- Parsons Corp. has partnered with Amazon Web Services (AWS), Verizon and CoMotion to launch its first Smart Cities Challenge, called Transforming Intersections.
- Cities and counties are asked to identify their smart city vision for mobility and safety, as well as intersection problems they'd like solved, including rush hour gridlock or pedestrian-vehicle accidents. "Within smart cities, transportation is the high priority. And within transportation, the intersection is where everybody is honing in on as a starting place," Andrew Liu, Senior VP of Smart Cities at Parsons, told Smart Cities Dive.
- Semi-finalists will be announced at the LACoMotion conference in November, and the winner is expected to be announced in spring 2020. The winner will receive a year of free services from Parsons, AWS and Verizon to get an intersection solution pilot program up and running.
Transforming Intersections aims to get city leaders and employees thinking about ways to improve citizens' movement through intersections and to accelerate cities' Vision Zero goals. Parsons estimates that 40% of pedestrian accidents happen at intersections, which is why a significant number of Vision Zero goals center on those locations. New York City cited similar statistics when it unveiled an initiative in July to improve bicyclist safety: 60% of the city's bicyclist fatalities since 2014 occurred at intersections.
This smart cities challenge is not intended for cities to identify just one intersection to improve, but rather an entire corridor or network of intersections where a solution will provide a widespread impact.
"We look at it very holistically," Liu said. "There's really a paradigm shift out there." Traveling across a city no longer means avoiding congestion at just one intersection. Congestion problems in one area can affect others across town.
Likewise, poor traffic light timing in one neighborhood can cause miles-long backups in others. Revising light timing is one task Liu says cities don't perform frequently enough. Parsons includes that service in its automated solutions, for which city data is run through proprietary algorithms. Re-evaluating light timing when intersections face the additional stresses of population growth, new housing developments or new commercial developments is also essential, according to Liu.
A holistic approach is evident within the three main metrics on which cities' and counties' applications will be evaluated:
- Solid team: Judges will look for a strong and diverse team of multiple stakeholders with whom to work on the intersection pilot program. Ideally, the team would include representatives from multiple city departments, possibly even the mayor or city council members.
- Big vision: The team should want to create meaningful change in solving a problem associated with intersections.
- Critical project: The pilot should solve an issue of large importance, such as in a critical corridor or downtown area or one that consists of a significant, quantifiable problem.
Multiple cities in a region are encouraged to apply together, representing a stronger team and larger project that could bring meaningful change to many citizens. The concept also reflects the broader move toward regional collaboration to solve pressing issues that don't stop at a city's borders.
"If I look at smart cities of the future, that's what it's all about: breaking down silos between cities and the state and different agencies, and looking at it from a user's perspective," Liu said.
Cities and counties of all sizes can apply for the challenge. The solutions are designed to be compatible with legacy infrastructure and existing hardware or software — in many cases, even competitors' — so they can interface with any city's systems.