In March, I had the great opportunity to travel to Amsterdam to attend Intertraffic 2014. I had heard many stories about the size and magnitude of this tradeshow, but nothing can truly prepare you until you experience it in person.
Intertraffic is held every 2 years at the Amsterdam RAI Exhibition center. It’s held over 4 days with a focus on developments in infrastructure, traffic management, safety and parking and features almost 800 exhibitors from over 43 countries.
There were at least 14 Exhibit Halls and it felt like you had to walk a mile to get from Hall #1 to Hall #14. You could find anything parking or traffic related, with a very wide range from Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) integrators to traffic cone suppliers to traffic sign printers. There was an entire exhibit hall dedicated to Smart Mobility, along with dedicated education forums.
I was very lucky to join a large contingent of our fellow parking peers who traveled directly from the Parking Industry Exhibit (PIE) in Chicago. There seemed to be about a dozen PIE attendees heading toward Intertraffic. We each had a game plan, some heading directly to set up for the show and others planning slight diversion trips to the UK and Italy.
I have traveled abroad before, but I found that my basic understanding of Italian and Spanish would not provide me any benefit with the Dutch language. However, I found virtually everyone spoke English. The time zone difference was brutal, but the excitement of being in this new locale kept us going.
Our hotel locations were scattered around town, but the public transportation system was very convenient and accessible. Luckily, the bus and train workers were very helpful and considerate with their assistance and direction. And the bikes, the bikes were everywhere!
After spending nearly 10 years on the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) campus, I thought I was accustomed to heavy bicycle traffic. Everyone rides a bike in Amsterdam, but surprisingly, they also allow some motorized bikes on the bike paths, including mopeds. Luckily, my UCSB experience trained me to always be observant when around or near a bike path, I was lucky, not necessarily the case for other like visitors. One of the most amazing sites was the 3 story bike garage at the Central Train Station. It houses over 2,500 bikes (it seems more like 10,000). It’s funny when you travel to different countries and you find yourself taking pictures of parking meters, signage and garages. I guess that’s the true story of a parking professional. But I know that I am not alone because I find many of our parking peers sharing similar experiences.
My first day at Intertraffic, I was overwhelmed. I think that I walked around with my mouth agape for most of the day. Some of the booth displays shouldn’t even be referred to as a booth. They were structures the size of your house, some even multi-stories. For those that attend the Annual IPI Conference, it was like the IPI multiplied by 100. Most of the booths had amenities including lounge areas, food and bar service. These really contributed to one of the key Intertraffic activities – Networking! Whether vendor to vendor, vendor to system integrator or vendor/integrator to municipality, this was a key venue to identify upcoming services and product developments and identify opportunities within your respective area of interest.
After the long tradeshow hours, it was time to explore. The Van Gogh & Rembrandt Museums were closed, so exploring the evening culture was our best option. First, the diversity of the food choices was incredible and we learned that never ask what is in a croquette, just enjoy it.
Now, what everyone really wants to know about – the Red Light District. For those who have never travelled to Amsterdam, first, there really are red lights. The red lights highlight the door frames where you can view and solicit adult services (and people openly negotiate for these services). I was also surprised to learn that the infamous drug haven is actually only tolerated, not actually legal. The Red Light District is not very large and is actually such a small component of a very vibrant and dynamic city.
If you do manage to travel to Intertraffic 2016, you really need to allot multiple days for the tradeshow in order to see everything and to meet and network with parking and transportation professionals from around the world. Just be sure that you schedule enough time to experience the City. As the tradeshow closed on the last day, I was able to visit the Anne Frank House. What a somber and poignant experience and should be incorporated into any visit to the area.
The conference felt overwhelming, like there wasn’t enough time to see everything, but somehow we all managed. Amsterdam served as an amazing host. The City was beautiful and the tulips were just beginning to bloom. I cannot wait for 2016, I am hooked.