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City Launches 'Smart Columbus' Site Aimed At Improving Transportation

Columbus, Ohio skyline
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Columbus has unveiled a new website to act as a kind of clearing house for important regional data, as part of a larger effort to improve mobility around the city.

The new platform, called "Smart Columbus," comes from a $40 million Department of Transportation grant the city won in 2016, as well as a $10 million grant from Paul G. Allen Philanthropies.

Columbus’ Chief Innovation Officer Michael Stevens explains putting relevant information in one place will help people address transportation issues.

“It’s a way to house data that can then be retrieved by researchers, application developers and individuals who identify a problem, and want to get the data they need to help determine what the solution is,” Stevens says.

City leaders believe the site could support a wide range of mobility-related tools. They hope to help truckers avoid low bridges, but they’re also working on transportation problems that extend beyond the roads—like finding the closest food pantry or improving accessibility for seniors.

"There's so much data that's being created, right,” Stevens says. “Whether it's private sector data whether it's public sector data, we're all--there's a tremendous amount of data that is being created, but the information and the knowledge from that data is so limited."

Mayor Andrew Ginther said the new operating system is a major milestone in Columbus' smart city journey, but the ultimate goal is to make life better.

"Fundamental to 'becoming smart' as a city is discovering how to use data to improve city services and quality of life for residents," Ginther said. "When we apply data to the challenges we experience as a city, we can transform outcomes in education, employment, health care and even access to healthy food."

Stevens hopes the new platform will help developers find a signal in the noise. The Smart Columbus team will manage and distribute 1,100 data feeds through the new platform to government offices and private companies. 

With that information, Columbus will work to integrate self-driving cars, connected vehicles, smart sensors and other developing transportation technologies into the city.

The city will host a hackathon this weekend giving coders a chance to take a crack at improving Columbus’ transportation system.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.