ACT Council Spotlight Mini-Series: Technology & Innovation Council

Aug 11, 2022

Andy Keeton

VP Global Strategy

Between the Lines presents ACT Council Spotlight Mini-Series: Technology & Innovation Council

with Marie-France Laurin


What is the Technology & Innovation Council?

On this week's episode of Between the Lines, we chat with Marie-France Laurin. Marie-France is the Director of Business Development at Stantec GenerationAV. She has spent most of her career exploring mobility trends, technologies and providers, and synergies between them to help people bring ideas to life. And most importantly for this conversation, Marie-France is the Chair of the Technology & Innovation Council with ACT.

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Episode transcript:

(Andy Keeton) Hi everyone and welcome aboard to this week's episode of Between the Lines. Today I am talking with once again, Marie-France Laurin. Marie-France is the director of business development at Stantec GenerationAV. She spent most of her career exploring Mobility Trends, technologies, providers, synergies between them to help people bring ideas to life and all of this has led her to what we are talking about today, which is that she is the chair of the Technology & Innovation Council with the Association for Commuter Transportation or ACT. Today's episode as part of our ACT Council Spotlight Mini-Series, we're diving into this council. Technology & Innovation Council, Marie-France, thanks for being on.

(Marie-France Laurin) Thank you so much for having me here today.

(Andy Keeton) Let's just get started. What is the Technology & Innovation Council? I know it's new to ACT, so people may not know exactly what it is. What is it, and who is it for?

(Marie-France Laurin) So, the Innovation & Technology Council was an idea that they had around two, three years ago now. I've been working with ACT to just kind of open up the ideas of Technology & Innovation, but in all sectors of TDM. So, it's not only, you've mentioned I work in autonomous vehicle technology, but, Innovation & Technology it's not just that, there are so many other angles that could be deployed or could be used right now in the current world with current activities. ACT has a really good pool of people that are working in the TDM world, and it was very interesting for me to have those conversations over the last couple of years, and just realize that people are open to technology, they just don't know where to start. So, that was really like the idea behind the council, was: "How can we help, like, leverage the technology that are available, to the people that are looking for the technology?" And that's really what the group is about, it's not a some place for people to sell their technology, it's really a place to exchange and see what are the different processes, what's the procurement process, what are the hiccups of how to kind of leverage that Technology & Innovation, and just really have that conversation with everyone around to to do the matchmaking between people.

(Andy Keeton) And I remember when you were first talking about this idea, well, it's been a couple of years, but, really like, in earnest about a year ago, I thought this was a really interesting idea. One of the things I thought was particularly interesting is just the idea that it's not just for technology companies to talk among themselves to have this like echo chamber, but for everyone. Who do you…? Who are members of the council now, or do you expect to become members, from which sectors, who is this… who is best to be a member?

(Marie-France Laurin) So, right now, the council is really accepting everyone and anyone that has interest in in Innovation & Technology, and basically, what we want to do is, with the group that we have right now, we are also recruiting within all the other councils. Because we want to have that communication path with them, and we want to make sure that we interact with them on the regular basis. So, we have members that are members of the High Education Council, The Vanpooling, The Shuttler Council, The Telework people. So, it's really everyone and anyone that has interest or have a technology, or know about a technology, or are looking for Technology & Innovation in their current activities. So, I would say it's everyone at this point, when you include all this group of people.

(Andy Keeton) It's perfect. I mean, that's how you want at the table and talk about innovation.

(Marie-France Laurin) Yeah, it's really, because my experience with innovation could be really different from your experience with innovation, and we just want to bring it all together and have that place where people can exchange best practices, what they did in the past, what worked, what didn't work 'cause I really strongly feel that is important to share about what didn't work too. Because sometimes is not that the technology didn't work or the innovation itself didn't work, but sometimes it's a the way it was set up, that wasn't successful or the way that the stakeholders were involved, or they weren't educated on the process that created those hiccups. So, it's really about sharing. I would say, sharing, communicating and learning all together.

(Andy Keeton) It's great. I want to take a little step back here, we are talking about ACT and the council, but I want to also talk about just Technology & Innovation. Why is it important for us to be bringing all these stakeholders together, having these conversations. How does Technology & Innovation play a role in the future of Transportation Demand Management, TDM, or commuting, or just transportation as a whole?

(Marie-France Laurin) Yeah, I'll give you just one example. If you think of Vanpooling program as an example. The Vanpooling is a program that is set up, so you have one person that picked the first one, then the second one, then the third one, but what if you add an application or an option for people to just jump in, jump out and really make sure that you maximize the route that you are doing that morning. Right now, the way is working some of the Vanpooling organizations they have a kind of set up, but some of them are really in the first steps of getting Technology & Innovation involved. So, it's really just about, again, it's the sharing of the bigger player with the smaller player, or it's just about saying like "have you ever thought about that?" So, it's really about, I'm lucky, I'm really lucky in my life and in my work environment that I get to travel everywhere and can learn about all those different types of technology. Sometimes it's just to bring it back because you only know what you know, so if you are not aware of everything that is out there that could make your… your solution more efficient or safer, or whatever angle you want to take on the solution that you have, but if there's a way that you can make it more efficient that you can offer a better customer experience, I would say, to the users that you have, that will give you a leg on any other solution. It's not about fighting with other solutions, but mostly how we can integrate, also all the solutions together, because I feel like we need to put our heads together and all think about how we can minimize the Single-Occupancy Vehicle usage versus trying to say: "Oh, Vanpooling is better than the public transit or than this and that." So, it's really about all the TDM solutions put together, again, the Single-Occupancy Vehicle, when you think of Single-Occupancy Vehicle, those OEMs are putting in a lot of money to bring Technology & Innovation, and to increase the customer experience, so, I just felt at that time, that we just needed to bring the same kind of level of energy, and understanding, and awareness of those technology to really be able to compete with the Single-Occupancy Vehicle.

(Andy Keeton) Yeah, that's a really good point. The Single-Occupancy Vehicle manufacturers are putting so much time and effort into Technology & Innovation, so should we. I talk about this a lot myself, you know, in my own conversations about, there are a lot of technologies out there, and really only if we're working together toward a common solution. Will we be successful? Not one technology, not one piece of innovation is going to do it on its own, so. I love the idea and the concept behind this, like, let's just talk, let's bring everyone to the table and let's compete with the with the OEMs, the car manufacturers who are doing this all the time as well. It makes sense.

(Marie-France Laurin) And some of the OEM have good vision, where the car will become something that we'll share within multiple people which is perfect, this is really what we are looking to have as, I think as a community, and as like a, cities or environment. So, I wouldn't say that they're bad, but is the Single-Occupancy Vehicle for me that is creating that challenge that we just need to bring the same level of Technology & Innovation, and really, like you said, connect everyone together. So, we have a council at ACT that talks about public transit, but is how we can also include the same technology that we include there. How could we use that for Vanpooling, or for Shuttles, or for Micro-Mobility? And really just like, put all that together and talk with the employers, talk with the Higher Education Council and just be like: "There is a technology that's being used there, how can we use that technology with what you want to do?" And instead of recreating the wheels every time, it's really, sometimes it's just connecting those wires together where people are like: "Okay, I could just add myself to that, and then I will be more flexible." So, that's really the intent of that council council of Innovation & Technology.

(Andy Keeton) So, I'm going to, in a second, I'm going to ask you to make the pitch for why someone should join. But maybe to lead up to that, you've hinted at this and have talked about it, but, what is this council planning in the future to help, transportation professionals, better have these conversations and incorporate technology, think about innovation in their own, lives and in ACT.

(Marie-France Laurin) Yeah, I would say that right now, when you look at all the different councils, that ACT has, all of them have a very valid purpose and a very valid reason for why they're there, and why they have those conversations among them, specifically on the solution or the angle that they're taking on TDM. When you think of the Innovation & Technology Council, we just want to be kind of an umbrella on top of all of them, not to bring shadow to them, but just to collaborate with them and make sure that, what we find can fit with something they're looking for, and what they are looking for, we can search for it. So, it's really, I would say "use us," we would like ACT to use us, as a… an innovation kind of brainstorm location, where they can just go to and say like: "Hey, we are looking into this, this and that. Can you help us do that?" And then, we can go and dig, and find the solution, and find the information, and that's really why I think it's very important to have as many member as possible because you come from different region, different reality, different perspective, and it's putting all that together that would definitely create that kind of angle, that will bring more meat on the bone, when we have those conversations with other people at ACT.

(Andy Keeton) Okay. So, I feel like this whole episode was a good pitch for "why someone should join," but, give it to me, in, you know, just a few senses. What is it? Why should someone, from any sector, why should anyone, join this council? Or maybe even, I'll take a step further and make it more complex, maybe they're not even a member of ACT yet. Why should they join the ACT community and as part of that, this Technology & Innovation Council?

(Marie-France Laurin) I would say that for anyone that wants to have an impact on how the future of commuting and transportation in general will be, joinning ACT is the great way to get to meet all the different actors within that group, to be part of our council, the Technology & Innovation Council will provide connection to all of the ACT and all the different members, but also provide another extra level of support and collaboration with all those different council and members, by bringing technology to life and by deploying those kind of technology.

(Andy Keeton) I like it. You're the glue that's going to hold everyone together and connect everyone. I'm excited to see it. I'm definitely. I've already joined the council, I'm excited for having these meetings and having these conversations, 'cause it's something I pretty much do every day already, and I just want to, you know, connect with more people and have those conversations. So, thanks again for putting that effort behind, getting this set up, I know it's a lot of work. Your work is definitely appreciated. So, I have one more question for you, we're going to, once again, take a step back out of ACT, out of the Technology & Innovation Council, and just put your futuristic hat on here.

(Marie-France Laurin) Yeah. -(Andy Keeton) I'm going to. I want to hear from you, as the expert here, in Technology & Innovation, which is a big title. Where do you see the future of technology going in TDM? You can take this anyway you want, but where do you think we're going to see technology take us?

(Marie-France Laurin) So, there are two points there, there is what I would like to see and what I think, is going to happen. So, if I think what I would like to see, I would like to see a more collaborative and open approach to everything that has to do with TDM, again, to bring all that together and to fight back on the Single-Occupancy Vehicle, and the congestion and traffic, and gas emission that it creates in our communities. What I think is going to happen, is that, the private sector will be the first one to take that lead, and it's going to be private sector against private sector, and then the public sector will come in, but I would love to see the public sector to take more of the lead into that approach and to be more open to change the way that things have been done, to change the way procurement is being done, and to really just have an open mind, kind of, start with a whiteboard and say "What do our community… What's the needs from our community and how when can make it happen with what we know that is happening in the world?"

(Andy Keeton) I really like that vision. Yeah, I mean, that's… That's it.

(Marie-France Laurin) I would love…

(Andy Keeton) You've solved the issue, you've solved transportation, all you need to do is to bring people together, I really think though, it's a great vision. Hopefully, the conversations that happen in this council at ACT will help facilitate some of that. So, certainly if you're part of, whether is the private sector or public or public sector, you know, come and be part of this, talk about what the future of technology is going to be, talk about what, how we can use innovation to solve these problems that we're facing, kind of overcome the challenges of the Single-Occupancy Vehicle.

(Marie-France Laurin) I would add to that, if you are a technology provider, join the council, join the ACT, so you can learn what your clients or your future clients really need, instead of creating those new and shining boxes, that you're trying to find a problem to put the box in, try to get the vision first, and then you understand what you need to put together and develop down on the road. I would say, it's the same thing if you are a user, and you're part of a big company, or you're part of a public organization that are looking to learn more about those kinds of innovations, just reach out, come and join ACT and the council.

(Andy Keeton) I love it. Yeah. Technology for the sake of technology does no any good, let's solve problems, work together. Marie-France, thanks again for setting this whole council up, for coming on the podcast the second time. If you haven't yet, check the first episode, go back to season one, check that out, it's a really good episode, very interesting, talking about the future of transportation and the autonomous vehicle world, I think, as always, it was great talking with you, and I'm excited to see you at the ACT conference in Chicago in a couple of months, well, by the time this gets put out, maybe in a couple of weeks. Once again, thanks for your time.

(Marie-France Laurin) Yeah, can wait to see you there. Thank you.

(Andy Keeton) And everyone who's listening, thanks again for joining. This is part of our ACT Council Spotlight Mini-Series, so if you're interested in learning more about ACT, Association for Commuter Transportation, and want to figure out which council you should be part of, check out the other episodes in the series. If you want to just learn more about transportation and TDM, check out the whole the whole shebang, the whole show. You can learn more at, you can also sign up for our e-mail list there, and we send updates when a new episode comes out, you can learn a little bit more, take that conversation to the next level. Make sure you subscribe, like, give us a rating wherever you're listening to podcast or if you're watching on YouTube. Thanks again for joining and watching us. I'm jealous of Marie-France, she's at her standing desk, we were talking about this earlier, I need to get a standing desk, so, maybe on the next episode you'll see me standing and having a conversation, because now I'm really jealous. But yeah, thanks again for joining and for and for listening or watching. We will see you again next time.

(Voiceover) Thanks for joining us on this week's episode of Between the Lines with Andy Keeton. Be sure to subscribe to hear next week's episode and check out our exclusive commuter playlist on Spotify.

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