OEI and Metro Joins Google-Sponsored Smarter Cities Collaborative

By Colin Peppard/Innovation Manager for Outreach and Strategic Relationships

Can the worlds biggest tech firm and a leading transportation non-profit help to bring smarter transit to Los Angeles?

The U.S. Department of Transportation last year came up with an innovative new program to harness new transportation technologies. Called the “Smart Cities Challenge,” DOT pledged $40 million to one U.S. city with the best plan to integrate innovative and emerging new approaches – such as autonomous and connected vehicles, on-demand mobility, smart sensors – into their urban network.

Seventy-eight cities applied, but as these things go, only one got the funding. So while the winner – Columbus, Ohio – forges ahead with implementing their vision, the other 77 cities were left asking what to do with their carefully crafted proposals. The nation’s biggest tech firm and a leading U.S. transportation nonprofit – which have a similar commitment to using technology to improve transportation – were not about to let those plans gather dust on a shelf somewhere.

In June of this year, Transportation for America announced that it had teamed up with Google’s Sidewalk Labs to engage a group of ambitious cities to explore how technology can improve urban mobility by making their Smart Cities plans into reality. The partnership, called the Smart Cities Collaborative, builds on Transportation for America’s experience collaborating with state and local governments to develop forward-looking transportation and land-use policy, combined with Sidewalk Labs’ expertise working with cities to develop digital technology that solves big urban problems.

L.A. Metro, alongside our partners at LADOT, was selected from the nearly 60 cities that applied to be a part of the Collaborative. Through the collaborative Los Angeles will work with other cities in three core areas:

  • Shared mobility, and how it could help cities provide equitable, affordable, and more sustainable transportation choices.
  • Automated vehicles, and their potential impact on urban transit systems, congestion, transportation equity, and the environment.
  • Performance measures and data analytics, and how to use data to manage complex transportation networks and achieve transit equity and environmental goals.

Initially, Metro will participate in a variety of information-sharing meetings, both with other member cities and with industry-leading transportation experts. From there, Metro will receive direct technical assistance, create pilot programs and share results with the rest of the collaborative to drive best practices across the country. Our initial focus will be on designing a dynamically routed shared-mobility pilot that can help to improve service over traditional transit in areas with high trip demand that are poorly served by fixed-route transit.

Collaboration is fundamental to innovation, and we’re excited to have partners around the country that we can experiment alongside and learn from as we work to design the transportation solutions of tomorrow.