Public Sector Future Podcast | Episode 31: Future of Infrastructure: Collaborating for Safer Roads

Episode 31 guest speaker, MJ Maynard

Future of Infrastructure:
Collaborating for Safer Roads

with MJ Maynard

Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada CEO, MJ Maynard joined Jeremy Goldberg to share how a collaboration between public agencies and technology companies helped make their roads safer.

Episode 31: Future of Infrastructure: Collaborating for Safer Roads

Public Sector Future

Episode summary

Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada CEO, MJ Maynard joined Jeremy Goldberg to share how a collaboration between public agencies and technology companies helped make their roads safer.

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How a focus on data and collaboration led to safer roads in Nevada

Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada CEO, MJ Maynard joined Jeremy Goldberg to share how a collaboration between public agencies and technology companies helped make their roads safer.

Don’t put yourself in a box

“If you’d asked me 16 years ago if I would consider leaving the private sector to join the public sector, I think I would have thought maybe you’d had one too many specialty beverages at a local Las Vegas casino. It wasn’t something I would even consider.”

MJ Maynard is the Chief Executive Officer of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada. She moved to Las Vegas for college and graduated from the hospitality program at UNLV.

Maynard continued, “My path from the private sector to the public sector really happened because of a chance encounter or maybe a chance conversation, timing, and really a deep curiosity that I’ve always had.”

Always being open and curious led to a chance encounter at the gym that quickly turned into a valued connection.

“I got to know a gentleman by the name of Jacob Snow. He was the general manager for the RTC at the time. So that’s sort of that chance, just sometimes you don’t know who you’re talking to as you develop relationships. He was aware that I was probably thinking about changing careers. I worked at the Hard Rock Hotel Casino here in Las Vegas. I’d opened the property, was there for about 12 years. The owner had decided to sell the property. As an executive, I was really reevaluating, sort of assessing my next steps. And so, Jacob offered me a job in his organization.”

This is where Maynard explained that being fearless at that stage of her career really paid off, though at the time it wasn’t very common.

“I think as professionals, sometimes we put ourselves in a box, right? I’m an accountant. That’s what I do. That’s what I know. That’s my boundaries. For me, I was a hospitality person. That’s what I know. I’m good at it. That’s what I do and that’s all I can do. And I think that’s where my mindset was. So, I was very curious to understand where Jacob saw me in his organization.”

Las Vegas, the melting pot

“Southern Nevada really is a melting pot of people that have moved from somewhere else, and many of us that come to Las Vegas, it’s just supposed to be this sort of moment in time. I was going to get my degree and move on. And, you know, it just sort of sucked me in. But I also really loved the pick yourselves up from your bootstraps kind of philosophy that I found here in Las Vegas all those years ago. Really, what you see in movies and on TV, some of that’s true,” Maynard said.

Home to over 2 million residents, Las Vegas has grown into a proper big city, with all the challenges that big cities face.

“It was much smaller when I moved here. It still, I think, has that wild, wild west mentality. And I don’t remember seeing buses traveling, moving about here in the community. I think it was, you know, it was very young. We [RTC] really didn’t become the public transit provider until the early ‘90s.”

A technology partnership

As a traffic manager, Maynard’s team partners with the Nevada Department of Transportation and the Nevada State Police, and they work together to manage traffic incidents on their freeway system. But there’s another member of this partnership: technology.

“Waycare came to us back in the day, a small startup from Israel, and they said, ‘Hey, hey, RTC, you have a problem and we think we have a solution.’” Maynard continued, “And they were correct, we had a problem in terms of safety and congestion and how it was impacting our region, both as a hospitality economic engine, but safety for folks that were just living here. Really what they were bringing to the table was technology.”

“Managing traffic today in many regions is still sort of done manually. And they were bringing this platform that uses artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, historical data, and for the first time, real-time, crowdsourced information. You know, put that in the secret sauce, shake it up, all of that really has the ability to enhance safety and reduce congestion.”

The software identifies where an incident may occur and lets the state police know where they should enhance their presence. And according to Maynard, when you see a police car on the freeway– you slow down. So more of a police presence in areas with frequent accidents means less speeding, which then results in less accidents.

“And it means less congestion from those accidents. So certainly, that technology had, you know, checked the box. We had a way to potentially ease congestion.”

The key to success

“You know, back in the day when someone would call 9-1-1, it was almost like shouting across the room to RTC, ‘Hey, there’s been an accident’ and we’d sort of manually go to work. And now we’re expecting the Highway Patrol to give up some of their data, right? We needed access to the 9-1-1 system. I think there was a little pushback at first.

But as a regional agency, we can’t move the ball unless we collaborate. We don’t have necessarily the sole authority just to do something without collaborating, and I think that really makes us more effective – that we are not just at the table alone, that we do partner with, you know, NDOT, we do partner with the state police. And yet we manage all the arterials here in southern Nevada. We work on behalf and manage the devices for the county and all the cities here.

So really it’s in our DNA. We have to collaborate. And I think, if you’ve worked in the public sector, it can be really difficult to move any initiative forward unless you have that regional buy-in. And because we are a regional authority, I think that is its key to our success,” Maynard shared.

Road to zero

“Our mantra here at the RTC is, you know, without facts and data, you’re just another person with an opinion. You have to have, especially in a business that doesn’t make money, we still have to have benchmarks. How are we succeeding?”

Maynard looks at how much RTC is moving the needle on their month-over-month metrics as well as their year-over-year metrics. It’s important to be able to tell if the number of traffic incidents are decreasing or if congestion is improving at all. Tracking that kind of data is part of the job.

“And I’ll tell you, the pilot data was impressive. The data showed that the Waycare technology reduced the number of primary crashes by 17% on a portion of the I-15. Additionally, 91% of speeding drivers reduced their speed to below 65 miles per hour, again in that area where we had those preventive measures in place, where you saw Highway Patrol.”

Since 2017 they’ve seen 35,000 unique incidents and on average, a nine-minute faster response time.

“Prior to Waycare, we relied solely on 9-1-1 calls for the information, captured about 300 crashes every month. Now with the help of that real time information, we captured 900 crashes monthly. And this is what’s great about this, same number of staff that we had prior to the implementation,” Maynard continued.

“And then because we had a yearlong pilot, we were able to quantify the results of that pilot. We applied for a federal grant, the Road to Zero, again, with NDOT, with the state police, and with Waycare. And we were able to deploy what we’re calling strategic traffic management sites. We actually, on the freeway system, built the platforms in visible locations, in conjunction with the coordinated messages on the dynamic signs, you know, ‘slow your speed, accident head.’ In that area, because we were able to expand it, we saw an 18% decline in traffic crashes and a 43% reduction in drivers going above the posted speed limit.”

Failure is a lesson learned

Despite achieving some incredible results, Maynard wanted her team to know that it would have been okay if their pilot program and technology trial run didn’t work out.

“You know, it’s okay to fail. When you introduce technology, you have to assume that everything is not going to work out as intended. You certainly have to put together those, you know, the scopes of work, who’s responsible for what, who’s going to pay for what, it’s got to be very transparent. But if the outcome could include that you fail and you have to let staff know that’s okay, right? It didn’t do what we thought it was going to do, at least in this area, but that’s also part of the success for going forward, because you know what not to do next time around,” Maynard said.

Thinking about infrastructure in a new era

The intersection of technology and infrastructure has had to evolve during the COVID pandemic, just as we all have, and it’s changed how most of us think about the nature of work. As a result, Maynard’s learned to slow down a bit.

“This past Christmas, I bought my son a book called Atomic Habits by James Clear for a whole ‘nother reason, but I found the concept really intriguing. I am a big believer in this saying by Confucius, “The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” And I think this book sort of speaks to that, the importance of small habits personally, or in the case of business and the public sector, that the small processes are part of a larger system that eventually becomes building blocks or what he calls, remarkable results.”

Maynard added: “It’s really sort of a go slow to go fast approach. Think about it. Technology, it’s easy to become impatient. You know, you experience that fear of missing out and you want to jump right into something new without that sometimes-internal ownership of buy-in. And I think this book suggests or introduces those small, incremental, daily processes within your organization that helps commit to change the culture that, again, will improve your opportunity to continue to invest in technology, which happens to be moving at the speed of light, too, right? It’s still evolving.”

“So, I love his concept that sometimes – go slow. It’s those small things that you do consistently every day that provide some of the greatest benefits in the long run.”

To find out more:

Learn more about the RTC of Southern Nevada

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