Smart City Columbus Ohio

So, Columbus won the $50 million grant from USDOT Smart City Challenge. A city that proposed to bridge the gap between job accessibility, income disparities, and healthcare with the application of intelligent transportation systems (a much more sophisticated solution to tackle its problems in comparison to the other finalists), Columbus will now be getting a grand total of $140 million to herald a transportation-led revolution to bring positive changes into the city’s economy. Congratulations!

In the offing from a transportation systems point of view are AV fleets that would carry people into the various job zones, a multi-platform smartphone app for all their travel needs (including ride-sharing and ride-hailing services), more electric vehicles and charging stations and a plethora of tech services to aid the systems in place. What really stood out was the way in which Columbus convincingly built its story around its infant mortality rate and showed how the said grant would alleviate some of it – something which was not really the focus from its competitors, in hindsight. The USDOT also strongly urged the losing cities to focus on continuing their projects with the help of outside funding sources including philanthropists.

This is now a good time to go back to assess Tampa’s Smart City Proposal that was submitted in February 2016. I feel the city can take inspiration from the exercise to see what we had missed in our focus, and how we could positively contribute and impact on future exercises of such nature.

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Reinventing the wheel…the smarter way

Designing Tomorrowland

This very interesting illustration on WaPo caught my attention today. Seven U.S. cities are vying for a $40 million start-up prize from USDOT in order to find solutions to problems that they have by a perfect marriage of automation, climate change, and inequality. Most cities in the world find these elements to be a constantly engaging thorn in their vision for the future. And most of these cities, for no fault of theirs look at tackling these issues on a one-on-one basis. Combining these issues together seems to be something that the DOT is passionate about and these 7 cities have emerged from a bigger list of cities, with a fighting chance to provide innovative solutions to tackle their problems.

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The R1 tram – set to ferry passengers during the 2018 World Cup in Russia. [Source: Daily Mail UK]
I went through all seen of them. Interesting concepts, of course very relevant to their own setting. I wouldn’t want to be the guy who had to pick the winner from these. Although the parameters considered are mentioned in this article on Geekwire:

The proposals will be judged by how well they mesh with the elements of DOT’s Smart City vision, including urban automation, connected vehicles and sensor-based infrastructure. Other factors could touch on user-focused mobility and shared-transportation services, such as Uber, Lyft and Car2Go.

Tampa’s problems somewhat mirror that of Kansas City, presented in the said illustration. HART does not cover much of the Hillsborough county, has issues with reliability and suffers from less than 2% market share. I am really curious to see an accessibility explorer for the Tampa Bay-St.Pete-Clearwater MSA – something on the lines of this in order to get a better grasp or what folks are actually missing here. Light rail has been vehemently opposed earlier, as we know. TBARTA outlines a host of projects in their Vision 2040. We have been a hotbed for failed transportation plans and one wonders what it might mean to get something like this on board in the car-frenzied counties of this MSA. Inspiration is very much around the corner at least.

Research Review – Transport Related Social Exclusion

The idea here is to engage in an exploratory analysis assessing the impacts of accessibility to transport systems towards the concept of social exclusion. Social exclusion according to Litman (2003)¹ is defined as follows:

Social exclusion refers to constraints that prevent people from participating adequately in society, including education, employment, public services and activities. Inadequate transport sometimes contributes to social exclusion, particularly for people who live in an automobile dependent community and are physically disabled, low income or unable to own and drive a personal automobile.

Expected results on this line of research include the identification of areas which have been affected by social exclusion in relation to transport, statistical determination of the impact of accessibility as a major factor towards social exclusion, overview of at risk groups towards social exclusion in relation to transport (category approach) , extent of improvement in the social exclusion parameters – possible through the introduction of virtual mobility through the advent of the internet amongst others.

Methodology to be adopted will involve large amounts of data collection – both on trip information (attractions and generations) and demographic data (age, sex, income, educational details of the road users).  Identification of indicators which play a crucial factor in social exclusion (both region specific as well as conventional) and modelling to get the desired results.   

Significance of work on this realm is expectantly high since sustainable development is a buzz word for anything and everything of today’s world. More often, when we go towards sustainability, stress is always on the environmental and economic realms of it, hardly focussing on the social impacts. Particularly in transport, where it is a general feeling that the non performance or deficiency of it ends up playing a very major role in excluding a certain section of the people for no fault of theirs.

Inspiration for this came up when I went on randomly reading some prior research done in the MIT Portugal Program, CTIS Master’s programme by a good friend John Pritchard. His work dealt with the assessment of the role played by accessibility as a major factor in social exclusion. Case Study was Lisbon, Portugal – the data of which were adopted from the SCUSSE project and the surveys conducted in the years 1994 (revised: 2009) among others. _______________________________________________________________________________

1 – Litman 2003. Social Inclusion As A Transport Planning Issue in Canada. Full Report