Lessons from the Smart Columbus Pilot Program

The former program manager for Smart Columbus discusses the successes, challenges, and unexpected opportunities encountered by the city as it worked to integrate technology into city services and programs.

2 minute read

October 19, 2021, 8:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


aceshot1 / Shutterstock

When Columbus won up to $50 million in grant funds through the Department of Transportation's Smart City Challenge program in 2016, the city "implemented a sophisticated operating system that handled complex data analytics; connected vehicle technology; a prenatal trip assistance program; kiosks that help residents plan trips; autonomous shuttles; a trip-planning app called Pivot; and a parking payment app." With the program having just concluded, Danielle McLean relates Smart Cities Dive's interview with Mandy K. Bishop, Columbus’ deputy director of public service and former Smart Columbus program manager. Bishop reflects on the challenges and opportunities presented by the program and how the city plans to continue the most successful parts of the program.

Bishop recounts the efforts the city made to "reach communities through multiple different media, including digital" but also more time-consuming outreach methods like door hangers and printed informational materials. During its implementation, the program "reduced greenhouse gas emissions estimated by about two and three-quarters percent," developed a public transit and mobile parking app, and created a broadband pilot program. 

When looking to implement 'smart city' solutions, she recommends engaging with residents throughout the process, which "develops a level of trust" and provides a continual input of information from the community. In this way, Bishop says, "[y]ou end up with a product that actually solves the user challenge at the end."

Bishop says the initiative also identified new needs and opportunities for the future. "[Y]ou’re going to continue to see a leveraging of the engagement platforms that we built, we’re going to continue to see availability of the new mobility applications as well as infrastructure that we built including our connected vehicle environment. You’re going to continue seeing the city iterate and challenge itself to be bold."

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