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Episode 139 Guest Joanna Pinkerton

What does it take for a transit agency to win major industry awards twice in three years? Joanna Pinkerton reveals how the Central Ohio Transit Authority adapted and overcame major challenges, including a global pandemic, since her appointment as President and CEO in 2018.  


Check out TransLoc’s 2021 poll analyzing Americans’ public transportation expectations and behaviors post-pandemic in our Transit Value Index Survey!

Cohen: Josh Cohen

Pinkerton: Joanna Pinkerton

Cohen: While not always possible to stress-test your brand-new strategic plan with a global pandemic, Joanna Pinkerton and her team at the Central Ohio Transit Authority made the most of it, to help ensure the organization was on the same page during a time of extraordinary disruption.  You’ll hear more from Joanna, how they did it, coming up next on The Movement podcast.  Let’s go.

F: The freedom of movement to access jobs, education, and social activities is a fundamental human right, but that freedom is not distributed equitably, undermining our ability to create vibrant and sustainable communities for all.  Welcome to The Movement, where we talk with the leaders who are reshaping their communities with brave decisions, inspired advocacy, and a stubborn unwillingness to accept the status quo, all in an effort to inspire the next generation of leaders.  Here’s your host, Josh Cohen.  

Cohen: Joanna Pinkerton is the president and CEO of the Central Ohio Transit Authority, or COTA, in Columbus.  Prior to her role with COTA, Joanna was a COO at the Transportation Research Center, and spent five years at the Ohio State University in mobility research and development, and over three years at the Ohio Department of Transportation.  Welcome to The Movement, Joanna.

Pinkerton: Thank you.  I appreciate being invited today.  This is such an important topic.  I realize not everybody geeks out about mobility the way I do, but it’s nice to know I’m in good company.

Cohen: Yes, you’re definitely in the right place.

Pinkerton: [LAUGHS]

Cohen: So let’s start here.  COTA received APTA’s Outstanding Midsize Transit Agency Award in 2018, which was shortly after you joined the organization, and then again in 2020.  And, first of all, congratulations.  And maybe second, I’m curious, from your standpoint, what were some things that COTA was already doing well when you arrived, and then what were some things that when you arrived you knew you really wanted to help the organization improve on?

Pinkerton: Well, I appreciate that question, and thank you for the recognition and the acknowledgement.  We are really grateful that COTA earned that prestigious award, twice in three years.  To my knowledge, I don’t think that’s ever been done before.  And the second award was earned, what we used to consider the middle of the pandemic—

Cohen: Yeah, right.

Pinkerton: —during a really challenging time.

Cohen: When is that?  [LAUGHTER]

Pinkerton: And so I think that’s a testament to our incredible workforce, more than 1,100 people dedicated to serving their community.  So prior to my arrival in 2018, there was already an ongoing effort to increase service within the community, aligned with new development patterns.  So in 2017 they launched a massive transit system redesign, and I think those things are being done more normally now.  Back then, that was really novel.  I think it was one of the first in the nation.  It was certainly the first in Columbus, which is kind of hard to believe.  But it really prioritized development patterns around homes and jobs; so evaluating land use, development patterns, especially in growing regions like ours.  You know, that’s imperative for transportation modeling, but the new data trends, we actually—our new lines are closer to more than 100,000 homes, and within walking proximity of 110,000 more jobs.  So you just created demand.  Right?  That was the ultimate output of that.

But since then, we also have been doing things like focusing on becoming no and low emissions.  So by 2025 I’m going to be completely diesel-free, which is a really big deal.  It’s just less than four years away.  And we’ll be running primarily on compressed natural gas, which was an investment that was made prior to my arrival and one that we continue to invest in.  And now I’m beginning to transition our fleet to all electric, so we’re working in partnership with American Electric Power to do grid investments.  Right?

Cohen: Yeah, yeah.

Pinkerton: So it’s not so much about the wheels as it is the grid and working to outfit our facilities so that you can have high-capacity electric charging.  This is not like a Level 2 charger for your garage.

Cohen: No.

Pinkerton: This is like how you power a 50-ton machine and get it charged up in a matter of minutes.  So we’re talking about some serious power requirements, but we are starting with millions in investment that launched this year, where our first electric vehicles will be on the road by the end of the year, and our buildings will be able to handle not only the maintenance but the charging of electric infrastructure.

So that’s kind of where we came from.  And you had asked me, you know, what are we doing different in 2020.  During times of stress, during any time of challenge or change, you have to have a plan.  Right?  You have to know what your guiding principles are.  And when I first came on board it was apparent to me that it was a great organization serving the community, but it’s like, “What are our goals?  What do we stand for?”  So we embarked on a strategic planning process.  I’m a little surprised to share with you that that was the first time ever—

Cohen: Wow.

Pinkerton: —that there had been a strategic plan.  Yeah, your reaction is exactly right.  Like, wow.  Like, how do you run, you know, a quarter-billion-dollar company and not have kind of these strategic priorities?  So that’s where I dug in first.

And it’s all about people.  So the strategic plan was really about connecting with your external customer, but also your internal customer, our employees.  Spent a lot of intentional, deliberate time meeting with employees, figuring out where we were, doing some baselining.  But then we had to define our priorities based on external pressures.  Right?  So that process brought us to a strategic plan was launched in 2019, adopted by our board of directors unanimously, which I’m really proud of.

And that’s our north star.  It really helps ground us.  And I’ll tell you, it really grounded us during the most unexpected and unbelievable times, you know, that no one was planning.  It was adopted in January of ’19, and then we all remember what happened one year later.  Right?

Cohen: Yeah.  Was your strategic plan kind of flexible enough that it could even manage through what has become kind of one of the largest disruptions to anybody’s kind of strategic plan?  How did it do with that?

Pinkerton: Yeah, that’s actually the best—the most perfect question, Josh, because, you know, the difference between a plan and a strategic plan is the strategy.  Right?  It was not a plan that said, “Do these 12 things, and you will be great.”  We defined four guiding principles, and I bet almost every employee can cite them to you.  And as long as you are within those four guiding principles then you know that you are working on something that’s going to lead to the outcomes that we want to serve people.  So they are improving the customer experience, providing more mobility options, prioritizing the use of data and analytics, and achieving sustainable organizational excellence.

And then all of that is centered around a commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion.  And there’s this really great debate that happened about equity, diversity, and inclusion being this kind of fifth principle.  And what was interesting, as you talk to men and women and people from all backgrounds and races and socioeconomics, no one could define it as a principle.  They all articulated it as like something they felt or that they believed in, more of a principle.  So it’s at the center.  So we put it right in the center.  We even have this graphic.  And all of these four guiding elements tie back to that.  So, sure, you can prioritize the use of data and analytics, but are you looking at it through an equitable lens?  Right?  So we think of it as the lens that we filter everything through.  And sure, you better believe that helped during the pandemic, because we had to make tough choices.

One of the things I did, until we understood more about the pathology, was I put my operators, the front line, people most exposed, on a rotation—fully paid rotation—to preserve their jobs.  To preserve service, we had to choose where would we delay service, and the data and the analytics about what was happening with those who did not have access to healthcare, those who literally did not have access to food, or those who were the front liners, who were out there.  And, you know, everybody hung signs up and said, “Thank you, front liners.”  But we were actually able to do something and make sure that they had service to get to work.

So the data and analytics, when you look at it through an equity lens, we said, “Hey, temporarily, we’re going to prioritize this group of people who need us the most, even though others might be asking for our service.”  So there’s a lot of little stories like that about the pandemic, but yeah, the strategic plan held its water, and we’re gangbusters on it right now.  The number of projects that we’re actually executing—because the strategic plan says, “If you do these, you will serve people better; you will have more mobility options.”  It’s been a really good piece of reinforcement to have. 

Cohen: Hmm.  I’m reading a book right now, Pete Carroll’s autobiography, the coach of the Seattle Seahawks.  And one of the things he talked about is after he was fired for the second time as an NFL coach, he finally went through and put together his, for lack of a better word, philosophy, his organizational philosophy, like what does he believe, what are those guiding principles and guiding elements that you talked about there.  And I think he probably—I’m kind of reading between the lines a little bit here, but I think he would probably say the same thing, which is “I can’t believe we’ve gotten this far without having these clear, understandable things.”  

And, obviously, that’s just one person versus kind of you having to do this for 1,100 employees and millions of people a year who depend on your service.  So that’s a big lift, I guess is what I’m trying to say, for you and your team to kind of have to put together that strategic plan.  I’m really glad that it held water throughout this last year and a half.

Pinkerton: Well, Josh, that’s actually a great analogy because, especially during times of stress or duress, and let me tell you, we didn’t need a pandemic to tell us that transportation is stressful.  It is inherently stressful.  It’s the second most dangerous industry to work in, and it’s also one of the most stressful.  So to have things that kind of—that guide you—right—something you can always go back to.  And that’s why we call it our north star, because there were times, especially in 2020—and we’re still dealing with them now—where you have to make tough decisions.  And you cannot be doing that anecdotally; you have to be doing it through the lens of what your core values are.

And so that strategic plan, you know, I knew it was the right thing to do just because of my background when I came in.  But, boy, I’m glad we got that done when we did.  [LAUGHS] 

Cohen: Do you have a sense—maybe you’ve heard anecdotally—that from your—you know, certainly, I imagine the folks that are in your direct orbit on a daily basis, you know, feel the imprint of you kind of reinforcing those on a regular basis.  Right?  But I’m curious; maybe some of those folks that are part of your workforce that are not in your orbit on a daily basis—right—I’m curious if you’ve heard any stories where they’ve been able to take—almost what I’m hearing you say—almost like a commander’s intent—right—of like, “This is what we’re going for, and, you know, how can you make this happen, operator, you know, of, you know, Route 13” or whatever, “on any given, you know, Tuesday at 3:00 p.m.?”  You know?  Have you heard anything about how they’ve been able to kind of implement some of these concepts even without specific guidance around that? 

Pinkerton: I have.  One of the things I enjoy the most is I try and time my exit from the building, or if I have a meeting that I’m walking to, at shift changes.  Because—and it’s funny, because my staff will be like, “You can’t go,” because it’ll take me 15, 20 minutes to get out of the building.  Because in that time, I might see two, five, sometimes 15, 20 operators who are switching, and I’m always asking, you know, “How was your day?  What’s it like out there?”  Because they’ll tell you.  And oftentimes there’ll be a question that pops up.  And I think that’s a new forum that didn’t exist before.

When any organization has, you know, more than a thousand employees, I think, it’s easy for people to feel disconnected from one another.  But really, when you reinforce the people-first philosophy, you find—and I have found here, we’ve made great strides in creating cross-functional teams, whether it’s a major initiative or whether it’s something that’s impacting that employee front line in real time.  So it has to be cross-functional because maybe in the past that sensation was “Well, I’m not even going to bring it up because I’ve already brought it up.”  You know, I’ve heard that before, like, “Oh, I brought this up 20 years ago.”  And I always love those because I always say, “Well, you know, that was 20 years ago.  Let’s try again.”

But when they see these cross-functional teams working, people have been much more willing to share, be open with one another.  And the synergies you see.  So, like, if you have an operator who feels comfortable providing feedback, vehicle maintenance technicians, customer service reps, we put together what we call “street teams,” and that has accelerated our ability to intake what’s going on, what’s the issue, and then get it into a planning process to actually nimbly improve our system or practices.  And a lot of those practices, for example in vehicle maintenance, they’re nationally recognized.  So there’s real-time information coming in because operators are saying, “I’m always dealing with this issue,” and instead of it being “Why don’t you fix that?” there’s trust in the culture now where that forum exists.

I can think of a vehicle maintenance process where we completely overhauled the digitization of input coming in, so we know in real time what our mean distance between failures is on vehicles.  And we’ve tripled the amount of miles.  We have added thousands of miles that we can run a vehicle before it needs serviced, just based on feedback from operators.

So they may not think, “Okay, that was because the strategic plan told me to achieve operational excellence.”  It’s the same thing.  We created that people-first culture where they felt comfortable in saying, “I think there’s a way to do this.”  And so now our vehicle maintenance technicians walk around with iPads that give them data from the day instead of, you know, the clipboard system, where they literally had to go through and fix vehicles every day.  It’s just—it’s revolutionary.  So I see that happening all the time with our front-line employees and our street teams bringing information back in to the planning process. 

Cohen: I think that’s a really fascinating example, and I love the visual.  I’m just imagining that on the mechanic side, just looking at some of that data and so forth.  Was there any sort of—I guess I’m curious, like from the start of that to where you are today, I mean, I imagine there’s—it’s not a direct line, right? 

Pinkerton: [LAUGHS]

Cohen: You’re going to have some sort of maybe, obviously new things you need to learn.  You may have some “Oh, we’ve got this new system, but we don’t have all the data in there yet, so it’s giving us bad data.”  I guess maybe I’m probing a little bit for like, what were some of the bumps along the road before you got to the great visual you just gave me?

Pinkerton: No bumps.  No bumps.  I just waved a magic wand every day.

Cohen: [LAUGHS]  No bumps.

Pinkerton: And just was like voila.  [LAUGHS]  Well, any time there’s people involved there’s bumps.  I mean, we are the bumps.  Right?

Cohen: Yeah.

Pinkerton: So there’s a lot of fear with change in any organization, not just transit.  But I like to remind my team of one thing for sure, and that is that the mobility industry is absolutely revolutionizing right now.  And I’m a big believer in if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.

Cohen: [LAUGHS]

Pinkerton: So when we have those conversations about like, “Well, I don’t know how to do that.  Am I going to lose my job?”  The answer is like, “No, come on.  We’re a people-first organization.”  And what’s it going to take to skill up?  So that was a lot of the conversation.

Cohen: Yeah.

Pinkerton: About skilling and retraining.  I took statistics in college.  I didn’t take advanced data analytics and visualization courses.  Right?  So, you know, when you talk to people about, “We are going to bring you along in that journey,” great conversations happen there.  We brought on a chief people officer.  I recruited her from a big corporation out in Chicago, and she’s just all in on making sure our people have the access to reskilling and retraining.

And then we also are—you know, we’re just tirelessly committed to making sure that our operational systems are more proficient.  So, yeah, you don’t just launch an iPad and turn it on and the data is there.  It caused us to go through really thorough examination of our systems.

I think, even in the automotive industry, just a few years ago, I remember the president of one company, sitting in a meeting with him, and he said, “We’re just running our company on spreadsheets.”  Like, he was holding his head.  You know?  And same thing here.

So we have launched a five-year data management system program that really is focused on understanding what we have—how it’s stored, who’s responsible, who has access—and how do you get it from that big, like, monolith down to atomic-level data so that any system or any company we interact with can bring it in and integrate it into their system to take it to do whatever they need to do, which may not even be mobility-related.  So that was the biggest thing.

We kind of had that ah-ha moment, and we’re chunking it out.  Right?  So vehicle maintenance was first, ridership reporting; there’s different things.  Even during the height of the pandemic, we were using data sets and figuring out how to ensure that our data reported when there were community incidences, because there’s been a spike in drug use and depression and people not feeling themselves.  And if that person has their incident happen in public, how do we get them to resources?  So we started tracking that in the middle of the pandemic.

Cohen: Wow.  This investment in innovation, which, you know, this is something that’s obviously helping you do your work better.  Right?  But there’s other innovations that y’all have invested in that are a little bit more on what I call the more advanced side or innovation side, whether that’s integrating some of the transit information into the Lyft app and stuff like that.  I’m curious how you balance this innovation with what I’d call the real unsexy but really practical stuff like getting buses on the road—right—you know, and like getting, you know, that as reliable as possible.  How do you balance that?

Pinkerton: Well, [LAUGHS] that’s a great phrasing of that question.  I’m chuckling because I’m thinking, “I think I could take it beyond, you know, deploying transit.”  My entire career, you know—I think I can point out to you that most people just don’t think of infrastructure and specifically transportation as sexy.  You know, people take it for granted.  They just expect it to work.  And worse, they have very little insight to the massive amount of investment and operations it takes.  You know, whether you’re in your own car or on public transport, you really don’t know what it takes to make that road be there or that system to work. 

So, maybe I’m numb to it because I’ve been doing it for decades now.  [LAUGHS]  And I do think it’s sexy.  I think being able to pull levers and make things work is like the coolest thing ever.  To me, that is American innovation.  And then just that entrepreneurial spirit of like, “How can we do it better?  And how do we serve people?”  Right?  Like that’s—when you get to a point in your career where you get to say, “What I’m going to do is going to make something better,” it’s a lot of fun.  So I try and inspire that in our team because—I hate to use the word “grind,” but the grind is hard, and our people do really, really tough jobs.

So I think the balancing is getting them to understand that the work that they do matters.  So that can be very inspiring.  And also to get them to acknowledge that what they’re doing is pretty advanced.  Like, whenever people call our operators “drivers,” I correct them.  And I remind them that they are operating a half-a-million-dollar computer on wheels.  And then people say, “Oh.  Never thought about it like that.”  So then our operators can tell you—I have operators who have been here 32 years who drove a 10-ton vehicle with no power steering back in the day. 

Cohen: Wow.

Pinkerton: And now they have to log into three computer systems.  You know, there’s all these things.  So I don’t see a disconnect.  I use the innovation part of it to help inspire that, yeah, there’s the grind part, but when you’re constantly evolving to meet rapidly shifting market demands and demands from customers, I think we can find a way to translate that innovation back to, like, what you’re doing is different than it was yesterday.  Like, I have operators now—we’re the first—I think we’re the first in the nation to launch on-demand service with full-sized mass-transit vehicles, not like micro-transit size.

Cohen: Mm-hmm.  Wow.

Pinkerton: I can guarantee you that when that operator was hired they were not thinking about running dynamic service, you know, driving a full-size bus.

Cohen: Wow.

Pinkerton: So I see the intersectionality of it.

Cohen: You’re making me think a little bit here, because I can appreciate how everything is like—the fact that it works at all is kind of amazing.  Right?  You know, it’s like—

Pinkerton: [LAUGHS]  A little magic, yeah.

Cohen: Right, right.  But the part there that I’m also kind of thinking about here is that you talked about the daily grind.  Right?  And I guess what I’m really thinking about there is that there must be some days when you’re like, “Holy smokes, we’re just trying to get just the base-level service as good as possible.”  Right?

Pinkerton: Right.

Cohen: And then there’s other days when you can—you kind of have the breath, you have the time, you can take the breath to say, “Okay, how might we introduce dynamic service in—to better meet the needs of our communities?”  And it feels like those are maybe kind of required different foci.

Pinkerton: Mm-hmm, they are.

Cohen: But I don’t know if that’s true.  So maybe that’s a question for you.

Pinkerton: So they are.  And maybe I can chalk this up to, you know, I’m an engineer by training, and licensed, and had really good fundamental training, and was taught that it is your job as an engineer to introduce stress to systems in order to test them—right—because that system has to be right, it has to be perfect, it has to accomplish something.  And usually, when it is applied to public infrastructure, that something involves maintaining life—right—because that’s just not an option.  Failure is not an option.

So, from a very early start, I’ve known that it’s a necessary component to challenge things, challenge the status quo.  So, I think, for me personally, that type of training has been helpful.  And I’ll admit too—I come from a family of tradesmen—even if people don’t have an engineering degree, I think people who work in the trades or who deliver service have to think like that.  So they have it in them intuitively because of the work they do.

And I have found—you described it.  I’ll put two words on it.  You were describing kind of this dichotomy, and you were like, “Are they different foci?  Or are they—is there an intersection?”  And maybe it’s an overused analogy, but there’s always a Venn diagram—right—no matter how many circles there are.  And the overlap here, like in the morning I might have a finance briefing on how it is that we’re going to introduce this big concept of LinkUS in our community, of high-capacity rapid transit, changing our business model, ensuring that everyone in, you know, a multi-county region has access to better transit, but then maybe we had a call-off rate of 23%.

Cohen: Right, yeah.

Pinkerton: Have enough people.  Because—

Cohen: Yeah, that’s a great example of that.

Pinkerton: Right.  That actually happened.

Cohen: Yeah.

Pinkerton: I’ll tell you, the investment in data and analytics has been absolutely essential, because when you do have those type of issues, that call-off might result in us saying, “That line is going to have nine-minute frequency instead of seven-minute frequency today.”  Well, we’re not computing that by hand anymore.  And we were when I came here.  [LAUGHS]

And the focus on the customer experience, we’ve made a lot of investments in what you and I expect to be an everyday experience.  It ought to come to me through omni-channels—right—not just one channel, or even multiple channels.  That information needs to be sent to the customer through multiple channels.  They might hear it on the news, through their phone, on a website, through work.  We even have a network of more than a hundred nonprofits we work through, where someone who might be receiving service for care, they’re going to be told at the point of service that they’re going to experience a delivery delay from COTA.

So that has really helped us be more nimble because it used to be that call-off rate, for example, would have consumed your whole day.  But the data and the analytics, the ability to figure out what’s going on, and then have more sophisticated digital channels within your organization frees up capacity so you can spend time doing the fun stuff.

Cohen: I really appreciate that example.  I think that’s a really good one to really kind of put that into relief, where the—“All right, yeah, that may sound bad, and ideal—it’s not ideal,” but also, you know, going from a seven- to a nine-minute frequency, that’s not going to be the end of the world.  That can be managed, especially if we communicate appropriately.

Pinkerton: Right.

Cohen: And you gave that example on how you’re doing all that communication.  It makes me think of my kids’ schools where, you know, I think, for the longest time we kind of rued the fact there wasn’t a lot of great communication from their schools.

Pinkerton: Wow.  Huh.

Cohen: Now we’re to the opposite end of the spectrum.  Now we get an email, and we get a call, and we get, you know, a text, and it’s like, “Holy smokes, like—”

Pinkerton: [LAUGHS]  Right, right.

Cohen: —I’m getting the same message eight times.”  Right?

Pinkerton: Yes, I get it.  And we live in a very different world.  We’re all inundated with information.  Right?

Cohen: Yeah.

Pinkerton: So it’s a matter of making sure people—we meet people where they are.  There may have been an expectation, at one point in time with public transit, that it just was late, and it—or it didn’t show up.  And now we have much better channels of making sure that we can communicate with people, so they can adjust their lives, because I’ll also add, I think that’s what life is about now; it’s about adjusting and adapting to whatever comes at you.

Cohen: Well, speaking of information, I’ve heard that you love reading.  So I’m curious, what’s something that you’ve read recently that’s resonated with you or inspired you enough to give to others?

Pinkerton: I don’t know how long this podcast is, but you opened a can of worms there.  I love to read.  I build a reading list every year.  I try—I put 52 books on there, and then try and read one every week.

Cohen: That’s a healthy—

Pinkerton: Well, that’s my goal.  That’s my goal.

Cohen: Yeah, that’s healthy.

Pinkerton: It doesn’t always happen.  You know, there’s a few that I’ve read recently, but I build my list from other people.

Cohen: Yeah.

Pinkerton: So, like, I’ll probably ask you at the end of the podcast for a recommendation, because, if you have a positive interaction with another human and then they suggest a book, it just kind of gets you into their thinking, their way of thinking.  And then I never cease to be amazed.  You’ll be talking to someone, and you can watch them struggling with something or wondering, and you’ll be like, “Oh, I just read this book.  I’m going to suggest it.”

And the one I just finished most recently that just took my breath away was Twilight of Democracy by Anne Applebaum, a really tough look at the waning and waxing populism across the globe, so not just America.  It’s a 20-year research book.

Cohen: Wow.

Pinkerton: And she takes you through these really young democracies across the globe and can outline for you exact events that happened and just the social responsibility we all have to make sure we maintain a democracy.  So it was really moving.  But I also just finished Across That Bridge by John Lewis.

Cohen: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.  That’s on my list.

Pinkerton: Yeah, really compelled to read some of his works, in light of his recent passing, and that—man, that was good.

The Only Woman in the Room was suggested to me recently.  Read it; passed it on to, like, every one of my parents and their friends because they’re from that generation.  It’s got Hedy Lamarr.  Do you know that name?  From the old Hollywood glory days?

Cohen: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Pinkerton: So, you know, that’s her stage name.

Cohen: Did not know that.

Pinkerton: And she was in rooms with Hitler and his top brass as a wife, witnessing the atrocities happening in her native country of Poland before she was able to escape.

Cohen: Wow.

Pinkerton: But because she was a woman, nobody paid attention to her.  Right?

Cohen: Wow.

Pinkerton: And found her way, manipulated her way into the United States, amazingly.  Gorgeous woman, does well on the stage in Hollywood.  And really, when you look into the science of what she did, she convened groups of people and was the one who figured out shortwave radio communications for the Navy—

Cohen: Huh.

Pinkerton: —so that their torpedoes could work better.  So this is an actress.  You know, we all know her as this gorgeous actress.

Cohen: Wow.

Pinkerton: And in her spare time, with no education, was figuring out what is the precursor to Bluetooth technology, and the Navy said things to her like, “You could serve us best by being on stage and selling war bonds.  You know, put your gown on.  Put your makeup on.”

Cohen: Wow.

Pinkerton: The short version of it, like, she—her technology gets stolen from her by the Navy.  Her family, when she was in, like, her 80s and 90s, sued and won for her patent.  And she finally got a payout like when she was like 90-some years old.

But it was just such a great historical novel.  It had that tech element, dealt with these major world events, and here she didn’t matter because she was a woman, but boy, she showed us.  And nobody knows her story.

Cohen: That’s amazing.

Pinkerton: But she—yeah.  So I would say that’s a good one too.  I like that one.

Cohen: That’s wonderful.  Joanna, thank you, thank you, thank you so much for sharing a little bit of insight into the work you’re doing there at COTA.  This has been just really, really neat, and I appreciate you indulging me a little bit in kind of diving deep into that strategic planning process and how you’ve implemented that and how the organization has dealt with the pandemic.  Because I think that’s—you’re not alone, and I think hopefully others can benefit from some of the lessons that you’ve learned here along the way.  So thank you so much for joining me.

Pinkerton: Well, that’s mutual, Josh.  I’ll tell you, from what I know of your background as the national policy director at TransLoc, I just love that you’re bringing all of the elements related into mobility into the conversation.  So thanks for having us.

F: Thanks for listening.  If you like what you hear, head to Apple Podcasts and subscribe, rate, and review this podcast.  You can find out more at or follow Josh Cohen on Twitter at @CohenJP.  Be sure to join us next week for another episode of The Movement.