Have ideas to fix your traffic? Your city could win $50 million (Learn how to apply)

Tue, 2015-12-08 10:14 -- Kevin Ebi

We founded the Smart Cities Council to contribute to the livability, workability and sustainability of the world's cities. With that in mind, we really, really, really want American cities to apply for a new grant opportunity from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

One lucky city will win $50 million to apply to its transportation problems. But benefits will accrue to every city that applies, not just to the winner. Applying for the grant requires a city to create a consensus vision for a better transportation future. And to think out of the box, to break free from failing last-century techniques to pioneer newer, smarter approaches. It's a forcing function, an artificial deadline that can provide the excuse to have important conversations that, frankly, are long overdue.

Most America cities are woefully behind in their transportation thinking and planning. Let's hope this grant spurs some of them to action. We have the technology to slash congestion and improve traffic. It just requires planning and determination. — Jesse Berst


Traffic jams aren’t just annoyance for commuters — they’re a big headache for cities. Already, commuters in several large cities spend at least a third of their time sitting in traffic. Congestion stunts economic growth by trapping goods on the road and lowering worker productivity.

But a new initiative could pay your city as much as $50 million to do something about that. All you need is a smart transportation vision and a demonstrated willingness to change.

The U.S. Department of Transportation and billionaire investor and philanthropist Paul Allen are teaming up to offer the huge grant to a mid-size city that has a plan for using smart cities technologies to do something about traffic congestion. A federal grant will supply up to $40 million of the award; Allen, who co-founded Council Lead Partner Microsoft, will put up the rest.

What they’re looking for
The competition is open to mid-size cities — cities with a population of between 200,000 and 850,000 — that already have established public transportation systems. And, perhaps even more importantly, they’re looking for cities that are serious about doing more.

The grant isn’t intended to simply be a gift. The winning city will end up being a showcase, demonstrating how advanced data, technologies and applications can cut congestion, improve safety, protect the environment and boost the economy. That insight will help all cities by giving them proven solutions and best practices to clear their own traffic jams.

With the stakes high and knowledge as the goal, the organizers are looking for cities that already have their act together. The application asks for cities that have an environment that’s conducive to demonstrating the proposed technologies and leadership that’s ready to ensure success.

How to apply
The first round of applications are due by February 4, 2016. From that pool, organizers will select five finalists, which will be announced the following month. From those, one winning city will be selected to receive the grant, which will be awarded in June.

To help cities prepare their applications, the Department of Transportation is holding several events, though none is mandatory to submit an application. It already offered a webcast and has planned a Smart Cities Forum in Washington, D.C., on December 15.

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