By Sophie Yang, ’19

columbus-smart-city-2016On June 23, Columbus won the Smart City Challenge and received a total of $140 million from groups including the U.S. Department of Transportation, Vulcan Inc., Amazon, Alphabet and local businesses.

To win the challenge, Columbus beat out six other finalists: Austin, Denver, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Portland and San Francisco. Using these funds, Columbus will create a “smart” transit system, which includes introducing self-driving cars and shuttle buses. Anthony Foxx, secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, wrote on their website, “Columbus’ proposal puts people first. They plan to install street-side mobility kiosks, a new bus-rapid transit system, and smart lighting to increase safety for pedestrians and improve access to health care for traditionally underserved areas and neighborhoods.”

One of Columbus’ main goals is to help Linden, an area with high unemployment and high infant mortality rates.

According to the website, Linden struggles to rise out of poverty because many of the residents don’t have cars and are therefore cut off from hospitals and jobs. The smart city initiative hopes to combat this by planning minutes-by-minute trips for residents all the way from their homes to Easton Town Center, a major job location.

“We have a real opportunity to change the lives of the people,” Columbus mayor Andrew Ginther said in an interview. “This will make a difference in our ability to help our residents with ladders of mobility who need them most.”

Columbus hopes to tie its new services together using a reusable transit card and an optional smartphone application. The app could be able to coordinate ride shares, bike shares, buses, traffic, parking and self-driving shuttles.