Transportation policy and investments must empower Americans to connect to opportunity and to come together, not grow further apart. In cities, historic racial and economic divides have been perpetuated by planning, infrastructure, and socioeconomic policies that have isolated neighborhoods, encouraged sprawl, enabled economic segregation, and overlooked pockets of poverty. To bridge the digital divide and avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, cities must plan for a future transportation system that meets the needs of all city residents, not just the wealthy or tech savvy.
Cities recognize that innovation can’t just be pursued for its own sake; they want to use these technologies to create new mobility options to connect their residents to jobs, workforce training, education, and healthcare; and make sure the benefits of these investments accrue to all parts of the community. The seven finalists proposed over 60 unique strategies to increase access to jobs, provide training, reach underserved areas, and ensure connectivity for all. The Challenge finalists proposed a number of ways to ensure the benefits of smart city technology reach everyone, including:
- Improving first-mile/last-mile connections to transit, whether through subsidized transportation network companies (TNCs), car and bike share, or autonomous shuttles
- Expanding access to free public Wi-Fi on buses, taxis, and parks
- Developing specialized apps for non-English speakers and people with disabilities
- Providing universal transportation payment cards for the unbanked and subsidizing the use of a range of travel services by people with low incomes
Columbus aims to reduce infant mortality in Franklin County by 40% by creating smart corridors and smart payment projects that improve access to pre-natal car for individuals in underserved neighborhoods.
Bridging the Digital Divide
A ‘digital divide’ separates those with access to the Internet, smartphones, and credit, and those who do not benefit from these services. Kansas City would build connected kiosks that would provide not only transit information or Wi-Fi, but information on local libraries, parks, and even access to job applications. Austin would create Smart Stations to reconnect residents gentrification has pushed away from downtown with new mobility options like vanpools , bus rapid transit, carshare, and more.
Portland sought to develop a mobile app to benefit people with disabilities. One app would help mobility device users navigate their system of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant ramps by offering trip planning based on accessibility. It would support the visually impaired by highlighting locations with audible traffic signals. The app would also provide data to the City about where people with disabilities are traveling, which will inform the development and future updates of the City’s ADA transition plan. The app could include specific features for paratransit service, such as including information about how to use fixed route service or about subsidized ridesharing services. Portland planned to host a hackathon to develop new services and improve existing services using open source data.