THE VISION: To empower our residents to live their best lives through responsive, innovative and safe mobility solutions.

In 2016, Columbus won the first-ever U.S. Smart City Challenge based on our belief that mobility is the great equalizer of the 21st century. Through the implementation of the $40 million Smart City Challenge award from the U.S. Department of Transportation, we sought to demonstrate how modern, integrated transportation options can empower residents to live their best lives.

Every technology demonstration we pursued -- whether autonomous vehicles, connected vehicles, electric vehicles or shared mobility navigation tools -- was deployed with the prosperity of our residents in mind. We sought to show how safer, cleaner and more equitable transportation options could create opportunity for Columbus residents and prepare our region for the future. We focused many of the projects on the Linden neighborhood, to show how these technologies can address some of the damage caused by decades of redlining, disinvestment, and isolation caused by interstate construction. 

Through a portfolio of eight projects, we helped pregnant individuals access healthcare and food. We delivered thousands of meals and masks to neighbors in need during the pandemic. We created apps and tools that will help residents navigate our city as they return to their normal routines. 

Project highlights include:

  • Connected Electric Autonomous Vehicles: The Linden LEAP was the nation’s first daily-operating public self-driving shuttle in a residential area; it transported nearly 130,000 meals and 15,000 masks from St. Stephen’s Community House to neighbors in need during the pandemic.

  • Prenatal Trip Assistance: 143 pregnant individuals with Medicaid coverage participated in Rides4Baby, our prenatal trip assistance research study. Preliminary data shows that access to on-demand transportation and expanded eligibility criteria for Medicaid-covered rides to critical destinations like the pharmacy and grocery store yielded increased usage of transportation. Women who had access to on-demand rides took a median of 19 trips to medical appointments, the pharmacy and grocery stores or food pantries during their pregnancy and eight weeks postpartum, while women who had typical transportation options provided through Medicaid took a median of two trips. Researchers will stay in touch with these mothers through January 2022 to understand the full impact of the enhanced transportation. Based on these initial findings of the study, CareSource is expanding same-day transportation benefits for the expectant mothers they serve.  

  • Multimodal Trip Planning Application: The Pivot multimodal transportation planning app has been downloaded over 1,000 times supporting 447 trips amidst the pandemic, and can be used as travelers return to downtown. Pivot users reported easier transfer between different transportation modes and were more satisfied with their transportation options, travel time, distance and flexibility.

  • Connected Vehicle Environment: More than 1,000 vehicles participated in the connected vehicle environment, where vehicles could “talk” to each other and to 85 intersections, 7 of them with the highest crash rates in central Ohio, to understand how the technology can help improve road safety. The technology improved emergency response times and slowed participant speeds in school zones during the demonstration. 62% of participants would recommend CV technology to a family or friend

  • Event Parking Management: Federally-funded improvements to the ParkColumbus app make it easier to find and pay for street and garage parking in Downtown and the Short North; 87% of survey respondents said the new app features are useful.

  • Smart Mobility Hubs: Six smart mobility hubs were constructed in Linden, at Columbus State Community College and at the Easton Transit Center to help fill transportation gaps between bus stops and traveler destinations. The hubs added six interactive kiosks, four scooter charging and bike share stations and one electric vehicle charging station to the neighborhood. The Linden hubs also represented the first expansion of bike share into an opportunity neighborhood. 

  • Mobility Assistance for People with Cognitive Disabilities: In 12 months, 31 individuals with cognitive disabilities used the WayFinder app to take 82 trips independently on public transit, rather than relying on a ride from a caregiver, fostering their independence. 76% of participants demonstrated a high level of independence after using the app.

  • Smart Columbus Operating System: The Smart Columbus Operating System was built largely on open source software that is easy and cost-effective for other cities to implement. The operating system now contains more than 2,000 data sets that have been downloaded more than 220,000 times. The operating system is capable of processing near real-time data, streaming connected vehicle environment data every 15 seconds. 

An accessibility analysis found that travelers originating at the Linden Transit Center can now reach at least 20,000 additional jobs and 3,000 additional healthcare services within 30 minutes than using the trip planning tools that existed prior to the introduction of the Smart Columbus projects. 

Beyond the tangible assets created by the grant, The Ohio State University calculated that investments from the implementation of the USDOT award generated an estimated gross metropolitan product (GMP) of $173.39 million and generated or induced 2,366 jobs. 

To learn more about the deployment and legacy of this program, download our final report.

Autonomous Connected Electric Shared Economic Development Quality of Life Safety Sustainability Department of Transportation Franklin