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Columbus – Home of SSTI’s 2016 Annual Conference – Designated ‘Smart City’ by USDOT

June 30, 2016

Last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that Columbus, home to SSTI’s 2016 Annual Conference, has won a $40 million grant from the agency, beating out five other cities in the Smart City Challenge. As is often the case in Columbus, partnerships were vital to the city’s success; to complement the federal funds, businesses and other public entities in the region pledged $90 million to support the future transportation initiatives.

In addition to the $40 million grant from the USDOT, Columbus is also expected to receive an additional $10 million from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s Vulcan Inc. to help support electric-vehicle programs. Both of these amounts pale in comparison, however, to the $90 million raised in the community to support the endeavor, led by energy company AEP ($22.8 million), Columbus Partnership members ($22.5 million), Ohio State University ($15 million), and the city of Columbus ($10.5 million). Several other companies, through their partnerships with the USDOT, will also commit to Columbus as part of its Smart City designation, including Amazon Web Services, Mobileye, Autodesk, and NXP. The city is also discussing plans with Google-spinoff Sidewalk Labs to adopt free Wi-Fi kiosks and its software programs that use data to overhaul parking and public transportation.

The 2016 SSTI Annual Conference’s two host sponsors are involved in the city’s proposal as important partners. Rev1 Ventures will act as a key implementation partner with the city of Columbus, according to the proposal. Ohio State University is tasked with utilizing several of its research centers to lead deployment projects, including  the Crash Imminent Safety University Transportation Center, the Center for Automotive Research, the Transportation Research Center, and the ITS Center for Excellence.

Central to Columbus’ application was connecting its citizens to higher education, health care, training, and job opportunities.  The plan involves the development of a Smart Corridor with a bus rapid transit (BRT) line that seeks to link disconnected neighborhoods to important job centers such as a major shopping and office complex, where a fleet of autonomous vehicles would bring passengers to their last-mile destination. Additionally, the city will begin tracking real-time traffic-condition data to help identify ways to ease congestion. Overall, Columbus’ proposal focuses on addressing the region’s challenges with five interrelated themes: access to jobs; smart logistics; connected visitors; connected citizens; and, sustainable transportation.

To win the prize, Columbus beat out five other finalists: San Francisco, Austin, Kansas City, Portland, and Pittsburgh, as well as proposals from 71 other cities.  Ultimately, according to USDOT Secretary Anthony Foxx, it was the partnerships the city put in place – as well as its emphasis on how transportation applies to broader community issues – that were critical to its successful application. The USDOT and its private partners will still provide technical assistance and other resources to the finalist cities, according to the Denver Post

Columbus has long been considered a test-market city for corporations across the country, and the applicability of Columbus’ proposal to other mid-sized cities facing similar challenges was seen as an important advantage. Indeed, the test-market nature of Columbus lends itself positively to sharing lessons learned – especially when it comes to technology-based economic development. Innovation and collaboration are a hallmark of the Columbus region and have been critical to its success as the fastest growing metro area in the Midwest, the top metro for job growth in the Midwest, and the top metro for wage growth in the U.S.  At SSTI’s 2016 Annual Conference, Innovation With Purpose: Shaping Future Opportunities, we will discuss the importance of partnerships in utilizing technology-based resources, with a keen focus on how technology-based economic development can support opportunity. Register today at www.ssticonference.org

Ohiossti, dept of transportation