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The Smart City Challenge – a partnership between the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) and Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc. – is catalyzing cities across the country to demonstrate “what’s possible” through scalable solutions to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. By integrating new technologies – such self-driving cars, connected vehicles, smart sensors and electric vehicles – into their transportation network, cities can move toward a more efficient and sustainable approach to urban transportation.
Chosen from seven finalists including Austin, Denver, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Portland and San Francisco, Columbus was the winning city. It laid out an especially comprehensive long-term plan to transform its transportation system and significantly reduce GHG emissions from its electricity supply. To help enact its plan, Vulcan will provide Columbus technical support and up to $10 million in funding and technical support, in addition to the $40 million from U.S. DOT.
Notable elements of Columbus’ plan include:
> Expanding its municipal electric vehicle fleet and integrating smart sensor data throughout the region to improve traffic, reduce accidents and reduce emissions from all vehicles.
> Securing a commitment from CEOs of the city’s top 50+ businesses and institutions to purchase and drive electric vehicles, and to install EV charging stations for employees.
> Improving low-income access to ride-sharing and other public transportation, so people without cars or smart phones can travel to jobs and other vital destinations.
> Enhancing smart grid technology to increase efficiency and reduce peak load, using EVs as distributed energy storage devices.
> Installing significant wind and solar generating capacity over the next four years.
> Committing an additional $90 million from local business and institutions to implement its plan, including $22.8 million for AEP and $15 million from Ohio State University
Columbus was chosen for its bold, innovative plan to rethink urban transportation and impact climate change. Columbus’ proposal stood out for scale, ambition and focus on rigorous metrics. Columbus laid out an especially comprehensive long-term plan to transform its transportation system and significantly reduce GHG emissions from its electricity supply.
The seven finalists were Austin, Denver, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Portland and San Francisco. Notable elements from these outstanding proposals include:
– Austin plans to reduce its GHG emissions by 90 percent over the next 35 years. City officials are already offering unlimited access to municipal EV charging stations for a flat fee of $4.17 per month to encourage the transition to zero emissions vehicles.
– Denver leaders established one of the most effective regulatory and legislative frameworks to drive smart growth around public transit hubs, and have the best tax incentives in the country for EV buyers.
– Kansas City is pioneering the use of electric freight trucks at their BNSF intermodal site, establishing a model of success in a sector that has traditionally proven hard for EVs to penetrate.
– Pittsburgh proposed installing a series of solar-powered EV charging stations, demonstrating carbon-free electricity generation in the heart of what some consider coal country. It also hopes to scale up a system of smart traffic lights, developed with Carnegie Mellon, which could reduce emissions from idling cars by 22 percent.
– Portland proposed a partnership with manufacturers to establish an EV showcase dedicated to electric vehicles to help educate more consumers about these innovative transportation options.
– San Francisco proposed a network of shared, self-driving cars to reduce congestion and nudge people into reimagining the potential of public transit.
Vulcan and the U.S. DOT will work with Columbus to finalize an implementation plan, allocate funding and provide further technical support. The project will be implemented over three years.
The U.S. DOT and Vulcan have announced that they will collaborate with government and private sector partners to help all seven finalist cities in the Smart City Challenge – not just Columbus – move forward with ideas that each city developed. Likewise, all seven cities have committed to continue working together to support the use of technology and to share best practices.
This Smart City Challenge Collaborative will include the Department of Energy, the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The Challenge’s original private sector partners will also be supporting and more than 150 diverse industry and non-profit partners have pledged over $500 million in resources, technology solutions, and support to implement the smart city initiatives. Vulcan will lead the effort to bring in other philanthropists to provide additional funding to support the climate and electrification efforts.
The Collaborative and the nearly 80 cities in the U.S. that have developed innovative and creative plans to transform their transportation system and electricity supply demonstrates the tremendous impact the Challenge has had in mobilizing action, even for cities that did not win, and the potential for partnerships across the country to leverage this momentum. One of the Challenge’s greatest strengths has been how it incentivized leaders across the public, private and non-profit sectors to collaborate.
As the U.S. DOT’s philanthropic and launch partner, Paul G. Allen pledged up to $10 million to support the winning city in reducing GHG emissions in its transportation system and electricity supply. Paul Allen’s Vulcan Inc. ran an RFP process that was parallel to the U.S. DOT’s process for its $40 million commitment. Vulcan and the U.S. DOT provided seven finalist cities with assistance and guidance to help improve upon their proposals for consideration in the final phase of the Challenge, and together they collaborated to select Columbus as the winning city. Vulcan and the U.S. DOT will continue to support Columbus by providing technical guidance during the implementation phase of the Challenge.
How was the Smart City Challenge established?
Both the U.S. DOT and Vulcan have been working on ideas and solutions for reducing GHG emissions for some time. In a review of partner opportunities, the initial design of the U.S. DOT program aligned completely with Vulcan’s goals for its climate change initiatives and together they launched the Challenge. The Challenge was an opportunity for many cross-sector partners to combine the power of their resources to maximize impact.
Why is Vulcan focused on cities and urban energy and transport?
Transportation and electricity generation are the top two GHG emission sources in the U.S. – 27 and 31 percent respectively. Changing how cities power and transport people has the potential to reduce GHG emissions around the globe. Vulcan has been a strong supporter in bringing about a low-carbon future. We leverage technology, investment and philanthropy to provide an example of sustainable alternatives, jumpstart policy change, and drive consumer awareness and action.
The Smart City Challenge serves to address both of these GHG sources. The aim of the Challenge was to fast-track efforts already underway to reduce the carbon intensity of urban electricity supplies by calling for applications, providing funding and leveraging even more partners. With a decarbonized electric grid, EVs become a true net-zero transportation option. The Challenge is a great opportunity for cities to demonstrate how they can be leaders in the world’s transition into a low-carbon future.
The Smart City Challenge did prioritize EV adoption in the RFP process, but more than that, the focus of the Challenge is on GHG reduction. The Challenge asked cities to present plans for transitioning to a low-carbon transportation system – which includes low emissions vehicles – but also includes decarbonization of the electric grid and technology to create safer, easier and more reliable mobility for the future. The U.S. DOT looked for 12 areas of emphasis in city applications including urban automation, connected vehicles, intelligent, sensor-based infrastructure and urban analytics among others. Vulcan, along with the U.S. DOT, sought to reduce CO2 emissions through transportation electrification and the decarbonization of the electricity supply.
In addition to the U.S. DOT and Vulcan, other partners include Mobileye, Autodesk, NXP, Amazon Web Services, Sidewalk Labs and AT&T. Vulcan is also working with its implementation partner, the Electrification Coalition based on the organization’s expertise in accelerating the adoption of plug-in electric vehicles.
Vulcan is the DOT’s launch partner and the only Smart City Challenge philanthropic partner. Vulcan ran a parallel but collaborative RFP process to the U.S. DOT with our ultimate goal of disrupting the climate change trajectory. By providing philanthropic support toward a first-of-its kind public challenge, Vulcan is helping to advance innovation in addressing climate change and supporting cities in bringing on other cross-sector partners in their respective regions.
Vulcan and the U.S. DOT are hoping to spur action by other cities through the achievements of Columbus. Vulcan’s primary objective is to show “what’s possible” through scalable solutions to reduce GHG emissions. By highlighting one most ambitious and innovative “Smart City,” the Challenge seeks to catalyze further innovation and scalable, proof-of-concept solutions to one of the world’s most urgent problems.
Vulcan is committed to supporting early stage ventures to prove that innovative ideas can spur large-scale change. This is the basis for Paul G. Allen’s work across his various philanthropic pursuits. The Smart City Challenge project is part of his climate change portfolio and a significant step in disrupting the current climate trajectory.
Vulcan has been a strong supporter in bringing about a low-carbon future. The company leverages technology, investment and philanthropy to fuel sustainable alternatives, jumpstart policy change, and drive consumer education and action for the problem. Examples include:
– Reform of the federal coal leasing program: Vulcan has been working tirelessly on a number of fronts to move the U.S. Department of the Interior to conduct a long-needed environmental review of its coal-leasing program, which accounts for 40 percent of all the coal mined in the U.S. Coal is a significant source of our country’s carbon emissions.
– Climate friendly real estate development: Vulcan Real Estate is one of the leading developers of green buildings in the Pacific Northwest and is the largest private owner of new construction LEED-certified projects in Seattle built within highly sustainable urban zones that have placed a premium on efficient mobility.
– Conveying the story of climate change: With films like “Racing Extinction,” “Pandora’s Promise,” and “Strange Days on Planet Earth,” Vulcan Productions exposes the stark realities that humanity is facing as we confront a changing climate among other global stresses.
Paul G. Allen made a separate $10 million investment to support the Smart City Challenge because it aligned with Vulcan climate change priorities, which are complementary to the U.S. DOT’s priorities. Vulcan and the U.S. DOT managed separate but complementary RFP processes to select a winner.
Exact allocation of the funding is determined by specifics in Columbus’ proposal and will be spread over the approximately three-year lifetime of the project.