Columbus beats out Portland and others for federal Smart City Challenge

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columbus skyline

Downtown Columbus.
(Photo: Sean Denney)

Well, it’s a nice week to be an Ohioan.

Two days after the NBA Championship, the Buckeye State’s capital has apparently scored a $40 million federal grant that’ll be matched by $100 million in private investment to create a model of a future tech-connected city.

Columbus beat out Portland, San Francisco, Austin, Denver, Pittsburgh and Kansas City for the Smart City Challenge victory, an initiative of U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

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US DOT Secretary in Portland for ‘Smart City’ pitch, shares his views on transportation

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US Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in Portland yesterday.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

It’s a united front of support for a transportation project the likes of which we’ve never seen. And hopefully U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx was just as impressed as we were.

Yesterday the Portland Bureau of Transportation hosted over 50 notable leaders and elected officials from a variety of backgrounds to sit in on a roundtable with Foxx as part of their massive effort to win the $40 million “Smart City Challenge” prize. Portland is one of seven finalists for the grant award and Foxx is currently touring each city before making a final decision in June.

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Next-gen traffic signals and vehicles could be new boost to bike safety

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The road wouldn’t need to detect you any more — traffic signals could do that themselves before you even roll up.
(Image: Econolite)

We’ve been writing for a few months about Portland’s application for $40 million in federal funds that could make it easier to combine services like bike sharing, TriMet, Lyft and so on into a single system of multimodal mobility.

But we haven’t been talking much about another important aspect of Portland’s grant: millions of dollars for connecting vehicles to improve safety.

As city leaders prepare for a personal pitch on Wednesday to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, the Portland Bureau of Transportation held a “Connected City Expo” Monday to show off many of the companies that could be bringing their knowhow to a Smart City award here in Portland.

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City puts future of transportation on display today at Smart City Tech Expo

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Detail from PBOT event flyer for today's event.
Detail from the event flyer.
(Image: City of Portland)

Today at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry the City of Portland will give the public a glimpse of how they’re competing for a chance to win the $40 million Smart City Challenge grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Portland is one of seven finalist cities vying for the prize. Today’s event is a precursor to a visit later this week from DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx.

At OMSI today from 11:00 to 2:00 the Bureau of Transportation and private consulting firm DKS Associates are hosting the Smart City Tech Expo. Here’s more about the event from PBOT:

“The expo will showcase the technology, partnerships and innovation going into Portland’s bid as a finalist for the $40 million Smart City Challenge. Prototypes of connected vehicles, electric vehicles, demonstrations of mobile apps, and videos of other cutting edge technology will be available for viewing and hands-on learning…

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USDOT picks Portland as finalist for $40 million ‘Smart City Challenge’ grant

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Graphic from Portland’s grant application.

“Ubiquitous mobility” is one step closer to reality in Portland.

On Saturday the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that the City of Portland has been selected as a finalist for a $40 million ‘Smart City Challenge’ grant. Portland’s big idea is known as “Ubiquitous Mobility” or UB Mobile PDX. The concept is to create access to our myriad transportation options that is so integrated that everyone can easily plug into it. The city says it will, “Show what is possible when communities use technology to connect transportation assets into an interactive network” and that it “puts forward bold, data-driven ideas to improve lives by making transportation safer, easier, and more reliable.”

Imagine opening up a mobile app to find (and pay for if necessary) the best trip option available for your specific needs. Whether it’s finding a Biketown bike, hopping on a TriMet bus, renting a bike through Spinlister, calling a Lyft driver, or whatever. The same app would also enable users to pay for parking spots and even the pay-per-mile gas tax that might someday be an option in Oregon. And that’s just the start. We took a deep dive into the city’s grant application last month.

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Gamification and ‘ubiquitous mobility’: Inside Portland’s $50 million ‘Smart City’ grant pitch

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The city’s plan includes a “Marketplace” mobile app that would let you plan and buy trips by every mode.
(Photo: M.Andersen)

Portland is one of 77 cities around the country that have put in for a one-time federal ‘Smart City’ grant that’s looking to promote big ideas about urban mobility.

An award is a long shot — only one city will get the $50 million prize — but the city’s application (which wraps together a wide variety of concepts for improving and integrating digital transportation data) is an education in itself, offering various details about the city’s vision that we haven’t seen publicly until now.

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