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Project Update: Smart Columbus in 2021 And Beyond

Walker Evans Walker Evans Project Update: Smart Columbus in 2021 And BeyondPhoto via Smart Columbus.
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It’s been nearly five full years since Columbus was declared the winner of the Smart City challenge and awarded $50 million from the US Department of Transportation and Vulcan, Inc. While some of the projects completed over the past half-decade have been fairly prominent, many others have occurred behind the scenes.

“There’s a number of projects in our US DOT Smart City Challenge portfolio, and that includes connected vehicles,” stated Mandy Bishop, Deputy Director of Public Service at the City of Columbus and Smart Columbus Program Manager. “Some that are less visible, like our Pivot application. One of the most visible is our Linden LEAP Shuttle that is deployed in the Linden neighborhood.”

Some of the other Smart Columbus projects include parking and transit app upgrades, connected vehicle studies and a Smart Columbus Experience Center.

While the coronavirus pandemic has certainly caused a lot of disruption to daily routines, Bishop said that the Smart Columbus projects were able to adapt to see most everything through to completion this year.

“It definitely changed the scope of the projects,” she said. “It’s a mobility program and it’s really focused on collecting data from people moving. And so when the pandemic hit, people weren’t really moving in the same way.”

Bishop said that a few of the projects were delayed in their launch, and demonstration periods were shortened, but all but one was deployed as originally planned.

While the effort had been spearheaded by The City of Columbus, the project was very regional in its approach, and many private businesses played a role in the process. Often times government oversight is seen as a hinderance to innovation from the faster-moving private sector, but Bishop said that stakeholders have been invested in the program’s success since the very beginning.

“The city talks a lot — and so does the private sector — about ‘The Columbus Way’,” she explained. “We really had to garner private sector interest. It was really awesome to work with our other public sector partners as well as our private sector partners.”

In 2019, former United States Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx spoke at the Mid Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) annual State of the Region event, and Columbus Underground was able to interview Foxx for a podcast. Bishop said that Foxx told the crowds at that event that the two reasons Columbus won the grant was the city was attempting to actively solve the region’s challenges, and that Columbus had a lot of help through public-private partnerships.

While the terms of the original Smart Cities grant are winding down in May after the five-year run, Bishop said that the Smart Columbus program will live on in a new form with more details to be announced in the near future.

“We’re planning to distribute our final report that can be used by others to guide their Smart City journey,” she stated. “But there’s a lot of momentum that’s been created by the partnership between the City and Columbus Partnership, and Smart Columbus is going to continue in some way shape or form.”

For more information, visit https://smart.columbus.gov.

This update on Smart Columbus was powered in part by a paid sponsorship from the PIVOT app! Learn more about the transit app and download it here: http://bit.ly/PivotCBUS​

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