Places around the globe are forging partnerships and researching smart ways to address mobility
If you represent a city that wants to improve its transportation system and find ways to forge partnerships with local businesses, what better way to figure out the next steps than to visit other cities that are models for the future of transportation?
Columbus, Ohio, has become one of those cities that attract visitors from around the world who are trying to figure out how the city won the U.S. Department of Transportation's Smart City competition. Jordan Davis, director of the Smart Cities for Columbus Partnership, said delegations from about 50 cities visited Columbus last year to check out what the city is doing.
"We are working hard to document and archive our learnings and story-tell best practices so people can learn from us," Davis said at the Shift roundtable in June, which was sponsored by JobsOhio. The city opened the Smart Columbus Experience Center in June to help educate the public and government groups.
And when the city isn't hosting international travelers, its representatives head out across the globe in search of other good ideas.
Here are some cities to check out if you're interested in how public-private partnerships work in the transportation sector.
Location: Central Ohio
Size:223.1 square miles
In 2016, Columbus won the U.S. Department of Transportation's Smart City Challenge. It was awarded $50 million in grant funding, $40 million from the DOT and $10 million from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.
Public-private partnerships were the key to a successful Smart City Challenge, the DOT said in a statement announcing Columbus as the winner. The department partnered with Paul Allen's Vulcan Inc., Amazon Web Services, NXP Semiconductors, Mobileye, Autodesk, Alphabet's Sidewalk Labs, AT&T, DC Solar and Continental Automotive.
But it's not just Columbus that is making headway in transportation issues. The region has other attractions such as Ohio's 33 Smart Mobility Corridor, which has self-driving car testing and a wide rollout of broadband that allows vehicles to talk to the highway infrastructure.
Location: Western Netherlands
Size: 84.6 square miles
For years, the city of cyclists has been forward- thinking on creating a carless culture. But now, city officials are realizing that the congested city will have to be more aggressive in its efforts to keep its roads moving swiftly.
"We have no extra space," said Tijs Roelofs, smart mobility manager for Amsterdam. "The urgency to do things in a different way is increasing."
What does a city already so reliant on alternative forms of transportation do to experiment with new mobility models? Amsterdam officials have commissioned studies on traffic flow and how pedestrians interact with moving vehicles. The results inform city planning in a region locked in by its famed canals, allowing officials to make smart choices to reduce blockages and create spaces friendly to those who prefer to walk.
Davis said Columbus officials have been to the Netherlands several times, also traveling to Eindhoven, to learn from the Dutch about economic development initiatives.
Location: Western Pennsylvania
Size: 58.35 square miles
Pittsburgh has much to envy. The city is home to Carnegie Mellon University, one of the top robotics institutions in the country, so it has become a hub for core automation work. Most notably, Uber's Advanced Technology Group is based in Pittsburgh, after poaching Carnegie Mellon researchers to jumpstart its self-driving program.
But that doesn't mean local leaders have nothing to complain about. Mayor Bill Peduto has raised warning flags for Uber after the company failed to deliver on promises of job and economic development in the city. The company has also tussled with locals who have spied its self-driving vehicles making illegal turns and running red lights.
Location: Northwest Washington state
Size: 83.78 square miles
Seattle's population increased 121,000 between 2006 and 2010, with more growth expected in the coming decade. Yet, against nationwide trends, the city has kept the number of single- occupancy vehicles entering the city during rush hour below 25 percent.
Last year, Seattle released its New Mobility Playbook addressing the need for equitable, efficient transportation for young tech workers. Now, city officials, who are grappling with the effect of rapid gentrification in relation to rising housing costs, envision creating a transportation system that emphasizes equitable, seamless access to multiple modes of transportation.
Davis said Seattle and Portland, Ore., are leaders in electrification and decarbonization programs.
Location: Norway's southern coast
Size:175.3 square miles
Oslo has launched several projects to be smarter and eco-friendly. For example, 2,000 charging stations for electric vehicles have been installed throughout the capital city. EVs are incentivized with offers of a no-tax purchase, no value-added tax, free parking, free passing through the toll ring, access to the bus lane, free vehicle charging and free transport on ferries.
The toll ring — automated toll stations on all entry roads — reduces congestion by charging non-EV drivers to pass. Oslo invests the majority of that revenue in public transportation improvements and walking and cycling infrastructure. With the toll ring, Oslo aims to reduce traffic by 15 percent in 2019.
Location: Southeast Quebec
Size:166.6 square miles
Montreal has applied for the Canadian version of the Smart City Challenge. The winner will be announced in spring. The Smart and Digital City office focuses on nine areas to improve connectivity, communication and transportation.
The city aims to collect and share data in real time to make transportation more seamless.
Montreal also plans to encourage startups, investors and researchers to collaborate. "Montreal will become an enormous laboratory that nurtures local talent, developing technology solutions together with them which in turn can be exported," according to the Smart and Digital City office's website.
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