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Parking and Transit Apps Get Upgrades as Smart Columbus Projects Wind Down

Brent Warren Brent Warren Parking and Transit Apps Get Upgrades as Smart Columbus Projects Wind DownAn electric vehicle charging station installed earlier this year Downtown. Photo by Brent Warren.
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Columbus won the US Department of Transportation’s Smart City challenge in 2016, unlocking $40 million in federal grant money and a $10 million grant from Paul Allen’s Vulcan, Inc.

Now, with the four-year initiative set to wind down, some of the projects funded by that money will end completely, some will continue with different funding sources, and others will be spun off and developed into wholly separate ventures.

We recently checked in with the Smart Columbus team to get the latest on where the various pieces of the high-profile endeavor now stand.

New features were rolled out earlier this month on the Pivot and ParkColumbus apps, the final two projects funded by the Department of Transportation (USDOT).

Pivot is a locally-developed trip planning app that now offers integrated payment options for the first time. What that means in practice is that after pulling up options for different ways to get to a destination – via bus, CoGo bike share, scooters, ride-share, etc. – users can then click through to an “app-to-app payment portal” to pay for the trip.

The ParkColumbus app now shows public and private parking options in one place and allows drivers to reserve and pay for spots. The app also now shows drivers the likelihood of finding an on-street parking space, based on payment transactions and on-street sensor data.

Alyssa Chenault, Communications Project Manager for Smart Columbus, provided the following information on the other USDOT-funded programs:

  • Prenatal Trip Assistance: The city will release a final report in May, which the Medicaid Managed Care plans will then review to determine if they will make the recommended changes to their non-emergency medical transportation.
  • Mobility Assistance for People with Cognitive Disabilities: The city is looking for a non-profit organization to take over the app and training it developed.
  • Smart Mobility Hubs: The hubs will remain, and the Central Ohio Transit Authority, Columbus Metropolitan Library’s Linden Branch, Columbus State, and St. Stephen’s Community house will be responsible for ongoing maintenance.
  • Connected Vehicle Environment: The city will maintain the current connected vehicle infrastructure along Cleveland Avenue, and could expand the program to more corridors depending on the results of the pilot program.
  • Linden LEAP: The current plan is for the autonomous shuttle to stop running on March 31 (the vehicle is now being used to transport food and face coverings, not people). The city plans to release a final report on the shuttle pilot program in May that will “help inform future autonomous shuttle pilots locally and nationally.”

Other programs, like the Smart Columbus Experience Center and the campaign to increase electric vehicle usage, were initially funded by the Vulcan money and have been run by the Columbus Partnership.

“Our lease on the Experience Center goes through mid-2022, so it will remain open past the term of the grant,” said spokesperson Jennifer Fening. “The space will evolve as we identify new initiatives to be added to the portfolio.”

One such initiative is Smart Columbus Energy, a new entity that will serve as an aggregator for commercial and industrial electricity users. Much like the residential energy aggregation program that Columbus voters approved last November, the idea is to pool energy demand in order to buy wind and solar energy and to spur the construction of more renewable energy projects locally.

Cardinal Health, Huntington and AEP have signed on as three of the first customers committed to buy clean energy from Smart Columbus Energy.

For more information, see smart.columbus.gov.

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