DOT’s Foxx: Data the driver for smart cities
- By Matt Leonard
- Oct 03, 2016
Technological progress doesn’t follow the same path for all municipalities. Towns are beefing up broadband to attract business, and government leaders at all levels are embracing open data. But not every town has the same problems, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said, and that means they’ll have different answers.
Foxx told a crowd at the Washington, D.C., Smart Cities Week conference on Sept. 29 that now is the time for dramatic change in transportation. Automated and driverless cars are quickly becoming a reality, and improvements to the Panama Canal will mean more freight on the nation’s highways, he said.
In order to be prepared for these changes, he told the audience that data and analytics must be the driver that keeps progress on course. We can’t rely on doing things the way they’ve always been done, Foxx warned.
“Nostalgia is not data based,” he said. “We have to believe our data.”
However, he noted, “a smart city isn’t a collection of different tech. A smart city understands that tech [provides] tools that will be used to help the city develop.”
That’s what Smart City Challenge winner Columbus, Ohio, had in mind when it launched a multifaceted program to bring down its infant mortality rate in the neighborhood of Linden, where the death rate is four times higher than the national average, Foxx said. The city proposed an app to help parents schedule appointments with a physician and find transportation, which has been difficult for disadvantaged expectant mothers. The transit system in Linden has been expanded, and the city plans to introduce special universal fare cards, allowing riders to pay for public transit as well as taxis, ride-hailing, and car-sharing options through a single format. Kiosks will be set up in neighborhoods to facilitate payment for those who aren’t affiliated with a bank, Foxx said.
That inclusive, holistic solution is why Columbus won the Smart City Challenge earlier this year. It beat out Austin, Columbus, Denver, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Portland and San Francisco to get the win.
“The bold initiatives they proposed demonstrated that the future of transportation is not just about using technology to make our systems safer and more efficient -- it’s about using these advanced tools to make life better for all people, especially those living in underserved communities,” Foxx said in a statement announcing Columbus’ win.
If more communities look at opportunities to solve problems with technology then they will be a smart city, he said.
“We have an opportunity,” Foxx told conference attendees. “This is the first time in the history of our nation that we have a chance to build a transportation ecosystem that isn’t weighed down by exclusions, but is built on inclusion.”
Matt Leonard is a former reporter for GCN.