Selfie image of James Dreisbach-Towle, PMP, Senior Tolling Specialist, Gannett Fleming

James Dreisbach-Towle, PMP

James Dreisbach-Towle, PMP


James Dreisbach-Towle, PMP


“I find this career path rewarding because we are making a difference by bringing much-needed public projects to fruition.”

With over 30 years in the information technology, intelligent transportation systems (ITS), and tolling industries, James Dreisbach-Towle has worked on some of Southern California’s most impactful transportation projects.

James’ experience at transit agencies and private firms has given him insight into the procurement process and what client partners deem important. Firmly ensconced in San Diego with his wife of 35 years, he is excited to advise area public sector clients on tolling systems and ITS for Gannett Fleming.

We asked James a few questions. Get to know him here:

Tell us about your role and responsibilities at Gannett Fleming.

As a senior tolling specialist, I advise public sector clients on tolling systems and ITS. I am a part of the Roadway Corporate Business Group focused on tolling projects, but my diverse background has me working on various tolling, ITS, and transit projects.

How does the firm support your professional development and career growth?

Gannett Fleming encourages my participation as a board member of the Intelligent Transportation Society of California (ITS CA), of which I’ve been a member for 11 years and was recently appointed senior advisor to the Board.

The focus of ITS CA is to educate, inform, and advance the use of technology in our transportation system. This is done through lunch-and-learn seminars throughout the year and an annual meeting that has attracted hundreds of public and private industry experts. It is a lot of work planning and running such an event, but it is rewarding and has kept me on a lifelong learning journey.

Why Gannett Fleming?

When a colleague of mine, Gannett Fleming Senior Tolling Advisor Anita Draa, heard I retired from the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), she asked if I was interested in joining Gannett Fleming. The opportunity to continue part-time in tolling and technology was and still is appealing. I joined the team in April 2022 and am thankful for the opportunity to improve California transportation projects using technology.

What’s the most interesting project you’re working on right now?

The Inglewood Transit Connector will be a 1.6-mile elevated, light rail automated people mover that will ultimately connect the LA Metro Crenshaw Line’s Downtown Inglewood Station to SoFi Stadium and the future Intuit Dome. We’re working on the transit fare collection design and specification. It’s great to see a system for special events that will also provide a vital transit connection for an underserved area. Designing a system that will work for high-volume traffic yet is easily accessible to existing transit patrons is an exciting challenge.

What trends or issues are you currently noticing in the tolling industry, and how do you see these playing out in the California market?

One issue I’ve seen amongst toll facilities and operators in Southern California is interoperability. Title 21 in California mandates technical interoperability, which was recently updated to retire the existing protocol. The California Toll Operators Committee does a wonderful job of ensuring interoperability and cooperation.

The issue is in business rule compatibility among the toll operators. For example, here in San Diego, we operate a managed/express lane designed and used primarily to serve high occupancy vehicles. Users are not required to have any equipment or toll account, but LA Metro’s express lanes require the use of a transponder. Transportation Corridor Agencies issued sticker tags (6C) to all customers, but drivers cannot use the sticker tag on the I-15 Express Lanes in San Diego. There is a switchable version, but everyday commuters don’t know this.

How does having worked extensively on the client side inform your current role on the consultant side?

Working 27 years in the public sector has provided me insight into how procurements work and what the client considers important. There are some universalities among all public transportation agencies, and knowing the issues and political drivers is the basic groundwork any consultant should do before pursuing work from that agency. I know I must do my homework and not expect the busy public employee to provide insight.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

Seeing public transportation projects come to life and improving the system for future generations.

What do you see for the next generation of employees at Gannett Fleming?

Through the pandemic, we experienced a glimpse of what the future will hold for the next generation. I’m not just talking about Microsoft Teams and working from anywhere at any time but rather participating and collaborating with multidisciplinary groups across the firm and with our partners and clients.

How does your work contribute to the firm’s vision of creating a better future together?

I find this career path rewarding because we are making a difference by bringing much-needed public projects to fruition. We advise our clients on innovative projects and methods of delivery, and I approach the work I do with these goals in mind.

What’s one professional achievement of which you’re especially proud?

I delivered the first automated fare collection system for the San Diego region, unifying nine transit operators under one fare structure using a contactless smart card.

What leadership characteristics do you rely on the most for success in your job and life?

Humility, teachability, and patience—still working on all three, but especially patience.

What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received?

Think before you reply, especially when emotions are involved. Sit on an angry email for 24 hours before responding!

Why is it important to have diversity around the table when working on projects?

Looking at problems and opportunities through a multifaceted lens enables the best solutions that deliver benefits for all.

What can AEC firms do internally to celebrate diversity and create a stronger sense of belonging across diverse groups?

With intent and purpose, firms can develop diverse teams to tackle projects and create space for individuals to feel comfortable sharing diverse experiences and backgrounds.

How has your career journey molded you and led you to where you are now?

My career experiences have taught me the importance of continuous learning and growth, what it means to work hard, and how to operate with integrity, all of which have led to a wonderful work life.

What is your favorite hobby?

Cooking. I am an amateur and volunteer as a chef at my church. We cater fundraisers and events for local nonprofit groups.

Let’s talk family!

My wife, Barbara, and I have been married for 35 years and have two adult sons. Also, both my wife and I have two siblings.

What’s your favorite family tradition?

Gathering at our house for Christmas dinner every year, sometimes with 25 people!

What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?

I know how to make cheese.

What’s your favorite way to unwind after a busy day?

I like to garden, drive by the ocean, and walk or hike.

If you could trade places with anyone for a day, who would you choose and why?

An astronaut in flight to space. I grew up in the space race era and still remember the first landing on the moon. I have always dreamed of going to space.

If you could live in any city, where would it be and why?

San Diego is aptly nicknamed “America’s Finest City”—that’s why I’m here! The weather, beaches, restaurant scene, mountains, deserts. I love everything about it.


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