Last March, San Francisco was chosen as one of seven finalists picked from the over 78 cities that submitted plans to the United States Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge. The winning city will be given a grant of up to $50 million to carry out their plan, as well as $1 million of credit from Amazon Web Services, a cloud-based platform that helps teams plan and organize initiatives.
Now that it has entered into the second phase of the contest, San Francisco had to use the DOT’s $100,000 grant to create a comprehensive pitch for how the city can turn $50 million into an innovative, high-functioning city-wide transportation system. The city presented its idea this week, and observers were surprised and pleased at how inexpensive and comprehensive of a plan the city came up with.
San Francisco wants to take ten percent of single-occupant cars off the road by replacing them with a thoroughly networked system of superior smart transit options like autonomous, connected city buses, shared bikes, and circumstances made ideal for ride-sharing. The city would also commission city-owned electric vehicles and shuttles that connect bus lines to neighborhoods far away from the city center.
SF would also create an app that lumped all these different public transit options together and shows city-goers how they can most efficiently travel all around the city. The app would have a similar layout to Go LA.
Perhaps most exciting about the plan is San Francisco’s hopes to replace parking structures and parallel parking lanes with green space and affordable housing. In this regard, San Francisco could kill two birds with one stone; revising its less-than-adequate public transportation and ameliorating its horrifying housing prices.
According to San Francisco, the entire project would cost somewhere around $149 million. That’s almost three times what the Smart City Challenge prize offers, but SF says that’s willing and able to team up with other companies to make up the difference. A fair amount of corporations have seen fit to assist San Francisco in its money-raising goals, including Ford Motor Company and a handful of local startups that likely have something to gain from an increase of autonomous and electronic vehicle technology.
If the changes SF is pitching were to be approved, it would likely take almost a decade for the infrastructure to be built and begin to function.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has been visiting the contests’ seven remaining contenders since May 16th. He’s already visited all seven, which includes Pittsburgh, PA; Columbus, OH; Austin TX; Denver, CO; SF, Portland; Oregon, and Kansas City, Missouri. Final proposals need to be finished by May 24, and the winner will be chosen sometime after.
The DOT is pleased with the excitement and ingenuity that the contest has prompted from all corners of the country. Even cities that weren’t chosen as finalists are already moving towards some of the ideas that they cooked up in hopes of receiving the grant. Baton Rouge, for example, is now figuring out how to reorganize city districts in a way that will lure tech companies to set up in the city.
San Francisco will likely move towards implementing some of the transportation ideas in its proposal regardless of winning the grant.