Vanderbilt conference sparks collaboration for Tennessee’s transportation future

Nashville skyline

Earlier this year, Forbes magazine ranked Nashville’s commute as the “toughest in America,” with commuters losing an average of 41 hours a year to traffic congestion. In keeping with its commitment to mitigating this issue, Vanderbilt recently hosted a groundbreaking conference focused on driving transportation innovation in Tennessee.

The Intelligent Transportation Society of Tennessee’s 2024 annual meeting, held May 15–17, brought together leading experts from academia, industry and government to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the state’s transportation sector. The Office of Research and Innovation helped host the event at the Student Life Center ballroom.

At the event’s opening reception, Provost C. Cybele Raver emphasized the importance of collaboration in addressing mobility challenges.

“In order to capitalize on our state’s current growth and momentum, we have to start thinking collaboratively and finding solutions to some of our most pressing problems around transportation and other topics, like access to capital and available technical talent,” she said.

Raver also highlighted Vanderbilt’s commitment to partnerships that drive social impact and economic growth, like the I-24 MOTION collaboration between Vanderbilt and the Tennessee Department of Transportation, and the Leveraging Advanced Data to Deliver Multimodal Safety initiative with the Nashville Department of Transportation and Tennessee State University.

Nashville Mayor Freddie O’Connell expressed his enthusiasm for the conference and the collaborative efforts it represents during his keynote address on Thursday. “When you consider the array of what we all have to offer, together, the possibilities are limitless,” he said.

O’Connell outlined his recently announced vision for Nashville’s transportation future, which aims to address the city’s mobility challenges to improve the quality of life for its residents. “Our transportation system is at a crossroads. … By modernizing traffic signals, expanding transit services and enhancing pedestrian safety, we can create a more connected, efficient and livable city for everyone.”

Vanderbilt’s William Barbour, a senior research scientist at the Institute for Software Integrated Systems, was honored as ITS Tennessee’s 2023 Member of the Year. Barbour was recognized for his exceptional contributions to ITS Tennessee events and efforts to engage new members and organizations.

The conference underscored the importance of developing a robust innovation ecosystem in Tennessee to accommodate its booming population and business growth. “Our great, innovative potential is represented right here … in our capacity to share bold new ideas and work together toward a common purpose,” Raver said. And considering Nashville’s traffic woes, the conference also underscored the imperative for immediate and sustained efforts to develop innovative transportation systems that can support the region’s growth and livability.

Vanderbilt is a leader in transportation initiatives and regional commuting needs and has successfully implemented programs and benefits for its community to promote sustainable commute options that lessen road congestion. Learn more at