The ultimate city of the future won’t be New York, Chicago, Austin, or Los Angeles – some of the places we routinely hear about for the impressive ways they work to rework and massage their transportation networks for the better.
No, somewhere right now in America, there is a mid-sized city that will soon be hailed for all the world to behold as the shining example of this vision of tomorrow.
That’s because the U.S. Department of Transportation announced its Smart Cities Challenge today. The USDOT will award $40 million to the winning city this upcoming June, with Paul Allen’s Vulcan Inc. agreeing to add an extra $10 million to the winner.
Announced exclusively by WIRED, the Challenge is for cities with populations, as of the 2010 Census, of between 200,000 and 850,000 with an established public-transportation system. Cities have very few guidelines other than that to follow, and it’s safe to say that focusing on driverless vehicles, vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure technologies, electric vehicles, and on-demand services are wise directions to integrate in holistic-thinking submissions.
Mobility Lab Managing Director Howard Jennings is quoted in WIRED’s article:
“I think it’s an amazingly good idea.” And while $50 million “can get eaten up in a heartbeat” if you’re building a rail line or new road, he says, it can go pretty far on projects that don’t require new infrastructure.
Cities would also be smart to think about what unique problems their transportation infrastructure faces and use this opportunity to integrate a plan for how they will fix it.
WIRED praises DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx for his effort to keep DOT relevant in a unusually fast-changing time for transportation innovation outside the government sector. “I’m standing on top of one of the crustiest, stodgiest sectors in America,” Foxx is quoted.
And as Jennings alludes to, the cities that race to build the most roads and railroads aren’t in this conversation unless you’re making a list of future ghost towns.
The city of the future will no doubt be friendly and safe for people walking and biking, will have open data so that companies can work with governments to provide the best real-time information to the public, and will have noticeably less widespread gridlock.
Photo: Sound Transit Link in Seattle, Washington (Wings777, Flickr, Creative Commons).