The Boy Scouts of America Sunnyvale Troop 466 are known for their adventurous spirit and eagerness to learn. Through their merit badge program, scouts are provided with opportunities to explore various fields of interest and develop valuable life skills. Recently, a group of Boy Scouts had a unique experience as they visited VTA to earn their Engineering Merit Badge, specifically focusing on the fascinating world of express lanes.
The collaboration between the Boy Scouts and VTA offered an exciting opportunity for the scouts to delve into the realm of engineering and gain insight into the concept of express lanes. By studying these lanes, the scouts gained a deeper understanding of how engineering principles are applied to enhance transportation systems.
During their visit, the scouts had the chance to obtain facts regarding usage of express lanes, especially the Fastrak lanes throughout Santa Clara County. VTA Transportation Systems Engineer Sarah Dao asked the scouts, “How many cars drive in a carpool lane each day on Highway 101 from the border of San Mateo County to Highway 237?” The scouts provided their responses, stating "500 cars," "5,000 cars," and "10,000 cars." However, they learned the accurate answer is "40,000 cars daily!"
They were given a guided tour of the Express Lanes Traffic Operations Center, including a hands-on opportunity to review live cameras from the Fastrak lanes and the communication systems that ensure the smooth operation of express lanes. Scouts had the opportunity to learn from transportation engineers who explained the strategies and technologies employed to monitor and control traffic flow. They discovered how dynamic toll pricing, variable speed limits, and advanced traffic management systems are used to optimize traffic and provide a seamless experience for commuters.
One scout said, “Today I learned how the toll system works at VTA. I had no idea my parents had to pay to drive on the freeway!” Another scout went on to mention, “I learned about express lanes and tolling and how to work them to make more efficient roads and better commute times.”
Throughout their visit, VTA transportation experts shared their expertise, discussed real-world challenges, and answered the scouts' questions. These interactions provided valuable insights into the engineering profession, its applications in transportation, and potential career paths for the scouts.
VTA Tolls Systems Manager Murali Ramanujam imparted valuable advice to the scouts and aspiring engineers, emphasizing, “Engineering is not based on just right and wrong. Engineering is like life. It gives you a choice of 10 doors to try, you choose one door to open which then leads to another 10 doors to choose from, you choose a door then, and then more doors are shown, basically don’t ever feel like you do not have options. I did not know I would end up at VTA and working on express lanes, but I kept opening doors even when some shut on me or would not open. Your future is bright and there is no right or wrong, keep opening doors and you will succeed!”
The visit of the Boy Scouts at VTA for their Engineering Merit Badge proved to be an educational and inspiring experience. Interacting with industry professionals further motivated their curiosity and highlighted potential career opportunities in transportation engineering. This collaboration exemplifies the Scouts' commitment to learning and VTA’s dedication to nurturing the next generation of engineers and transportation professionals.