In what feels like something out of the blue and completely unlike the organization, the United States Department of Transportation has issued a challenge to cities across the country with the goal of redefining the nation's transportation system. The DOT has partnered with Vulcan Inc in order to launch the Smart City Challenge.
US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced this week that the DOT wants cities from all ends of the US to come up with a plan that uses data, technology and creativity, and then implement those things into a newly-envisioned transit ecosystem. The winning city will be given $40 million from the Department of Transportation itself, which will allow the city to take their ideas from paper to real life. Vulcan Inc also announced that it will throw in another $10 million to the victor.
Back in February, the US DOT submitted a Beyond Traffic report that showed how inferior our current transportation system is, especially in mid-sized cities. In the report, the Department said that it sees an old infrastructure that is not smart nor efficient, and new regions in the country are not equipped to handle an increasing population. The DOT's move to partner with a private company is one that the two teammates hope will demonstrate a push for new ideas and calculated risk-taking. The agency sees the competition as not only awarding one city $40 million, but will also give other cities the ability to learn from each other to improve their own networks.
In the announcement, Foxx said,
This is an opportunity for the winning city to define what it means to be a 'Smart City' when it comes to transportation. 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. America can remain the global leader in maintaining the safest, most efficient system in the world: I am looking for Mayors who share that belief to join us in pushing the boundaries of what is possible.
The Smart City Challenge is already underway, and cities can submit their visions until February 4th, 2016. The DOT will then pick five finalists in March, with those cities competing for the $40 million, which will be awarded to the winner in June. The Smart City Challenge winner will then showcase its ideas to the nation.
In order to qualify for the Challenge, interested cities must meet certain criteria.
- Mid-sized city with a population between approximately 200,000 and 850,000 people within city limits as of the 2010 Census
- A population density typical of a mid-sized city using 2010 Census data
- Represents a significant portion (more than 15%) of the overall population of its urban area using 2010 Census data
- 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
The Department of Transportation will be streaming a Smart City Forum on December 15th, which will outline the Challenge in greater detail, along with requirements, the selection process and answer any questions cities may have.