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Columbus starts to realise its smart city vision

Public roll-out of the various Smart Columbus pilot projects will begin in 2017

City of Columbus is on the road to smart following its US Smart City Challenge win
City of Columbus is on the road to smart following its US Smart City Challenge win

Public roll-out of the first smart city pilot initiatives will begin in 2017

The city has created a Programme Management Office in its Department of Public Service

Columbus is matching the US DOT award with $19 million of its own funds

The City of Columbus has held two days of discussions with the United States Department of Transportation (US DOT) and federal, state and city government about how it will implement its plans for a smart city. The city was named the the winner of US DOT’s Smart City Challenge in June.


Representatives from universities, NGOs, the private sector and the world of philanthropy were also involved in the discussions. All parties are united around the single goal of solving Columbus’ transportation challenges using technology and innovation. This meeting follows receipt of the US DOT’s fully executed Smart City Challenge Demonstration Cooperative Agreement, which authorises the City to begin planning and implementing its ’SmartColumbus’ vision for the $40 million grant.


The city will also collaborate with the other finalists in the challenge: Austin, Denver, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Portland and San Francisco to share best practices to help replicate success.


“Since winning the Smart City Challenge, we have been working closely with our public and private partners to get this work underway,” said Columbus Mayor Andrew J Ginther. “This kick-off marks the first step in what is going to be a learning experience for all of us and one we are eager to share with the world. We know everyone wants to know how they can get involved; we ask for everyone’s patience while we get organised to deliver on our commitments.”


Columbus won the Smart City Challenge in June after competing against 78 cities nationwide. US DOT said it “put forward an impressive, holistic vision for how technology can help all residents move more easily and to access opportunity”.


The city proposed to deploy three electric self-driving shuttles to link a new bus rapid transit centre to a retail district, “connecting more residents to jobs”. It also plans to use data analytics to improve health care access in one of its neighbourhoods that currently has an infant mortality rate four times that of the national average. This will allow it to provide improved transportation options to those most in need of prenatal care.”


“The Smart City Challenge was a bottom up approach that empowered leaders at the local level to identify challenges and propose solutions that would improve people’s lives,” said US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.


“Our team is excited to work with Columbus to reimagine its transportation system, harness the power and potential of data and work with the other six finalists in a collaborative way to identify creative synergies, learn from each other and build capacity necessary to ensure their sustainability and help to replicate success.”


The City of Columbus is matching the US DOT award with $19 million of its own funds, along with $90 million in pledges from the public and private sector partners. It was also awarded an additional $10 million grant from Paul G Allen’s Vulcan Inc, which will be directed toward promoting electric vehicles and building related infrastructure.


The City has taken a number of steps since the grants were awarded in June which have included:

  • Created a Programme Management Office in the City of Columbus Department of Public Service. Aparna Dial, deputy director, and Randy Bowman, assistant director, will manage the effort.
  • Conducted a public procurement process and hired a team of consultants to assist with the planning and delivery of the grant. HNTB will assist with delivery of technical work associated with the US DOT grant, CDM Smith will do the same with the Vulcan grant, and Engage Public Affairs, LLC will lead the communication and outreach efforts. Each consultant team includes a number of minority-owned and woman-owned firms.
  • Facilitated a number of technical workshops with US DOT and Vulcan, Inc to understand their expectations, establish roles, discuss strategy and reporting requirements.


Public roll-out of the various Smart Columbus pilot projects will begin in 2017. The City will engage residents, community and business leaders and technical experts during the four-year programme, and seek their participation in making this a sustainable effort beyond 2020.


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