Shailen Bhatt: Exciting Times in Washington

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When people from outside Washington, DC, talk about our nation’s capital, they often think of the bitter political environment, but our nation’s capital has so much more to offer.

I’m a huge history buff, and few places in this country can match the majesty of this city. When I walk around Washington, I get to explain to my daughters why there are monuments to so many brave men and women who have sacrificed and helped build this country. That is one of the things I love about DC.

There is another reason Washington gets a bad rap – and I have to agree with people on this one…the traffic is terrible. Everywhere you go in the region, roads are choked with cars. The beltway is a standing joke - pun intended. Hopefully, that will become a thing of the past - the mobility revolution has come to Washington, DC and is reshaping the future.

Ten years ago, when I worked at Navy Yard as a top official with the Federal Highway Administration (part of the U.S. Department of Transportation), we talked about how to widen roads around the region to deal with the influx of cars. Leaving work late at night, I had limited ways to get home – I could take a cab or transit, neither of which were great options at that time. Today, I can walk out of my office – which is right across the street from DOT – and in addition to using the transit system, which has greatly improved its service, I could take rideshare, an option that didn’t exist 10 years ago. My preferred option is to bicycle, but if I don’t have my cycle at the office, I can rent one from the bike share station across the street, grab an ebike, or jump on a scooter. It’s usually a combination that allows me to get home in a much more enjoyable and efficient way.

Under the direction of Mayor Muriel Bowser and DDOT Director and ITS America board member Jeff Marootian, Washington is partnering with ITS America members Maryland and Virginia to transform the region. The city is also partnering with ITS America member Ford to test autonomous vehicles her later this year. New ITS solutions involving active traffic management and tolling are providing more options for commuters to move around the tri-state area. And, most importantly, these three agencies - with private sector partners - are using concepts like big data to help improve throughput on existing roadways, automation and curb-pricing to envision a future in which the system operates much more efficiently.  

And on the policy front, it’s an opportune time to be here, in proximity to lawmakers, as reauthorization of the FAST Act begins to take shape.

It’s a very exciting time to be in Washington – join us for the 28th ITS America Annual Meeting June 4-7 and be part of the conversation.