In May of 2021, the City of Columbus completed its five-year Smart Columbus program which aimed to demonstrate how an intelligent transportation system (ITS) and equitable access to transportation can have positive impacts on everyday challenges faced by cities. HNTB was part of the Smart Columbus team from its early stages, supporting the city in developing its winning final application for the $40 million U.S. DOT Smart City Challenge. After winning the challenge, the city awarded HNTB a five-year ITS program management and program initialization contract to help deliver Smart Columbus.
Over the course of the project, HNTB filled many roles and services for the City of Columbus as part of the Smart Columbus program, including project management (scope, schedule, budget, risk); systems engineering (concept to design); installation planning and communications; development of the minimal viable product for the Smart Columbus Operating System; performance measurement; policy, coordination and communications (local, state, federal partners); and data management and privacy.
The Smart Columbus program successes include:
- Ohio’s first automated vehicle deployment on public streets, including a pivot during the pandemic to use the shuttle to deliver more than 130,000 meals and 15,000 masks to the opportunity neighborhood of Linden from August 2020 to March 2021.
- A Connected Vehicle Environment that spans three corridors, 85 intersections, and more than 1,000 vehicles to generate data that is used by 11 safety and mobility applications. It has reduced speed in school zones and reduced the speed of vehicles approaching red lights while improving freight mobility through select intersections.
- A multimodal transportation planning app that has been downloaded more than 1,000 times to create 600 accounts and book more than 400 trips from December 2020 to March 2021. The application’s innovations include the application of blockchain and machine learning technology to trip data, allowing access to traveler patterns and behavior that was previously inaccessible to the City through mobility providers. It also enables trip recommendations based on traveler behavior and preferences, and provides trip optimization based on current and historical conditions.
- Improvements to the City’s ParkColumbus app and web portal that have been downloaded more than 30,000 times. There have been more than 1 million transactions, and the City has noted an increase in both credit card payment and payment through the app since launch. A highlight of the project is an open-source dynamic predicted availability model developed by the Smart Columbus Program that uses both real-time parking availability and historical transaction data to provide the probability of on-street parking space availability.
- The smart mobility hub project deployed six mobility hubs in the commercial area of Easton and the opportunity neighborhood of Linden to solve first mile/last mile challenges. A highlight of the project was the installation of the first CoGo bike share in Linden, and the incorporation of e-bikes (and a notable trend that indicates a preference for this new form of bike share).
- An operating system that is cloud agnostic and built largely on open-source software, making it is easy and cost-effective for other cities to implement. It provides a platform designed for big data, analytics, and complex data exchange. It collects, manages and produces more than 2,000 datasets, including data from each of the Smart Columbus projects, and provides multiuser access to aggregate, fuse and consume data.
Opportunity and mobility as an equalizer for all residents were a key outcome that was sought; accessibility analysis shows that the program expanded the geographic area reachable by a traveler within 30 minutes, providing accessibility to more than 20,000 jobs and more than 3,000 healthcare services. Key populations also benefited, including travelers with cognitive disabilities who used a wayfinding app to travel independently on fixed route transit for the first time and pregnant individuals who used an on-demand travel app to access not only medical services but food, pharmacy and other key community resources.
Six of the eight projects will be sustained by the City now that the program has ended and the City plans to continue efforts around expanding digitalization and electrification. The Smart Columbus program was led by the City of Columbus in partnership with The Columbus Partnership, the Ohio Department of Transportation, Franklin County Commissioners, Franklin County Engineer’s Office, The Ohio State University, American Electric Power and many others.
Watch the video below to hear Andrew J. Ginther, the Mayor of Columbus, explain how the city’s residents have benefitted from the Smart City Challenge.