs, including Philadelphia, a very large fleet program and then some others and now I am back in business development.”
Taste for Transit
Gordon has been actively involved in transit since he got his first taste, including being on standards committees, but what he likes most is the diversity.
“What I like to think, I’ve been [working] on buses since the early ’90s, what I try to convey to my team as a strength is I appreciate the work the maintenance guy on the bus does,” Gordon says, pointing out the operational challenge they have.
“There are a lot, lot of people in transit doing a lot of good work and a lot of hard workers and they have a lot of challenges.
“We try to understand the challenges that they have in all aspects in what we bring to them. So it’s been, it’s really been fun, it’s been enjoyable.”
Prior to his work in transit, Gordon spent most of his career working on satellites. But what he found out when he moved to transit was that while the vehicles were different, many of the challenges were the same, which allowed for the technology to cross over.
“I went from satellites to buses and it’s interesting, they are different — the satellite engineers were laughing at times — even though the technology is different, there are technology challenges in these large fleet deployments that are very similar to satellites,” Gordon says.
“Hopefully we don’t have to worry about radiation on a bus and getting burned, but you have to worry about potholes,” he adds with a laugh.
“But really it is a challenging environment that agencies work with and it’s different.
“You can’t factor [riders] in, but I can remember when we first started putting this technology in the bus there was a large concern for vandalism, just knowing the locations of the bus, there was a large concern. And it didn’t pan out,” Gordon says.
“I think it’s like anything else in life.
“Are there a couple problems you are going to have along the way? Probably. But the vast majority there are just trying to use the system.
“And the reality is, and I give the credit to the agencies, there was a large education process done by the agencies, to explain the technology, the purpose for the technology.
“I think overall they’ve been receptive to the systems.”
More than Technology
When I sat down to interview Gordon he took the conversation and ran with it, discussing the latest advancements ACS had made in fare collection. Just from his exuberance I could tell he wasn’t boasting; he was genuinely proud of what they had accomplished. And interestingly enough, he kept coming back to the transit agencies and the people who make all that technology work.
Gordon says adapting new technology to a transit system sometimes can be difficult because, “they like the comfort of their existing systems.
“They’re trying to figure out — and it’s a tough call — ideally you want to take advantage of the new technology, but still hold a little bit of the legacy; and it’s more than the agency, it’s a combination of what their riders are comfortable with.
“So when you’re asking for this combined new technology that could support a legacy, that’s going to be a more expensive investment than were you just going to go to the new technology,” Gordon says.