July 2023 President's Letter
Your Value as a Transportation Professional Matters
Let’s try a quick thought experiment. You can have three of the following things. What do you choose?
- Hot and cold running water
- Heat and/or air conditioning
- The Internet
- Our five senses
- A roof over your head
- Your health/Medicine
- Your computer and your smartphone
- The love of your family
- Access to food/Homemade meals
Difficult? Well, that is why it’s a thought experiment. And like most thought experiments, the purpose underlies the process behind the choice. So, what do these things all have in common? Yes, they are necessities, but that is not what I’m going for. I’m looking for something a little more nuanced. Care to guess? No? Give up? These are all things that many, if not most of us, take for granted. We only miss them, and sometimes only really value them, when they’re interrupted or gone. Only there’s something missing from that list. Well, actually, there are many things that could populate that list, but I’m thinking about the one thing that unites all of us here. And I do mean all of us. I’m talking about transportation.
Okay, I’m not going to lecture you about the wonders of transportation. We all know what it is and how critically important it is to our quality of life and national security. And like most necessities, we tend not to really notice it unless something goes wrong. So, I’ll let some greater minds than mine chime in:
“Transportation is the centre of the world. It is the glue of our daily lives. When it goes well, we don’t see it. When it goes wrong, it negatively colours our day, makes us feel angry, and curtails our possibilities.” Robin Chase, Founder of Zipcar
“Transport infrastructure is much more than asphalt, concrete or steel; it is the backbone of national economies, providing connections for people and goods, access to jobs and services, and enabling trade and economic growth.” Combined Statement of 54 European Transportation Ministers
“Anybody going slower than you is an idiot, and anybody going faster than you is a maniac.” George Carlin
Passenger rail, cars, trucks, planes, boats, bridges, highways, pedestrian facilities, bicycles, mass transit, shipping, freight, cargo, bus systems, ferries, breakbulk ships, container ships, funiculars, trolleys (!)—the list goes on and on. And in the very near future, it is likely the list will grow to include things like autonomous vehicles, flying taxis, hyperloop, drone delivery vehicles—who knows. But one element unites all of these modes—us.
People design, construct, operate, manage, guide, create, and advance all of these modes. We are those people. We are the proud, lucky few who make transportation possible. Who facilitate the lives of millions and yet make it all just a part of a day’s work. Many people don’t appreciate what we do. Many of us don’t appreciate what we do or even realize it is special. And that is okay. But please know it is very special. As part of the family of transportation providers, we empower people’s lives through the transportation of goods, people, and services. Take us out of the equation; society does not work.
So, stop for a minute. Think about where you fit into the greater transportation context. Think about how you contribute selflessly to a greater cause every day. Yes, we all get paid for what we do. But we could choose to do something else. We don’t. We choose to help move the world because we believe in the inherent value of our work. Look, I don’t mean to elevate what we do. Doctors are vital. Lawyers are vital. Plumbers, Electricians, and HVAC repair people are vital. It takes a village. But what we do matters. And far too often, we take that for granted, particularly when we’re having a bad day or some work decision doesn’t go our way, or you get stuck in traffic on the freeway. But next time that happens try to remember the context. Try to remember that in the grander scheme of things, you, as a transportation professional, are providing an essential service that gets someone to the first high school graduation in their family that helps save the life of a baby in an emergency, that unites a distant family for the very first time, or that you just helped someone else get to work that day. What you do matters. So, please, please stop to appreciate it every now and then. And appreciate what other transportation professionals do for you and yours, whether they help master plan an airport or drive a shuttle bus. We are all related in our love of providing an essential service that betters individual’s lives. We’re about to enter into a very unique time in Los Angeles. We’re about to host the Olympic Games.
Many things need to come together to make the games successful, but transportation serves as a pivotal element. It may never get noticed. It may never get properly acknowledged. But the Olympic Games would not happen here without excellent, efficient, effective transportation - transportation that you help provide. So take a moment and enjoy the fact that you are bringing the world together by bringing the world to and around Los Angeles. Well done, everyone! We are superstars, and I am so proud to be a transportation professional and to share this honor with all of you.
Heather Anderson, PE | HNTB
WTS-LA 2023-2024 President