RTD hosts 2022 APTA Tech Conference

RTD General Manager and CEO Debra A. Johnson sits among fellow panelists at a CEO luncheon at APTA.
RTD General Manager and CEO Debra A. Johnson joins general managers and CEOs from Monterey-Salinas Transit and Bay Area Rapid Transit, and the Vice Chairman of APTA, Kevin J. Holzendorf.

This week, representatives from across North America converged on Denver for the American Public Transportation Association (APTA)’s Tech Conference, also known as APTAtech. APTAtech explores new and innovative technologies that make the transit experience better for all, including fare payment systems, autonomous and zero-emission vehicles, equity and cybersecurity.

The four-day conference, held at the Sheraton Downtown Denver Hotel, hosted many sessions, roundtable discussions and fireside chats by subject matter experts from both transit-oriented tech companies and representatives from transit agencies nationwide. RTD was well-represented at these sessions with presentations and discussions from Tonya Anderson, Senior Product Manager; Tim Coogan, Director, Cybersecurity; and Debra A. Johnson, General Manager and CEO.

On Monday, Tonya Anderson presented to a full house at the Beyond Account-Based Ticketing session. Her presentation spoke to the modernization of RTD’s fare collection systems and discussed the history, progress, challenges and future vision of the new account-based ticketing system that will launch Sept. 1. Later in the day, Anderson joined Erica Brown, Senior Account Manager, INIT Innovations in Transportation Inc.; Endya M. Freeman, Revenue Manager, Jacksonville Transportation Authority; and Sheri Dixon, Director of Revenue, Hampton Roads Transit; for a fireside chat about the future of fare collection. During the session, Anderson and company discussed how fare collection technology plays into the larger picture of transit equity, as well as discussing the role of zero fare in equity for all.

Monday afternoon, RTD’s Tim Coogan joined Eric Keijzer of T.Y. Lin International Inc. and Christos Karanicolas, Senior Vice President of Engineering, Clever Devices Ltd., to discuss cyber vulnerability, how transit agencies are combating cyberattacks and strategies to help agencies identify and defend themselves against cyberattacks.

Closing out Monday afternoon, RTD held two technical tours that explored commuter rail technology and RTD’s CAD/AVL systems. The commuter rail tour group joined Joe Phillips, Manager, Commuter Rail Vehicle Maintenance; Steven McAbee, Senior Instructor/Supervisor, Communications; and Christian Knapp, Chief Mechanical Officer, Denver Transit Operators; as they learned about RTD’s trailblazing implementation of Positive Train Control (PTC), discussed technical details of the commuter rail network and were invited to tour the cab of RTD’s commuter rail vehicles.

The CAD/AVL tour group started with a brief presentation describing RTD’s CAD/AVL systems before taking shuttle buses to District Shops, where participants toured the facility, including stops at bus dispatch and the maintenance bays, to get a glimpse at RTD’s day-to-day fleet operations.

Yesterday, RTD General Manager and CEO Debra A. Johnson joined Carl G. Sedoryk, General Manager and CEO, Monterey-Salinas Transit; Kevin J. Holzendorf, Vice Chair, APTA; and Robert M. Powers, General Manager, San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART); for a CEO Roundtable Luncheon. During the session, these individuals reflected upon leading their agencies through advancements in technology and fare payments to benefit their organizations and customers. 

“When we fail to innovate, we stagnate,” Johnson told attendees. She referenced RTD’s four strategic priorities and explained that they serve as functional pillars upon which decisions are made. Technology can optimize customer experience, she said. The adoption of a data visualization platform, for example, provided the agency with an understanding of available space on light rail vehicles, enabling customers to make informed decisions about when to ride.

Tour group joins RTD and DTO representatives onboard a commuter rail vehicle.
Christian Knapp (left), Chief Mechanical Officer for Denver Transit Operators, joins RTD's Joe Phillips (middle), Manager, Commuter Rail Vehicle Maintenance; and Steven McAbee (right), Senior Instructor/Supervisor, Communications; as they give a technical tour of one of RTD's commuter rail vehicles.

Referencing Colorado’s weather, Johnson said that an understanding of technology has been crucial to optimize service delivery related to battery-electric vehicles, where battery degradation is affected by 80-degree temperature swings between seasons. She also spoke to public use of tools such as Transit Watch, noting that knowledge of where specific behaviors are occurring helps RTD deploy its resources more appropriately to benefit its customers.

“I think there are some technological tools that we can leverage to help enhance the experience,” Johnson said. Doing so is not just about public safety, she added, “but what is comfort level, because what may be comfortable to me may not be comfortable for somebody else.”

The conference wraps up today with tours to District Shops and the 711 Building. The first tour begins with a presentation on RTD’s fare collection systems and a preview of the new account-based ticketing system before busing participants to the 711 Building, where participants will see the facility and fare-collecting operations.

The second tour will take participants to District Shops to view RTD’s electric fleet and charging stations and learn about the infrastructure in place to support the fleet.

RTD is honored to host this year’s APTAtech Conference and welcome over 300 transit industry professionals from across the nation and beyond. RTD is proud to collaborate with APTA and transit agencies nationwide to explore initiatives, technologies and ideas that make lives better through connections.