Smart Cities Dive recently named Columbus City of the Year in its 2018 Dive Awards, a program that recognizes innovators transforming the smart city industry and shaping the future. The publication touted Columbus’ “forward progress” in implementing the grants awarded to our city as the winner of the first-ever Smart Cities Challenge, as well as the expansion of mobility options in the city.

This progress was made possible through partnerships with more than 100 organizations throughout the region. Following is a summary of highlights from our 2018 smart city journey, and a glance at what residents can look forward to in 2019.

Launched the Smart Columbus Operating System
In May, Smart Columbus introduced the initial iteration of the Smart Columbus Operating System, a first-of-its-kind smart city data management platform designed to serve as the data backbone of the Smart Columbus project portfolio and enable Columbus to better use data to address complex urban challenges. In 2018, a Technical Working Group of 177 industry professionals logged more than 4,000 hours of donated time valued at more than $400,000 to help Smart Columbus develop policies for how the system will operate now and in the future.Opened Ohio’s First Self-Driving Shuttle to the Public
Smart Columbus and DriveOhio unveiled Smart Circuit – Ohio’s first self-driving shuttle – to give residents hands-on experience with self-driving vehicle technology. Engineers, researchers and policy makers from Smart Columbus, DriveOhio and The Ohio State University will use the demonstration to inform future deployments of self-driving vehicle technology in Ohio, including a route planned for a Columbus neighborhood, funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation Smart City Challenge grant.

COTA Significantly Grows Ridership
Central Ohio Transit Authority was named the Best Midsize Regional Transit Authority in the U.S. by its peers. In partnership with the Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District and the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, COTA launched the Downtown C-Pass program this summer with great enthusiasm. In six months, 45% of downtown employers have enrolled into the program and more than 460,000 rides were taken with the C-Pass. With a successful system redesign, launch of the CMAX, and a visionary new leader at the helm, COTA is stronger than ever and experiencing ridership gains that are well-ahead of the industry average.

Micro-transit Enhances Mobility in Columbus
The micro-transit ecosystem in Columbus grew significantly in 2018. New services likeChariot, SHARE, and EmpowerBus are getting commuters in the region to work more efficiently and enjoyably. Columbus also welcomed new services, including ZipCar and electric scooters like Bird and Lime.

Opened the Smart Columbus Experience Center
In June, Smart Columbus opened the Smart Columbus Experience Center, which serves as a destination where residents and visitors can envision the future of transportation and technology, and explore how they can help transform mobility in the Columbus region. Visitors can see how new mobility options, such as connected, autonomous, shared and electric vehicles, will make Columbus a more connected community. Construction of the center was made possible thanks to investments by the State of Ohio, the Paul G. Allen Philanthropies and private sector donors. More than 20 organizations donated technology, design services, equipment and furniture to outfit space. Since opening, the Experience Center has hosted more than 4,000 visitors.

Made Significant Progress Toward Electrification Goals
Increasing electric vehicle (EV) adoption by nearly 500% is a primary goal of the $10 million Smart City Challenge grant awarded to Columbus by the Paul G. Allen Philanthropies. Smart Columbus made significant strides toward this goal in 2018:

  • Partnered with large employers throughout the region to educate employees on smarter ways to commute, including using shared mobility or switching to electric vehicles. Through the “Acceleration Partners” program, Smart Columbus worked with companies like Chase, L Brands and CoverMyMeds to host nearly 7,000 electric vehicle test drives and promote new mobility benefits to central Ohio commuters.
  • Introduced more than 150 EVs into public fleets, including more than 100 purchased by the City of Columbus. The program is now more than halfway to the program goal of deploying 300 EVs in public fleets by 2020.
  • Inducted 13 central Ohio auto dealerships into the “Electrified Dealer” program. Through the program, dealers committed to carrying all-electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle models and educating sales staff and shoppers on EVs.

As a result of these efforts, EV sales in the Columbus region exceeded 1 percent of vehicles sold for the first time ever during the summer of 2018.

Unveiled a Valuable Playbook
The Smart Columbus Playbook made its debut and serves as a digital destination for city officials, policy makers, business leaders and influencers who are seeking insight and best practices on how to apply smart city technologies to improve quality of life, foster economic growth, improve safety and foster sustainability. It highlights successes, challenges and insights from the Smart Columbus team on how a city becomes “smart.”

Partners Launch Groundbreaking New Programs
AEP Ohio rolled out a Charging Rebate Program to support the expansion of electric vehicle charging infrastructure in Ohio, with the first installation opening The Columbus Foundation. The Transportation Research Center broke ground on their state-of-the-art, 545 acre, autonomous vehicle testing facility. The City of Columbus is also working to bring new technology to the community. By working with Experience Columbus and Orange Barrel Media, new IKE smart city kiosks are being installed. The City has also been working with Parkmobile to launch a new ParkColumbus app offering mobile parking payments at more than 600 parking meters. The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission is researching the Hyperloop Midwest Connect Initiative after being named one of ten winners in the Hyperloop One Global Challenge. The proposed hyperloop would connect Pittsburgh, Columbus, and Chicago, furthering the development in the Midwest region.

National Recognition
The City of Columbus was one of 20 cities in the U.S. to win Bloomberg’s American Cities Climate Challenge, creating an opportunity to further the city’s progress toward decarbonization. Resources from this grant include expert advice and policy development from a philanthropy-funded team, training for senior leadership, and community buy-in through citizen engagement.

Put Wheels in Motion Toward Additional Project Deployments
In 2018, Smart Columbus issued multiple requests for proposals to identify partners that will help bring future projects to life. In 2019, four projects funded by the $40 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant are expected to go live:

  • The prenatal trip assistance program in development by CelebrateOne and Smart Columbus will help pregnant women get to appointments, pharmacies and grocery stores to help understand the links between mobility access and infant mortality.
  • Smart Columbus and COTA will launch a multimodal trip-planning app that will allow residents to plan trips that combine rideshare, public transit and even scooters, and easily pay for the multiple forms of transportation with one payment.
  • An additional deployment of self-driving vehicle technology in a Columbus neighborhood will help connect residents with community resources.
  • An app that will help residents with cognitive disabilities independently use public transit will launch among a small group of pilot users.

Smart is just the start, and it happens one year at a time. We look forward to sharing continued progress with you in 2019. Thank you to the many partners who made our progress possible in 2018.

The Smart Columbus Team