DOT dangles big money to encourage cities' smart transportation efforts

The Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge will award up to $50 million to a medium-sized city to develop a data-driven transportation infrastructure.

The Department of Transportation is challenging medium-sized cities to craft data-driven solutions that will make their transportation infrastructures safer, easier to navigate and more reliable. Up to $40 million in federal funding will be awarded to the winning city, and the DOT’s private-sector partner, Vulcan, a tech company based in Seattle, is offering an additional $10 million to the winning city to support infrastructure for electric vehicles.

Forward-looking cities see intelligent transportation systems, connected vehicles and automated vehicles as the next logical step in an evolving, robust transportation infrastructure. Consequently, the DOT announcement said, a winning smart city should aim to have systems in vehicles and infrastructure that communicate with each other, allow for active citizen participation and integrate new concepts that leverage the sharing economy.

The winner must demonstrate how to improve transportation through advanced data, technologies and applications that reduce congestion, keep travelers safe, protect the environment, respond to climate change and support economic vitality. Improvements that increase safety, reduce carbon emissions and enhance mobility are especially encouraged, DOT said.

Other attributes of a winning city include:

  • An established public transportation system.
  • An environment that is conducive to demonstrating proposed strategies.
  • Leadership and capacity to carry out the demonstration throughout the period of performance.

“This is an opportunity for the winning city to define what it means to be a ‘smart city’ when it comes to transportation,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a conference call announcing the challenge.  “We encourage cities to develop their own unique vision, partnerships and blueprints to demonstrate to the world what a fully integrated, forward-looking transportation network looks like. ... I am looking for Mayors who share that belief to join us in pushing the boundaries of what is possible.”

A smart city forum will be streamed on Dec. 15 to discuss the application requirements, the award selection process and answer relevant questions from interested parties.  The first round of applications is due Feb. 4, 2016. Five finalists will be announced in March 2016, and the winner will be announced in June.

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