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OPLIN 4Cast #757: Just how “smart” is Columbus, Ohio, anyway?

Posted in 4cast

A couple of weeks ago, Columbus, Ohio completed the last year of a multi-million dollar grant from the Department of Transportation, meant to transform Columbus into a “smart city.” I’d heard about the initial awarding of the grant to Columbus, but hadn’t heard much since. On a hunch, I asked my Columbus-based coworkers what they had observed themselves. Anecdotally, they couldn’t come up with much; a self-driving shuttle that had shut down, a parking app, and perhaps some changed bus routes after data analysis was done.

Although not much was necessarily directly observable, reports show that some more significant things did get done, and might serve as a template for other cities. But not everyone agrees that much progress was made.

  • All the tech that went into turning Columbus into a “smart city’ [Tech Crunch] “The app is based on open-source tools like OpenStreetMap and OpenTripPlanner. Etch uses the former to get up-to-date crowdsourced information from the community about what’s happening in a given area, similar to Waze. The latter is used to find itineraries for different forms of mobility.”
  • America’s ‘Smart City’ Didn’t Get Much Smarter [Wired] “Five years later, the Smart City Challenge is over, but the revolution never arrived. According to the project’s final report, issued this month by the city’s Smart Columbus Program, the pandemic hit just as some projects were getting off the ground. Six kiosks placed around the city were used to plan just eight trips between July 2020 and March 2021. The company EasyMile launched autonomous shuttles in February 2020, carrying passengers at an average speed of 4 miles per hour. Fifteen days later, a sudden brake sent a rider to the hospital, pausing service. The truck project was canceled. Only 1,100 people downloaded an app, called Pivot, to plan and reserve trips on ride-hail vehicles, shared bikes and scooters, and public transit.”
  • Columbus, Ohio, readies ‘Smart Columbus 2.0’ [State Scoop] “Smart Columbus, which formed its mission in 2016 after winning a combined $50 million in transportation technology-focused grants from the USDOT and Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, will be sustained as a nonprofit, dubbed Smart Columbus 2.0, led by the Columbus Partnership focused on innovating civic technology outside of the “confines,” of the grants, Bishop said. Much of the future plans for the nonprofit, though, will reflect previous efforts to expand mobility options and encourage electric vehicle adoption in the Central Ohio region, she said.”
  • Columbus, Ohio, and Others Land on Global Smart City Ranks [GovTech] “The top U.S. city is New York, ranked sixth, according to a new report from Eden Strategy Institute, a consulting firm based in Singapore that, among other things, supports companies and governments to bring innovation. The next U.S. city to make the list: Columbus, which ranks 11th — ahead of San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Moscow.”

From the Ohio Web Library: