Peduto: Transportation changes coming regardless of Smart City grant
As city competes for federal grant, the mayor says Pittsburgh will forge ahead with plans to make urban transportation more efficient.
March 15, 2016 6:49 PM
Mayor Bill Peduto, left, and Raj Rajkumar, director of Carnegie Mellon University's Metro 21 and the Technologies for Safe and Efficient Transportation Center, outline the steps being taken to secure a $50 million U.S. Dept. of Transportation grant to build technology-based systems to address transportation challenges in cities. Pittsburgh is competing with six other cities.
Mayor Bill Peduto said Pittsburgh is well positioned to win a $50 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Smart City Challenge program, saying the city is on the verge of "something monumental" in the area of transportation technology.
By Ed Blazina / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto expects Pittsburgh to win the race to improve transportation regardless of whether it is selected for a $50 million technology grant.
That’s because, the mayor said Tuesday, through partnerships with Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh and others the city is poised to take great great strides in transportation. If the city is selected for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge grant, the steps may begin sooner, he said.
Technology developed locally — including traffic sensors, driverless cars and apps to move travelers to their destinations more efficiently — already is being implemented in some instances, Mr. Peduto said at a news conference at CMU. For example, a system developed at CMU controls 13 traffic signals in the city’s East Liberty neighborhood, reducing the time drivers sit at intersections, said Raj Rajkumar, director of the university’s Metro 21 and Technologies for Safe and Efficient Transportation Center.
That continuing work puts Pittsburgh in a good position as one of seven finalists for the Smart City grant, they said.
“The way transportation is now is nowhere like what it will be in 2045,” said Mr. Peduto, stressing that cities that can adapt will thrive. “[Those cities] will be the ones that lead the industry.”
Mr. Peduto envisions Pittsburgh becoming the center of a new industry to produce the types of sensors and apps to make traffic move more efficiently. That would include developing electric vehicles that produce less air pollution, energy systems to power those vehicles and programs to teach residents in disadvantaged communities how to work in the new industries.
The Smart City program dovetails with studies on a Bus Rapid Transit system between Downtown and Oakland, the Uptown Ecodistrict program of sustainable development and a program with the U.S. Department of Energy to use steam plants to produce electricity, the mayor said.
“This is where the world is going,” the mayor said. “The question is, will Pittsburgh be a leader? Over the course of the next decade, we will transform this city.”
If it is chosen for the grant, Mr. Peduto said, the city would treat it as a challenge and ask foundations to match the money.
The other finalists for the grant are Austin; Columbus, Ohio; Denver; Kansas City; Portland; and San Francisco. As finalists, they received $100,000 from the U.S. Department of Transportation and have about a month to refine their applications. The winner will be named in June.
The winner will get up to $40 million from the Department of Transportation, $10 million from Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc. and $1 million in cloud service credits from Amazon Web Services. Amazon will work with the finalists to develop ways its system can work with their proposals.
Ed Blazina: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1470.
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