Management & Operations

Columbus, Ohio wins Smart City Challenge

Posted on June 23, 2016

COLUMBUS, OHIO — The City of Columbus beat out six other finalists to win the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (U.S. DOT) Smarty City Challenge and will now receive $50 million in grant funding from the feds and Vulcan Inc. to develop the region into the nation’s proving ground for intelligent transportation systems, The Columbus Dispatch reports.

Columbus’ application included a transit pass payment system that could be used for multiple forms of transportation, including Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) and app-based car services, which could help those who don’t have credit cards or bank accounts. Kiosks could be built to reload transit cards, or the city could use a smartphone app as a universal payment system. Several other transportation innovations on the city’s application included an autonomous vehicle test fleet at Easton Town Center that would pick up passengers at the COTA terminal and deliver them nearer to jobs at the shopping center.

The city, which will be honored on Thursday, also has about $90 million in local matching commitments lined up, including $19 million in public money, giving them a total of $140 million to upgrade its transportation network. For the full story, click here.

Prior to the announcement of the winner, the U.S. DOT also announced that it will collaborate with government and private sector partners to help all seven finalist cities in the Smart City Challenge — San Francisco; Austin, Texas; Portland, Ore.; Kansas City, Mo.; Denver, Pittsburgh and Columbus — move forward with ideas that each city developed over the past six months.

The collaboration will include continued support from Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc., and will focus resources from across the federal government and the private sector to support innovation in the seven cities.

“Each of our finalist cities has demonstrated incredible vision and creativity in developing meaningful plans to use technology to improve the lives of their citizens and create a truly smart city,” said Secretary Anthony Foxx. “There has been a remarkable spirit of cooperation as these cities moved through the competition, and working together with our partners, we are excited to help empower all seven finalists to move forward in creating smart cities.”

The U.S. DOT will work to identify federal resources for all seven finalists, including providing technical assistance with the department’s grant and credit programs. Partner and federal agency involvement will include the following:

  • Vulcan Inc. will lead the effort to bring in other philanthropists to provide additional funding to support the climate and electrification efforts of all seven cities and beyond.
  • The Department of Energy (DOE) is committed to engaging with all seven cities, as well as other aspiring smart cities, to help cities with transportation system modeling and analysis, data management and the electrification of their transportation networks. DOE will also engage with the finalist cities on a “technologist-in-cities” program to assist cities in their implementation efforts and facilitate continued engagement with DOE programs.
  • The Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate will focus on using technology to reimagine resiliency in the digital age, helping cities improve their disaster response efforts and become more resilient to evolving threats and climate change.
  • Consistent with their efforts around the Global City Teams Challenge, the National Institute of Standards and Technology will encourage connections to enable the cities to share their ideas and solutions for replicable and measurable smart city transportation systems that go beyond traffic to improve safety and mobility, catalyze economic growth, enable a cleaner and more sustainable environment, and provide an improved quality of life for residents of communities worldwide.
  • Most of U.S. DOT’s Smart City Challenge partners have also committed to support the seven cities moving forward.

The original Smart City Challenge was launched in December 2015 by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Vulcan President and Chief Operating Officer Barbara Bennett as an innovative competition for cities to reshape their transportation systems harnessing the power of technology, data, and creativity to reimagine how people and goods move throughout cities. Seventy-eight cities submitted entries to the competition, and in March, seven finalists were selected. Each finalist then prepared a full proposal, and the mayors of the seven cities presented their final pitches at a live event in Washington, D.C. in early June.

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