2021 40 Under 40: Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal

Nov. 23, 2021
Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal, Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Icomera
  • One word to describe yourself: Ambitious
  • Alma Mater: University of Florida, Bachelor of Science, Civil Engineering (2008); Tufts University, Master of Arts, Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning (2010)
  • Favorite station or stop that you have ever visited or frequent (and why): MBTA, Harvard Square; I love the nostalgia of the bus tunnel
  • Favorite route you have ever ridden or frequent (and why): Brightline; it’s an experience like no other

Gabriel Lopez-Bernal sees mobility as a fundamental right and his career is dedicated to the deployment of resourceful solutions to make operators and cities more sustainable and competitive.

With a background in civil engineering and urban policy and planning, Lopez-Bernal brings an understanding of wireless communications, streaming media, CCTV, Wi-Fi, IoT, CAD/AVL, asset management and network security to the transit industry.

In 2020, Lopez-Bernal was instrumental in securing three new customers in North America – one light-rail operator, one heavy rail operator and one intercity passenger rail customer. He also sits on Icomera’s research and development committee that works towards “The Digital Train” and “The Digital Bus” solutions.

Lopez-Bernal was instrumental in securing the largest North America technology contract for Icomera with Metrolinx, totaling 1,475 end-to-end Wi-Fi solution installations across GO Transit’s entire fleet (943 train cars and 532 buses). In addition to onboard internet connectivity, Lopez-Bernal inspired Metrolinx to bring passengers an immersive entertainment experience – making their trip on GO Transit more productive and enjoyable. He spearheaded the idea to open new revenue streams through which GO Transit can offset operational expenditures, for example through corporate sponsorship, ads and regularly updated free media content from selected partners.

Lopez-Bernal also serves as the key account manager for Brightline. In the initial stages of project development, Lopez-Bernal educated the rail operator on the importance of having quality onboard amenities, which included passenger Wi-Fi. Because of his focus on value, efficiency and sustainability, Lopez-Bernal delivered a business case to Brightline that included the same Wi-Fi network to be used at all stations and onboard all vehicles, eliminating the inconvenience of signing in at multiple points at the station or when boarding.

Lopez-Bernal’s passion for his work extends beyond his career. He founded and served as executive director of Transit Miami, a non-profit entity dedicated to discussing and resolving the transportation and development issues which affect the greater Miami region. He is credited with forging partnerships with policymakers and elected officials to promote sustainable urban development strategies, like Miami 21.

Lopez-Bernal is known for creating a culture of high performance and enjoys the challenge of doing things differently and has the ideas, perseverance and willingness to make tough decisions to drive the change process.

Is there a specific experience that led you to where you are today?

The catalyst began in 2004, when I was a sophomore in college and was looking to positively impact my community. I started a website, Transit Miami (Note: website is no longer active), aimed at stimulating public discourse regarding the urban planning and transportation policy issues reshaping south Florida.

What started as a blog grew to a to be coalition of the sharpest urban planning and policy minds available in south Florida. Through it, we affected meaningful change. We started movements. We influenced policy. We reshaped capital investment. And we established partnerships with local politicians and internationally renowned advocates.

Over the 12 years that Transit Miami was in existence. I formed long-lasting relationships with colleagues, mentors and – little did I know – future clients. Transit Miami molded me into the professional I am today, one who see himself as an advocate and transit supporter, before all other interests.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

It is difficult to see this as a ‘job’ when I am doing what I love. I help transit providers to deliver services more effectively, communities to be more equitable and leverage technology to encourage greater use of transit services.

The team we are building at Icomera is inspirational. We have an incredible team with a phenomenal attitude. There isn’t a solution too complex or a timeline too rigorous for our staff. And best of all – we are all having fun doing what we love.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Icomera’s centralized connectivity platform is disruptive by nature. It is designed for transportation agencies to achieve new levels of efficiency in the acquisition and use of onboard technologies and the data generated from these systems.

Our technology affects many operational divisions within an organization. From passenger-facing customer support and marketing to information technology, operations and safety and security teams.

To succeed, I must build consensus within these organizations. Fortunately, our award-winning technology is beyond proven; we apply internationally recognized standards to streamline interoperability; and our business case delivers a positive return on investment.

Accomplishment you’re most proud of and why?

This award. It is an incredible honor to be named by Mass Transit as a recipient of the 40 under 40. It represents my professional life’s work to the present. It reinforces my decision to serve as a lifelong advocate for improved transit services.

Best advice/tip/best practice to share from your area of expertise?

David Epstein said it best: “Our greatest strength is the exact opposite of narrow specialization. It is the ability to integrate broadly.”