USDOT picks Portland as finalist for $40 million ‘Smart City Challenge’ grant

USDOT picks Portland as finalist for $40 million ‘Smart City Challenge’ grant


Graphic from Portland’s grant application.

“Ubiquitous mobility” is one step closer to reality in Portland.

On Saturday the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that the City of Portland has been selected as a finalist for a $40 million ‘Smart City Challenge’ grant. Portland’s big idea is known as “Ubiquitous Mobility” or UB Mobile PDX. The concept is to create access to our myriad transportation options that is so integrated that everyone can easily plug into it. The city says it will, “Show what is possible when communities use technology to connect transportation assets into an interactive network” and that it “puts forward bold, data-driven ideas to improve lives by making transportation safer, easier, and more reliable.”

Imagine opening up a mobile app to find (and pay for if necessary) the best trip option available for your specific needs. Whether it’s finding a Biketown bike, hopping on a TriMet bus, renting a bike through Spinlister, calling a Lyft driver, or whatever. The same app would also enable users to pay for parking spots and even the pay-per-mile gas tax that might someday be an option in Oregon. And that’s just the start. We took a deep dive into the city’s grant application last month.

77 cities applied for the grant and that list has been whittled down to seven. Portland is now competing with Austin, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Denver, and Columbus (Ohio). U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx made the announcement at the South by Southwest conference in Austin while on stage with several mayors including Portland’s Charlie Hales.

At SXSW Hales said, “Portland is uniquely positioned to be the prototyper in the USDOT Smart City Challenge, because we’ve been a prototyper for the nation. We will use this opportunity to invest in economic development, mobility, connectivity, and equity.”

As a finalist, Portland now receives $100,000 to further develop their idea. The USDOT says the winning city will be selected “based on their ability to think big, and provide a detailed roadmap on how they will integrate innovative technologies to prototype the future of transportation in their city.” The winner will be announced in June 2016.

Learn more at

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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