The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded the city of San Francisco $11 million to develop innovative transportation technology aimed at reducing traffic congestion in the city, transportation officials announced Friday morning.
During a news conference at the Federal Office Building at 50 United Nations Plaza, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx made an appearance alongside San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and other transportation officials to announce the grant.
"This is part of the 21 century challenge of transportation in America. You're in one the fastest growing regions in the county, if not the fastest. You've got a dynamic economy, people want to be here and the problems of transportation are just related to the lack of attention in trying to move things along," Foxx said.
The grant will go toward funding six specific pilot programs focused on reducing the city's traffic congestion. Those programs include creating more high-occupancy vehicle lanes for buses and carpools, creating curb space for pickup and drop offs for carpools, smart traffic signal systems to help improve flow and safety, connected corridors in line with the
Vision Zero policy for pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as creating a connected electronic toll system for the congestion pricing program on Treasure Island and the deployment and testing of electronic, autonomous shuttles within the island, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.
"Bringing this kind of innovation through this kind of grant is really groundbreaking stuff and I think it fits well with the DNA of this city, after all this is where they cable car was invented, so we've been doing this kind of innovation for more than 150 years here," SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin said.
The grant was the result of the Smart City Challenge launched by the USDOT back in December 2015. The challenge had tasked cities across the country to come up with ideas for an integrated and unique smart transportation system that would use data, applications and technology to help people and goods move faster and more efficiently, all while being cost effective. San Francisco was picked as one of the finalists out of 78 cities that applied for the challenge.
"San Francisco was hugely competitive and that's why we've rewarded the money for the project here," Foxx said. "We've been exploring ways to empower cities and communities like San Francisco to reap the benefits of new technologies. Frankly, you were doing this on your own anyways."
"It shouldn't surprise you that were a finalist in the Smart City grant, but it also shouldn't surprise you that we are not dependent on a singular grant. We actually are committed to making sure that our city and our region continues to be answering the challenge of congestion," Lee said.
The six initiatives will be implemented and operated by the SFMTA in a private-public partnership with the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, as well as with support from researchers at the University of California at Berkeley in collaboration with San Francisco's newly created smart city incubator Superpublic, according to the SFMTA.
"There is a dramatic movement of people who want jobs and better lives and want to move to cities. And they are coming, regardless of whether you want to put out the welcome mat or not, people are looking for that
better life and that's happening not just in San Francisco, in all the major cities in the Bay Area, and in all the major cities across the country," Lee said.