Checking In With Cities That 'Lost' the Smart Cities Challenge

Denver and Austin were finalists in the competition. Since then, they've found ways to implement their ideas.

2 minute read

February 27, 2017, 12:00 PM PST

By Elana Eden

Denver TOD

Brett VA / Flickr

78 cities applied to the Obama Administration's Smart Cities Challenge last year, proposing innovative uses of data, apps, and technology to improve transportation systems. Though Columbus, Ohio was the ultimate winner of $50 million in private and DOT dollars, Governing reports that many of the other cities are also moving forward on their ideas.

In Denver and Austin, just putting the submissions together "energized" city staff and fostered collaboration among people "who normally don't work side by side"—garnering a combination of other federal grants and public-private partnerships to support their plans. Austin is now creating a new regional center where "transportation officials from the city, state, toll roads, and transit agencies can coordinate their day-to-day operations with each other."

That kind of integration was an organizing principle in the Smart Cities Challenge, and for good reason: Coordination behind the scenes can lead to improved traffic and quicker solutions to problems on the ground.

“Ultimately, I don’t care if it’s a state engineer that hits the button that automatically gets more green time on city arterials, or if it’s a city traffic engineering saying, ‘There’s an accident over there on the freeway, so I better put up information signs up and down the freeway so that people know what to expect, [Austin Transportation's Robert Spillar] said. That seems simple, but I will tell you it’s like trying to jump over the Grand Canyon.”

Monday, February 13, 2017 in Governing

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