In June next year, UITP will be holding its 58th World Congress in Vienna, Austria. “The question of which public transport mode is most appropriate for a given city is a very complex investment choice; making the right choice of transport systems for a city has never been more vital or more complex,” Cavalieri states. “With the theme, ‘Public Transport: Making the right mobility choices,’ our congress will, however, help stakeholders make informed and appropriate mobility choices.”
Women’s Transportation Seminar
With 43 chapters, including two outside the United States, the Women’s Transportation Seminar is an international organization that looks to transform the transportation industry through the advancement of women.
Executive Director Diane James explains how it started 31 years ago. “It was funded by women primarily in the D.C. area at the very beginning, who had come from the railway industry. They were looking to establish a mutual support system for dealing in, what was then, an extremely male-dominated industry and they were finding it hard to really connect with other women and get support.”
She continues, “If you think about what life was like for professional women in nontraditional jobs in the ‘70s, there was a lot of groundbreaking that had to be done at that time.” She adds, “There has been tremendous impetus to women, just to be involved at all levels throughout the industry.”
James has a background in association management focused on women, coming into organizations when they were in transition. “I came to WTS at a time when they were going through a comparable transition. It seemed a good fit, I think for everyone involved,” she says. “The fact that it was a transportation organization was not as much a part of the equation, although I’m surveying and learning,” she adds with a laugh.
James says the WTS has been able to expand in new ways. A strategic planning process and development of a professional staff has enabled WTS to position itself within the industry to advance its mission. She is looking forward to things like benchmarking the accomplishments of women in the industry, developing the international footprint, strengthening chapters and expanding membership. As she says, in the two years she’s been there, the focus has felt somewhat internal. “Before you decorate your house, you’ve got to build it.” And then she adds, “But there’s no question that this is just the preliminary steps to really enable the organization to launch into its future.”
Proud of the association’s accomplishments and that of its members, she says, “We have a number of women that are prominent members of WTS that are the first women to do this and that and you know what? We’re finally getting to the point where we are running out of ‘firsts’ in some places because there have now been women in those positions.” She emphasizes, “Every time that occurs, we, as an organization, are quite celebratory about that.”
“Our mission is the advancement of women,” she reiterates. “I believe that our members and our leaders should be extremely proud of what they’ve accomplished in a very short time.”
It is a unique perspective that WTS offers. “We are in every mode of transportation, in all the different sectors; we are in a very unique position to bring together thought-leaders and innovators and highly visible decision-makers in all areas of the industry.” With transit, aerospace, trucking and other transportation sectors, members often have very different opinions regarding the allocation of dollars, the kind of political approach and the strategies to use. As she explains, the different perspectives offer members a broad viewpoint.
Seeing the competitive global environment and how much is allocated into transportation development in other places in the world, it helps illuminate where this country needs to be, she states. “For the United States to stay competitive, I think transportation is looking at funding issues as well as workforce issues and building a consensus within the country about the choices that need to be made.” She says, “I think those challenges play differently in different places, but overall, globally, energy and the environment and the interrelationship is what seems to be driving most of the other concerns, decisions, research and development that we are trying to accomplish.”