In cities across the country, street rights-of-way and curbs are getting a makeover as smart parking meters, electric vehicle charging ports and even bike-shares jockey for space.
Which is why curbs and right-of-way areas — and how to accommodate the new needs landing in these spaces — will be the theme for this year’s Smart Cities Collaborative, a forum to provide technical and other assistance to about 20 participating communities. The collaborative is organized by Transportation for America
, an alliance of civic, business and elected officials from across the country advocating for smart transportation and smart city projects.
The Smart Cities Collaboration is entering its second year, and cities have until Feb. 16 to submit applications for consideration. The winners will be announced March 15.
About 50 cities have expressed interest so far, said Russ Brooks, Smart Cities Director at Transportation for America. No city is too small or too large to apply, and the application is more of a statement of intention.
“What we’re really looking for is to get a sense of what you want to work on, what are the outcomes you’d like to see from joining the collaborative, what is the help that you think you need,” said Brooks, in a webinar last month. “We’d also like to get a sense of where your community is, or where your leadership is. Are they supporting it?”
Last year, 16 cities were selected, ranging in size from tiny Centennial, Colo. (population: 109,932) to Los Angeles (population: 3,976,000). The idea is that many cities will propose project ideas related to say automated vehicles or on-demand mobility services, but those projects will be couched around the city curb and right-of-way theme.
For example, how does a bike-share docking station fit in with bus-rapid-transit lanes?
“So, there’s just a lot of different components that cities have certainly been swirling around and thinking of, and dealing with over the last few years,” said Brooks in an interview with Government Technology.
“I think these are the things that cities are bumping up against as they think about their core project,” he added. “And the second thing is, we view this as an opportunity to kind of update and upgrade a lot of different things in terms of how cities operate.”
Last year, the collaborative began with the idea of focusing on automated vehicles, shared mobility and data analytics.
“Pretty quickly, it became apparent to us that the things that cities are really struggling with are the things that cut across a lot of different projects that were not necessarily unique to an automated vehicle or a micro-transit project,” said Brooks. “We realized the reshaping of the right-of-way was kind of an overall theme and wrapper.”
This year, the collaborative will explore each project around four key metrics: design, management, price and performance measures.
“We’re also going to think about this in the context of Vision Zero and complete streets, making sure that these roads serve every use, but more importantly, every user,” said Brooks.