TRB Annual Meeting 2021 Logo graphic

My thoughts about this year’s Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting (TRBAM), which was held virtually in January 2021. I’ve been a regular TRB meeting attendee since the 1980s and serve on several TRB committees.

Committee Meetings – Excellent

Black cat with zoom on computer screen

More attendees than usual at TRB committee meetings.

Especially good was higher attendance made possible by fewer conflicts than at real meeting.

Chair’s meeting management is critical (TRB should provide 10 rules for good zoom management to all chairs! For example Zoom tips from Seth Godin).

Presentations at committee meetings helped keep interest. I tuned into several committee meetings just because of the presentations!

Recommendations:

  • keep the sub-committee meetings virtual,
  • hold sub-committee meetings before January,
  • consider holding some committee meetings online,
  • post sub-committee/committee meeting agendas in online platform early.

Poster Sessions – Mixed

Andrew Nash with 2020 TRB poster on railway digitalisation

Andy Nash with Railway digitalisation poster TRB 2020

I had a poster.for our paper Experimentation as a Public Engagement Strategy in the Bridge X Proposal for Reimagining Brooklyn Bridge It was great to be able to upload 4 files. We uploaded a video presentation and our presentation slides.

The video presentation was just like a lectern presentation, this is really great.

Unfortunately, we did not receive any feedback on our poster. Maybe the subject was uninteresting, but you did not have the impression anyone was “walking by” during the live session and only two people left comments. (It would also be good to be notified by mail when someone left a comment.)

In short, the virtual session missed the spontaneous interaction of an in person and physical session.

Finally, identifying the posters you wanted to see and then navigating through the virtual system to view them was clunky … there were lots of clicks, signing-in again, the inability to keep several digital discussion windows open simultaneously (so we could monitor our poster and view our virtual “neighbors” poster) …

Recommendations:

  • return to holding physical poster sessions,
  • keep ability to upload video presentations before meeting.

Lectern Sessions

Diagram summarising strategies for using experimentation in transport

Slide from our presentation on experimentation in transport planning.

These worked well on-line. Of course, physical would be better.

Much appreciated that the viewing period was extended through March.

Often the presentation only sessions arranged by committees are excellent. These presentations should also be available on the TRBAM Library discussed below. (With videos of the sessions if possible.)

Discovery

Given the size of the TRBAM it’s always been a problem to discover the papers, posters and sessions you want to see. The online program was fine but the lack of integration with the virtual platform was a drag (just as the lack of integration between the mobile app and online program was in the early years).

A better key word search, consistent across posters, papers and sessions would be great.

Related, authors should be able to directly enter the committees they want to review their papers. Maybe this is a SAGE journal thing but having the committees and sub-committees in the key words section seems convoluted. Keep key words and committees separate.

Also, the letter-number TRB committee labeling is difficult. Not only are zeros, “Os”, ones and “Ls” mixed in (is it a zero? Or an O?), but people referring to committees by these labels is a real turn off for new people.

Availability

Photo of Capitol Bikeshare bikes in snow at night

Snow at the 2020 TRB Annual Meeting.

The TRB Annual Meeting posters, papers and presentations should be more easily available online and available for a longer time.

It would be great to be able to use the better key word search system described above to actually access these files.

Open the TRBAM Library in December, authors upload materials before the meeting, and make them available for attendees until, for example, March.

Summary

Everyone did a great job this year. It was remarkable how well the meetings went; how much information was exchanged, and how much work was done.

But I look forward to meeting in person next year!