How Columbus Beat Austin in the Smart City Challenge

July 19, 2016 by Kate Harrington

There was a lot of optimism in the air when, during SXSW, U.S. Transportation Sec. Anthony Foxx announced the finalists for the Smart City Challenge – including Austin – at an Austin event. But in late June the winner was announced, and it’s Columbus, Ohio, not Austin, that will take home the $50 million in grant money.

The Smart City Challenge was launched by the Department of Transportation to “challenge cities to inventory the challenges they faced and how they would use innovation and technology to solve those challenges,” according to Foxx.

Seventy-eight cities from 35 states applied, and seven finalists – Columbus, Austin, Denver, CO; Kansas City, MO; Pittsburg, PA; Portland, OR; and San Francisco, CA – submitted in-depth proposals.

While Austin is already considered a high-tech hub, Foxx said it was Columbus’s focus on improving community health that helped that city win. See their pitch video embedded below:

Austin’s mobility work, including many of the plans outlined in its Smart City application, will move forward anyway, Austin officials have vowed.

Austin’s proposal included plans for mobility infrastructure that would include connected vehicles; intelligent, sensor-based infrastructure; user-focused mobility services and choices; and smart grid, roadway electrification, and electric vehicles. Beyond the technology, Austin transportation leaders said in the proposal that smart land use, strategic business models and partnering, as well as input from citizens would be crucial elements to making a mobility plan work.

“All of these things are going to continue to move forward and they are exciting,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said. “Austin is an innovative, creative city. We don’t need anyone’s permission for that and it’s who we are, so we’re going to keep pushing.”

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Written by Kate Harrington

Kate is a former reporter, most recently for the Austin Business Journal, where she covered real estate, economic development and transportation. Since 2010 she has been running Thumbtack Communications. Thumbtack provides writing, editing and marketing services. Before moving to Austin in 2002 Kate lived in her native New England, which she still visits often to escape the Texas heat.