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Smart Cities: Reimagining Transportation

What makes a city smart? Speakers at the “Smart ­Cities: Reimagining Transportation” session—led by W. Curtis Stitt, president/chief executive officer of the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) in Columbus, recently named the winner of DOT’s Smart City Challenge—described ways in which information technology connections will help public transit provide better and more comprehensive service.

“We need smart people as well as smart systems,” said Stitt, a member of the APTA Board of Directors and chair of the Mid-Size Operations Committee. He said the members of the “Smart Columbus” effort, which created the Smart City Challenge plan, are “all thinking about the same things—how to improve communities with the best technologies.”Calling Columbus “already a pretty smart city,” Stitt noted that local businesses have pledged $90 million for the Smart City effort along with the $40 million Smart City Challenge grant and a $10 million pledge from Vulcan Inc.

One goal he cited was to expand public transit routes to connect underserved neighborhoods to the rest of the city. Stitt also said COTA’s CMAX BRT line, now under construction, will spur investment, which he said will help bring technological opportunities to residents and businesses along its corridor. He added that future high-capacity driverless vehicles will connect public transit to businesses and other destinations.

Moderator Polly Trottenberg, commissioner, New York City DOT, noted that while this is a “very exciting time for urban transportation,” concerns remain about dealing with technology overload and creating connections among existing tech systems.

Panelists who brought other perspectives to the discussion were Neil J. Pedersen, executive director, Transportation Research Board; Alain Flausch, secretary general, UITP (International Association of Public Transport), Brussels, Belgium; and Philippe Schnobb, chairman of the board, Société de transport de Montréal (STM).

Pedersen shared the Smart Cities Council’s definition of a smart city: It “uses information and communications technology to enhance its livability, workability and sustainability.” Such a city requires a system-wide, integrated approach, which depends on gathering data that civic leaders can turn into usable information.

“We know what we should do. Doing it is the difficult part,” said Flausch. He emphasized the important role of public transportation in creating a smart city by listening to the public and making changes one step at a time.

Schnobb said Montréal was named “Intelligent Community of the Year” for 2016 by the nonprofit, international Intelligent Community Forum. Regarding STM, he talked about the agency making open data available for app development, adding interactive signage to bus shelters, installing recharging ports in buses and providing Wi-Fi ­connections in stations.

Accenture sponsored the session.
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