The federal government on Monday dangled up to $40 million for a midsize city to come up with the best plan to catapult itself into the technological future.
That’s the prize for the winning proposal to create a “fully integrated city that uses data, technology and creativity to shape how people and goods move in the future,” the U.S. Department of Transportation said in a statement.
“We believe this competition will punch well above its weight,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a conference call with reporters. “At the end of the day there’ll be one city that wins the prize, but there will be a lot of cities that have thought and begun to envision a future that involves more innovation and more integration of technology.”
The winner of the Smart City Challenge will be chosen by a DOT team that will begin by winnowing the applicants to five cities. Those cities will receive federal guidance in honing their proposals before submitting them for the prize.
“The question I would be asking myself if I were still a mayor is, ‘What do I want my community to look like 30, 40, 50 years from now and what kinds of things should I be doing now to prepare the community for that?’” said Foxx, who stepped down as mayor of Charlotte to take his current post. “There are going to be different answers depending on what factors are at play in any given community. That’s why we’re keeping the criteria [for application] as broad as possible, so that we allow communities to interpret for themselves.”
Foxx was asked whether a reward of up to $40 million was enough to garner interest from eligible cities.
“I’ve been the mayor of a mid-sized city and I can tell you that $40 million is enough to get folks’ attention,” he said.
A bonus of up to $10 million will be added to the pot by Vulcan, a Seattle-based company created by Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen to further for-profit and philanthropic investment.
“We were looking at how we can catalyze innovative technology and looking at ways we can reduce greenhouse gases,” said Vulcan President Barbara Bennett, noting that cities produce a significant volume of greenhouse gases. “We came across what DOT was doing and had a fantastic conversation with Secretary Foxx and his team and thought that combining what they were interested in doing and what we were interested in doing would make a really powerful Smart City Challenge.”
Criteria for applications include:
●Midsize city with a population between 200,000 and 850,000 people within city limits as of the 2010 Census;
●A population density typical of a midsize city using 2010 Census data;
●Represents a significant portion (more than 15 percent) of the overall population of its urban area using 2010 Census data;
●An established public transportation system;
●An environment that is conducive to demonstrating proposed strategies;
●Leadership and capacity to carry out the demonstration throughout the period of performance.
“Communities are having some variations of these conversations already,” Foxx said, “but I think that what we’re trying to do is to activate an even more robust discussion in America about innovation and technology. We want people to be bold. We want them to think big and to think long term.”
Foxx said he plans to hold a webcast next Tuesday to discuss the application process and answer questions.
“We’re looking for a holistic view out of these communities as to how innovation and technology plays a role,” Foxx said, “but it isn’t by itself the answer. The answer is part of a larger story that each community is going to need to tell.”
Bennett said, “It’s about showing what is possible.”