- The City of Tampa and the University of South Florida signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) yesterday agreeing to work together to solve some of the city’s biggest issues, including transportation.
- USF’s Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) will be a key player in improving Tampa’s transportation offerings, which Mayor Bob Buckhorn called at the signing ceremony Tuesday "the Achilles heel for our community" and said development must be “smarter” and “not just more road-building.”
- The MOU comes after a kick-off meeting for the city’s new Smart Cities Alliance, which will bring together the business community, academia and government officials at various levels to discuss innovations and solutions. Jean Duncan, the City of Tampa’s Director Transportation and Stormwater Services, said it would also join the MetroLab Network of city-university partnerships focused on bringing data, analytics and innovation to city government.
This MOU represents another collaboration between local government and a university to find innovative transportation solutions. And it is particularly significant for Tampa, as the city has struggled to attract new businesses and residents because of poor transit options coupled with an increase in traffic congestion on its highways.
The Tampa Bay Business Journal reported that CUTR has 37 full-time researchers and 57 students focused on transportation innovation, and making those people available to city government for research and pilot programs should help bring about what Buckhorn called "creative solutions to the economic and transportation challenges that we face."
The collaboration will look to use USF as a test bed for projects before and while they are piloted across the city, and shows that city leaders are looking to delve into the expertise of the university’s academics while also sharing their knowledge. "We all know a little bit about technology, but none of us knows everything," Duncan said at the ceremony.
Competition is fierce among cities for businesses and residents, and transit is increasingly important. One of Amazon’s key components in its request for proposals for its HQ2 was a robust public transportation network, and those at the event Tuesday said they hope to use innovations from this collaboration to show what Tampa has to offer. "This partnership will showcase Tampa as a vibrant, innovative and sustainable community while developing technology, methods and models for use across the country and really around the world," Dr. Robert Bishop, Dean of the USF College of Engineering, said.