In June 2016, the City of Columbus beat out 77 other cities in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge. As a result, the city was awarded $50 million in federal grants in order to develop “smart” transportation systems. The $50 million will supplement $90 million that was previously raised from private partners to carry out its plan. The smart transportation systems include self-driving cars, increased access to electric vehicle charging stations, and cars that communicate with traffic signals. A specific idea proposed by the city includes three electric self-driving shuttles that would link a new bus rapid transit center to a retail district, ultimately connecting residents to jobs.
One main goal of Smart Columbus is to connect Columbus residents to safe, reliable transportation that can be accessed by everyone, including low-income neighborhoods. A transit pass payment system could be used for multiple forms of transportation and help those who don’t have credit cards or bank accounts.
Improved health care access is another goal of Columbus’ plan; specifically in one Columbus neighborhood that has an infant mortality rate four times the national average. The smart transportation options would help connect new and expectant mothers to health care services.
In addition to the better transportation, Smart Columbus plans to address the climate change by implementing a low-emissions system. Vulcan Inc., one of the grant funders, noted that the transformation of transportation systems in Columbus will help put the community on a more sustainable path.