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Smart City Challenge Finalists Focus on Public Transportation

Following the announcement of the seven finalists for DOT’s Smart City Challenge selection by DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx at a recent event in Austin, TX, the cities—Austin; Columbus, OH; Denver; Kansas City, MO; Pittsburgh; Portland, OR; and San Francisco—are preparing to enter the second phase of the competition.

“The level of excitement and energy the Smart City Challenge has created around the country far exceeded our expectations,” Foxx said. “After an overwhelming response—78 applications total—we chose to select seven finalists instead of five because of their outstanding potential to transform the future of urban transportation.”

For example, the Columbus plan proposed a Smart City Program Office bringing together the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA), Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, Ohio DOT and other public and private-sector partners to address challenges with access to jobs, smart logistics, a smartphone app for visitors, support of personal transit service offerings such as Uber and increased use of COTA and city vehicles powered by compressed natural gas or electricity.

The Port Authority of Allegheny County is among the lead partners in the Pittsburgh project. Using existing data initiatives as a basis, the partnership would consider new uses for various modes of transportation, provide new options for underserved neighborhoods and improve safety and traveler information.

The Denver partnership, including the Regional Transportation District and Colorado DOT, proposes three core ­components that would help a unified multimodal system operate with less time, energy and funding while reducing reliance on personal vehicles. Mobility on Demand Enterprise will use the city’s fiber network to bring together the city’s mobility options; the city will create the infrastructure required for transportation electrification; and regional cooperation will lead to development of intelligent vehicles operating on a connected vehicle platform and infrastructure.

San Francisco is looking at self-driving cars as part of its proposal to use new technologies to reduce vehicle miles traveled and carbon dioxide emissions. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s new Office of Innovation also will work with tech, communications and transportation companies to start planning for integration of ride-hailing services with existing public transit assets.

The goal of the Portland proposal is to implement Ubiquitous Mobility for Portland (UB Mobile PDX), integrating innovation, technology, mobility and community to save money and time for area residents while enhancing health outcomes and managing the transportation system safely and effectively. This plan will provide mobility option information and performance data to individuals and organizations and develop corridors that will serve as priority demonstration areas for specific infrastructure implementation.

The mayor of Austin has declared 2016 the Year of Mobility in the city. The city is looking toward a future that will provide numerous alternatives to driving: on-demand automated electric vehicles, shared and on-demand vehicles, public transit and creation of multi-use, walkable neighborhoods. The basis of the city’s Smart City plan is the Mobility Innovation Center, consisting of a two-way open data portal, a multi-disciplinary analytics and policy research center, a regional operations management center and a connected traveler initiative providing real-time and predictive information.

Information about the Kansas City initiative was not available as Passenger Transport went to press.

The winning city, to be selected in June, will receive up to $40 million pledged by DOT (funding subject to future appropriations) to help it define what it means to be a “Smart City” and become the first U.S. city to fully integrate innovative technologies such as self-driving cars, connected vehicles and smart sensors into its transportation network.

In this second phase of the competition, the seven finalists will each receive a $100,000 grant to further develop their proposals. Whereas the first phase called for a high-level overview, the winning city will be selected based on their ability to think big, and provide a detailed roadmap on how they will integrate innovative technologies to prototype the future of transportation in their city. DOT will work with the cities to connect them with existing partnerships and support their final proposal with technical assistance.

When Foxx announced the challenge in December 2015, DOT’s launch partner, Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc., stated its intent to award up to $10 million to the winning city to support electric vehicle deployment and other carbon emission reduction strategies. Additional partners that have joined the effort since then include:

Amazon Web Services (AWS), a secure cloud services platform that will provide solution architecture and best practices guidance to the finalists to help them leverage AWS services for Smart City solutions and award $1 million of credits to the challenge winner for cloud services and professional services:

Mobileye, which will equip the winning city’s public bus system with its collision avoidance system to protect road users including bicyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists;

Autodesk, which will provide the finalists with training on and access to its InfraWorks 360 modeling platform; and

NXP, which will provide the winning city with wireless communication modules that allow cars to securely exchange data, such as hazard warnings, over distances of more than a mile to prevent accidents and improve traffic flow.

Find details, including partnership opportunities, here.
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