(TNS) -- Bay Area transportation leaders, academics and technology executives filled a City Hall conference room Wednesday to pitch U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on a plan to transform — and reform — San Francisco’s transportation system.
San Francisco is one of seven cities competing for $50 million — $40 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation and $10 million from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s Vulcan Inc. — in the federal agency’s Smart City Challenge. The challenge calls on cities to use data, technology and forward thinking to create transportation systems of the future.
Crowded around a long conference table, San Francisco officials outlined an ambitious plan that aims to eventually create “the world’s first shared, electric, connected and automated transportation system,” in which people share autonomous electric cars and ride self-driving shuttles to transit and in which businesses haul freight using automated vehicles.
To develop such a system, the city would create a Smart City Institute and work with UC Berkeley and dozens of Bay Area companies that have promised, if San Francisco wins, to contribute $99 million in software, hardware, training, research and testing and deploying autonomous vehicles.
While a transportation system relying on self-driving vehicles seems to be far off, the city’s plan includes short-term visions as well, focusing on 10 percent changes in each of the following areas: boosts in transit use, bicycling, walking and shared rides; a decline in the number of fatal collisions; a reduction in transportation-produced emissions; and a reduction in the amount of money lower-income families spend on transportation.
The city would test a variety of programs, including working with Caltrans to create computer-controlled carpool and transit lanes on Interstate 280 and Highway 101. It would also experiment with smartphone apps to help drivers locate parking, instantly find carpool matches and get information on various transportation choices. Other plans would include late-night worker shuttles, after-school shuttle vans and collision-avoidance technology for transit vehicles.
Tim Papandreou, the Municipal Transportation Agency’s innovation director, said San Francisco’s experimentation and innovation would benefit other cities.
“We are the urban laboratory for the rest of the nation,” he said.
Foxx said he was favorably impressed by San Francisco’s presentation but wasn’t offering any hints as to which city was in the lead. The results will be announced mid-summer.
©2016 the San Francisco Chronicle. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.