A Smart City must address real-world challenges, not just deploy technology.

A summary report of key takeaways from applications for USDOT’s Smart City Challenge

Date Posted

Smart City Challenge Lessons Learned

Summary Information

In December 2015, the U.S. Department of Transportation launched the Smart City Challenge to encourage cities to put forward their best and most creative ideas for innovatively addressing the challenges they are facing. The Smart City Challenge generated an overwhelming response: 78 applicant cities shared the challenges they face and ideas for how to tackle them. Then, 7 finalist cities further developed their ideas. The report summarizes key trends from the 78 applicants and provides a brief overview of the 7 finalists, including the winner of the Smart City Challenge: Columbus, Ohio.

Lessons Learned

A smart city is more than just a technology deployment. It is ultimately about solving real-world urban challenges: USDOT received 78 applications from cities across the country, but some common challenges and solutions were identified by the vast majority of applicants, including:

  • Provide first and last mile service for transit users to connect underserved communities to jobs.
    1. Deploy integrated mobility marketplaces to allow travelers to easily plan multimodal trips, compare trip costs, and purchase mobility services.
    2. Expand bikeshare, carshare, and rideshare options.
    3. Improve transit service reliability by establishing bus rapid transit corridors, install signal systems that prioritize buses, and get real time transit information into the hands of riders.
  • Facilitate the movement of goods into and within a city.
    1. Improve reliability of freight by installing signals that prioritize truck movement along freight corridors.
    2. Provide truckers with real-time information on parking availability and truck routes.
    3. Demonstrate the potential for automated and connected freight vehicles to make freight movements safer and more efficient.
    4. Implement smarter curb space management (through sensors, dynamic reservations, and other technologies) to speed loading and unloading.
  • Coordinate data collection and analysis across systems and sectors.
    1. Install closed-circuit cameras and sensors to collect data on vehicle movements, transit reliability, and pedestrian and bicycle traffic.
    2. Collect data from vehicle probes, connected vehicles, and connected infrastructure.
    3. Establish open data platforms and inviting citizens to participate in hackathons.
  • Limit the impacts of climate and reducing carbon emissions.
    1. Support the use of electric vehicles by taxi and transportation network company (TNC) fleets.
    2. Convert public fleets, such as garbage trucks, buses and police cars, to electric vehicles.
    3. Subsidize the purchase and use of electric vehicles through tax exemptions, energy credits, and bulk buy and loan programs.
    4. Install electric vehicle charging stations.
  • Reduce the digital divide for underserved communities.
    1. Improve first-mile/last-mile connections to transit, through subsidized TNCs, car and bike share, and autonomous shuttles.
    2. Expand access to free public Wi-Fi on buses, taxis, and parks.
    3. Develop specialized apps for non-English speakers and people with disabilities.
    4. Provide universal transportation payment cards for the unbanked and subsidize a range of travel services for people with low incomes.

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