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Mayor Barry to Convene Smart-City Working Group to Support Better Connected, More Citizen-Centered Public Services

March 14, 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Mayor Megan Barry is announcing that Nashville will move forward with efforts to better integrate technology into municipal operations, despite Metro’s application to the USDOT Smart City Challenge not advancing to a final-round competition for federal funding.

“The Smart City Challenge sparked an important conversation about how to better integrate technology and data into our transportation system,” said Mayor Barry. “While I’m disappointed Nashville was not selected as a finalist, the hard work we and our partners put in to prepare for this Challenge generated real momentum for exploring how we use data and technology to build a more connected Nashville.”

Nashville was one of 78 cities to apply for funding under the USDOT Smart City Challenge. While Metro was not among the seven finalists announced at SXSW on March 12, the grant-proposal process elicited a meaningful conversation around how to implement some of the Smart City transportation projects, as well as expand on the Mayor’s vision to take a broader, more integrated approach to improve the efficiency of city operations and quality-of-life for Nashvillians, while growing the local economy.

Key elements of Nashville’s grant proposal included smart parking-management strategies for Metro-owned spaces in the downtown area, connections between rideshare providers and MTA to help grow transit ridership, and expanded IT infrastructure and data-sharing among a wide variety of mobility stakeholders – all of which the city is prepared to continue exploring as ways to improve mobility and organize a future-ready urban transportation system.

“Our Smart City Challenge proposal presents a strong opportunity to start us on a process for creating an inclusive, multi-modal transportation network that seamlessly integrates the latest technologies to improve safety, enhance mobility, and reduce our impact on the environment,” said Mayor Barry. “In the coming weeks, my office will convene a working group of government officials and technology experts to discuss how we can better integrate technology into a wide variety of infrastructure-related projects – whether on our roadways, in our buildings, or embedded among the many other services Metro offers.”

Metro’s working group will also coordinate with other jurisdictions on existing plans to accelerate the deployment of technology into area roadways and transit systems as part of an upcoming regional assessment led by the Nashville Area MPO. The MPO –which convenes local governments to coordinate transportation plans across the seven-county metropolitan area– recently allocated additional federal funds toward its Intelligent Transportation Systems grant program, which is aimed specifically at financing tech-upgrades throughout greater-Nashville’s transportation network.

Mayor Barry’s Smart City Working Group will include Mayor’s Office and Metro departmental staff, transportation providers and other mobility stakeholders, academics/researchers from area universities, and business leaders from sectors such as hospitality, healthcare, telecommunications, and technology.Some key goals of this working group include:

  • Identify and recommend feasible, sustainable, future-ready solutions to solve local challenges;
  • Encourage, coordinate, and support Metro’s efforts to pioneer technological improvements;
  • Identify datasets useful in implementing projects to improve livability – addressing areas such as transportation, water management, public safety and health, energy, buildings, connectivity;
  • Develop a framework of incentives that motivates stakeholders to share this data, promoting innovation and collaboration with others.

“I’m grateful for Mayor Barry’s commitment to implementing a key NashvilleNext action item: the use of technology to modernize our infrastructure so Nashville can gain efficiencies and make government more accessible and responsive,” said Keith Durbin, Chief Information Officer for Metro-Nashville. “In order to make informed decisions, data held today in Metro agencies must be available and accessible, not only within Metro but also to citizens and entrepreneurs. Metro Information Technology Services department will hire a Chief Data Officer to help identify and open this publicly-owned data to analysis.”

Along with those of the 77 other applicant cities, USDOT will post Nashville’s full response to the Smart City Challenge online. Components of the grant-proposal ideal for near-term implementation include:

  • IT infrastructure and data-sharing- Foundational to all ideas presented in the Challenge proposal was an IT infrastructure and repository for mobility-related data. Metro’s existing Open Data site (data.nashville.gov) will expand to include datasets from additional Metro agencies, and other partners such as TDOT. Metro will pursue software for analysis of this shared data, to provide intelligence to support decision-making on public investments in transportation infrastructure, as well as offer relevant, real-time travel information to citizens.
  • Connecting the sharing economy with public transit- Nashville will explore potential partnerships between Nashville MTA and private-rideshare providers (i.e., Uber or Lyft), to include first- and last-mile service, where rideshare partners would help shuttle MTA customers to and from bus-stops along major transit corridors.
  • Mobile/Digital tickets for trip-making- Nashville’s Smart City Challenge application also featured plans to explore a mobile-ticketing app that would centralize MTA/RTA ticket and ride requests, as well as procure both digital kiosks and a mobile app to provide Nashvillians with the ability to plan and pay for trips across multiple modes (ex., take an MTA bus to a BCycle station).
  • Smart parking strategies- Parking demand in the Central Business District often exceeds supply, so people spend time and fuel cruising for scarce spaces. Nashville’s application included a pilot project to install sensors on Metro-owned spaces to identify in real-time where available parking is located, and then share this information with the public via a mobile application.
  • Traffic-signal technology upgrades- Metro Public Works just launched a major project to install a new controller and software network to monitor and manage traffic signals throughout Davidson County. These technology upgrades will enable communications between signals to a central controller, offering the city’s signal network more reliability, future computerized interactions with transit operations, and the ability to adjust signals in real-time in response to on-the-ground conditions. The project builds on work already underway to install a Transit Signal Priority System, funded by USDOT’s highly-competitive TIGER grant program, for MTA’s BRT-lite service along Murfreesboro Pike.